A U.S. scientist wants to detect Mars life and teleport it to Earth. And he already has the technology to do it.
Dr. J. Craig Venter. (Credit: J. Craig Venter Institute)
J. Craig Venter, Ph.D. is a leading scientist in the field of genomic research. He is also the founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately held company dedicated to “commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address global needs such as new sources of energy, new food and nutritional products, and next generation vaccines.”
He and his research team have been field-testing technology that he believes will revolutionize the search for extraterrestrial life. According to the South China Morning Post, “Not only does Venter say his invention will detect and decode DNA hiding in otherworldly soil or water samples – proving once and for all that we are not alone in the universe – it will also beam the information back to Earth and allow scientists to reconstruct living copies in a biosafety facility.” He hopes to detect Martian life and bring it to Earth using a digital biological converter, or biological teleporter.
The India Times describes, “Dr. Venter’s machine would merely create a copy of an organism from a distant location — more like a biological fax machine.” Storing genetic code in a computer and transmitting it just like any other data is the basic idea.
Cover of J. Craig Venter’s latest book. (Credit: Viking Adult)
Dr. Venter’s team, and scientists from NASA’s Ames Research Center, recently conducted field-testing of this technology in the Mojave Desert south of Baker, California–a dry environment similar to Mars. Researchers tested the unit that would, in theory, send data back from Mars. But according to Dr. Venter, a prototype of the unit that would receive the transmitted data here on Earth exists as well, and will be available for sale next year.
India Times explains that this machine will be able to “automate the synthesis of genes by stringing small pieces of DNA together to make larger ones.” With this technology, “A person with a bacterial infection might be sent the code to recreate a virus intended to kill that specific bacterium.” Venter optimistically surmises that this technology will enable doctors to “send an antibiotic as an email,” and allow diabetics to “download insulin from the Internet.”
From Centauri Dreams:
Because of my fascination with exotic venues for astrobiology, I’ve always enjoyed Karl Schroeder’s novels. The Canadian writer explored brown dwarf planets as future venues for human settlement in Permanence (2002), and in his new book Lockstep (soon to be published by Tor, currently being serialized in Analog), Schroeder looks at ‘rogue’ planets, worlds that move through the galaxy without a central star. Imagine crimson worlds baked by cosmic radiation, their surfaces building up, over the aeons, the rust red complex organic molecules called tholins. Or consider gas giants long ago ejected from the system that gave them birth by close encounters with other worlds.
Objects like these and more are surely out there given what we know about gravitational interactions within planetary systems, and they’re probably out there in huge numbers. I’m not going to review how Lockstep uses them just yet — in any case, I haven’t finished the book — but we’ll return to its ingenious solution to time and distance problems in a future post. Right now I just want to mention that one of Schroeder’s characters muses upon ‘a hundred thousand nomad planets for every star in the galaxy.’ Now that’s some serious real estate.
If the number sounds like a novelistic exaggeration, it’s nonetheless drawn from recent work. Schroeder is invoking the work of Louis Strigari (Stanford University), who has studied the possibilities not only of planets ejected from their own systems but those that may form directly from a molecular cloud. The figure of 105 free-floating planetary objects for every main sequence star is from a 2012 paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (you can read more about Strigari’s ideas in ‘Island-Hopping’ to the Stars).
Rogue planets would be tricky to find but gravitational microlensing should help us set constraints on their actual numbers, and as we’ll see below, direct imaging has its uses. If rogue worlds are available in such quantities, we can imagine a starfaring culture capable of exploiting their resources. We can even speculate that a thick atmosphere that can trap infrared heat coupled with tectonic or radioactive heat sources from within could sustain elemental forms of life even in the absence of a star. Tens of thousands of objects in nearby interstellar space would obviously be a spur for exploration.
A Newly Found Orphan World
Eighty light years from Earth floats a solitary planet that has been discovered through its heat signature in data collected by the Pan-STARRS 1 wide-field survey telescope on Maui. In mass, color, and energy output, the world is similar to directly imaged planets. As you might expect, PSO J318.5-22, a gas giant about six times the mass of Jupiter, turned up during a search for brown dwarfs, delving into the datasets of a survey that has already produced about 4000 terabytes of information. The discovery was then followed up through multiple observations by equipment on nearby Mauna Kea, with spectra from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and the Gemini North Telescope indicating the young, low-mass object was not a brown dwarf.
Image: Multicolor image from the Pan-STARRS1 telescope of the free-floating planet PSO J318.5-22, in the constellation of Capricornus. The planet is extremely cold and faint, about 100 billion times fainter in optical light than the planet Venus. Most of its energy is emitted at infrared wavelengths. The image is 125 arcseconds on a side. Credit: N. Metcalfe & Pan-STARRS 1 Science Consortium.
“We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that that looks like this. It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone,” explained team leader Dr. Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do.”
The find is interesting on a number of levels, not least of which is that observations of gas giant planets around young stars have shown that their spectra differ from those of L- and T-class brown dwarfs. Young planets like these, according to the paper on this work, show redder colors in the near-infrared, fainter absolute magnitudes at the same wavelength and other spectral peculiarities that suggest the line of development between brown dwarfs and gas giant planets may not be as clear cut as once assumed. The paper makes clear how complex the issue is:
PSO J318.5−22 shares a strong physical similarity to the young dusty planets HR 8799bcd and 2MASS J1207−39b, as seen in its colors, absolute magnitudes, spectrum, luminosity, and mass. Most notably, it is the ﬁrst ﬁeld L dwarf with near-IR absolute magnitudes as faint as the HR 8799 and 2MASS J1207−39 planets, demonstrating that the very red, faint region of the near-IR color-magnitude diagram is not exclusive to young exoplanets. Its probable membership in the β Pic moving group makes it a new substellar benchmark at young ages and planetary masses.
A landmark indeed, and here the Beta Pictoris moving group, a collection of young stars formed about twelve million years ago, is worth noting. Beta Pictoris itself is known to have a young gas giant planet in orbit around it. The newly detected PSO J318.5−22 is lower still in mass than the Beta Pictoris planet and it is thought to have formed in a different way. The paper goes on:
We ﬁnd very red, low-gravity L dwarfs have ≈400 K cooler temperatures relative to ﬁeld objects of comparable spectral type, yet have similar luminosities. Comparing very red L dwarf spectra to each other and to directly imaged planets highlights the challenges of diagnosing physical properties from near-IR spectra.
The beauty of objects like these from an astronomical point of view is that we don’t have to worry about filtering out the overwhelming light of a parent star as we study them. Co-author Niall Deacon (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy) thinks PSO J318.5−22 will “provide a wonderful view into the inner workings of gas-giant planets like Jupiter shortly after their birth.” The discovery also gives us much to think about in terms of future explorations as we contemplate a cosmos in which perhaps vast numbers of planets move in solitary trajectories through the galaxy.
