According to many scientists, especially when it comes to the exploration, migration and colonization throughout the cosmos by extraterrestrial intelligences, outer space is your ultimate no-man’s-land and quarantine zone. No exploration; no migration; no colonization. Any intelligent life is pretty much going to be confined to their very own planetary abode or solar system.
That’s probably true if contemplating intergalactic (between galaxies) space where distances to your nearest galactic neighbour are measured in millions of light years; that’s certainly not true for interplanetary (between planets) space where distances to your nearest neighbour are measured in light minutes to light hours; now that’s leaving a question mark over the middle ground – interstellar (between stars) where distances to your neighbour are measured in several light years.
But while interplanetary travel is plausible in terms of reasonable travel times as witnessed by our own unmanned space probes to the planets and many moons within our solar system, exploration, tourism, or migration where we’re on the receiving end isn’t likely. We can’t expect any interplanetary visitors, those locals within our solar system, with itchy tentacles desiring to explore the local neighbourhood of which we’re a part of, to come calling. The era of the advanced Martian civilization, canals and all, not to mention “The War of the Worlds” scenario, are now long gone, confined to a ‘what if’ history that never eventuated.
Visitors from other galaxies are out of the running as well because as noted above the distances needed to be crossed are many orders of magnitude greater relative to short-hop interplanetary trips. It is one thing to swim several dozen lengths of the pool; quite another to swim across theAtlantic.
With no existing intelligent non-terrestrials of the local kind that can visit us, and extraterrestrials from other galaxies confined to those galaxies, well that still leaves several billion of stars in our own galaxy which E.T. might phone if away from home.
Of course phoning home is going to be a function of where you are within our star-stuttered galaxy. Towards the inner regions of our galaxy (like the inner regions, the CBD, of our cities), stars aren’t as far apart as where we (humans) are out in the suburbs, even perhaps out in the boondocks. It’s cheaper to phone home at local (CBD) distance rates; more expensive when dealing with those boondocks long distance charges.
Regardless, whether you are in our galactic CBD or out in the suburbs or even in the boondocks, I maintain it doesn’t take all that long to get from one (say the CBD) to the other (the boondocks).
I can now hear screams of ‘objection, objection’ to that. Galactic CBD to galactic boondocks; well it’s all obviously way too far and takes way too long to get from there (wherever that is, say the galactic CBD) to here (Planet Earth; location: galactic suburbs if not the boondocks). Well, life wasn’t meant to be easy! Seriously, if you think about it a while, any serious objections fade away. If you don’t want to think about it for yourself, then see below!
Unfortunately for the sceptics, fact number one is that E.T. doesn’t need any wormhole or theoretical ‘warp drive’ or other ‘Star Trek’ type superluminal velocity techno-babble to explore the galaxy and boldly go where no alien has gone before. Sure, space is really BIG but it is also very old. There’s lots of time available to explore and colonize starting a few light years outward at a time. Consolidate, and then expand some more. Repeat as often as required. The time it would take to explore and colonize the Milky Way Galaxy (that is, via interstellar travel) is but a small fraction of the age of that galaxy even if a race of E.T.’s never travelled at more that say 1% to 10% the speed of light. Such velocities, while pretty fast by our current abilities, shouldn’t be beyond the means of a technologically advanced race. I mean to cross 100,000 light years of interstellar space, at 1% the speed of light, requires but 10 million years. Our galaxy is ten billion years old. If you doubt this, consult any elementary astronomy text for the relevant distances and volumes and ages and do the calculations for yourself if you like.
Regardless of that bit of mathematics, UFO sceptics would still have you believe that interstellar space travel is at best highly improbable, and at worst impossible. Therefore, UFOs cannot represent the technology of a space-faring race of extraterrestrials.
Hogwash! I can not believe this old and totally outdated chestnut is still bandied about since there’s terrestrial equivalents and even a human parallel.
Okay, space is really BIG. Planet Earth was really BIG to human society too many centuries ago, but that didn’t stop our planet being explored from pole to pole, even if individual journeys took many years. And bacteria, insects, birds, and other terrestrial life forms preceded us in exploring and colonizing Planet Earth all in pretty quick-smart order.
While it’s proved relatively easy for humans to colonize Planet Earth, humans cannot travel to the stars because we can’t travel fast enough within our short life-spans to make the journey from start to finish, and I assume here that if you start the journey you want to be around to finish the journey.
Now there is no law in biological science that says an intelligent flesh-and-blood entity must kick-the-bucket after roughly three score and ten years. If you recall from mythology, the cosmic and sky ‘gods’ were (at least from a human perspective) as close to immortal as makes no odds. Quasi-immortality makes interstellar travel quite feasible.
Aliens could have a very long natural lifespan relative to us carbon-based terrestrial bipeds. Again, the point must be emphasised that there’s no natural law that confines intelligent life forms to an existence of just three score and ten terrestrial years.
