Ufos – do we have anything of interest to say?

Recent sighting of UFOs over Zurich, reminds me that I have now been seeing UFO reports in the media for over 50 years.  During this time sighted UFOs have been described as either cigar shapes or discs, consistent with any photographs taken.

If any of these UFOs are from another planet, whether our galaxy or elsewhere, it seems improbable that they would need to make multiple visits.  If they are one time visits from different planets, it seems improbable that the craft would look the same.

It is also difficult to think of a convincing reason why the craft would need to be manned (‘lifed’?), by ‘aliens’ – who some claim to have seen. We don’t send manned exploratory vehicles into deep space, and a technically advanced planet would presumably have no need to send along inhabitants either.

But if we are not alone in the Universe, where is everybody?

 I am persuaded by the statistical argument of the probability of other life forms on other planets in the Universe, but I am unable to imagine why if other forms of life exist, and were ‘intelligent’, they would need to communicate with us.  But many people insist that if there were other intelligent life in the Universe, it would have communicated with us by now, or at least we would have detected radio waves recognisably generated by life forms.

Really?  On Earth we have only had the capacity to transmit radio waves for a little over 100 years.  At some point in the future we may be communicating telepathically, or in some inconceivable way (remember radio communication would have seemed inconceivable in 1809) way which does not rely upon radio waves, and so the technology ‘window’ during which intelligence might use radio waves might be relatively short lived.

Suppose we had the capability to travel back in time, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 years on our own planet, we would probably do so, but why we would want to communicate with anybody we found  – what would be the point? 

Another difficulty I have is that whereas I can relate to the statistical argument for life elsewhere, I am in difficulty in believing that it would have to be intelligent life.  I see no reason why life here could not have continued for an indefinite further number of millennia, without intelligent life evolving from other life forms.

The assumption that communication is even possible between different species is also taking much for granted. As technologically advanced as we suppose we are, we cannot understand what dogs and chimpanzees are saying to each other, so why do we suppose that we could be understood by, or understand an alien intelligence?

If we can’t find a good enough reason to learn to talk to mice, for example, why should anyone from another galaxy have reason to communicate with us?

6 thoughts on “Ufos – do we have anything of interest to say?

  1. Why are you persuaded by the statistical argument?

    Sure, there is a mind-bogglingly large number of planets out there capable of supporting life similar to our own (not to mention the possibility of very different forms of life we haven’t yet been able to conceive), but why shouldn’t the probability of life arising be even more mind-bogglingly small?

    You wouldn’t expect a 1000 to 1 shot to come up if you ran a test 10 times.

  2. Trevor

    Stewart could have a point..

    It is conventional wisdom that the universe is so vast that it is highly improbable that self-aware intelligent life…or even any life forms at all…exist only on earth.
    Who can tell? However I am impressed by the “Rare Earth” theory which suggest that any replicating life would require exceeding specific conditions for it to have a chance and vast though the universe is it may not be vast enough. After all it is finite. It is not large enough for a monkey somewhere to type out the works of Shakespeare accidentally.
    The universe is generally calculated to be 14 billion years old. A big number but maybe not that big when you think about it.
    At some time during this span there had to be the first planet to develop life by some sort of process. It is possible that it was earth.
    You might find this interesting..
    Cheers Tony

  3. The universe is so large and so old that it is almost impossible that there is not life elsewhere, After all, the material that our solar system (sun itself excluded) is made up of is almost certainly third generation.

    We do not send people into deep space because we cannot. Two reasons: 1) it costs too much at our level of technology; 2) our technology would probably not be able to cope with maintaining human life for long enough to get out of the solar system never mind even the next nearest star (after the sun) at about 26,000,000,000,000 miles away. Work it out at 45,000 mph, about the fastest we have made a rocket travel.

    Whether intelligent lifeforms would want to contact us would seem to be a side issue to me. If there were a substance here that is extremely rare elsewhere and an ET needed it, the ET would come and get it if it could (or send its robots) – a simple matter of self-survival.

