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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the weekend: Do you think — or hope, or fear — that we’ll encounter or communicate with alien intelligence within your lifetime?

I’m fascinated by sites like Whitley Strieber’s Unknown Country, where the author talks a lot about his ongoing alien abuduction experiences (his 1987 book Communion purports to recount the beginnings of these experiences) and how multidimensional godlike extraterrestrials have some connection to the Maya and ancient wisdom and 2012, which is going to kill us all, probably. And The Watcher Files, which presents a sort of Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory about how aliens, probably in cahoots with the Illuminati, are injecting all of us with chips and mind control devices in an attempt to create the New World Order, which the Bible warns us about if you know how to read it. And Cosmic Conspiracies, where crop circles are evidence of aliens but humans cannot possibly have walked on the moon. (I suppose it makes sense that if you can’t imagine that humans could create crop circles, there’s no way you could conceive of humans flying to the moon.)
I’m fascinated, if not surprised, that one of the biggest questions science asks and could — hopefully, someday — answer takes on an overtly religious quality to so many people. I guess “Are we alone in the universe?” is a sort of religious question for some people, and particularly so when the idea of aliens as real and present here and now and doing bad, bad things becomes a way to explain all that seems inexplicable about the world and about the way people act. (It’s odd, isn’t it, that there don’t seem to be any alien conspiracy theories that involve benign aliens hidden among us and maybe just observing us.) I don’t personally understand how it’s comforting to think that someone with mysterious motives and superpowerful capabilities is behind everything that seems wrong and evil about the world, whether that someone is a deity or an extraterrestrial. But perhaps it’s less scary than thinking that nothing is behind what’s going on and that no one is in charge.

I’m with Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy: aliens exist but they’re not visiting us. It seems to me, of what we know about the universe, that the conditions that gave rise to life on Earth are simply too ordinary for similarly favorable conditions not to have arisen elsewhere too. (Probably not the same conditions as we have on Earth, though! I think we’ll find, if we ever get down to serious exploration of our galaxy, that we won’t find any planets similar enough to Earth to be able to walk around unprotected on them, or get the nutrition we need from their plant and animal life.) Even if only a fraction of life-bearing planets have intelligent, toolmaking life, there’s should still be lots and lots of people we can talk to out there.

Do you think — or hope, or fear — that we’ll encounter or communicate with alien intelligence within your lifetime?

If you’ve thought about this question at all, you’re probably already familiar with the Fermi Paradox, which is, basically: If the universe is teeming with life, as it appears it should be, where the hell is everybody?

I hope that before I die we learn of the existence of other intelligent beings in the universe. For me, the saddest thing ever might be to learn that we are alone, or, worse, to just never find anyone else and keep searching in vain.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Victor Forest


    Here we will talk about Earth and the Human with Victor Forest. If we understand this basic fundamental thing about our existence, I am sure we all will be able to define our past and future.

    Interview is about who humans are? What they have done well? What they have done badly (wrong)? And what they can do better?


    What is Earth?

    Earth is a living creature. (Don’t believe in today’s science, if it says other wise)

    What is Human?

    Humans are supposed to be builders and protector for earth.
    That is why Humans have a highly developed brain, capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection, and problem solving.

    Why humans are on Earth?

    Humans are here on Earth to protect the earth from everything.

    Why humans have to protect the Earth?

    Humans have to protect the Earth because it is home for all and humans are created as a problem solving creature for earth.

    Are humans protecting the Earth?

    No, humans are making earth worse.

    How Humans are making Earth worse?

    This is very good question, Humans are using all earth resources to fulfil their desire. Example, like in Human body there are various types of fluids on Earth which helps Earth to move but now humans have used so much of earth fluids that is why we get earth quakes and other disasters.

    Who to blame for this?

    Humans e.g. mostly oil companies, mining companies because they have used all earth fluids and bone to make money.

    What we can do?

    First we can eradicate all companies misusing earth. Secondly, we can start to build earth in its original shape by inventing new fluids for earth.

    Why humans have to protect earth, today’s science tell us that earth recovers itself?
    That is nonsense. Today’s science is human science and it only talks about benefits to humans but it doesn’t look anything about earth.

    Which science is important, Earth science or Human Science?
    First Earth science is important and secondly human science.

    Why Earth Science is important?
    Earth Science is important because Earth is home for all nature.

    What about stones, gold, silver on earth?
    Very good question again, gold, silver, stones are bones for earth so we should not use them for nonsense purposes like to make arms and big buildings and bridges.

    What do you suggest to use if we cannot use gold, silver, oil?
    Humans are supposed to use their brains to make alternative resources. E.g. Humans can plant trees and make bridges, go to mars and bring sand.