I like the idea of targeting “rogue” planets as potential interstellar missions within the next 100 years. The probes can be smaller and the fuel problem won’t be as bad.
From Open Minds TV:
In the search for intelligent extraterrestrials, scientists listen for incoming radio signals and they hunt for Earth-like planets. Some scientists are also looking for megastructures constructed by aliens.
NASA’s Kepler space telescope searches for planets using the transit method–Kepler’s sensors detect dips in brightness caused when an alien planet passes in front of its star from Kepler’s perspective. And this same method is used by scientists searching the universe for alien megastructures.
Simple illustration of a Dyson Sphere. (Credit: Vedexent/Wikimedia Commons)
According to Universe Today, astronomer Geoff Marcy, who was recently appointed to the new Watson and Marilyn Alberts Chair for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) at the University of California at Berkeley, was awarded a grant to hunt for evidence of Dyson spheres using Kepler data. A Dyson sphere is a theoretical megastructure envisioned by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson consisting of a giant array of solar panels that would surround a star to harvest its energy.
Scientists hunting alien megastructures are also looking for theoretical structures known as ringworlds. Universe Today explains that ringworlds “would consist of a giant ring in orbit around a star, constructed comfortably inside the star’s habitable zone.”
Whether alien megastructures actually exist is unknown. But as Universe Today points out, “The possibility alone is exciting enough to make it worth continuing to look.”
Actually looking for Ring Worlds and Dyson Spheres would be relatively easy using Kepler data since the Kepler probe uses occluded starlight to detect transitioning alien planets.
The theory is that advanced alien tech would be larger constructions than normal planets and thus, the starlight would be blocked longer. That suggests super-alien cultures.
Sigh. What ever happened to old fashioned UFOs, lol?
An extrapolation of the genetic complexity of organisms to earlier times suggests that life began before the Earth was formed. Life may have started from systems with single heritable elements that are functionally equivalent to a nucleotide. The genetic complexity, roughly measured by the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides, is expected to have grown exponentially due to several positive feedback factors: gene cooperation, duplication of genes with their subsequent specialization, and emergence of novel functional niches associated with existing genes. Linear regression of genetic complexity on a log scale extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life 9.7 billion years ago. This cosmic time scale for the evolution of life has important consequences: life took ca. 5 billion years to reach the complexity of bacteria; the environments in which life originated and evolved to the prokaryote stage may have been quite different from those envisaged on Earth; there was no intelligent life in our universe prior to the origin of Earth, thus Earth could not have been deliberately seeded with life by intelligent aliens; Earth was seeded by panspermia; experimental replication of the origin of life from scratch may have to emulate many cumulative rare events; and the Drake equation for guesstimating the number of civilizations in the universe is likely wrong, as intelligent life has just begun appearing in our universe. Evolution of advanced organisms has accelerated via development of additional information-processing systems: epigenetic memory, primitive mind, multicellular brain, language, books, computers, and Internet. As a result the doubling time of complexity has reached ca. 20 years. Finally, we discuss the issue of the predicted technological singularity and give a biosemiotics perspective on the increase of complexity.
A very fine paper, except for one thing.
The authors only use one data-set to reach their conclusions.
And I believe they are wrong unless they can prove we live in a simulated universe.
Transcript of classified tape recording made at Camp David, Maryland during a presidential briefing regarding the subject of UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS and EXTRATERRESTRIAL VISITATION of EARTH. President RONALD REAGAN was present. The recording was made between March 6 and 8, 1981.
WILLIAM CASEY: Mr President, good morning. As we discussed in February, this briefing contains some very sensational and some very, very classified information. I am not sure, oh, well, I’m not going to make a decision on who you want in the room. That will be your decision, Mr President. This will be a real tough one to follow since the briefing starts back, historically speaking, that is, and runs up to recent times. I believe we have prepared a good chronological order of events. I’m sure you, Mr President, will have many questions.
The list of questions presented to me by ADVISER #2 should all be answered during this briefing. I hope they are, more than anyone, especially you, Mr President, leave this briefing with questions still unanswered. I have asked The Caretaker to conduct this briefing. He is a contract employee of the CIA and is the present custodian of the information. Are we to assume that everyone is present?
PRESIDENT: Well, it will be entirely up to you, Bill. I guess everyone must be cleared for this briefing of information, is that not correct?
WM CASEY: Well, it appears everyone is, but as you will see Mr President, this stuff is pretty high up on the food chain. We call it ATS or “Above Top Secret.” This stuff has its own classification and markings. We have a special container, special printers and copiers for this stuff. Every word of this material is printed on special paper then placed inside special covers. The caretakers have taken special efforts to protect all of this stuff from being released inadvertently or copied by some unauthorized person.
But all of this material is protected by a special group of people. The Caretaker is in charge of protecting this information and all of the other stuff associated with this information. I would prefer that you, Mr President, decide on who you want in this room. Remember, this material is a closely guarded secret. Although the gist of the story has been out there for many years, very little of the ACTUAL TRUTH has ever been released to the public. Oh, yes, well, by some of the renegades maybe, but many of them have been discredited.
PRESIDENT: OK, Bill, I guess we need ADVISER #1, you, ADVISER #3 and Caspar here. I think ADVISER #2 and Michael can leave.
ADVISER #2: Mr President, excuse me, but I would prefer to leave. I don’t wish to know this information. You know, plausible denial or something like that.
MICHAEL DEAVER: Mr President, whatever you wish, I’ll do. It would be an interesting subject, but do I really have a need to know? No, I don’t think so.
PRESIDENT: OK, I guess that is it.
WM CASEY: Thank you, Mr President. I will now turn the briefing over to The Caretaker.
ADVISER #3: Mr President, and Mr Director, I already had this briefing. I can stay or leave. Secretary Weinberger and myself received this a few weeks ago.
SECRETARY WEINBERGER: Mr President, as you know, we have some pending business regarding that Soviet problem in Berlin. I think we might just handle that. ADVISER #3 and I will let you close this meeting to just a few.
PRESIDENT: OK, Casp, I guess you and ADVISER #3 can leave. Thanks for coming.
WM CASEY: OK, Mr President, that certainly narrows the audience. I think this is just right.
PRESIDENT: OK, well, I can’t wait to hear this. Let’s proceed.
The CARETAKER: Good morning, Mr President. First of all, I would like to give you a bit of information on my background. But before that, please, Mr President, if you have questions during this briefing, just interrupt me, sir. I have been employed by the CIA for the past 31 years. I started the caretaking status of this project in 1960. We have a special group of people whom we call “Group 6,” that cares for all this information.
PRESIDENT: Good morning, I hope, well, I believe I will ask questions. Bill briefed me back in January, but I’m not sure … huh … well, was it detailed, no, I don’t think so … huh … OK, well I’m sure Bill didn’t tell me all ’cause we only had about one hour.