    That there have been no ETs indicates that either they have not discovered us yet, or that we have nothing they want.

    Isn’t it strange how it was only after WWII that UFOs were sighted with a shape that resembled a hub cap thrown inot the air. Most UFOs receive incredible publicity whilst they are UFOs (good for selling newspapers) but almost none when they are shown to be ordinary aircraft or hoaxes. With the growth of instant news the same story can be circulated several times around the planet and used to prove itself!

  4. Good points. About UFO sightings.

    There could be a collective need to believe that there really is something out there beyond what we know. In previous centuries this need expressed itself in ghost and other supernatural sightings Conan Doyle even believed in fairies. All of this has virtually died out know as scientific instruments including cameras failed to substantiate any psychic phenomena.

    By about the 1950’s outer space was the only possibility left. Programs such as SETI which search for intelligence created radio waves have been going for decades now with zero result. Admittedly only a relative small part of the universe has been scanned but maybe increased computer power could speed things up.

    Possibly the whole question of life elsewhere could become something like whether or not God exists and shakes down to an estimate of probabilities. One possible way out could be the development of computer programs which simulate the possibilities of the random creation of life in a virtual sence anyway.

    If life does exist elsewhere it has to be extremely rare. All life on earth is believed to be traced back to a single cell and is therefore related. Why couldn’t some form of completely separated form of life have become established in addition?

    About the possibility of life as intelligent as humans being out there. Well there are about 20 million species on earth and none other really comes close to matching human intelligence so what chance does that give for planets a little bit less hospitable than earth?

  5. Basic chemistry would imply that all life would be more or less very similar. The ease with which various chemicals form molecules and those molecules go on to form chains is very important in the development of life. Carbon forms bonds with more elements and more easily than any other known element, an entire branch of Chemistry is devoted to the study of carbon atoms and their bonds with other elements (Organic Chemistry). The next nearest to carbon is silicon and that is a long way behind. Given the abundance of carbon detected throughout the known universe it is likely that life will be carbon based. In any situation where carbon and silicon lifeforms start evolving on the same planet, carbon is likely to win out because of the speed and facility with which it can organize itself compared with silicon. Carbon based lifeforms would win in the race to find and utilise resources and silicon would never really get started. (I recommend Richard Dawkins book “The Selfish Gene” re competition between developing life forms.) From that point on there will be basic similarities between life on earth and life elsewhere even though there may be vast differences in detail.

    There have been many computer simulations of life and evolution and they have helped scientists understand more about our own life but cast no information on other planets.

    In evolutionary terms, we have ensured that no other animal can reach our level of intelligence. It would be too competitive for scarce resources. There is another interesting question about life on earth – if humans became extinct, would another of our planet’s animals develop intelligence to match ours? (see also the increasingly inaccurately described trilogy “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”). Recent discoveries suggest that life can be found in very inhospitable circumstances, but as for intelligence, we do not know what would aid or hinder its evolution in a “non-intelligent” animal.

    Overall, newer discoveries seem to increase the odds of there being intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Whether we will ever be in contact with it is quite a different issue and is totally moot. For example, very intelligent creatures living at the bottom of an ocean would find it very difficult to develop say fire or electricity in the way we have. Either one is important in refining metals – essential for civilization and the development of communications.

  6. Observing from a distance of a few hundred million miles an invisible, (why do we expect more advanced beings not to have discovered ‘stealth’ technology?) exploration vehicle, records for an intelligence wondering about the f two near identical happenings on Earth?

    In one place five persons are observed to have been shot dead by another from the same group, and on the other side of the planet twelve persons were shot also shot by a group member.

    Both of those incidents generate an exceptional quantity of communication waves on the planet. But this is inexplicable – in the vicinity of both incidents a larger number of people met violent deaths in previous days but without a coinciding surge in communication.

    …..and palaeontologists want us to believe that they can explain what kind of lives and beliefs ancient dead people lived from a few bones….

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