    How can we bring sand and other resources from other planets?
    Use brain again; there are 6.8 billions brains on earth so if you use all brain for one purpose you’ll have hundreds of ideas.

    What do you think about our schools, colleges, universities?

    We need all these institutions but not to learn how to dig big hole on earth but just opposite i.e. to make and find alternative resources to built earth healthy and make it the better place for all.

    What do you think about politics, culture, religions and so on?
    These all are created by humans for their selfishness.

    Who is enemy for humans and earth?
    Human are using earth resources to fulfil their desire so all those humans digging holes are an enemy of earth and humans.

    What do you think about Enlighten or awakening?
    Enlighten or awakening is all about understanding earth being one soul. One soul means all human for one goal i.e. to save earth.

    Why do scientists talk about environment and climate?
    Crook science talks about this nonsense. I say this because they don’t realise their home (earth) is falling down but worrying about environment and climate.

    What do you say about one world government?
    Idea can be good to be one for one purpose if it was i.e. to save earth but the people I see making these statements are all hole diggers on earth.

    What do you think about money?
    Money is nothing and you don’t need money when you all become one soul to save earth just share everything.

    How many people should be on earth?
    Maximum 8 billions if they all work only for to built earth good health.

    What to do to hole diggers?
    Ask them to repair holes if they can’t do it throw them into the hole.

    What if hole diggers argue?
    Tell them that they misused all resources and they never talked about replacement but never stopped digging and looting money from everyone.

    Why do we need 8 billions?
    Because humans have a mess to finish i.e. find something to fill the earth holes, cultivate trees, and make earth friendly roads, houses, bridges, and repairing earth.

    Also human should start by having maximum 2 kids for one couple and slowly old will expire and automatically in five years time population will decrease to 5-6 billions. It is bad to kill anyone because all humans are born to protect and make healthy earth and not to make any country’s economy better.

    What about kids?
    Every kid on earth must belong to all souls on earth. That is if you have one kid born in Alaska, where ever he goes he is first priority after earth. Means, if he comes or goes to France, French one couple should look after him/her or if he goes to Bhutan, Bhutanese one couple must look after him/her. In this way love will be created around the world. When love is created souls become one soul and solid soul. And automatically population starts to fix itself according to earths needs.

    What is happening with technology?
    Hole diggers own most of advance technology today but they don’t know what to do with it so they use technology for arms and war games. These hole diggers are very bad humans because they talk about security, money, education, health, economy, environment, climate, all these nonsense. They don’t give anything for earth, when you ask them they say it will automatically recover.

    What do you say about aliens?
    Welcome them with respect. If they want to harm earth ask them to leave and if they want to help earth, let them help.

    Is this possible?
    Everything is possible on earth but humans must get rid of hole diggers on earth as soon as possible.

    What is motto here?
    All human is one soul which is to protect one Earth.

    What is happening now?
    Evil soul is dividing souls of humans around the world and using earth resources saying money, education, security, culture, religions, environment, health and economy.


    Name: Victor Forest
    Email: victorforest01@gmail.com

    I request all humans on earth to make copies of this interview and spread around as soon as possible.

  • Martin

    In an infinite universe, anything is possible so it’s a certainty that life is out there in some form or another. It’s a matter of whether sentient life is out there and whether it’s discovered near of faster than light travel. And that’s important.
    The universe could be teaming with life, but if it’s not smart enough to at least ponder the question of whether they are alone in the universe. It’s not simply a matter of looking for life, it’s a case of looking for civilisation.

    And once we’ve established that there are space faring creatures out there, we have to contend with the staggering distances between stars. The closest star to us is about 4 light years away. Now if we were lucky enough to live next to a solar system that had developed FTL travel, odds are we’d know about it by now but it looks like we’re either not that lucky or not that interesting.

    The great barrier to all those pointy eared, two headed or two hearted aliens out there is distance. If we create a Warp drive or TARDIS, which breaks pretty much every law of physics (or at least requires more energy than we have in the solar system), then it’s entirely possible.
    It’s just a shame that the universe is far bigger than we can comprehend.

    The question of whether we should fear any visitors is an interesting one. I hate to say it but I’m inclined to agree with Independence Day on this one. Given the massive need for resources to fuel a space-faring civilisation, any planets encountered by one would be viewed as a potential mining possibility. If they need to keep moving and are more advanced than us, would they take what they needed without considering us?
    I’m not particularly sure that we would give much thought to other races if presented with the dilemma now (although we’d collectively feel guilty about it afterwards) but maybe the advance in technology brings with it an advance in morality.
    At the moment, we have the ability to act globally but not think globally. Do you think that by the time we’ve learned to think globally and reach out to the stars, we’d have learned to think galactically?
    Unless it’s a really old civilisation, I’d say we’d be completely screwed. So line me up for being the first to get death ray-ed.