WM CASEY: Mr President, I only gave you a quick briefing for the NSDD (National Security Decision Directives) that we want to incorporate into the overall action directives about this subject. ADVISER #3, Caspar and I have details far beyond what I knew before January. The last administration wasn’t too keen on making all of this stuff accessible to us during the briefings in November and December.
PRESIDENT: Well, I knew a little about this subject before. Back in 1970. Nixon had all of the good stuff and wanted to share it with some of his friends. Nixon showed me some papers. Not sure about who authored them, but they … huh … well something about New Mexico and other places. Nixon was pretty … huh … well, you know, fascinated with it. He showed me something, some kind of object or device that came from one of their craft. Something that was taken from the New Mexico crash site. I don’t know if, well … huh … do we know what it was? I don’t think we knew or maybe now, after 11 years, we might know.
The CARETAKER: Mr President, I can answer some of those questions. Do you wish for me to begin?
PRESIDENT: Oh, well, what level is this? I mean, what was it called? I don’t remember what they called this.
WM CASEY: Mr President, codeword. It’s called Top Secret Codeword. This information is beyond Top Secret as I said before. It has its own classification. It is very compartmentalized.
PRESIDENT: Well, I guess just the minimum. Are we recording this?
The CARETAKER: Mr President, no, unless you wish.
WM CASEY: Yes, it is [CIA FEMALE TRANSCRIBER] who is doing that. I think we should. I don’t want to make any mistakes later about this. ADVISER #4 should also stay, since he is one of the caretakers of the information.
PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t want anyone leaking this stuff. Not knowing what we are about to discuss … huh … oh, well, Bill I guess it is your call. ADVISER #4 should stay. I guess he should … huh … oh, OK, well, you make the call, Bill.
WM CASEY: OK, I guess ADVISER #4 will stay. But I think [CIA FEMALE TRANSCRIBER] must stay. I’ll make that call.
PRESIDENT: OK, I guess we can do our business first, give me a few minutes. Let’s get some food first, or snacks. How long will … huh …. oh, about one hour?
The CARETAKER: Mr President, I estimate this will last about one hour, at least the first part of it. This is a very complicated subject to brief. I can do it, but maybe the questions will extend [beyond the first] the time period.
PRESIDENT: OK, I see. Let’s take a break and then reconvene.
The CARETAKER: OK, Mr President, are we ready?
PRESIDENT: Yes, we are, let’s go.
The CARETAKER: Mr President, as was mentioned earlier, I must say, that this briefing has the highest classification within the U.S. government. I will start with a slide presentation. I have most of this briefing on the slides, but I also have an outline that I have passed out to each [person] in attendance.
PRESIDENT: Oh, OK, so are we … can we follow it with the [outline] paper?
The CARETAKER: Yes, Mr President, you can follow the briefing with the outline in front of you.
PRESIDENT: Thank you.
The CARETAKER: The United States of America has been visited by Extraterrestrial Visitors since 1947. We have proof of that. However, we also have some proof that Earth has been visited for many THOUSANDS OF YEARS by various races of Extraterrestrial Visitors. Mr President, I’ll just refer to those visits as ETs. In July, 1947, a remarkable event occurred in New Mexico. During a storm, two ET spacecraft crashed. One crashed southwest of Corona, New Mexico and one crashed near Datil, New Mexico. The U.S. Army eventually found both sites and recovered all of the debris and one live Alien. I’ll refer to this live Alien as “EBE 1.” PRESIDENT: What does that mean? Do we have codes or a special terminology for this?
The CARETAKER: Mr President, EBE means “Extraterrestrial Biological Entity.” It was a code designated to this creature by the U.S. Army back in those days. This creature was not human and we had to decide on a term for it. So, scientists designated the creature as EBE 1. We also referred to it as “Noah.” There was different terminology used by various aspects of the U.S. military and intelligence community back then.
PRESIDENT: Do we or did we have others? The number “1″ would seem to indicate we had others.
The CARETAKER: Yes, we had others. Back then, the term was EBE and no number designation. We’ll explain how the others came into our knowledge.
PRESIDENT: OK, sorry, I was just wondering and I guess, well, I’m sure the briefing will cover this. Please continue.
The CARETAKER: All the debris and EBEs recovered from the first crash site were taken to Roswell Army Air Field, Roswell, New Mexico. EBE was treated for some minor injuries and then taken to Los Alamos National Laboratories, which was the safest and most secure location in the world. Special accommodations were made for EBE. The debris was eventually transferred to Dayton, Ohio, home of the Air Force Foreign Technology Division. The second crash site wasn’t discovered until 1949 by some ranchers. There were no live Aliens at this site. All this debris went to Sandia Army Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
PRESIDENT: OK, a question, regarding the first site, how many aliens were in the spaceship?
The CARETAKER: Five (5) dead aliens and one (1) alive. The bodies of the dead aliens were transported to Wright Field in Ohio and kept in a form of deep freeze. They were later transported to Los Alamos where special containers were made to keep the bodies from decaying. There were four (4) dead aliens in the second crash site. Those bodies were in an advanced state of decaying. They had been in the desert for the past two (2) years. Animals and time got to those bodies. The remains were transported to Sandia Base and eventually onto Los Alamos. We determined both crashed spaceships were of similar design and the bodies of the aliens were all identical. They looked exactly the same. They had the same height, weight and physical features. Here are the photographs of the aliens.
PRESIDENT: Can we classify them? I mean can we … well, connect them with anything Earthly?
The CARETAKER: No, Mr President. They don’t have any similar characteristics of a human, with exception of there eyes, ears and a mouth. Their internal body organs are different. Their skin is different, their eyes, ears and even breathing is different. Their blood wasn’t red and their brain was entirely different from human. We could not classify any part of the Aliens with humans. They had blood and skin, although considerably different than human skin. Their eyes had two different eyelids. Probably because their home planet was very bright.
PRESIDENT: Maybe I’m getting ahead, but do we know where they came from? Mars, our system or where?
The CARETAKER: Yes, Mr President, we do know where they come from. I can go into this now, or I can wait until it comes up in the briefing.
PRESIDENT: No, no, please, continue. I can wait.
The CARETAKER: Thank you, Mr President. EBE stayed alive until 1952 when it died. We learned a great deal from EBE. Although EBE did not have voice organs like humans, it was able to communicate with an operation performed by military doctors. EBE was extremely intelligent. It learned English quickly, mainly by listening to the military personnel who were responsible for EBE’s safety and care.
EBE was housed in a special area at Los Alamos and Sandia Base. Although many different military doctors, scientists and a select number of civilians studied EBE, it never became upset or angry. EBE helped us learn from all the items found in the two crash sites. EBE showed us how some of the items worked, such as a communications device. It also showed us how various other devices worked.
PRESIDENT: Excuse me, but you are referring to this creature as an IT. Did it have a gender?
