This is an interview with the true inventor of the InnerTubes.
Not Al Gore.
When some future Mars colonist is able to open his browser and watch a cat in a shark suit chasing a duck while riding a roomba, they will have Vint Cerf to thank.
In his role as Google’s chief internet evangelist, Cerf has spent much of his time thinking about the future of the computer networks that connect us all. And he should know. Along with Bob Kahn, he was responsible for developing the internet protocol suite, commonly known as TCP/IP, that underlies the workings of the net. Not content with just being a founding father of the internet on this planet, Cerf has spent years taking the world wide web out of this world.
Working with NASA and JPL, Cerf has helped develop a new set of protocols that can stand up to the unique environment of space, where orbital mechanics and the speed of light make traditional networking extremely difficult. Though this space-based network is still in its early stages and has few nodes, he said that we are now at “the front end of what could be an evolving and expanding interplanetary backbone.”Father of the Internet Vint Cerf is responsible for helping develop the TCP/IP protocols that underly the web. In his role as Google’s chief internet evangelist, Cerf is dedicated to thinking about the future of the net, including its use in space. Image: Google/Weinberg-Clark
Wired talked to Cerf about the interplanetary internet’s role in space exploration, the frustrations of network management on the final frontier, and the future headline he never wants to see.
Wired: Though it’s been around a while, the concept of an interplanetary internet is probably new to a lot of people. How exactly do you build a space network?
Vint Cerf: Right, it’s actually not new at all – this project started in 1998. And it got started because 1997 was very nearly the 25th anniversary of the design of the internet. Bob Kahn and I did that work in 1973. So back in 1997, I asked myself what should I be doing that will be needed 25 years from then. And, after consultation with colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, we concluded that we needed much richer networking than was then available to NASA and other space faring agencies.
Up until that time and generally speaking, up until now, the entire communications capabilities for space exploration had been point-to-point radio links. So we began looking at the possibilities of TCIP/IP as a protocol for interplanetary communication. We figure it worked on Earth and it ought to work on Mars. The real question was, “Would it work between the planets?” And the answer turned out to be, “No.”
The reason for this is two-fold: First of all, the speed of light is slow relative to distances in the solar system. A one-way radio signal from Earth to Mars takes between three and half and 20 minutes. So round trip time is of course double that. And then there’s the other problem: planetary rotation. If you’re communicating with something on the surface of the planet, it goes out of communication as the planet rotates. It breaks the available communications and you have to wait until the planet rotates back around again. So what we have is variable delay and disruption, and TCP does not do terribly well in those kinds of situations.
One of the things that the TCP/IP protocols assume is that there isn’t enough memory in each of the routers to hold anything. So if a packet shows up and it’s destined for a place for which you have an available path, but there isn’t enough room, then typically the packet is discarded.
We developed a new suite of protocols that we called the Bundle protocols, which are kind of like internet packets in the sense that they’re chunks of information. They can be quite big and they basically get sent like bundles of information. We do what’s called storing forward, which is the way all packet switching works. It’s just in this case the interplanetary protocol has the capacity to store quite a bit, and usually for quite a long time before we can get rid of it based on connectivity to the next hop.
Wired: What are the challenges with working and making a communications network in space as opposed to a ground-based internet?
Cerf: Among the hard things, first of all, is that we couldn’t use the domain name system in its current form. I can give you a quick illustration why that’s the case: Imagine for a moment you’re on Mars, and somebody is trying to open up an HTTP web connection to Earth. They’ve given you a URL that contains a domain name in it, but before you can open up a TCP connection you need to have an IP address.
So you will have to do a domain name lookup, which can translate the domain name you’re trying to lookup into an IP address. Now remember you’re on Mars and the domain name you’re trying to look up is on Earth. So you send out a DNS lookup. But it may take anywhere from 40 minutes to an unknown amount of time — depending on what kind of packet loss you have, whether there’s a period of disruption based on planetary rotation, all that kind of stuff — before you get an answer back. And then it may be the wrong answer, because by the time it gets back maybe the node has moved and now it has a different IP address. And from there it just gets worse and worse. If you’re sitting around Jupiter, and trying to do a lookup, many hours go by and then it’s just impossible.