  • Orangutan

    @Victor: what is this I don’t even

    On topic: The Sci-Fi geek in me really hopes that we do encounter something. But the same Sci-Fi geek also dreads it. Put it this way, I hope we have a Star Trek outcome, but I think it’s more likely we’ll have a Predator outcome. Only without the happy end.

    On the other hand, encountering a malevolent intelligence MIGHT actually be the event needed to bring the whole planet together. Assuming we survive it.

  • Kimberly

    The universe is so big that I’m sure there must be other life out there. It’s a wondrous thing to contemplate.

    However, I do think it’s unlikely that we’ll ever encounter alien beings, and furthermore that it would be extremely bad news for the human race if they should ever show up.

    On the bright side, I doubt that actual aliens would be as exquisitely hot as, say, Mr. Spock or the Doctor, so there’s no real loss for practitioners of the female gaze.

  • doa766

    the problem is timing:

    the Earth has been around for 13 billions years, humans had been on it for around 10.000 years at the most, and half that as civilizations

    so let’s say an alien race decides to check out this remote blue planet, the chances of them visiting the planet at a time when we are around are quite literally one in a million

    ants however are much more likely to run into aliens than us, since they’ve been around this planet far longer than us and, in all likehood they will be around far longer than us

  • JoshB

    Fear? Definitely. Hope? Cautiously. Anticipate that we will in the near future? No.

    By far the most likely scenario in which we discover aliens within my lifetime is by receiving radio transmissions. That would be cool and all, but then what? We could respond, but I would be long dead by the time the aliens got our response.

    The universe is just so damned big.

  • Great. The first poster you get, MaryAnn, is a conspiracy spammer. /facepalm

    Someone once wrote: “there are two options. Either we are alone in the universe or we are not alone. And either answer should terrify us.”

    Arguments about re: Fermi Paradox.

    The most obvious is that we may be the first to survive this far. Given extinction events and how often they occur (we’ve had, what, 4 do-overs with life on this world?), it’s actually quite hard for life to achieve the technological level to communicate into space and even build vessels to visit other worlds.

    Other worlds that support life – for example places like Europa or Titan – may only support life that won’t have the chances to evolve into tool-makers.

    The second most-obvious is that travel and communication between stars is next to impossible. There are no warp drives to bend if not break the light speed limit, and everything is too far away to make travel between stars feasible. Previous thought was that radio and television broadcasts could travel the vast distances, so that perhaps in another 300 years or so the galaxy might hear/see us: however, current thinking is that there is a terminal point for the signals to get out (signal strength, dispersal of signal, or other) so that we’d be lucky if even the nearest stars (Wolf 359 for example) could ever hear us. Life might be out there, but we can’t hear them and they can’t hear us.

    Scientists are thinking that wormhole technology is possible, but the energies needed and the technology to pull it off are way beyond what we can create at this time.

    There are more fantastic answers (they’re already here and probing us for current movie reviews of Toy Story 3; the aliens have quarantined us for some purpose; alien thinking is *too* alien for them to recognize we are sentient) and of course we have no way of knowing if any of those are correct.

  • KimC

    Similar to what doa766 said, I think it’s a question of timing. Do I think intelligent life has or will exist somewhere outside of Earth? Absolutely. And I think it’s entirely irrelevant. To meet someone you actually need 4 coordinates: 3 to locate where you are in space and 1 to find you in time. Given the vastness of both time and space, I think that the chances of meeting someone else out there are too small to calculate in any meaningful way other than 0. We may, if we’re very, very lucky encounter the artifacts of some alien civilization, or be discovered as an archeological curiosity by aliens long after we’re gone, but that’s about the most we might reasonably hope for. So I don’t worry about our chances against aliens, but I also miss my childhood thoughts of finding someone like the Doctor out there.

  • Froborr

    Been reading your Doctor Who blogging since the start of the current series, but this is the first time that I’ve commented (I think?).

    I agree that it is highly likely there’s life out there in the universe, and lots of it. The conditions that give rise to it, as you said, are just too ordinary for it NOT to be all over the place.

    But life is not the same as intelligent life. Life on Earth got by just fine without any intelligent beings for billions of years; it’s effectively yesterday that we showed up, and there’s no reason to think we were inevitable. Yes, the universe is huge, but it’s still finite, and the number of worlds with life is therefore also finite. The solution space for organisms, on the other hand, may well be infinite, which means the odds of any given solution showing up are effectively zero.