The CARETAKER: I’m sorry Mr President, but yes, it was male. Within EBE’s race they had males and females.
PRESIDENT: OK, thank you. Please continue.
The CARETAKER: Thank you, Mr President. EBE died of what military doctors considered natural causes. I don’t think we could really state exactly why EBE died. Although we had five (5) years to study EBE, we didn’t have any standards to compare EBE’s body with standard medical observations. It was difficult to lose EBE, since it was the most interesting thing we as humans could receive and study. A visitor from another planet … ANOTHER WORLD. EBE did explain where he lives in the universe. We call this star system Zeta Reticuli, which is about 40 light-years [38.42] from Earth. EBE’s planet was within this star system.
PRESIDENT: OK, where is this in comparison to something we all know?
The CARETAKER: Well, Mr President, our closet star is four light-years away. I can show you the constellation it is in.
[Alpha Centauri, a yellow star, is the brightest star in the constellation Centaurus, 4.3 light-years away]
PRESIDENT: No, I wouldn’t know much about astronomy. I just thought I could understand the distance. How long did it take this spaceship to get here?
The CARETAKER: Well, Mr President, I can tell you now or we can discuss that in another briefing. As Mr Casey said, this is a complicated subject because there are many levels of compartmentalization. This briefing is just the basic information about a visit to our planet by one particular alien race.
PRESIDENT: Well … huh … what, am I to understand … this isn’t a full briefing?
WM CASEY: Mr President, we have different levels of stuff. If we mix it up, I don’t think it will make sense, nor will we have time this morning. I understand you have a busy schedule today.
PRESIDENT: As the President of the United States, I should know EVERYTHING, right, or shouldn’t I? If I am to assume this was a briefing of substance, then I should hear ALL of it. I think this is more important than some other things on my daily calendar. But maybe I’m jumping the gun. If there are some things I shouldn’t know, please tell me.
WM CASEY: No, no, Mr President, I didn’t mean you shouldn’t know this stuff. I simply meant we should proceed in an orderly fashion as to the briefing. But it is up to you. We will not hold anything back.
PRESIDENT: ADVISER #1, what do you think? Do you know about all this?
ADVISER #1: Mr President, yes, I was briefed many times on this subject matter. As Director Casey stated, this is a very, very complicated subject. I think it took me about one year to be fully briefed into all aspects of this matter. There are different areas. The initial crash, an investigative period, some attempt at contact, A DISINFORMATION OPERATION to protect this matter and several other levels.
PRESIDENT: Oh, wow, I didn’t realize how complicated this was. I’m new at [all of] this. I have a great responsibility to the citizens of this nation to make decisions based on accurate information presented by my advisers … YOU, ALL of you. I won’t interfere in your presentation of this information. So, I guess, we’ll proceed in the order you have chosen. I’m sorry for interrupting in this presentation, but as a person who is interested beyond belief in this, I’ll just shut up and wait to ask questions.
WM CASEY: Mr President. No, no, please ask any questions you wish. You are the President. We are not here to argue with you over the order of this briefing. But some things are SO HIGHLY CLASSIFIED that THIS BRIEFING IS THE LOWEST LEVEL. If you ask a question that is in a different level, then we will have to re-evaluate the audience.
ADVISER #1: Mr President. Everything we know about Alien visitation to Earth is contained in 16 (sixteen) volumes of binders. These binders contain thousands of pages. We can give you anything you wish but, as Director Casey said, we must evaluate the clearances of each person listening to our responses.
PRESIDENT: OK, I now understand. Give me whatever you want and I’ll continue to ask questions. But if you need me to wait on an answer, just tell me.
WM CASEY: OK, Mr President we will do that. I still don’t know the entire story. I have read one tenth of one binder and have hundreds of questions.
PRESIDENT: OK, let’s continue.
The CARETAKER: Mr President, thank you for those responses. I will answer any question, if I can. But if the question is above this level, then Director Casey will have to make that decision for me.
PRESIDENT: I fully understand, please continue.
The CARETAKER: It took the EBE spaceship nine (9) of our months to travel the 40 [38.42] light-years. Now, as you can see, that would mean the EBE spaceship traveled faster than the speed of light. But, this is where it gets really technical. Their spaceships can travel through a form of “space tunnels” that gets them from point “A” to point “B” faster without having to travel at the speed of light. I cannot fully understand how they travel, but we have many top scientists who can understand their concept.
PRESIDENT: Well, I certainly couldn’t understand the science in that. Is it a black hole?
The CARETAKER: Mr President, something like that, but much more complicated.
PRESIDENT: Do they get here … no never mind, please continue. [unintelligible]
WM CASEY: Mr President, I can assure we know how they do it, but we can’t do it.
PRESIDENT: OK. (several speaking at once)
The CARETAKER: As to some history. The original project, started back in 1947, was called “Project GLEEM.” This project contained volumes of documented information collected from the beginning of our investigation of UFOs and Identified Alien Craft, or “IAC.” The project was originally established in the early ’50s by, first President Truman and then by order of President Eisenhower, under control of the National Security Council. President Truman established a group of people to handle this project. The group was called Majority 12 or “MJ-12.”
In 1966, the project’s name was changed to “Aquarius.” The project was funded by confidential ["black world"] funds appropriated within the intelligence community’s budget. The recovery of these alien spacecraft led the United States on an extensive investigative program to determine whether these aliens posed a direct threat to our National Security. As you might remember, Mr President, our country openly investigated UFO sightings under projects Grudge, Sign and finally Blue Book.
The original mission of the Air Force program was to collect and analyze all reported sightings and incidents involving UFOs and then determine whether the information could be interpreted as having any bearing on the national security of the United States. Some information was evaluated with the idea of using the gained data to advance our own space technology and future space programs.
About 90% of the estimated 12,000 reports analyzed by the Air Force under Blue Book were considered hoaxes, explained aerial phenomena or astronomical objects. The other 10% were considered legitimate alien sightings and/or incidents. However, not all UFO sightings or incidents were reported under the Air Force programs of Grudge, Sign and Blue Book.
In 1953, Project Gleem initiated its own investigative detail and certain sightings were reported directly under Gleem rather than one of the other projects. Project Gleem, which became “Project AQUARIUS” in 1966, was a parallel reporting system for UFO sightings and incidents.
Reports collected under Project Aquarius were considered actual sightings of alien spacecraft or actual contacts with alien life forms. We recovered two alien spacecraft from New Mexico. Both were heavily damaged, but we were able to examine them. The two craft were considered technological marvels by our scientists. However, the operating instrumentation was so advanced that our scientists could not decipher it. The two craft were stored in a special security location in the West. We gained a large volume of technological data from these craft.
Several independent scientific investigations, at the request of the Air Force and CIA were initiated during the era of “Project Blue Book.” MJ-12 decided that officially the Air Force should end their investigation of UFO sightings. This decision was arrived at during the NPNN meeting in 1966. The reason was two fold. First, the United States had established communications with the aliens.