So we had to break it into a two-phase lookup and use what’s called delayed binding. First you figure out which planet you’re going to, then you route the traffic to that planet, and only then you do a local lookup, possibly using the domain name.
The other thing is when you are trying to manage a network with this physical scope and all the uncertainty delays, the things we typically do for network management don’t work very well. There’s a protocol called SNMP, the simple network management protocol, and it is based on the idea that you can send a packet out and get an answer back in a few milliseconds, or a few hundreds of milliseconds. If you’re familiar with the word ping, you’ll know what I mean, because you ping something and expect to get an answer back fairly quickly. If you don’t get it back in a minute or two, you begin to conclude that there is something wrong and the thing isn’t available. But in space, it takes a long time for the signal to even get to the destination let alone get an answer back. So network management turns out to be a lot harder in this environment.
Then the other thing we had to worry about was security. The reason for that should be obvious — one of the things we wanted to avoid was the possibility of a headline that says: “15-Year-Old Takes Over Mars Net.” Against that possibility we put quite a bit of security into the system, including strong authentication, three way handshakes, cryptographic keys, and things of that sort in order to reduce the likelihood that someone would abuse access to the space network.
Wired: Because it has to communicate across such vast distances, it seems like the interplanetary internet must be huge.
Cerf: Well, in purely physical terms — that is, in terms of distance — it’s a pretty large network. But the number of nodes is pretty modest. At the moment, the elements participating in it are devices in planet Earth, including the Deep Space Network, which is operated at JPL. That consists of three 70-meter dishes plus a smattering of 35-meter dishes that can reach out into the solar system with point-to-point radio links. Those are part of the TDRSS [tee-driss] system, which is used for a lot of near-Earth communications by NASA. The ISS also has several nodes on board capable of using this particular set of protocols.
Two orbiters around Mars are running the prototype versions of this software, and virtually all the information that’s coming back from Mars is coming back via these store-forward relays. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers on the planet and the Curiosity rover are using these protocols. And then there’s the Phoenix lander, which descended to the north pole of Mars in 2008. It also was using these protocols until the Martian winter shut it down.
And finally, there’s a spacecraft in orbit around the sun, which is actually quite far away, called EPOXI [the spacecraft was 32 million kilometers from Earth when it tested the interplanetary protocols]. It has been used to rendezvous with two comets in the last decade to determine their mineral makeup.
But what we hope will happen over time — assuming these protocols are adopted by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems, which standardizes space communication protocols — then every spacefaring nation launching either robotic or manned missions has the option of using these protocols. And that means that all the spacecraft that have been outfitted with those protocols could be used during the primary mission, and could then be repurposed to become relays in a stored forward network. I fully expect to see these protocols used for both manned and robotic exploration in the future.
Wired: What are the next steps to expand this?
Cerf: We want to complete the standardization with the rest of the spacefaring community. Also, not all pieces are fully validated yet, including our strong authentication system. Then second, we need to know how well we can do flow control in this very, very peculiar and potentially disrupted environment.
Third, we need to verify that we can do serious real-time things including chat, video and voice. We will need to learn how to go from what appears to be an interactive real-time chat, like one over the phone, to probably an email-like exchange, where you might have voice and video attached but it’s not immediately interactive.
Delivering the bundle is very much like delivering a piece of email. If there’s a problem with email it usually gets retransmitted, and after a while you time out. The bundle protocol has similar characteristics, so you anticipate that you have variable delay that could be very long. Sometimes if you’ve tried many times and don’t get a response, you have to assume the destination is not available.
Wired: We often talk about how the things we invent for space are being used here on Earth. Are there things about the interplanetary internet that could potentially be used on the ground?
Cerf: Absolutely. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded tests with the U.S. Marine Corps on tactical military communication using these highly resilient and disruption-tolerant protocols. We had successful tests that showed in a typical hostile communication environment that we were able to put three to five times more data through this disrupted system than we could with traditional TCP/IP.
