Beware of Aliens on Halloween
+ Von Del Chamberlain +
Halloween had its origins in astronomy since it started from feelings of fear that the fabric of time might be torn apart at the cross-quarter time midway between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice, a time when light and warmth was on the wane. Concepts associated with Halloween have continually changed over the centuries so that nowadays people think of aliens from other worlds as well as spirits of the earthly dead.
This brings to mind one of my favorite topics that comes from the human mind as we look outward at the myriads of stars and contemplate the question, "Are we alone in the universe?" That question has been seriously asked ever since we realized that the Sun is a star. Knowing that the other stars we see in the night are similar to the Sun, we are led to wonder about the commonality of life in the universe through the following points of logic: (1) here we are on planet Earth orbiting the Sun; (2) Sun is a rather common type of star; (3) why should we be the only intelligent life in the vast universe containing so many places where life might thrive as it does here? Some who think in economic, religious and egocentric terms might add that it would be a waste in the extreme if the trillions and trillions of stars in the known universe were to be emitting their energy for no practical purpose involving intelligence.
If the question of the frequency of intelligent life in the universe is to be analyzed in scientific terms, several sciences are involved. Yes, the astronomer is the expert on stars and planets, so it is within this domain to consider the suspected frequency of stars with planetary systems that might contain planets with energy environments suitable for life as we know it. It is the biologist, however, who is expert on the great number of detailed conditions necessary for lifeand the factors involved in evolution of life within a suitable environment. Biophysicists, biochemists, physiologists and others in the medical fields would know most about the factors involved in the occurrence of intelligence among the many types of possible life. In addition, anthropologists and other sociologists, philosophers, historians, theologians and others get into the discussions. Finally, statisticians could best do the final estimation of how common life might be, taking into account information offered by the scientists.
There have been many conferences and symposiums where the question of expected frequency of intelligent life has been debated, especially over the past half century. Two extreme estimates have resulted. Some, including the majority of astronomers, conclude that intelligent life should be very abundant with many cases inside our own Milky Way galaxy. Others, including some in the biological fields, argue that the huge number of conditions necessary for intelligent life to develop make it more likely that life is rare and that we might even be the only place where it is to be found. The first group is so convinced that they work hard to obtain funds for using radio astronomy equipment to search for signals of intelligent life, and groups of astronomers have been developing such a search for the last few decades. Their methods have become very sophisticated, scanning radio frequencies as they direct radio telescopes toward selected stars and more generally search the sky for radio signals that might have intelligent origin.
It certainly would be one of the greatest discoveries in history if we were to detect the presence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Consider what we might learn from others who might be far more advanced than we are. We have only very recently reached the stage where we can do something about this issue. Another way of saying this is that we have barely arrived to the technology level making us admissible into the great cosmic society, if one exists out there. If we do discover others, what would we do then? How would we view THEM? How might they view US? Would we attempt to beam our presence out to them? Concerning the latter question, we have probably already made our presence known through our radio and television transmissions, but we could beam messages out more efficiently using our best technology to send signals toward specific regions in ways designed to be received and understood by aliens.
As we consider the many questions surrounding the possibility of first contact with aliens from outer space, we should remember that this is not really new in the human experience. The mythology of origins of cultures are full of stories of how the first real people came into being only to later encounter others with different origins. Consider also the many times isolated peoples on Earth have experienced strangers of different race appearing in their territory, and sometimes invading from across barriers such as mountain ranges or oceans. For those involved, these have, indeed, been encounters with aliens, and study of these cases can help us think about how we might react to scientific discovery of space aliens.
There are, of course, those among us who are convinced that aliens have already landed on planet Earth. Witness the many television programs that are based upon this theme, especially those that attempt to show that encounters with aliens have been common over recent years. I hope that my readers are not easily taken in by these programs that highly distort the "evidences" for such encounters. I suppose that some who are addicted to these programs have become suspicious that their neighbors, perhaps even some friends, might really be aliens who have come here to study life on earth, or perhaps to control our world. Perhaps they should consider the question as to whether they, themselves, might really be aliens.
For myself, I have concluded that if there are aliens among us, they are felines. Perhaps you have one in your own home. Consider how cats behave. They sit and watch with glaring alien eyes and sometimes pretend to sleep. You can give them affection only when THEY want it and in spite of all this they might scratch your eyes out in the end. They respond so casually as if trying to hide their real origins. They are in the very best positions for surveillance of our planet, for the powerful and common folk throughout the world take them right into their homes where they can observe everything we do. They are everywhere, wandering alleys and neighborhoods and skulking about on dark nights. My theory is that they are really robots from other worlds whose eyes are cameras connected to brains that send out everything they see to their home planets. They are watching us! Who knows when their makers might zoom in to take over the White House and other terrestrial centers of power.
If you dare, take your personal CD player with a recording of "Night on Bald Mountain" and go alone into darkness this Halloween to feast your eyes on the many stars and consider what might lurk there. Listen for strange noises as you look around, and for heavens sake beware of black cats on this most dangerous night of the year.