Do Close Encounters Happen?

AreWeAloneHave we been visited by aliens from outer space? One of the most monumental scientific discoveries and astonishing human experiences would be that of a confirmed alien visitation. I believe there is a part of our lonely human existence that longs for company in the vastness of space and time.

Has an alien visitation happened or are various sightings and stories simply products of a well-placed desire to experience what would be the most profound encounter in the history of human civilization?

I always try to respect someone’s personal experience. This applies equally to UFO encounters, premonitions, and the old fashioned ghost in the attic.

By the same token, it has been said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So far, extraordinary evidence for alien visitation has been lacking. In the absence of verifiable and repeatable results in the quest for UFO confirmation, as with any conjectured topic, we are left only to consider what may be possible in some broad sense along with what comparatively is most likely.

I must clarify that an unidentified flying object is just that and the term does not necessarily imply that the object is being operated by intelligent life from outer space. It does follow all the same that the fascination with reports of UFOs is drawn from the possible inference that our planet could be visited by extraterrestrial life. Polling varies but on the average a third of the public believe in UFOs. To put this in context, this percentage is about the same as for people stating that they are baseball fans.

Is it possible that there is intelligent life somewhere else in space? Yes, it is. New information is becoming available all of the time regarding the existence of other planets that could possibly support life. The exhilarating prospect of taking this another step and suggesting that we could be visited by some other life form from space has inspired speculation about aliens in fictional works and in society as a whole.

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Percival Lowell

Aliens in pop culture can be traced in a roundabout way to the observations of Percival Lowell. I actually visited the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona some years ago. Viewed through his telescopes in the late 1890s, Lowell believed he was observing a network of canals on the surface of Mars. The word canal implies that designers and builders were involved in some sort of construction, who of course have to be intelligent.

The scientific community was less than enthusiastic about the notion of intelligent life on Mars building canals, but Lowell’s depiction of Mars captured the general public’s imagination. Science fiction was becoming popular and H.G. Wells published “War of the Worlds” in 1898, shortly after Lowell’s first Mars book. The radio performance of “War of the Worlds” terrified a large portion of the audience who mistakenly interpreted the radio show as an account of real events in 1938. Movies featuring flying saucers and aliens from just about anywhere in space became popular during the 1950s and still prove box office gold to this day.

There is no question that aliens exist in our collective imaginations. It may be evident that our human imaginations are the inspirations for most of the depictions of aliens in entertainment as well as with the descriptions of aliens by those people claiming to have encountered them because these representations of alien life most often resemble humans. We have all heard stories featuring little green men. Portions of one alleged account of an alien body recovered from Roswell, the infamous and fabled supposed alien crash site in the desert outside of Roswell, New Mexico, includes such particulars as a four foot human shaped figure with arms, bizarre four fingered hands, and an over-sized incandescent light bulb-shaped head. We humans are psychologically predisposed to interacting with creatures that have similar structures as ourselves, such as a body with a head and four major extremities. Dogs, cats, and horses all fit these criteria. E.T. would not have been as endearing if the character was based on the shape of a maggot. If horses could imagine aliens might their descriptions of aliens resemble horses with exaggerated features?

This is where what is likely, or perhaps what is not likely, begins to separate from what is possible. How likely can it be that intelligent alien life would have any type of a body structure comparable to that of life existing here on Earth, let alone similar to humans or even vertebrates?

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NASA Image

Right here on Earth when part of the general progress of life is separated from the rest of the world the development of species can be become unique. An example of this would be the life found at hydrothermal vents in the deep ocean. If these life forms can evolve to endure poison gas, heavy metals, extreme acidity, and other harsh conditions imagine what direction alien life could take on a different planet all together. To truly consider what alien life might be like we have to suspend everything about life as we know it.

We most likely can assume that any alien life we happen to find will be carbon based, although even that is not a given. This is a good possibility because carbon is proficient at making complex structures and such structures are the building blocks of life. It is after life starts up that the possibilities really become multifaceted. The potential complex combinations in the initial microbiology of these early life forms are endless and furthermore there is no way of predicting the influences under which these life forms would grow and evolve in an alien world. The very definition of intelligence, consciousness, or even morality may have to be radically modified.

PhoneGraphicIn judging what is likely regarding alien visitation we also must consider the incredible distances in the vastness of space. A light year is the total distance that light travels in one year. Light travels at an approximate speed of about 186,000 miles per second. Even with the substantial speed of light, 50,000 light years is a remarkably short distance in the universe. Now, consider what this means to us on a practical level. Most people consider the signals in their phone conversations as pretty much instant. On the other hand if you were to call someone who was 50,000 light years away, their phone would ring about 50,000 years after you hit the send button. By the time they said “hello” and that signal traveled back to your phone, 100,000 years would have elapsed after you first placed the call. Taking into account my luck I would probably get voice mail.

I find it ironic that UFO enthusiasts suggest that aliens can supposedly utilize all of their advanced technology to traverse space and time, dive through worm holes, or even travel faster than the speed of light; but cannot conquer the particular challenges of navigating over the American desert.

So, is it likely that some intelligent life form resembling human beings has evolved somewhere in the cosmos, made their way through the vastness of space to visit us, and furthermore is for some reason keeping their presence a secret? I’m going to say no on that one. That is not to say it is impossible or that our own technology may not soon discover something astonishing.