What if you have an alien race with life-spans way, way surpassing ours? The idiotic assumption by the anti-UFO boldly going skeptics is, in a very anthropological way, that E.T. of necessity must have a lifespan equal to that of humans, or is confined to technologies equivalent to our own 21st Century technologies. E.T. could have, and probably did have, a multi-billion year head start on us since our galaxy was already some 5.5 billion years old before Planet Earth (plus Sun and associated solar system) even formed out of interstellar gas, dust and associated debris.
That 21st Century technological equivalency that aliens must have relative to us is more hogwash: any alien intelligence that can visit us will have technologies far beyond our own. There’s a possible likely alternative to a naturally longer life span relative to humans: what of a bit of the old fashion genetic engineering to increase life expectancy? Or there’s the likelihood of enhanced bioengineering (part flesh; part machine) to accomplish the same goal. What if an exploring race were to adopt those old stand-by sci-fi concepts of suspended animation or a multi-generation interstellar spaceship? Let’s have a look at those in turn.
Genetic or other forms of bioengineering could artificially extend life-spans by many orders of magnitude. Perhaps flesh-and-blood has morphed into nearly all silicon-and-steel; turning an organic body into something that’s more machine than flesh-and-blood, perhaps akin to the Daleks as featured in “Doctor Who”. Given advances in artificial body parts for humans, albeit it hip replacements or dentures or even mundane tooth fillings, that’s certainly a valid possibility if one extrapolates ahead from today to mere decades to centuries ahead.
But why stop there? Send 100% machines – artificial intelligences (AI) in the form of cybernetic ‘organisms’ or robots or androids or tiny nanotechnology machines. One obviously thinks of Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, or something akin to the original TV’s “Battlestar Galactica” Cylons. Think of the savings in not having to provide life support and other life essentials for biological organisms. We’ve made a start already down this path. There’s nothing different in principle between a Cylon and our Pioneer 10 & 11; our Voyager 1 & 2 space probes. It’s just that a Cylon is a lot more sophisticated. The day will come when our Pioneers and Voyagers will morph into something approaching a Cylon, or any one of multi-dozens of similar ‘beings’ in the sci-fi literature. Since AI is nearly immortal (relative to flesh-and-blood), that takes care of travel time arguments, and the possible environments fit for relative easy exploration (colonization?) are expanded greatly. Artificial intelligence can boldly go where no man (flesh-and-blood) has gone, or could go.
There’s the standard sci-fi scenarios of the multi-generation starship or hibernation that passes the time away without much additional aging. Even if E.T. has a biological lifespan roughly equivalent to our own, advanced extraterrestrials may have perfected various hibernation techniques. Put your spaceship on autopilot and sleep the long journey away. That sort of scenario has been a staple of science fiction for generations, for example think of the movies “Alien” or “2001: A Space Odyssey” or the original “Star Trek” TV episode that featured Khan.
There’s another sci-fi staple that could get E.T. from there to here. That way is via the old sci-fi chestnut, the multi-generation interstellar spaceship. While I feel that’s an unlikely concept, especially for exploration, it might not be quite so far out if the objective is interstellar colonization.
Then too perhaps a super-civilization of the extraterrestrial type has been able to approach luminal velocities; perhaps they have knowledge of physics and engineering that can even go superluminal. Maybe, just maybe, a sort of warp drive, faster-than-light spaceship is possible. Aliens whose technological science is thousands, tens of thousands, and even beyond that in years more advanced than ours just might have gotten around Einstein’s faster-than-light speed limit. I wouldn’t want to wager any money on it, but I’d be less than open minded not to admit the possibility, however remote. Add to that theoretical but allowable ‘gateways’ between distant points of our Universe, maybe even to other universes – wormholes and Black Holes. Maybe, just maybe, an advanced alien civilization has the ways and means to manipulate such objects and forces to facilitate easy travel in space (and time travel too maybe). An excellent hardcore science-based sci-fi work that doesn’t rely on pseudo techno-babble that illustrates this is the novel by Carl Sagan, “Contact”.
But one doesn’t need such extreme possibilities. All it takes is the first initial journey. It’s like migrating fromNew York CitytoSydney,Australia. Once inSydney, it’s all local commuting. So once here, our quasi-immortal, technologically advanced E.T. (yesteryear the ‘gods’ of mythology; today UFOs) sets up shop, say some sort of artificial space colony out in the asteroid belt, maybe even a lunar outpost. No further interstellar journeys required. So in a roundabout way, one interstellar journey by E.T. from somewhere else in our galaxy, morphs into just short-hop interplanetary journeys from that point on. There may not be intelligent Martians that come a-calling, but that doesn’t mean our solar system doesn’t play host to another alien intelligence – they’re just not originally an indigenous native, but rather an interstellar migrant.
Science librarian; retired.