Shining a Light on an Enigma: Are We Alone in the Universe?

Are we alone?

It would seem unlikely given the latest estimates for the number of galaxies in the universe may exceed two trillion. That is 2,000,000,000,000 or 2×1012

When one considers that each galaxy on average may contain trillions of  stars (1011 or 1012) you get 2 X 1023 or 1024 or 2000000000000000000000000 stars in the universe.

Now, of course, not every one of these stars would have planets. Of those that do, not every planet is capable of sustaining life, and even those that can sustain life may not develop intelligent life. One might argue as to whether or not we are intelligent life given our history, but I digress.

So if we assume, arguendo, that somewhere in the Universe there are civilizations who have developed faster-than-light travel, able to traverse immense distances between stars and galaxies—to boldly go where no man has gone before (pardon the split infinitive)—then the only question remaining is have they come here?

A better question might be Why come here, but I am willing to bet curiosity is universal.

There was a time when the US government went to great lengths to deny the existence of such phenomena, let alone consider that they might be extraterrestrial. But recently, there has been a juxtaposition of the government’s policy on what we used to call UFOs and now refer to as UAP (Unknown Aerial Phenomena) in as much as they are now actively investigating rather than trying to debunk or explain them away. They even formed a Task Force (UAPTF) to study these UAPs.

I wrote an earlier piece about the release of video shot by US Navy pilots tracking a UAP and the question of are we alone in the universe. But now there is more information coming forward. (Click here to read the earlier piece)

Per a provision in a Congressional mandate, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was required to file a report with Congress on what the government knows about UAPs and their origin. The report was filed this month.

The UAPTF holds a small amount of data that appear to show UAP demonstrating acceleration or a degree of signature management

DNI Report to Congress

I, of course, have read the  nine-page unclassified report and would love to read the classified one but I did find some things they reported in the public report to be startling.

https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/reports-publications/reports-publications-2021/item/2223-preliminary-assessment-unidentified-aerial-phenomena

Here are a few excerpts

“Most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation.”

“144 reports originated from USG(US Government) sources. Of these, 80 reports involved observation with multiple sensors.” (Meaning radar, targeting systems, imagery, and human observation.)

“In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics. Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings. The UAPTF holds a small amount of data that appear to show UAP demonstrating acceleration or a degree of signature management.

I bolded this last sentence because it is rather shocking once one translates the government technical jargon. At least the way I interpret the language, “a degree of signature management” means somebody or something was flying them.

Nowhere in the public report does it definitively identify any of the UAPs as alien. They classify them into more terrestrial, if as yet unexplained, origin due to lack of evidence. They postulate the possibility they may be technologies of a foreign government so far advanced as to be inexplicable within our own technological level or that they may be some private or government domestic research as yet not available to the writers of the report.

But here’s the rub. They lump some into the “other” category. They don’t know what it is, where it is from, who is flying it, or why they are here.

I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what that implies, but I can think of a few possibilities given the immenseness of the universe.

And if anyone onboard a UAP is reading this, I’d love to take a ride. I wouldn’t tell a soul, they probably wouldn’t believe me anyway.

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Recalculating: Life, the Universe, and Everything. 46 not 42

42, the famous answer offered by the brilliant writer, Douglas Adams, in his book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, to the question what is the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything, may be slightly incorrect.

What’s this, you might ask? Isn’t this presumptive of you? Bear with me, there is some rationale behind my idea, or delusion if you prefer.

Looking up in a night sky, especially away from cities and light pollution, the simple vastness of the Universe is overwhelming. What we see with the naked eye is an infinitesimally tiny portion of the stars and galaxies in the observable Universe, The most distant light from objects we can observe with radio telescopes is from 13.5 billion years ago, the time of the big bang. (Although there are now objects scientists believe are even further away—a scientific paradox if the speed of light is an actual limit, but I digress.)

When one looks at those stars, you are looking into the past. The closest star, not counting the sun, is actually two stars orbiting each other, Alpha and Proxima Centauri. They lie 4.5 light-years away. If one were to look at the stars today, June 22, 2020, you would see light that left the stars sometime in 2015-6.