PRESIDENT: Hold on, OK … well, Bill, no … never mind, please continue.
WM CASEY: Mr President, the communications project is of a higher level. I recommend we continue on this course and then switch to the next, if we have time.
PRESIDENT: OK, you’re steering the boat, Bill.
The CARETAKER: The United States felt relatively sure the aliens’ exploration of Earth was non-aggressive and non-hostile. It was also established that the aliens’ presence did not directly threaten the security of the United States. Secondly, the public was beginning to believe that UFOs were real. The NSC felt this public feeling could lead to a nationwide panic if we disclosed everything we knew about UFOs and alien visitation. We were involved in one major operation during this time frame that involved our alien visitors. That operation is of a higher level and it will be up to Director Casey to proceed now or wait until later.
WM CASEY: We’ll wait on that part of it. I haven’t been fully briefed and I would like to be able to know everything about that program before trying to brief the President.
ADVISER #1: I agree with Director Casey. That part of the program is really complicated and will require a full day to brief.
PRESIDENT: OK, as I said before, Bill’s the captain of this ship.
The CARETAKER: It was felt that public awareness of these projects would have jeopardized the future space program of the United States. Releasing our secrets about UFOs and alien visitation would also cause a PANIC AMONG RELIGIOUS LEADERS around the world. Therefore, MJ-12 decided that an independent scientific study of the UFO phenomena would be needed to satisfy the public curiosity.
The final official study of the UFO phenomena was accomplished by the University of Colorado under an air force contract. The study concluded that sufficient data did not exist that would indicate that UFOs threatened the security of the United States. The final conclusion satisfied the Government and allowed the Air Force to officially step out of the UFO investigating business.
When the Air Force officially closed “Blue Book” in December 1969, Project Aquarius continued operation under control of NSC/MJ-12. The NSC felt investigation of UFO sightings and incidents had to continue in secrecy without any public knowledge. The reasoning behind the decision was this: If the Air Force continued its investigation of UFOs, eventually some non-cleared and non-briefed Air Force or DOD civilian officials would obtain the facts behind Project Aquarius.
Obviously, for operational security reasons, this could not be allowed. In order to continue the investigation of UFO sightings and incidents in secrecy, investigators from CIA/DCE and MJ-12 were assigned to military investigative units with orders to investigate all legitimate UFO/IAC sightings and incidents. These agents are presently operating at various locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. All reports are filtered either directly or indirectly to MJ-12. These agents are collecting reports of UFO/IAC sightings and incidents occurring on or near sensitive governmental installations.
Many reported sightings and incidents have occurred over nuclear weapons bases. The aliens’ interest in our nuclear weapons can only be attributed to the future threat of a nuclear war on Earth that could affect space. The Air Force has initiated measures to assure the security of the nuclear weapons from alien theft or destruction. MJ-12 feels confident that the aliens are on an exploration of our solar system for peaceful purposes. However, we do have information and that is at another level, that more than one alien species are visiting Earth.
PRESIDENT: Well, that is a lot to digest. I have written down many questions. But let’s take a break and come back to this.
This is a good story and very entertaining, but there is no way to test whether this transcript is true or not.
But one must ask this question…”Why did Ronald Reagan give his “enemy alien” speech at the U.N. in 1987?”
What did Reagan know, or not know?
Was it just a symptom of his oncoming Alzheimer’s Disease?
There’s no way to tell now and this will forever be part of UFO folklore.
Hat tip to supernaturalufo.com.
From Centauri Dreams:
Jules Verne once had the notion of a comet grazing the Earth and carrying off a number of astounded people, whose adventures comprise the plot of the 1877 novel Off on a Comet. It’s a great yarn that was chosen by Hugo Gernsback to be reprinted as a serial in the first issues of his new magazine Amazing Stories back in 1926, but with a diameter of 2300 kilometers, Verne’s comet was much larger than anything we’ve actually observed. Comets tend to be small but they make up for it in volume, with an estimated 100 billion to several trillion thought to exist in the Oort Cloud. All that adds up to a total mass of several times the Earth’s.
Of course, coming up with mass estimates is, as with so much else about the Oort Cloud, a tricky business. Paul R. Weissman noted a probable error of about one order of magnitude when he produced the above estimate in 1983. What we are safe in saying is something that has caught Freeman Dyson’s attention: While most of the mass and volume in the galaxy is comprised of stars and planets, most of the area actually belongs to asteroids and comets. There’s a lot of real estate out there, and we’ll want to take advantage of it as we move into the outer Solar System and beyond.
Comets and Resources
Embedded with rock, dust and organic molecules, comets are composed of water ice as well as frozen gases like methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and an assortment of compounds containing nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur. Porous and undifferentiated, these bodies are malleable enough to make them interesting from the standpoint of resource extraction. Richard P. Terra wrote about the possibilities in a 1991 article published in Analog:
This light fragile structure means that the resources present in the comet nuclei will be readily accessible to any human settlers. The porous mixture of dust and ice would offer little mechanical resistance, and the two components could easily be separated by the application of heat. Volatiles could be further refined through fractional distillation while the dust, which has a high content of iron and other ferrous metals, could easily be manipulated with magnetic fields.
Put a human infrastructure out in the realm of the comets, in other words, and resource extraction should be a workable proposition. Terra talks about colonies operating in the Oort Cloud but we can also consider it, as he does, a proving ground for even deeper space technologies aimed at crossing the gulf between the stars. Either way, as permanent settlements or as way stations offering resources on millennial journeys, comets should be plentiful given that the Oort Cloud may extend half the distance to Alpha Centauri. Terra goes on:
Little additional crushing or other mechanical processing of the dust would be necessary, and its fine, loose-grained structure would make it ideal for subsequent chemical processing and refining. Comet nuclei thus represent a vast reservoir of easily accessible materials: water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane, and a variety of metals and complex organics.
Energy by Starlight
Given that comets probably formed on the outer edges of the solar nebula, their early orbits would have been more or less in the same plane as the rest of the young system, but gravitational interactions with passing stars would have randomized their orbital inclinations, eventually producing a sphere of the kind Jan Oort first postulated back in 1950. Much of this is speculative, because we have little observational evidence to go on, but the major part of the cometary shell probably extends from 40,000 to 60,000 AU, while a projected inner Oort population extending from just beyond the Kuiper Belt out to 10,000 AU may have cometary orbits more or less in the plane of the ecliptic. Out past 10,000 AU the separation between comets is wide, perhaps about 20 AU, meaning that any communities that form out here will be incredibly isolated.
Image: An artist’s rendering of the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. Credit: NASA/Donald K. Yeomans.
