By Kumar David –
We are not alone; stupid! US govt. grudgingly admits hiding UFO records; Alien intelligence very likely exceeds ours
“One day we might receive a signal from an alien planet but we should be wary of answering. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well” – Stephen Hawing
There are 10,000 stars in the universe for every grain of sand on earth. In 1961 a chap called Frank Drake proposed what became famous as the Drake Equation (DE). DE attempted to predict the number of detectable intelligent civilisations in our galaxy. Let me give you a schoolboy version. Say water and air are the only things needed for life and suppose that in some cluster of fifty million (50,000,000) stars the probability of finding suitable exoplanet planets orbiting a star is 0.01. Say also the probabilities of finding water and air on such planets are 0.005 and 0.002, respectively. Then by multiplying these four numbers together we can estimate the number of stars which are candidates for life; in this example it is five.
Drake used different factors. They were seven; rate of star formation (R*), fraction of planets with solar systems (fs), fraction of systems with habitable environments (ne), fraction of these on which life can evolve (fl), fraction of life which is intelligent (fi), fraction of these with civilisations (fc), and length of civilisation (L). The probabilities available in those days were poor; better estimates can be made now. In any case Drake only pointed to an idea; much better techniques are currently used. The biggest difference is that astronomers now estimate there are 100 billion stars in the Milky Way and there are 100 billion galaxies, making the total number of stars in the universe about 10 to the power 22 (1022).
Most cosmologists won’t conjecture a number for planets which may bear life, but I won’t be far off the mark were I to say: There are a thousand-billion exoplanets (planets orbiting ‘other’ suns) in the universe which are potential candidates. And there is another point to consider; the universe is fourteen billion years old (from the big-bang) but the age of our sun is only 4.6 billion years. Lots of suns which may have had life bearing exoplanets have burnt away and more are still to be born. Homo sapiens evolved on this pad just 190,000 years ago, and the way we are setting about things we won’t last much longer. In any case our sun will turn into a red giant and engulf the earth in four billion years.
That brings me to the flag raised by Stephen Hawking at the top of this piece. Life could have evolved elsewhere in the universe long before it did here and intelligence may well have arisen thousands or millions of years before it did here. Phew! What if superman turns up on our door-step and put us to use like we do battery-hens or laboratory rats?
Well we can hope that Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (SR) is true for all time and that General Relativity (GR, simultaneously but somewhat independently formulated by Einstein and David Hilbert) is not. SR assures us that nothing can travel faster than light. Aliens if in the Milky Way may be up to 100,000 light-years away and if on another galaxy billions of light-years away. To travel at even 1/100-th the speed of light (just over one million km per hour) an alien would have to be from a technically super-super civilisation. At this speed an alien would need 10 million years to get here from his/her/its home if on the other side of the Milky Way and need hundreds or thousands more time if from a distant galaxy. And by the way, do aliens have a gender? If not how do they procreate? Maybe they subdivide like amoeba. Not for me thanks, I’d rather be human and male.
GR however upsets this complacency. It implies that space-time consists of more dimensions than the four (don’t forget time) of which we are aware and also says that space-time is “curved or folded” in the vicinity of large masses. Black-holes too were predicted by GR as a deformation of space-time before they were actually observed. A black-hole devours everything crossing its boundary (event-horizon) and no one has worked out where all the stuff goes. They have been detected consuming big stars and this may be happening on a massive scale. No one has a clue where the “other end” of a black-hole is or what it excretes. These remarks are in preparation for the next para.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”; so consider worm-holes. “Wormholes, predicted by GR, are theoretical passages through space-time that create shortcuts across the universe”. Imagine a worm that wants to get from one side of an apple to the other. Instead of crawling round the surface if it bores through the apple, its path will be shorter, hence the name. If super-intelligent aliens have discovered how to exploit these shortcuts in multi-dimensional space-time, well maybe they could be knocking on our door rather sooner than welcome!
The US government long boohooed the credibility of phenomena of extra-terrestrial origin and denied investigating them. Gradually the onion began to peel and scoops in the New York Times of 16 December 2017 and the Washington Post two days later blew everything wide open. The US Defence Department admitted it spent $22 million annually to study UFO sightings and encounters with military and civilian aircraft. A former US Senate majority leader Harry Reid worried: “We don’t know the answers but have plenty of evidence to support asking questions”. Sightings are numerous and though the great majority have been explained as due to natural causes, there is a large enough residue to support alien visitation claims. A close relative of my wife, a world-class aviation-safety expert, concedes that one cannot completely dismiss the possibility that the MH370 disappearance was a case of alien abduction.
There is nothing unscientific in supposing that life exists elsewhere in the universe; in fact the balance of probability is overwhelming that it does. Chemistry and body structure of aliens will be different from humans but three fundamental principles, gravitation, natural selection and relativity will surely remain secure everywhere in the universe. Eyes have evolved seven times independently on earth so it will be astounding if extra-terrestrial life forms have not evolved eyes sensitive to some frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Whether intelligent life exists and whether it has evolved into super-intelligence is something about which it is wise to keep an open mind. The actual dispute is not whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, but how on earth aliens could have reached our neighbourhood – oops “how on earth” did I say! Apart from our sister galaxy Andromeda, 2.5 million light years away, there are about 50 smaller “dwarf galaxies” in what is called the Local Group sited at distances of 25,000 to 4.5 million light years. There is no reason why life and intelligence should not thrive on Andromeda or dwarf galaxies. But there is no way of knowing with currently available instrumentation whether other galaxies of any size contain stars with orbiting exoplanets. Theoretically, the likelihood is nearly 100% ‘yes’.
Since it near impossible to observe exoplanets in other galaxies scientists confine their probes to our galaxy. The prime targets are red-dwarf stars (not to be confused with dwarf-galaxies) the most common star in the Milky Way. Red-dwarfs (10% to 50% the size of the sun, and about 2/3 its surface temperature) are good candidates for orbiting habitable planets. Over 3700 exoplanets have been found and more are added to the list each year. Scientific teams use computer models to predict air temperature, presence of water and other environmental factors and have concluded, so far, that about 10 in the Milky Way may have an ecology to support plant and animal life (Goldilocks planets). Another big plus in favour of red-dwarfs is that their lifespan is about 100 billion years while that of our sun is only 10 billion; so the probability of evolution having time to get its job done is ten times larger. Red-dwarfs within 30,000 lightyears are under scrutiny but no “Hello” greetings have so far been received.
This brings me to a curious dislocation. SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) began plugging away half a century ago and so far has come away empty handed despite access to the best and biggest arrays of radio telescopes. Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) of tremendous energy from distant galaxies have excited observers since 2007, but all but one have been one-of events so SETI has little to follow up. While SETI peers into deep space and finds it void of intelligence our neighbourhood suffers a UFO traffic jam. Why SETI and the UFOlogist community have failed to coordinate their activities is a mystery. Instead of a unified approach there seems to be an impenetrable wall between them.
The rational scientific view is that we are certainly not alone in the universe, but at the same time we have no idea how beings from other parts of the Milky Way or far away galaxies could have found their way here. There have been 4000 radar tracking, 3500 landing incidents and innumerable sightings reported. Maybe 90% are hoaxes or have innocuous natural expiations, but what about the 10%? A partial list of people who concede that earth has been visited by UFOs/aliens, or even otherwise that extra-terrestrial life exists in the universe, include Churchill, Kennedy, Ford, Gorbachev Jimmy Carter, Clinton, Prince Phillip, astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Gordon Cooper, numerous scientists including Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Enrico Fermi, and US and British air, navy and army chiefs, some who have commanded UFO related facilities or operations.