There is very real science working on the possibility that other life might exist right in our own solar neighborhood. Microbial life might very well exist in our solar system including such places as the moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn. Finding these small life structures may not seem as dramatic as a movie depicting an alien invasion, but would have possibly two very significant scientific and in some cases spiritual ramifications. For one, if the life we find is something completely different than the life present on Earth we could conclude that life may well start up any number of ways throughout the universe. On the other hand, if the life we find is consistent with that of life on Earth that could mean that life may have some sort of a common origin in space.

Now, I would stay up for that late show.

Note:

This was a subject of one of our recent podcasts.

Spring 2020 the Pentagon officially released three short videos showing what they termed as “unidentified aerial phenomena.” This episode is a discussion about UFOs and covers aspects of science, religion, and conjecture in the public arena.

For your convenience the interview is available below at the bottom of this post. Just hit play. The podcast episode is also available on most of the major podcasting platforms including Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and many others under the Billy Dees Podcast.

The episode appears on these services as:

UFO Pentagon Videos – Are We Alone? Billy Dees with Jack Casey

Why Space Matters!

“In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.”

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all.”

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”      

– John F. Kennedy September 12, 1962

The above quotes are from the famous speech that President Kennedy gave which set the goal of putting a man on the Moon during the 1960’s. The space program at that time had the backdrop of the cold war. Space interests in regard to national security and intelligence continue to be serious issues of today. If you review the entire Kennedy speech, you will find that the message is about investing in science and technology as much as it is about exploring space.

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NASA Image

We just marked the 50th anniversary of The United States Apollo 11, the first crewed mission to land on the Moon, on July 20, 1969.

The resources allocated for NASA are a fraction of the overall budget for the United States and are often tragically limited because of incredibly wasteful general spending. Yet, so much has been brought forth by the investment in space technology for our society in so many ways. It is the one government program that has paid off.

Here are just a few of the benefits that have been brought forth by the space program either directly or indirectly:

Semiconductor cubing, structural analysis, air quality monitors, virtual reality, aircraft controls, aerodynamicsmicrocomputers, GPS, design graphics, enriched baby food, water purification systems, scratch-resistant lenses, athletic shoes, shock-absorbing helmets, home security systems, smoke detectors, firefighting equipment, flat panel televisions, high-density batteries, trash compactors, food packaging and freeze-dried technology, solar energy, weather forecasting, telemetry systems, laser angioplasty, human tissue simulators, programmable pacemakers, arteriosclerosis detection, ultrasound scanners, automatic insulin pumps, portable x-ray devices, invisible braces, dental arch wire, palate surgery technology, clean room apparel, implantable heart aids, MRIs, bone analyzers, cataract surgery tools, magnetic liquids, advanced welding torches, gasoline vapor recovery, self-locking fasteners, machine tool software, laser wire strippers, lubricant coating processes, wireless communications, engine coatings, better brakes, weight saving technology, improved aircraft engines, advanced lubricants, energy storage systems, along with an array of other things.

Oh no! How could I have omitted golf ball aerodynamics?

Advancements in space technology have enhanced our way of life, given birth to new products and industries for our economy, and improved the safety of the society in which we live.

It is also of no small consideration for me that historically all of this progress has been under the umbrella of American leadership for the entire world. Although I am very glad that the world community has an interest in developing space technology, I do find it disconcerting that lately America seems perfectly content to go along for the ride. It is a common cliché reflecting the simplicity of any particular subject to say that, “It isn’t rocket science.” Well, as America’s math and science scores continue to lag behind large percentages of other populations pertaining to the world’s largest economies, it seems as though we prefer things not to be rocket science.

The United States can barely rouse a modicum of enthusiasm for serious space exploration. NASA’s ability to achieve new space-exploration milestones may very well be limping along because of the government’s disagreements about the agency’s priorities. That is a shame because other countries, including China, seem to be picking up the ball.

During a classic piece of news footage from the 1960s a reporter walked up to a woman in France and asked her how she felt about men walking on the Moon.  Her answer was, “I knew the Americans could do it!” What, exactly, does the world know about us now?

To be fair, there has been renewed American enthusiasm for a mission to Mars. I hope it continues! The next big step for mankind, back to the moon and beyond, might very well come from private enterprises such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Amazon’s Blue Origin.

I believe many of the social ills we have in our society and around the world are largely because of a lack of an education and an appreciation for the sciences. None of us are composed of a better set of elements than anyone else. We are all stardust and life is incredibly short. If we are lucky, among the billions of orbits that the Earth has taken, only 80 or 90 some odd trips around the sun is all we get on our life’s journey.

The fragile biology of our bodies is supported by the same air, water, and nutrients that every living thing, which has ever existed on Earth, has thrived upon. Napoleon, Cleopatra, and even Tyrannosaurus Rex walked under the same sun and sky as we do. There haven’t been any new shipments of natural resources to the Earth. We rely heavily on the environment’s natural processes of decay and renewal, a system that we are rapidly beginning to outpace.

The more we know about our earthly home and how it relates to the incredible oneness that we all share, maybe the more likely it will be that we will make the world a harmonious place for all of us to share.

satellitespaceFor my money, when you consider the benefits of the space program concerning our shared humanity, technology, medicine, and the list goes on; the investment is worth every dime.

Explorers have shaped and mapped our world. However, our world does not end at the top of our atmosphere. The planet on which we live is a product of a vast universe with endless possibilities. Our exploration into our existence is just beginning.