You are actually looking back in time, and perhaps someone on an exoplanet is doing the same thing with our sun.

When I was growing up, there were nine planets. Since then, we have demoted Pluto to a sub-planet, leaving only eight in our solar system. We may have a finite number here, although there is a suspected planet X far beyond Pluto, but there are plenty of planets elsewhere.

Almost everywhere we look, we have found extraterrestrial planets orbiting stars, including an earth-sized planet, perhaps in the Goldilocks zone, which could support life, orbiting Proxima Centauri.

We have neighbors!

At last count, there were over 4000 confirmed exoplanets with thousands of more “candidate” objects yet to be confirmed.

It turns out planets are fairly common.

So, what does this have to do with my premise of changing 42 to 46 for the answer to the question? Bear with me a bit more.

A recent revision of the Drake Equation (I won’t bore you with an explanation, you can read about it here (https://www.britannica.com/science/Drake-equation) speculates there are thirty-six extraterrestrial intelligent communicating civilizations in our galaxy. (https://www.advancedsciencenews.com/astronomers-estimate-there-are-36-communicating-civilizations-in-our-galaxy/)

This estimate is on the low end of the process, there could be many more. Or none. But let us assume there are at least thirty-six.The chance of our finding them—or conversely their finding us—is, well, astronomical.

But what if?

In the Star Trek series, one of the biggest objections from a biological-scientific perspective (aside from faster than light travel) is Mr. Spock, a blended creature with a Vulcan father and a human mother. The likelihood of the chromosomes from an extraterrestrial species being compatible enough to permit reproduction with us is low.

But suppose, like our once certain science there were only nine planets, we are wrong? Suppose planets are a common object in the Universe and that intelligent life will develop given the proper conditions. What if the “right conditions” for developing intelligent life is 46 chromosomes?

What if, given this requirement for developing intelligent life, we could crossbreed with ET?

Perhaps not this particular species

If we can find them, that is.

I am an optimist. But I’ve long ago abandoned my childhood dream of flying to the stars. Yet, it may happen for my grandchildren (whenever they arrive… hint, hint.) But I still hope to live long enough to see the day when we actually communicate with another intelligent civilization.

Or at least know they exist.

Perhaps, generations from now, a blend of the 46 chromosomes from the Broadmeadow lineage will fly to those very stars, taking me existentially along into the Universe.

Here’s to 46 and all the possibilities of imagination.

Reaching for the Stars with Old Technology

Here’s the random thought for the day.

In 1977, NASA launched two (then) state-of-the-art spacecraft called Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. After a grand tour of the outer planets, both spacecraft became the first man-made objects to leave the solar system.

Voyager 1 is currently 13,700,972,396 miles from the earth (which was accurate when I wrote this) but the probe is accelerating and adding approximately twenty-five miles per second to that total. Voyager 2 is a bit further behind.

Just as an aside, twenty-five miles per second sounds fast, but to put inter-stellar travel in perspective, light travels at 186,000 (give or take a few) miles per second. Voyager has been traveling for 42 years. If we fired a beam of light at it, the light would overtake the craft in twenty hours. We’ve a bit to go before we “reach for the stars.”

But I digress as I am wont to do.

Attached aboard each craft are these objects with items selected by Carl Sagan and a committee of scientists, philosophers, political figures, and others.

Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, thunder and animals (including the songs of birds and whales). To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings in 55 ancient and modern languages, other human sounds, like footsteps and laughter (Sagan’s) and printed messages from U.S. president Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim. The record also includes the inspirational message Per aspera ad astra (“through hardship to the stars”) in Morse code.

It occurred to me that a majority of people on Earth right now might not instantly recognize what these objects are, or how significant a part they played in our culture.

In just a few more years, these items might be considered evidence of alien technology. Alien in the sense that they came from a time long ago and fading away…

We’ve sent something out into space that no longer enjoys the widespread use it once did.

I can imagine, on a planet far, far way, an advanced life form examining the object and concluding that whoever sent it must be a technologically inferior species. Yet they would find a way to extract the information and copy it to their Beta tapes for distribution in their world.

Arthur C. Clark once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But what is also true, is that any sufficiently advanced technology will soon be replaced by better magic.