The Inevitable Loss Of Wonder

When I was growing up, I was very big on science fiction, aliens, and UFOs. I was also into fantasy, magic, monsters, and other unknown things. As I got older I began to realize that the ideas that I held so dear weren’t all that mysterious. The light at the end of the crawlspace under the house wasn’t a subterranean city, just the back of the house; the wonders that lay on the other side of distant hills were just more roads and suburban homes; the red light flying high overhead during the holiday seasons was not Santa Claus, but an airplane. Every year of living stripped away another layer of magic and wonder.

Ideas about UFOs and aliens, though, went in another direction. Or, rather, two directions: one for, and one against. As I learned more about time, distance, speed, and space the less likely it seemed, to me, that Earth had visitors from other star systems. On the other hand, if our solar system had an older civilization that pre-dated us, then things could be different. But where were they located? Why is there no definitive evidence that they existed?

I spend a lot of time thinking on such things. I no longer have a close knit network of friends that I hang out with to discuss these things with. I work from home, now, so I no longer sit in traffic for hours to ruminate on these topics. So, now I’m going to unleash them on you. Feel free to poke holes in anything I say because I’ll try and patch those holes and that keeps my brain busy.

On Alien Visitations

I was always a fan of aliens coming for a visit. Project Bluebook was one of my favorite shows. If I didn’t own books about alien abductions or contact, I would get them from the library. As I got older, I realized that random visits from other star systems just wouldn’t be that likely, unless they were already close. Even assuming that aliens may be immortal and have methods of travel that circumvent the speed of light, the basic question of, “Why would they come here?” would still persist. It’s not that I think anything is wrong with Earth, or that it wouldn’t be a lovely place to visit, but why would an alien civilization from far away come here?

We know how telescopes work: light comes from somewhere and when you look at it, you’re essentially looking back in time. Light doesn’t travel faster than the speed of light (without a bit of coaxing), so if light took a 100,000 years to get to the telescope lens, then you’re looking at something from 100,000 years ago. Even if an alien looking through a telescope managed to find Earth (we all know space is very big), they’d be looking at a very old Earth, before anything exciting was going on. Why would they think there was anything of interest going on now? Unless they were coming to see dinosaurs, which, I guess, is a possibility.

The flipside to this would be that they weren’t relying on telescopes. Maybe they were sending out probes? Probes travelling faster than light that would slow down when encountering planets. I guess that’s feasible. Just because we haven’t figure out the science doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t.

On Alien Empires

We’ve been sending radio signals into space for a while now. And a “greatest hits” record. We’ve also been combing the skies looking for radio signals. Sometimes we see something that looks like it came from an intelligence in outer space, but someone comes along and explains it away. Since we haven’t heard from anyone, it’s safe to assume there’s nobody out there, and never has been.

Except, it isn’t. There are a few reasons why we may not have picked up alien signals.

  1. We’re too young. The other civilizations have already risen and fallen. All the radio chatter has already degraded and we can no longer pick it up.
  2. We’re too old. No other civilization has gotten to the point that we have and aren’t sending out radio signals. Or they just started and it will take years for us to detect their version of The Lone Ranger or The Guiding Light.
  3. They are savvy and use compression and encryption. Would we be able to detect intelligent signals if they were encrypted and compressed? Or one or the other? I don’t know. It seems to me it would be a bit difficult and blend in with background noise.
  4. They don’t use radio. We’re talking about aliens, here, so maybe they just plain don’t use it. Or have another method, like light. Or something we don’t know about, yet.
  5. They straight up don’t care. For millennia, humans have been looking at the stars and wondering what goes on out there, why there are lights twinkling, why things move the way they do. We’re human; it’s what we do. But we’re talking about aliens who may not be human at all. They may not look like us, act like us, or think like us. They may even live underground or underwater and it never occurred to them that there might be an outer space, much less other galaxies and planets.

All in all, the idea that they don’t think like us is probably the biggest factor. We may think sending out signals about the hydrogen atom may be a big deal, but to an alien race it may not be. Maybe they have a big thing for the number 8, so they look for signals going on about oxygen. Or selenium. I don’t know. Nobody knows. Because to know, we’d have to have contact and some sort of insight into how they think. Anyone that claims they would know would immediately be labeled a lunatic and ignored.

Closer To Home

The “Face” on Mars doesn’t get a lot of mention, these days. The idea that it’s a natural formation that we see a face in makes sense, since humans are good at that sort of thing. We see faces on pancakes, in wood paneling, and in fog so there’s no reason to think we’re just projecting face on a pile of rock. That said, I can’t definitively say that it’s not an artificial construct. I’ve never been there. I’ve never had a chance to see it close up and do a real good study of it. No one has. At least, no on from Earth who’s going to talk about it. So to say it it’s a natural formation is just as wrong as saying it’s artificial. We can only presume until we get enough people on Mars to take a really good look at it.

Why would ancient Martians decide to build a gigantic face on Mars? Again, I couldn’t say. I have no insight into the working of a theoretical Martian mind. On the other hand, what would possess an ancient pharaoh to build a huge pyramid? A big enough ego and the ability to make it so would seem to fit. Plus, Mars has less gravity so it might be easier to build a big, creepy face gazing out into nothingness.

Where’s The Evidence?

If there were ancient Martians on Mars, or other aliens that visited Earth, where’s the evidence? Where are the hi-tech gadgets? Sure, there are ancient etchings, carvings, and, possibly, stories about them but where is the physical proof? And, really, those etchings and carvings might be of something terrestrial. We don’t have the ability to ask the original artists what they were doing. We make stuff up all the time now, it’s not inconceivable that cultures in the past were making stuff up.

Oddly, the higher we go up the technology ladder, the easier it becomes to explain away the lack of physical evidence. And, of course, there’s always the chance that things are so alien that we don’t have the faintest idea of what to look for.

Fifty years ago, you may have read a myth about a hero with an amulet that could open doors. “A magic amulet,” you might think. But these days, we have a lot of “magic amulets,” we just call them company ID cards. People wear them on lanyards all the time, and waving them in front of a box causes doors to unlock or even open.

Perhaps there’s a myth about a god writing on a tablet that could be easily erased and re-used. We have tons of such tablets, today. You know: iPads, and their relatives.

Flying chariots we haven’t quite achieved, although some people are still holding out hope for them.

And then there’s nano technology. We haven’t gotten there yet, but consider what a boon it would be for the planet if we did have molecular sized robots breaking down all our garbage and waste into their component atoms. If you can have a race of aliens that are able to bypass the speed of light, is it any more difficult to think they mastered this technology? If you scoff at the idea of teeny tiny robots, you should be aware that your body is already full of them: white blood cells would fit the description, I should think, as would viruses.

Now What?

Beats me. I’m not a scientist and I’m certainly in no position to influence policy. All I can do is sit around and think about these things while other people (maybe) read this and laugh because I’m totally off base. That’s all right; my life doesn’t rely on this or how it’s taken or disputed.


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