Part of the reason is that we assume we can store traffic in the network. When there’s high activity, we don’t have to retransmit from end to end, we can just retransmit from one of the intermediate points in the system. This use of memory in the network turns out to be quite effective. And of course we can afford to do that because memory has gotten so inexpensive.
The European Commission has also sponsored a really interesting project using the DTM protocols in northern Sweden. In an area called Lapland, there’s a group called the Saami reindeer herders. They’ve been herding reindeer for 8,000 years up there. And the European Commission sponsored a research project managed by the Lulea University of Technology in northern Sweden to put these protocols on board all-terrain vehicles in laptops. This way, you could run a Wi-Fi service in villages in Northern Sweden and drop messages off and pick them up according to the protocols. As you move around, you were basically a data mule carrying information from one village to another.
Wired: There was also an experiment called Mocup that involved remote controlling a robot on Earth from the space station. These protocols were used, right?
Cerf: Yes, we used the DTN protocols for that. We were all really excited for that because, although the protocols were originally designed to deal with very long and uncertain delay, when there is high quality connectivity, we can use it for real-time communication. And that’s exactly what they did with the little German rover.
I think in general communication will benefit from this. Putting these protocols in mobile phones, for instance, would create a more powerful and resilient communications platform than what we typically have today
Wired: So if I have poor reception on my cell phone at my house, I could still call my parents?
Cerf: Well, actually what might happen is that you could store what you said and they would eventually get it. But it wouldn’t be real time. If the disruption lasts for an appreciable length of time, it would arrive later. But at least the information would eventually get there.
What about quantum entanglement?
There’s an experiment to be done in 2016 which an entangled signal is to be sent to a satellite launched by the Chinese, ( The Race to Bring Quantum Teleportation to Your World ).
Will that make the Interplanetary Internet obsolete before it literally gets off the ground?
Or will quantum entanglement enhance it?
From Mysterious Universe:
Although many people look to the skies for answers concerning the UFO puzzle, there are more than a few reports on file demonstrating that UFOs have a deep connection to the oceans of our world. Indeed, I have many such cases in my files, and here’s just a few of them. Puerto Rico, or to give it its correct title, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, is what is known as an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the Caribbean Sea. And according to some, it may very well be the one place – possibly more than any other on the planet – that is home to not just one secret base, but to an overwhelming plethora of classified locations, certainly of a governmental nature, and maybe even of an alien nature, too.
Over the course of the last twenty-years or so, the people of Puerto Rico have been swamped by a multitude of UFO encounters, sightings of strange and unearthly-looking craft surfacing from both mountainous and cavernous lairs, and run-ins with strange, vampire-style creatures that one might accurately describe as the distinctly evil-twin to Steven Spielberg’s benign E.T.: the Chupacabras. And then there are the USOs (Unidentified Submarine/Submersible Objects) of Puerto Rico.
In 2004, when I visited Puerto Rico for the first time – in search of the Chupacabras – I was told of the account of a former civil-defense employee, who had seen a gigantic, unknown craft rise silently out of the coastal waters of the island, while he was on an early-morning jog in the spring of 1999. In this case, the vast device, which was viewed at a distance of around half-a-mile off the coast, or perhaps slightly more, wobbled slightly – rather like a falling-leaf – as it took to the skies, and then streaked vertically at a fantastic speed, before finally vanishing from view as it grew ever smaller, and was finally lost due to the effects of the bright, rising sun.
Further rumors of a potentially-related nature were also provided to me on that same expedition to the island. They came from a retired police-officer who had heard rumors to the effect that, somewhere off the coast of Puerto Rico – he was not entirely sure where exactly – in late-1993, elements of the U.S. Navy spent several days tracking, via sonar, the movements of a huge USO in the deep waters off Puerto Rico. Perhaps aware of its potentially hazardous nature, the U.S. Navy contingent was ordered to merely carefully log the movements of the undersea craft, but never to engage it any way, shape or form whatsoever that might be interpreted as hostility.