    Even on Earth, life half a billion years ago was more alien than even Giger or Lovecraft could dream up (look up the Burgess Shale fossils for some amazing examples). And those are our relatives! Life on another planet would be even MORE alien. I would be extremely surprised to find anything unambiguously recognizable as an ANIMAL on another planet, let alone intelligence.

    A lot of people reject this argument out of hand because they find it depressing. That’s because we are attracted to the exotic. Centuries of experience have taught us the rich rewards (as well as the dangers) of contact with people from “alien” cultures, who look different and have different cultures but are ultimately still people. We imagine alien life as being the same but more so — looking even more different from us and having even more different cultures, but still ultimately people.

    But the problem is, what we think of as “intelligence” is a highly specific and complex pattern of behavior. It would be a bizarre and unbelievable coincidence if an alien thing, with alien biochemistry and alien anatomy, just happened to use exactly the same weird dance to communicate the location of food sources as bees do. “Intelligence” is a much more complex and specific pattern of behavior — so why do we act like it’s so much more likely? (Besides the obvious, of course — we like intelligent creatures and wish we knew more of them.)

    So, yeah. I think we really are probably the only intelligent creatures that ever existed, and the only ones that ever will (unless we make some ourselves). Doesn’t mean I don’t still love stories where we aren’t the only ones, though!

  • MaryAnn

    WTF, Victor Forest?

    I almost want to delete that first comment, except it’s so batshit-crazy brilliant, in a Time Cube kind of way, that I cannot bring myself to do so.

  • kassia

    Wow. Everyone else has big massive responses. I just really hope for alien contact in my lifetime, that would be amazing. I don’t know if it will happen, but I would be all for making friends.

  • Interesting that Phil Plait’s post is–idea for idea, and in the order and presentation of ideas–almost exactly the same as the talk that Neil DeGrasse Tyson often gives about UFOs. I wonder if they reasoned their way separately to the same argument, or if astrophysicists share talking points. :-)

    Plait gives his thoughts on Fermi’s Paradox in another post.

    Me, I don’t know if I’ll live to see actual communication or physical contact with intelligent aliens, but I hope we at least discover solid evidence that they’re out there. Knowing for certain that we’re not alone, even if there’s no hope of actual interaction, would be a profound human realization, I think. Possibly unsettling to a lot of people, but comforting to me. It would mean that Life has laid its eggs in more than just our one badly mismanaged basket.

  • Boingo

    Alien contact, BigFoot, etc. That would fine and dandy.
    Somehow, I think the reality check (for me) would be
    the fact that checking my mailbox for the next 20
    years(post contact) would still present my priority: freekin’ piles of bills to be paid-still contending
    with “Life on Earth.”

  • I thought VF’s first post was a satire of the question.

    I agree with what’s been said above about the complexity of the question. Sure, a good chance of life, but also good chances of extinctions. And I would add self-extinction, since the same nuclear technology that makes space travel possible make WMD possible, too.

    Or the aliens simply might not care to travel in outer space. They might build a Dyson Sphere to maintain a growing population instead of traveling around. And keep in mind that when a human population reaches a level of industrialization, the birth rate drops, so the demographic pressure to colonize other worlds is off.

    I do disagree that aliens who visited us would be hostile. Any alien species with the technology to cross interstellar space could get the resources they need from the gas giants and their moons and be on their merry way. If the aliens were inherently hostile, then it seems more likely they’d nuke themselves on their homeworld, or maybe their governments would go broke on military spending instead of investing in space. In any case, I doubt they could spare the resources to come here.

  • (It’s odd, isn’t it, that there don’t seem to be any alien conspiracy theories that involve benign aliens hidden among us and maybe just observing us.)

    Perhaps when such beings first came here, they weren’t recognized as being “aliens.” Perhaps they were mistaken for ghosts or angels or deities. And perhaps in more recent times, they’ve been mistaken for, say, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster or even Elvis.

    Granted, that’s not the most scientific of theories but it’s more plausible than most.

    Anyway, there are worse case scenarios.

    For example, the incident in the following quote, which appears to be a case of a human being mistaken for–oh, you’ll see:

    There is a record from the East Indies (now Indonesia) from the 1500’s, of the finding of
    “a great white sea-ape.” This creature was prudently chained to a wall in the local king’s garden, and stayed chained there until it died. We are entitled to disbelieve that it was really “a great white sea-ape,” not only because there are no such things, but because on the wall to which it was chained it left graffiti in several languages including Latin and Dutch. In other words, it was a human being, of a race strange to the natives, speaking languages equally strange–and, as it lived chained up there for 34 years, one must only hope that it was at least a very long chain.
    –Avram Davidson, “Adventures in Unhistory: The Prevalence of Mermaids”

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