Many paranormal claims depend on a belief in the existence of spirits or other entities, among them, aliens from outer space.
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been going on for over three decades. In many countries, radio telescopes and other highly sophisticated apparatus scan the universe in the hope that signals radiating from distant civilizations may be detected. In the CIS (formerly the USSR), the giant radio-telescope RATAN 600 with 14,000 sq metres of aluminium reflectors set in a circle of 600 metres and interconnected with the main radio astronomical centres of the former Soviet Union, is to be used inter alia, for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
In November, 1974, a message in binary code was transmitted by the radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico to the globular cluster Messier 13, at a distance of 25,000 light years, and was the first interstellar message from Earth.
Between 1972, and 1976, astronomers at the University of Chicago analysed some seven hundred stars up to a distance of sixty five light years, and similar search projects were carried out in the UK and the then USSR. NASA also took an active role in SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) in 1977, instituting a program to search eighty per cent of the sky. The launchings of Voyager I and II in 1977, have since returned a mine of scientific information and thousands of outstanding pictures, not the least of which were the spectacular shots of Neptune and its moons as Voyager II exited from the solar system.
While government funding for SETI has since been withdrawn, the search continues under private patronage.
The probability of extraterrestrial intelligent life existing "out there" has been compounded by alleged UFO sightings for over forty years, and the studies carried out by the international scientific community.
The statistical argument in favour of the existence of ETI is summed up by Isaac Asimov: (1974), "...in the observable universe, there are as many as 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (a billion trillion) stars," concluding that "this one consideration alone makes it almost certain extraterrestrial intelligence exists."
Other astronomers refer to the "cosmological principle", which states that except for some local peculiarities, no part of our universe is unique or privileged and therefore our solar system is not a special, but rather a typical case.
Cyril Ponnamperuma (1982), former director of the Laboratory of Chemical Evolution at the University of Maryland, corroborating the view that all living matter, plants, animals and humans, use the same organic chemistry and even the same amino acids and genetic code, stated that
"the alphabet of life is...extremely simple; the wide variety of life today may be traced to a mere handful of chemicals", drawing the conclusion that "if conditions similar to those on the primitive Earth prevailed elsewhere in the universe, the same kind of events might happen, resulting perhaps in a kind of life very similar to ours."
In March 1972, the Pioneer 10 spacecraft was launched to explore the planet Jupiter and carried a small plaque with a message containing some basic scientific information and a clue as to planet Earth’s whereabouts. An identical copy was launched into space on Pioneer 11 in the following year. It will take them approximately 80,000 years to reach the vicinity of Alpha Centauri, and its interception by another civilization would equate with an earthbound archaeologist’s find from the Pleistocene age. When one considers that Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our sun — 4.3 light years away, the problems confronting those who would communicate over such vast distances seems insurmountable and the potential benefits questionable.
With the many new observational instruments now under development, the newly launched Hubble space telescope the Infrared Space Observatory and even more promising perspectives to be offered by permanent space stations, it can be taken for granted therefore, that it may well be established within the foreseeable future, whether or not other planetary systems exist, at least within in our immediate vicinity.
To suggest that the alleged sightings of UFOs (in the context of alien visitors) is evidence of the existence of other cosmic inhabitants, is tenuous to say the least in the absence of tangible and verifiable evidence.
The strongest argument in favour of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is the statistical one, that in the observable universe there are as many as a billion trillion stars. Even our own Milky Way galaxy has an estimated 100 to 300 billion.
This, together with the cosmological principle which states the commonality of our solar system, presents a persuasive argument in favour of extraterrestrial civilizations. The latter view has recently been reinforced by breakthroughs by molecular chemists and micro-biologists who are convinced that the uniform physical and chemical properties of the universe make the evolution of animate and intelligent life forms inevitable.
The "Fermi Paradox" argument is equally compelling. Named after Enrico Fermi, the Italian Nuclear Physicist who asked, "if older and more advanced civilizations exist, why haven’t they detected us yet and made themselves known?" Astronomers endorse this by postulating, that given that the Milky Way galaxy is probably about twelve billion years old and that a space faring civilization would be able to colonize the Milky Way in about five to ten million years, why haven’t they visited us or tried to colonize Earth?
Questioning the thesis that life is likely to develop on most planets with a suitable ecosphere, astronomer Michael J. Hart, (1982), from Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, states that "the probability that an arbitrarily chosen strand of nucleic acid (storing the hereditary information allowing organisms to reproduce), consisting of four types of different smaller components called nucleotides, and with some 400 positions, would spontaneously arrange itself in the order needed to produce, would be only 10-30 even in ten billion years, or one chance in one followed by thirty zeros.
Computer simulations run by Hart show that "if the Earth's orbit were only five per cent smaller than it actually is, during the early stages of its history, there would have been a "runaway greenhouse effect", and temperatures would have gone up until the oceans boiled away entirely." Conversely, "if the Earth sun distance were as little as one per cent larger, there would have been a "runaway glaciation" on Earth about two billion years ago. The Earth’s oceans would have frozen over entirely and would have remained so ever since, with mean global temperature of less than minus 50F degrees.
Hart’s findings have been verified by other researchers who suggest that the habitable region around a suitable star as our sun is critically narrow, furthermore, even small variations in the mass of a star and the size of the planet would substantially reduce the chances of a stable ecosphere.
otherwise of extraterrestrial
civilizations cannot be put to the test and given the problems
with obtaining evidence that would affirm or deny such an existence. I
for one will not be holding my breath.
Azimov, 1. 1971.
Crown Publishing. NY
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