Taking the above into thoughtful consideration, is it truly feasible that Puerto Rico might be home to a massive undersea installation? When one realizes that we, the Human Race, have had the ability to construct such science-fiction-like facilities for decades, then the possibility becomes all-too-real, and not so unbelievable, after all. And, make no mistake: evidence of our very own undersea abilities is far from lacking.
For example, an October 1966 document prepared by one C.F. Austin, of the U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake, California, includes a truly remarkable statement. Titled Manned Undersea Structures – The Rock-Site Concept, it states in part that: “Large undersea installations with a shirt-sleeve environment have existed under the continental shelves for many decades. The technology now exists, using off-the-shelf petroleum, mining, submarine, and nuclear equipment, to establish permanent manned installations within the sea floor that do not have any air umbilical or other connection with the land or water surface, yet maintain a normal one-atmosphere environment within.”
If, as this previously-classified U.S. Navy document demonstrates, the government of the United States was constructing undersea installations – with a comfortable shirt-sleeve environment, no less – a number of decades before the documentation was even prepared in the mid-1960s, perhaps someone else, someone from a world far, far away, has secretly been doing likewise. And, maybe, they chose Puerto Rico as their secret base of both underground and undersea operations.
Extending from Bermuda in the north to southern Florida, and then east to a point through the Bahamas past Puerto Rico and then back again to Bermuda, is a truly ominous realm of wild, churning and turbulent waters known infamously as the Bermuda Triangle, a permanent fixture in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean, and one that has become renowned for the hundreds of aircraft, ships, boats and unfortunate souls that have disappeared in the area without trace – and for decades, too.
Down to earth explanations for such vanishings, it goes without saying, most certainly proliferate. Compass malfunctions, disorientation, sudden and violent bouts of severe weather, mechanical and electrical failure, and pilot error are just some of the conventional theories that have been offered as answers relative to why there should have been so many disappearances in such a clearly delineated area over so many years.
But, not everyone is quite so sure that those particular theories provide all the clues to solving the maritime mystery; one of the reasons being that on numerous occasions USOs have been seen in the area.
One particularly significant case involving a craft of distinctly unknown origin occurred in April 1973 when a Captain Dan Delmonico, a calm and collected character with a fine reputation for being grounded and logical, had an encounter that could be considered anything but grounded and logical.
It was around 4.00 p.m., while negotiating the waters of the Gulf Stream, specifically between Great Isaac Light, north of Bimini, and Miami, when Delmonico was amazed by the sight of a large cigar-shaped object – nearly two hundred feet in length, grey in color, and with rounded ends – which shot through the water, not surprisingly amazing and astounding Delmonico in the process. Who, or what, piloted the strange submersible on that April 1973 afternoon remains unknown.
Ninety sixty-six saw an unusual event occur at Pasajes, Northern Spain that caught the attention of the Ministry of Defense. From a radio officer attached to the S.S. Patrick M. Rotterdam, came the following, which I found in 1997, in a then-newly-released batch of formerly classified British Ministry of Defense files on UFOs. This case does not involve a USO directly, but since the witnesses were at sea, it may be of some relevance. A letter sent to the MoD by the ship’s captain reads thus:
“Perhaps the following will be of some interest to you or Jodrell Bank. Whilst at Anchor at Pasajes, North Spain on 22 April at 2100 Bst in a very clear sky, one of the crew noticed a bright patch in the sky and drew my attention to it. It appeared stationary and squarish, the area being about 4 times the size of a full moon. Several of the crew watched, being interested and of course at anchor, there is very little to do.
“The patch elongated and became brighter and to our amazement a complete ring, similar to pictures of flying saucers, bright and distinct with dark centre. For several minutes this object remained visible then returned to a patch, receding elongated again. Then it branched out to form a letter M. When the ring was clear it was about [the] same size as a full moon. We know it was not the moon because the moon was in another quadrant and lying on back at [the] same time. The patch receded away into distance. I can assure you none of us were drunk.”
And there you have it: a round-up of just a few of the weirder USO-themed reports from my files, all of which suggest maybe it’s not to the stars – but to the seas – that we should be looking for the answers concerning the many UFO-themed mysteries that dominate our world.