Whether humans can exploit cometary resources this far from home will depend on whether or not they can find sources of energy. In a paper called “Fastships and Nomads,” presented at the Conference on Interstellar Migration held at Los Alamos in 1983, Eric Jones and Ben Finney give a nod to non-renewable energy sources like deuterium, given that heavy elements like uranium will be hard to come by. Indeed, a typical comet, in Richard Terra’s figures, holds between 50,000 and 100,000 metric tons of deuterium, enough to power early settlement and mining.
But over the long haul, Jones and Finney are interested in keeping colonies alive through renewable resources, and that means starlight. The researchers talk about building vast mirrors using aluminum from comets, with each 1 MW mirror about the size of the continental United States. Now here’s a science fiction setting with punch, as the two describe it:
Although the mirrors would be tended by autonomous maintenance robots, the nomads would have to live nearby in case something went wrong… Although we could imagine that the several hundred people who could be supported by the resources of a single comet might live in a single habitat, the mirrors supporting that community would be spread across about 150,000 km. Trouble with a mirror or robot on the periphery of the mirror array would mean a long trip, several hours at least. It would make more sense if the community were dispersed in smaller groups so that trouble could be reached in a shorter time. There are also social reasons for expecting the nomad communities to be divided into smaller co-living groups.
Jones and Finney go on to point out that humans tend to work best in groups of about a dozen adults, whether in the form of hunter/gatherer bands, army platoons, bridge clubs or political cells. This observation of behavior leads them to speculate that bands of about 25 men, women and children would live together in a large habitat — think again of an O’Neill cylinder — built out of cometary materials, from which they would tend a mirror farm with the help of robots and computers. Each small group would tend a mirror farm perhaps 30,000 kilometers across.
The picture widens beyond this to include the need for larger communities that would occasionally come together, helping to avoid the genetic dangers of inbreeding and providing a larger social environment. Thus we might have about 500 individuals in clusters of 20 cometary bands which would stay in contact and periodically meet. Jones and Finney consider the band-tribe structure to be the smallest grouping that seems practical for any human community. Who would such a community attract — outcasts, dissidents, adventurers? And how would Oort Cloud settlers react to the possibility of going further still, to another star?
While by no means is this is a new theory, ( note the Jules Verne story ), it presents the scenario of the very slow spreading of intelligent biological life through-out the Galaxy ( see Slow Galactic Colonization, Zoo Hypothesis and the Fermi Paradox ).
Now here’s a thought; could a potential alien Oort Cloud civilization be the basis of the Ancient Astronaut Theory and the legends of the Sumerian Gods, the Anunnaki?
There’s no hard evidence of that of course, but there are Pluto-sized and larger objects in the Kuiper Belt glowing in the infrared, a sign that was said to represent a Dyson Sphere type civilisation.
Either these are natural objects such as Brown Dwarf stars, or potential alien civilisations whom don’t care whether they are detected in the infrared or not.
And that’s disturbing.
For about three hours on Wednesday, Voyager 1 had left the solar system — before a rewritten news release headline pulled it back in. Voyager 1, one of two spacecraft NASA launched in 1977 on a grand tour of the outer planets, is now nearly 11.5 billion miles from the Sun, speeding away at 38,000 miles per hour. In a paper accepted by the journal Geophysical Review Letters, William R. Webber of New Mexico State University and Frank B. McDonald of the University of Maryland reported that on Aug. 25 last year, the spacecraft observed a sudden change in the mix of cosmic rays hitting it.
Cosmic rays are high-speed charged particles, mostly protons. Voyager 1’s instruments recorded nearly a doubling of cosmic rays from outside the solar system, while the intensity of cosmic rays that had been trapped in the outer solar system dropped by 90 percent.
The American Geophysical Union, publisher of the journal, sent out the news Wednesday morning: “Voyager 1 has left the solar system.” NASA officials, surprised, countered with a contrary statement from Edward C. Stone, the Voyager project scientist. “It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space,” Dr. Stone said. He said that the critical indicator would be a change in the direction of the magnetic field, not cosmic rays, for marking the outermost boundary of the solar system. In their paper, Dr. Webber and Dr. McDonald (who died only six days after Voyager observed the shift in cosmic rays) did not claim that Voyager 1 was in interstellar space, but had entered a part of the solar system they called the “heliocliff.” The geophysical union then sent out another e-mail with the same article but a milder headline: “Voyager 1 has entered a new region of space.”
Eventually Voyager 1 will leave the Solar System and there will be no dispute about it.
In the meantime, mainstream science will learn and post about the outer edges of the Solar System as Voyager 1 creeps along at .00002 lightspeed ( 37,500 mph ) .
Of course there are those in mainstream media and science who believe that mankind will never leave the Solar System because they proclaim that spacecraft will never be built that go faster than that.
Already the Pluto probe New Horizon traveling at 54,500 mph is breaking Voyager’s speed record and will probably leave the Solar System before Voyager does!
I’m certain in 100 years star probes will be launched toward Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti that reach appreciable percentages of lightspeed bypassing all of our old interplanetary probes and perhaps in several centuries, mankind’s interstellar colonies will be picking up these old probes to study them, like old time capsules!
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
(STARpod.us) — Imagine this, then pretend it isn’t real.
Professor Stephen Hawking was right, contact with an extraterrestrial alien civilization might be the end of us — but he was wrong about one thing: it is too late to avoid contact with ultra-intelligent extraterrestrial aliens.
They are here, now, and living with you, perhaps within you, in your home.
And their actions are utterly invisible.
Worse still, every human thought, every human response to this invisible terror is already known and is shared across an intergalactic telepathic mind-to-mind based Internet.
The above may sound like a science fiction tale, however the reality may be worse than our most feared imaginings.
To enter into this “Twilight Zone” of darkness we simply accept that the brief history of human scientific and technological evolution points to an ever-greater penetration of the human mind — and the probability, given the unfathomable vastness of eternity currently predicted by our best theories of the universe and beyond, of intelligent minds beyond our own.
Our deepest, inner thoughts and experiences are going to be turned inside out upon the world.
We enter this virtual reality with an understanding that an encounter with alien intelligence beyond our own is something we may not even recognize, if and when it happens.
And according to sources, some who have held high positions within the U.S. government, close encounters have already taken place.
It is this unseen, largely unheard and secret presence that haunts us like a secret society from the great beyond. Probing our actions — even before they are taken — the vast and disturbingly alien mind behind this unstoppable terror of invisible things surrounds us, watching and waiting, like an invisible guardian in a cosmic conspiracy written eons before our time.
The cover story for contact with this deeply disturbing intelligence was written in Hollywood: extraterrestrial biological entities arrived on Earth in flying saucers and maybe they even crashed a disk or two, which were later recovered by the government.
It is this wrap-over story that has been spread by a handful of former CIA-types including the recent revelation by Chase Brandon. According to Brandon, bodies and wreckage (presumably of an extraterrestrial alien origin) were indeed recovered in Roswell, New Mexico. Others have hinted of some deeply buried truth underlying the saucer tales, based upon hearsay from their more senior colleagues in intelligence. And this, so we are told, goes all the way to the top, coming from at least a handful of former CIA Directors.
