Friday, June 12, 2009

Why I don't believe in... (Part 1, UFOs)

I a an openminded person, that doesn't mean I will believe everything you tell me. I like fantastic things, I am ready to believe a bacteria can live inside a can of hairspray. But I also like to put ideas to the test. During my life there are many things I stopped believing and many others I started to know.
When I was a child I was fascinated by the possibility of extraterrestrial life but as more information has become available here are the questions that made me stop believe. If you can give me informed evidence backed by real science I will believe, but the "I don't know and we cannot expect to know" answer just doesn't really cut it for me.

1. Let's assume that UFOs are piloted starcrafts from another planet and there are sentient beings inside; What do they eat?
Really, have you heard about Moctezuma's revenge? Foreigners can get violently sick when trying food from a different continent, and that's assuming the aliens are carbon-based chordates like us. (Sillicon-based lifeforms present a yet-unsolvable problem; Carbon Dioxide, the stuff we exhale is a gas, but Sillicon Dioxide, what such lifeform would exhale; is a solid, so no Rock Monsters)

2. Let's assume they can eat our food without major discomfort; How did they build their immune system?
If you read War of the Worlds you will remember this spelled doom for the Martian Invaders. H. G. Wells based this conclusion on the fact that visitors from other lands bring with them and are exposed to new pathogens. Let's say that somehow they developed immunity thanks to advanced medical techniques, what about the pathogens they bring? Smallpox caused many deaths in the New World upon the arrival of the Conquistadors, who were very few. If a pathogen from beyond the stars ever arrived and contaminated us, we would surely be all dead as our immune response would be unprecedented, or an alien substance would kill us by anaphylaxis, that's the root cause for allergies.

3. Let's assume they can eat your food and are sterile; How do they propel their spaceships?
Let's assume our visitors come from the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, which is 4 light years away; Michio Kaku analyzes the matter in this article. Not even Planck-Energy propulsion is able to propel a single atom to anything closer to lightspeed and Wormholes, which are largely theoretical, are either; too expensive (in energy requirements) to produce, largely unstable or one-way streets.

But Kaku gives us a way around the first three problems:

4. Unmanned, Robotic probes are far more plausible than manned spacecrafts which must account for the ticket back home.
Here are two very elegant solutions;
a) The probes were sent long ago and left to drift in space, just as our Voyager probes and they are able to transmit information back home.
b) The probes were sent via a wormhole. As they are one-way, they can utilize all their energy in research, collect samples and send back information.

I am more fond of this solution, it paints the aliens as not different from us, as we have sent robotic probes to explore our own solar system and it is not far-fetched that another civilization does the same in a bigger scale. However this solution also brings its own problems we must tackle.

5. If they can't return, what happens to them? How come there aren't any remains?
What happens to the probes after they finish their useful life? Do they self destruct? If so why haven't there been any unexplained explosions without any debris? Why hasn't anyone found a carcass of one?
We must remember something if we were to extrapolate from our own experiences, we sent our probes WANTING THEM TO BE FOUND.That's why the Voyager missions include messages and the Golden Record, so a possible alien may know us and locate our system and why not? return the call.

6.You may say; There are captured probes, they are held by the military in top secret locations, they were reverse engineered and that's why we have had such a great expansion in technology. But there is no evidence for that.

a) You are thinking too USA centric. A probe may have fallen into other government, agencies or individual's hands. The rule of thumb regarding conspiracies is the lesson we learned from Watergate, a high-end government conspiracy can be brought down by a single individual. Where is the Deep Throat of the UFO conspiracy?

b) You can't find a single technological advance that appeared spontaneously without any antecedents. You can backtrack any invention in evolutionary levels. Even the greatest invention of all, Quantum Computing, can be traced to small, logical steps, and that's technology we don't have as of yet.

c) C'mon, dude, you are taking your science fiction too seriously. The so-called UFO phenomenon can be traced back to stories in Pulp Sci-fi Magazines from the 30's, the same magazines that once contained stories from Hollow Earth. The Writings of Richard Sharpe Shaver depict UFOs as not coming from outer space, but from inside our own Earth and they were not piloted by aliens but by DEROs (Detrimental Robots), who are the sadistic and inbred offspring of an advanced civilization that abandoned Earth in prehistoric times.

Certainly the DEROs explanation avoids many, if not all of my objection, if it weren't for the fact that it's the rambling of a single individual who spent the last years of his life in a mental hospital.

We need to say that Sharpe depicted the DEROs ships not as saucers, but as rockets, the saucer retrofitting was added by one of his alumni.

d) We need just a single sample of alien material to prove the probes exist, No government is powerful enough to cover the whole earth all of the time. Also, Kim Jong Il, Ahmajenihad , Chávez or any other dictator would love to put their paws into alien technology.

7. What do they want?

a) Exploit our natural resources.

Kardashiev, referenced in the Michio Kaku article, measures possible alien civilization in types, Type II, which can harness the entire energy of a star, is the minimum requirement for interstellar travel,so they certainly don't lack on energy resources.

This is to say; It's like if you walked all the way from San Francisco to the Amazon in order to eat a single mango.

b) Warn us from impending doom.

Remember Billy Meyer? The message the supposed aliens gave him was that the Governments should stop producing nuclear weapons. That makes sense, it was the 70's it was the height of the Cold war and the zeitgeist was full of nuclear scares. Why didn't the Aliens warn Meyer of Global warming? If they were so advanced they should know our way to harness energy (Type 0 for Kardashev) is dirty and inefficient.

c) Knowledge for knowledge's sake.

This is more likely for a Type II civilization that moved beyond the local concerns of energy, research, however that still brings the problems I described above.

d) Enslave humanity.

You have to be f***ing kidding me.

8) Where do they come from?

According to Michio Kaku, were interstellar travel possible it would be restricted to a mere hundred of light years, of course, the farther the distance, the more energy is spent and the less likely it is for the spaceship to return.

We also have to consider Fermi's Paradox;

The apparent size and age of the universe suggests that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist.
However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.

The Drake Equation gives the possible number of civilization in our galaxy as 10,000, but our galaxy is not 100 light years in diameter, but 100,000, and we also have to ask if any of those are Kardashev Type II civilizations instead of Type 0, like us, or Type I.

This question is the motivation behind observing the skies through radiotelescopes and other methods (SETI) and as the technology to detect extrasolar planets is here, it could be inevitable to discover a Type II in our lifetimes, but then again, Fermi's Paradox; Why haven't we seen them already?

9)OK, Ok, they might not be manned spacecrafts or robotic probes or Robots from inside the Earth, but you cannot deny the phenomenon is real... Think again.

If you believe that you haven't done your homework. Every instance must be analyzed separatedly, explanations range from the mundane (camera defects, lens flare, aluminum balloons) to the exciting (artificial satellites, weather conditions, electromagnetic discharges)


Remember; Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, a camera phone video or a doctored photo is only evidence that some light appeared in the sky. Show me the evidence and we can discuss it and explore it together. But you see, you have a lot of explaining to do before assuming there are aliens.

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