When Bill Byrnes was doing his UFO Hunters years ago, he did a few episodes about underwater UFOs, but he linked them to the extraterrestrial, not underwater life like in the movie ‘The Abyss.’
It’s too bad UFOs are linked to outer space, about 60-70% of UFOs are sighted in or under the water, most of which around South America, not North America.
But since the U.S. and thus North America has the bully pulpit, the UFO meme is the extraterrestrial variety, not under the oceans.
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
From Daily Grail:
A popular link doing the rounds at the moment is to a question posed to Redditors regarding their kids: “Parents of Reddit, what is the creepiest thing your young child has ever said to you?” Obviously, some of the answers get a bit paranormal (seeing weird people in rooms/closets etc) so it’s a fun read, but there’s a also a few that sound very much like reincarnation-type stories. For example:
“Before I was born here, I had a sister, right? Her and my other Mom are so old now. They were ok when the car was on fire, but I sure wasn’t!”
He was maybe 5 or 6 years old? It was totally out of the blue..
The reincarnation-style quotes sound very similar to those collected by researchers Dr. Jim Tucker and the late Dr. Ian Stevenson , both from the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia. I’ve embedded a video at the top of this story in which Dr. Jim Tucker describes this phenomenon:
Very young children, usually between the age of 2 or 3, who start reporting that they have memories from having had a past life. Some of them talk about being deceased relatives, but others will talk about being strangers in other locations. And if they give enough details like the name of the other location, people have often gone there and found that in fact someone had died in the recent past whose life matches the details that the children gave.
Given that there were a few reincarnation-type stories in the original Reddit thread, a ‘Past Lives’ sub-Reddit has been set up for discussion of those specific types of statements.
I have seen this a lot, even with my own kids and grandkids.
I even remember a few episodes of myself remembering past-life stuff when I was little ( don’t ask me how! ).
All in all this is a fascinating case study and one that deserves more.
Maybe there is more to consciousness than gray matter!
From Dr. David Clarke:
The death of ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher has deprived UFOlogists of an answer to an enduring question: what did she really know about Britain’s Roswell incident?
Margaret Thatcher, who was Britain’s Prime Minister during at the time of the Rendlesham incident in 1980 (credit: BBC.co.uk)
Thatcher, who died on 8 April aged 87, was 19 months into her first term as Prime Minister in 1980 when US airmen at the nuclear-armed twin airbase RAF Bentwaters-Woodbridge reported ‘unexplained lights’ (UFOs) hovering above Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk.
The ‘Rendlesham Forest’ incident happened at the height of the Cold War when tensions in Poland – then behind the Iron Curtain -were reaching crisis point. In the years that followed, the Ministry of Defence drew up secret plans to base US cruise missiles at RAF Greenham Common and US airbases in eastern England and was keen to avoid drawing attention to a persistent story about a UFO landing near one of them.
MoD always claimed the UFO incident was ‘of no defence significance’ but until I obtained a copy of their closed file on the case in 2001 – using a precursor to the Freedom of Information Act – the results of their inquiries into the strange sightings remained shrouded in secrecy.
The file revealed their conclusion that ‘it was highly unlikely that any violation of UK airspace would be heralded by such a display of lights…[we] think it equally likely that any [Soviet] reconnaissance or spying activity would be announced in this way.‘
But before these plain facts entered the public domain UFOlogist and internet gossip columnist Georgina Bruni revealed that she had quizzed Thatcher face-to-face about her knowledge of UFOs and Rendlesham.
The bizarre conversation took place in London at a charity cocktail party during 1997, shortly after the former Prime Minister had returned from an engagement in Washington DC. At the time Bruni was working on a book that she hoped would expose ‘the truth’ about Britain’s Roswell.
Seizing the opportunity, Bruni asked her opinion on UFOs and claims that world leaders knew about the existence of alien technology. She received this response:
‘You can’t tell the people’
As Special Branch guards and husband Dennis listened, Bruni asked if she was referring to UFOs. According to her account published in 2001, the following exchange then took place:
‘Determined to pursue the questioning I stood facing her and, almost in a whisper, I said, “UFOs and alien technology, Lady Thatcher.”