But is there really any truth in the tales? At a minimum, we should begin our exploration of the unstoppable terror of invisible things with a brief examination of down-to-earth technologies from human sources. We will, for the time being, ignore that other Hollywood-inspired meme claiming the most advanced human technologies of the 21st century owe their existence to reverse engineered extraterrestrial technology.
There are other stories of possible relevance, tales of invisible things that sometimes show their face in brief and mysterious ways. They sometimes seem to speak to select groups of human beings, in particular scientific types, using a form of direct mind-to-mind communication.
Mental radio has been an essential element of the pop culture for decades, and once again appears to be just another meme invented in the fantasy of a Hollywood writer’s imagination. The situation is further complicated by the countless number of persons who have self-experimented on the core physical structure of the human mind — the brain — by ingesting a wide variety of chemical substances known to create hallucinatory effects.
Invisible things do not always remain visible: there are other stories and sometimes grainy and poorly photographed images of manifestations of unusual phenomena popping in and out of our consensus reality. Other highly questionable reports include observations of ordinary material objects moving under the force of an unseen source. Several persons I know have related to me stories of so-called psychokinetic motion, including one person who told me of a misadventure involving knives that were picked up off of a table and flung with extreme force into the wall. In this particular story, it was reported that the environment changed mysteriously prior to the psychokinetic event, and even space and time seemed distorted in some inexplicable manner.
Psychokinesis was once a concern for American intelligence agencies and their political handlers in Congress (and this is confirmed within the declassified government record). Once upon a time they even feared psychokinetic hacking of America’s missile arsenal launch codes.
Invisibility is no longer bound to the imaginative world of sorcerer Harry Potter. As physicists look deeper into the nature of quantum reality they are gradually realizing new and clever ways around what was once assumed to be insurmountable obstacles. The late Arthur C. Clarke, author of “2001: A Space Odyssey” is often referenced for having said any sufficiently advanced technology appears (on the surface to those who do not understand it) to be magic.
Cracking through the barriers of human ignorance and human fantasy does not come easily. But if we are indeed facing an unstoppable terror of invisible things — real, physical forces under intelligent guidance — then we need to prepare a response.
We are challenged in this effort by the anthropocentric nature of the human mind: Is is really possible to envision truly alien sources and methods? Or are we confined to describing the extraterrestrial alien droning of America?
Bekkum makes many valid points about possible alien interference with we human beings on Earth; the most important point is the immaterial way the interference would take place. No flying saucers, triangles or spheres need apply.
Remote control of human beings, i.e., possession, ( or avatars ) via of “mental telepathy” for lack of a better term, would be preferable to outright invasion and destroying turf. Especially if proxy colonization or species manipulation is part and parcel of the alien’s overall strategies.
Habitability is the measure of highest value in planet-hunting. But should it be?
Kepler and the other planet-finding missions have begun to bear fruit. We now know that most stars have planets, and that a surprising percentage will have Earth-sized worlds in their habitable zone–the region where things are not too hot and not too cold, where life can develop. Astronomers are justly fascinated by this region and what they can find there. We have the opportunity, in our lifetimes, to learn whether life exists outside our own solar system, and maybe even find out how common it is.
We have another opportunity, too–one less talked-about by astronomers but a common conversation among science fiction writers. For the first time in history, we may be able to identify worlds we could move to and live on.
As we think about this second possibility, it’s important to bear in mind that habitability and colonizability are not the same thing. Nobody seems to be doing this; I can’t find any term but habitability used to describe the exoplanets we’re finding. Whether a planet is habitable according to the current definition of the term has nothing to do with whether humans could settle there. So, the term applies to places that are vitally important for study; but it doesn’t necessarily apply to places we might want to go.Whether a planet is habitable according to the current definition of the term has nothing to do with whether humans could settle there.
To see the difference between habitability and colonizability, we can look at two very different planets: Gliese 581g and Alpha Centauri Bb. Neither of these is confirmed to exist, but we have enough data to be able to say a little about what they’re like if they do. Gliese 581g is a super-earth orbiting in the middle of its star’s habitable zone. This means liquid water could well form on its surface, which makes it a habitable world according to the current definition.
Centauri Bb, on the other hand, orbits very close to its star, and its surface temperature is likely high enough to render one half of it (it’s tidally locked to its sun, like our moon is to Earth) a magma sea. Alpha Centauri Bb is most definitely not habitable.
So Gliese 581g is habitable and Centauri Bb is not; but does this mean that 581g is more colonizable than Bb? Actually, no.
Because 581g is a super-earth, the gravity on its surface is going to be greater than Earth’s. Estimates vary, but the upper end of the range puts it at 1.7g. If you weigh 150 lbs on Earth, you’d weigh 255 lbs on 581g. This is with your current musculature; convert all your body fat to muscle and you might just be able to get around without having to use leg braces or a wheelchair. However, your cardiovascular system is going to be under a permanent strain on this world–and there’s no way to engineer your habitat to comfortably compensate.
On the other hand, Centauri Bb is about the same size as Earth. Its surface gravity is likely to be around the same. Since it’s tidally locked, half of its surface is indeed a lava hell–but the other hemisphere will be cooler, and potentially much cooler. I wouldn’t bet there’s any breathable atmosphere or open water there, but as a place to build sealed domes to live in, it’s not off the table.
Also consider that it’s easier to get stuff onto and off of the surface of Bb than the surface of a high-gravity super-earth. Add to that the very thick atmosphere that 581g is likely to have, and human subsistence on 581g–even if it’s a paradise for local life–is looking more and more awkward.
Doubtless 581g is a better candidate for life; but to me, Centauri Bb looks more colonizable.
A definition of colonizability
We’ve got a fairly good definition of what makes a planet habitable: stable temperatures suitable for the formation of liquid water. Is it possible to develop an equally satisfying (or more satisfying) definition of colonizability for a planet?
Yes–and here it is. Firstly, a colonizable world has to have an accessible surface. A super-earth with an incredibly thick atmosphere and a surface gravity of 3 or 4 gees just isn’t colonizable, however much life there may be on it.
Secondly, and more subtly, the right elements have to be accessible on the planet for it to be colonizable. This seems a bit puzzling at first, but what if Centauri Bb is the only planet in the Centauri system, and it has only trace elements of Nitrogen in its composition? It’s not going to matter how abundant everything else is. A planet like this–a star system like this–cannot support a colony of earthly life forms. Nitrogen is a critical component of biological life, at least our flavour of it.
