High Strangeness: ET: Intergalactic Stalker?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

ET: Intergalactic Stalker?

I wrote recently here about "Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication," the fascinating eBook I downloaded from NASA -- for free! The book is a series of papers written by scientists who are interested in both the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI), and it is both an entertaining and a challenging read.

I have finally reached the much-anticipated Epilogue of the book, entitled "Mirrors of Our Assumptions -- Lessons from an Arthritic Neanderthal," but before I read it -- with all due respect to Mr. Neanderthal -- I wanted to toss out some thoughts about the book thus far...

There's so much to consider when one wants to reach out and contact aliens on other worlds... Can we assume that an alien civilization is capable of communicating with us (or would want to communicate with us at all)? Can we assume that physical "laws" are consistent throughout the universe? Should our search be active (in which we send out messages) or passive (in which we simply listen for messages from others)? If we conduct an active search, do we target certain areas of the sky or send out a signal with the widest possible spread? If the human race makes contact with ETI, how do we decide who gets to do the talking? Are the fears of the Disclosure-oids even remotely realistic? Is simply sending a message to ET sufficient, or will we also have to send a message announcing that we are sending a message? Can the Drake Equation lick the Fermi Paradox in a fair fight? Can't we all just memorize the words "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto"? And what the hell is the Voynich Manuscript about, anyway?

Several of the authors, to my supreme delight, have made the point that if we are sending out signals to distant alien civilizations, we should take the precaution of not letting them know where we live. Turns out there are stalkers in space... Think about that.

Will first contact be bike this...
...or this??
It's also interesting to have it driven home over and over again that, while people who believe that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin pretty much have no choice but to believe in ETI as a prerequisite, the opposite is not true: people who believe in ETI do not need to believe that UFOs have an extraterrestrial origin, and they would be pleased us punch if the UFO phenomenon would simply suck it up and crawl back under the rock from whence it came.

With that in mind, I decided to search for the term "UFO" in the text of the NASA book, and what I found was quite sobering... "UFO" comes up exactly three times, and I quote:

"While the SETI program had always suffered from a 'giggle factor' that derived from its association in the popular press with searches for 'little green men' and unidentified flying objects (UFOs), the congressional pressures intensified in 1990," reads the first entry, from Chapter Two: "A Political History of NASA's SETI Program."

"Yet we do not see them, so 'where are they?' Many scientists concluded in the 1970s and 1980s that this argument provided strong empirical evidence that extraterrestrials do not exist--'empirical' because we do not observe them on earth (unless one accepts the evidence for UFOs, which SETI enthusiasts studiously avoid)" reads the second entry, this from Chapter Three: "The Role of Anthropology in SETI; A Historical View."

"In 2004, the NASA Astrophysics Data System listed more than 600 SETI-related articles in refereed journals (Mark Moldwin, 'Why SETI Is Science and UFOlogy Is Not: A Space Science Perspective on Boundaries," Skeptical Inquirer 28, no. 6 [2004]: 40-42," reads the third entry, this one a footnote to Chapter Six: "Learning To Read: Interstellar Message Decipherment from Archeological and Anthropological Perspectives."

Not exactly a big pat on the back from the SETI community, is it? I mean, in a very real sense, we're all on the same side, so it's a little silly that the SETI people feel the need to maintain such a snooty attitude towards the UFO people. It was silly back when SETI pioneer Carl Sagan was ridiculing UFO witnesses on national TV, and it's silly now. Offensive even.

Wouldn't it be great, then, if the first real breakthrough in contact with extraterrestrial intelligence came about from a solitary Certified MUFON Field Investigator -- say, me -- slogging it out in the wilds of Wisconsin, chasing down reports of a daylight disc and coming face to face with an alien entity? A friendly one, I mean? I'd like to see what the SETI folks would be writing their papers about then...

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