UFOs – Real or Imaginary?

UFOs seem to be popping up in the news.  China is having a rash of sightings compromising certain airports in their country, and the National Press Club had a news conference on September 27, 2010 with retired Air Force personnel recounting their experiences.

So, UFOs, real or imaginary?

To paraphrase Carl Sagan, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, we have to ask, where’s the evidence?  Surely, UFOs are extraordinary objects, but we don’t seem to have the hard physical evidence.  Some might argue that there is physical evidence, but it is locked up on some high security military base, or buried in a nondescript government warehouse.  So, the general public doesn’t have access to that.  What we do have is a small percentage of sightings that can not be explained as the planet Venus, weather balloons, airplanes, etc.  Within this group of unexplained cases we find that a percentage of those sightings were made by people with professional backgrounds—pilots, police officers, military personnel, and astronauts— that lend credibility to their reports.  They knew enough and had enough experience to report an incident that could not be dismissed with one of the typical explanations.

I think we are too short-sighted and conceited to admit that there is other intelligent life in our galaxy/universe.  The argument is often put forth that the physics prevents interstellar travel, so it is impossible that these sightings are extraterrestrial in origin.  To think that we know everything there is to know about the physics of the cosmos is as faulty today as it was in the late 1800s when scientists thought there was nothing more to learn.  They had discovered electricity, magnetism, gravity…What else was there to discover?  It was around the turn of the century that X-rays were discovered, and a few years later Einstein came up with his theories about the photoelectric effect and relativity, and it goes on and on.  There is a lot out there we haven’t a clue about yet!

For me, it’s not hard to see that we don’t know everything about everything.  And, with over 300 billion stars in this galaxy, which is over 10 billion years old, and with an unimaginable number of planets orbiting those stars, odds are that there are many extraterrestrial civilizations out there.  Personally, I think that they’ve been here and checked us out more than once.

Why?  Who knows?  Maybe one day we will get to ask them in person.

I’ve been working on a new novel for the last year or so that involves a unique UFO encounter.  This all adds incentive to finish it up sooner!

Till next time,

RC Davison

Do They Know We’re Here?

A week or so ago SETIcon went on in Santa Clara, California.  This is a convention led by the SETI Institute, which is devoted to investigating the possibility of life elsewhere in the cosmos.  There was some buzz about whether or not we should try to broadcast messages advertising that we are here, and interested in communicating.  There was a range of responses from ‘no, we shouldn’t advertise our presence because an alien species might come and do us harm’ (a point of view expressed by Dr. Stephen Hawking) to ‘well it’s too late, since we’ve been broadcasting our presence from the first radio messages that were transmitted in the late 1890’s, early 1900’s’.  This point was echoed by Dr. Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute.

I happen to agree with Dr. Shostak.  We’ve been broadcasting radio signals for over 100 years, and they’ve only become richer with more information as time has passed.  The fears that an alien culture would come here and use us as a food source ignores the reality that we have bacterial, parasitical and viral components that they would probably have no immune defense for.

Just think about what we go through to travel around the world today, in 2010.  We have to be immunized against many of the diseases that are common in certain parts of the world, and/or take other precautions to minimize our chances of exposure to debilitating or even deadly diseases.  In most places you are cautioned about drinking the local water.  We all evolved on this planet – humans, plants, animals, bacteria, viruses, parasites and what ever I’ve forgotten.  What is ET going to do when they have us for dinner?

Of course, one could argue that they may have the technology to inoculate themselves from our little bugs, but why come all this way to have to do that when you can eat the food you’ve evolved eating on your home planet?

Another fear is that they will strip mine our planet.  From what we’ve already learned from Kepler in its first year of service looking for extrasolar planets, (see Blog 24. July 2010) I’ve got a feeling that most of the over 300 billion stars in the Milky Way have some sort of planetary/debris structure orbiting them.  These will be vast reservoirs of minerals, elements and compounds much closer to their home planet.  They won’t need to travel all the way to Earth to pick them up.

So, if they know we are here, and if they have the technology to travel across the cosmos to visit us, we really don’t have much to say about it.  To try to guess whether their intentions are peaceful or not, is a fruitless exercise.  We only have our own history of aggressive expansion and violent behavior as an example of what an advanced society can do.  We shouldn’t judge extra-planetary civilizations based on our violent past, and the way Hollywood has portrayed extraterrestrials.

One last thought.  Even if we didn’t invent radio transmissions when we did, an advanced civilization would have the technology to know that our planet exists.  And, if they are within about 200 lightyears of us, they would have seen the composition of our atmosphere change (or begin to change) over the last 2 centuries.  This would surely be a flag that something was interesting was going on here!

What do you think?

As always, comments are greatly appreciated.

Till next time,

RC Davison

Science Fiction Podcasts

If you’ve checked out the site, and the blog, you’ll know my passion for science.  So, for me, writing science fiction is a natural extension of that passion.  As far as I’m concerned science and science fiction go hand-in-hand.  And, I firmly believe they drive each other in a convoluted closed loop.

The more that science advances, the larger the base of material a writer has to build upon.  Applying their imagination, and pushing the boundaries of what we can dream of. In turn, that stimulates the minds of the readers, (especially the young ones) laying the ground work they will use when they contribute to society by conducting research and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.  The cycle continues.

Where am I going with this? Well, I just wanted to bring to your attention a few podcast sites that I’ve been following for a while: The Drabblecast, Escape Pod, and PodCastle.

Drabblecast and Escape Pod are Sci-Fi sites, while Podcastle is mainly a Fantasy site, but sometimes that line is not too clear.  The people behind these sites typically put up an audio version of a short story, sometimes  with multiple voice actors, sound effects and music.  They typically run about 30 minutes, but occasionally may run longer. Some of these stories are Hugo Award winners/nominees, and some of the authors are very well know in the publishing world.  You might be amazed at some of the work that comes from people who are new to the industry.

I have no affiliation with these sites, so there is nothing in it for me to promote them other than the pleasure of knowing that I’ve turned someone else on to some great story telling. The bottom line is that there are some really great Sci-Fi short stories  being written and nicely produced.  Of course, not every story will be meet your expectations, but that’s life.  I’ve found that even if I didn’t care for the story, the narration or production makes for an entertaining listen.

Check them out if you get a chance.  I think you’ll be glad you did.  There are extensive archives on each site, so you’ll have a lot to listen to.  (The links to these sites are also on the side of the page under Links.)

Till next time,

RC Davison