In an article entitled “The Age of Substitutibility”, published in Science in 1978, H.E. Goeller and A.M. Weinberg proposed an artificial mineral they called Demandite. It comes in two forms. A molecule of industrial demandite would contain all the elements necessary for industrial manufacturing and construction, in the proportions that you’d get if you took, say, an average city and ground it up into a fine pulp. There’re about 20 elements in industrial demandite including carbon, iron, sodium, chlorine etc. Biological demandite, on the other hand, is made up almost entirely of just six elements: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. (If you ground up an entire ecosystem and looked at the proportions of these elements making it up, you could in fact find an existing molecule that has exactly the same proportions. It’s called cellulose.)
Thirdly, there must be a manageable flow of energy at the surface. The place can be hot or cold, but it has to be possible for us to move heat around. You can’t really do that at the surface of Venus, for instance; it’s 800 degrees everywhere on the ground so your air conditioning spends an insane amount of energy just overcoming this thermal inertia. Access to a gradient of temperature or energy is what makes physical work possible.
Obviously things like surface pressure, stellar intensity, distance from Earth etc. play big parts, but these are the main three factors that I can see. It should be instantly obvious that they have almost nothing to do with how far the planet is from its primary. There is no ‘colonizable zone’ similar to a ‘habitable zone’ around any given star. The judgment has to be made on a world by world basis.
Note that by this definition, Mars is marginally colonizable. Why? Not because of its temperature or low air pressure, but because it’s very low in Nitrogen, at least at the surface. The combination of Mars and Ceres may make a colonizable unit, if Ceres has a good supply of Nitrogen in its makeup–and this idea of combo environments being colonizable complicates the picture. We’re unlikely to be able to detect an object the size of Ceres around Alpha Centauri, so long-distance elimination of a system as a candidate for colonizability is going to be difficult. Conversely, if we can detect the presence of all the elements necessary for life and industry on a roughly Earth-sized planet, regardless of whether it’s in its star’s habitable zone, we may have a candidate for colonizability.
The colonizability of an accessible planet with a good temperature gradient can be rated according to how well its composition matches the compositions of industrial and biological demandite. We can get very precise with this scale, and we probably should. It, and not habitability, is the true measure of which worlds we might wish to visit.
To sum up, I’m proposing that we add a second measure to the existing scale of habitability when studying exoplanets. The habitability of a planet actually says nothing about how attractive it might be for us to visit. Colonizability is the missing metric for judging the value of planets around other stars.
This raises the ethical question of at which point do we as a race change the environment of an alien world’s biology in order to suit our needs?
Do we engage in biological genicide to seed a planet with Earth-life, or do we adapt ourselves to suit the exoplanet’s environment?
Or do we move on to another planet that is more “colonizable” as Schroeder suggests and totally build a habitat from scratch?
Hat tip to Centauri Dreams.
From Centauri Dreams:
What happens to us if our SETI efforts pay off? Numerous scenarios come to mind, all of them speculative, but the range of responses shown in Carl Sagan’s Contact may be something like the real outcome, with people of all descriptions reading into a distant message whatever they want to hear. Robert Lightfoot (South Georgia State College) decided to look at contact scenarios we know something more about, those that actually happened here on Earth. His presentation in Huntsville bore the title “Sorry, We Didn’t Mean to Break Your Culture.”
Known as ‘Sam’ to his friends, Lightfoot is a big, friendly man with an anthropologist’s eye for human nature. His talk made it clear that if we’re going to plan for a possible SETI reception, we should look at what happens when widely separated groups come into contact. Cultural diffusion can happen in two ways, the first being prompted by the exchange of material objects. In the SETI case, however, the non-material diffusion of ideas is the most likely outcome. Lightfoot refers to ‘objects of cultural destruction’ in both categories, noting the distorting effect these can have on a society as unexpected effects invariably appear.
Consider the introduction of Spam to the islands of the Pacific as a result of World War II. The level of obesity, cancer and diabetes soared as cultures that had relied largely on hunting, farming and fishing found themselves in the way of newfound supplies. Visitors to some of these islands still note with curiosity that Spam can be found on the menus of many restaurants. Today more than half of all Pacific islanders are obese, and one in four has diabetes. On the island nation of Tonga, fully 69 percent of the population is considered obese.
Lightfoot mentioned Tonga in his talk, but I drew the above figures from the World Diabetes Foundation. Can we relate the continuing health problems of the region to Spam? Surely it was one of the triggers, but we can also add that the large-scale industrialization of these islands didn’t begin until the 1970s. Imported food and the conversion of farmland to mining and other industries (Nauru is the classic example, with its land area almost entirely devoted to phosphate mining) meant a change in lifestyle that was sudden and has had enormous health consequences.
Objects of cultural destruction (OCDs) show their devastating effects around the globe. The Sami peoples of Finland had to deal with the introduction of snowmobiles, which you would have thought a blessing for these reindeer herders. But the result was the ability to collect far larger herds than ever before, which in turn has resulted in serious problems of over-grazing. Or consider nutmeg, once thought in Europe to be a cure for the plague, causing its value to soar higher than gold. Also considered an aphrodisiac, nutmeg led to violence against native growers in what is today Indonesia and played a role in the creation of the East India Company.
But because SETI’s effects are most likely going to be non-material, Lightfoot homed in on precedents like the ‘cargo cults’ of the Pacific that sprang up as some islanders tried to imitate what they had seen Westerners do, creating radios out of wood, building ‘runways’ and calling for supplies. In South Africa, a misunderstanding of missionary religious teachings led the Xhosa people to kill their cattle, even though their society was based on herding these animals. Waiting for a miracle after the killings, a hundred thousand people began to starve. Said Lightfoot:
Think about contact with an extraterrestrial civilization in this light. There will be new ideas galore, even the possibility of new objects — plants, animals, valuable jewels. Any or all of these could be destabilizing to our culture. And just as they may destabilize us, we may contaminate them.
I think the most powerful message of Lightfoot’s talk was that this kind of destabilization can come where you would least expect it, and have irrevocable results. Tobacco, once used as a part of ritual ceremonies in the cultures where it grew, has become an object of cultural and medical destruction in our far more affluent society. Even something as innocuous as a tulip once became the object of economic speculation so intense that it created an economic bubble in 17th Century Holland and an ensuing economic panic.
What to do? Lightfoot told the crowd to search history for the lessons it contains about cultures meeting for the first time. We need to see when and why things went wrong in hopes of avoiding similar situations. If contact with an extraterrestrial culture someday comes, we’ll need a multidisciplinary approach to identify the areas where trouble is most likely to occur. A successful SETI reception could be the beginning of a philosophical and scientific revolution, or it could be the herald of cultural decline as we try to re-position our thinking about the cosmos.
I don’t think the radio searches of SETI will produce anything; there’s a better chance that UFOs are ET spacecraft and eventually black ops corporations will reveal that they’ve been back engineering their hardware for years.
That being said, on the off chance that ET contact does happen, in any form, cultural cross contamination is bound to happen. Whether some cargo cults will form because of contact is moot, because in my opinion, that’s how the world’s religions were formed in the past.