High Strangeness: November 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

UFOs in the News

I've come across a couple of interesting articles recently that have given me some things to think about, UFO-wise.

The first was this article in WIRED, entitled Twenty Years After His Death, Carl Sagan is Still Right. Right about what, you may ask? Why, UFOs, of course!

The writer recalls a time twenty years ago when he interviewed Dr. Sagan, the noted UFO skeptic, in order to find out from Sagan "why people believed crazy stuff." When you've started the discussion out on such a low level, you can hardly expect any remarkable insights, and Sagan offered none:
“When UFOs became a popular subject and I was in early high school or something, it seemed to me great. We were just reaching out into space, and why not a much more advanced civilization reaching out to us?” Sagan said. “It seemed so heady and promising, such an interesting future. But as I learned a little bit more about the properly skeptical attitudes of science and how often we deceive ourselves, I began to look at this with much more skepticism.”
Later, the author quotes Sagan's idiotic saying that "Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence" -- a stance that I pick apart in my book The Close Encounters Man. The interviewer simply accepted that as the final word on UFOs twenty years ago, and its clear from the new article that he still believes that today. It's a very frustrating read, and some of the commenters are even more closed-minded than the author.

Still, I recommend you read it, as it pretty much sums up what we're up against.
The massive radio antenna at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, listens for alien transmission. China is building one even bigger.

The other article I came across this week was much more fun, and much more uplifting. What Happens If China Makes First Contact? just appeared in the December, 2017 issue of The Atlantic, and although it's a very long article is is well worth a full read. The article tells the story of China's efforts to build a radio telescope nestled between mountains that is twice as far across as the one nestled between mountains near Arecibo, Puerto Rico, which is already pretty damn big.

Why are the Chinese taking on such a massive, expensive project? Could it be that they want that first UFO to land not on the lawn of the White House but in the middle of The Forbidden City? It turns out that is exactly right. The Chinese want to make first contact so badly that they have built the world's largest radio telescope and they have dedicated it exclusively to listening for signals from extraterrestrials.

And, get this: they've enlisted the aid of Liu Cixin, China's best-known science-fiction author and first-ever Hugo Award winner, to help publicize the dish and its mission. It's a massive, ambitious, exciting project (which, as far as I can tell, does not have a name), and the Chinese seem to be doing everything in their rather formidable power to make it a success. And I think that's really exciting and inspiring.

I suppose it's possible that there's a down side to idea of competition in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, but I also think that if that if first contact were made, the alien intelligence(s) would be wise enough to know that any signal they send to the Chinese dish would need to be simultaneously "cc'd" to the Arecibo dish.

They're the smart ones, remember?