Aliens (8/10/07)

A new video rising in popularity on youtube depicts an alien spaceship flying overhead, meeting another spaceship midair before flying off into the distance. While I was watching it I couldn’t help but yell, “Fake!” before the short clip ended. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t thousands, if not millions, of people that will see the video and be taken aback at the “evidence” of extra-terrestrial life. So I figured I’d take a little time out to prove to one and all that this, and any other “evidence” of UFOs and aliens (ahem, Rosell, crop circles) is all crap.

First of all, I’d like to begin by saying that I do believe that on some distant planet orbiting some distant star, there is life that exists. There are too many stars and planets o assume otherwise. But don’t let that statement fool you; the probability that there is life on a given planet is very, very, very, small. And for the sake of this argument, I’ll try to gauge the probability that there is life on a planet that has technologically surpassed that of mankind.

First, we’d have to determine the probability that a given planet will have conditions suitable for life to exist (very very very slim given how many planets/moons we’ve had the chance to observe). Then, we’d have to assess the probability that life somehow finds itself on said planet. Seeing as we don’t even know exactly how life emerged on our own planet, the odds of that happening are also quite small. Third, we have to determine the probability that life on this planet evolved beyond ourselves. The process took roughly 3.4 billion years to unfold on our own planet, so you’ve got to figure that the probability for that is also very slim. What’s the probability for all three to occur? Infinitesimal. (That means it’s really really small, something on the order of 0.000…00001, with a lot of zeroes inbetween).

Now for the sake of this argument, let’s assume that there’s sentient life on a planet orbiting the nearest star. I hope those of you reading this realize from the preceding paragraph what a gigantic, massive assumption that is. Now, according to our best estimates, the nearest star is Alpha Centauri, which is more than 4 light years away. What’s a light year you ask? It’s the distance that light travels in a year. So, if we traveled at the speed of light, it would take us more than 4 years to get to Alpha Centauri. 8 years for a round trip. If I recall Einstein’s special relativity (wikipedia helps aid my memory), he proved that matter cannot travel faster than the speed of light. So forget those old Star Trek episodes where they travel at Warp 10 and don’t even bat an eyelash. In fact, our best current technology travels 0.0000474% of the speed of light… nowhere near it. So what do you think the odds are that someone from a planet from that solar system would spend 4 years (many many many more with a realistic estimate) in a spaceship, come to earth and then just fly away without making any attempt at communication?

“But ddot, what about black holes? Aren’t those holes in the space-time continuum? Couldn’t you use those to travel to far-off distances?” Well, seeing as one cannot travel faster than the speed of light, and light itself cannot escape the gravitational pull of a black hole, what makes you think a human being could?

So if the preceding paragraphs didn’t convince you of the impossibility of extra terrestrials visiting our planet, consider this. If you’ve paid any attention to space exploration the past few years, then you’ve probably heard of the Mars rover and the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft. Both of these were designed to capture data from distant planets and relay them back to earth. NASA realized it’s much easier and much less expensive to send unmanned spacecrafts to distant planets to gather data. So given that we’ve explored far more of the universe through these probes and rovers, it is far, far more likely that our first contact with any sort of extraterrestrial life will be through these spacecraft than person to person. Er, person to alien.