“You must get your facts right,” she answered.
“What facts?” I wanted to know. In a worried tone of voice, but with her usual composure, she repeated,
“You must have the facts and you can’t tell the people.”
That was the end of the conversation. Bruni – who died in 2008 – shook Thatcher’s hand, thanked her and the Prime Minister was escorted out of the room, followed by her bodyguards.
Bruni was so impressed by this ‘admission’ that she used the phrase You Can’t Tell the People, despite its ambiguous status, as the title of her 2000 book that publishers Macmillan promoted as ‘the definitive account of the Rendlesham Forest incident’.
As a believer in UFOs and conspiracy theories, Bruni’s gut instinct was Thatcher, like Winston Churchill and other world leaders, had been briefed on the defence threat posed by UFOs and aliens. She mused: ‘If Britain was under threat…Thatcher would want to know all the intricate details…What were the facts she was referring to and, even more importantly, why should she insist that the people should not be told about UFOs?’
In the second edition of the book Bruni revealed she was, as a result of her research into the mystery:
‘…convinced that they [UFOnauts] are time travellers from our future or another dimension…that would account for why there is a reluctance from our governments to reveal the truth about these encounters. How would you tell the people that there is an intelligence far more advanced than we are, who are capable of creating such incredible technology?’ (p406, paperback edition)
Several attempts were made to obtain an explanation of the phrase ‘you can’t tell the people’ from Baroness Thatcher’s office, without success. But a persistent UFOlogist, the late Eric Morris, extracted one plausible explanation from the former PM’s personal assistant Mary Wakeley.
In a letter dated 12 November 2001, that Morris later donated to my archive, Wakeley insisted that the comment ‘you must first get your facts right’ was one ‘that Lady Thatcher regularly uses in almost all circumstances and therefore it would be no surprise that she might have said the same on this occasion.’
Extract from a letter sent by Margaret Thatcher’s PA to UFOlogist Eric Morris in 2001 (author’s collection)
‘However, I do not think one should read too much into it – as the author [Bruni] obviously has done.’
Wakeley reveals she was familiar with the UFO story as she notes that ‘you will not be surprised that this matter has been raised before.’
Although this anecdote appears to have impressed Bruni’s publishers, like many UFO-related yarns, it does not stand up to critical scrutiny.
It could, for instance, be argued the ‘facts’ referred to by Thatcher were those contained in the MoD’s policy assessment – used to justify the closure of their UFO desk in 2009 – that UFOs as alien craft did not exist but those who believed in them would never accept that disappointing conclusion.
So this was more a case of ‘don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story’ rather than a clue to the puzzle of Britain’s Roswell incident.
A well written article, but I disagree with Dr. Clarke on a couple of things:
The testimony of the security people on Christmas 1980 and -
As Stanton Friedman says, “Not all UFOs are flying saucers, but all flying saucers are UFOs.”
And not all flying saucers ( or flying triangles ) are interstellar craft. Some might be time machines.
And that might be worth kept secret by certain world leaders.
But we’ll never know.
Another hat tip to the Daily Grail.
Across the world’s great deserts, a mysterious sheen has been found on boulders and rock faces. These layers of manganese, arsenic and silica are known as desert varnish and they are found in the Atacama desert in Chile, the Mojave desert in California, and in many other arid places. They can make the desert glitter with surprising colour and, by scraping off pieces of varnish, native people have created intriguing symbols and images on rock walls and surfaces.
How desert varnish forms has yet to be resolved, despite intense research by geologists. Most theories suggest it is produced by chemical reactions that act over thousands of years or by ecological processes yet to be determined.
Professor Carol Cleland, of Colorado University, has a very different suggestion. She believes desert varnish could be the manifestation of an alternative, invisible biological world. Cleland, a philosopher based at the university’s astrobiology centre, calls this ethereal dimension the shadow biosphere. “The idea is straightforward,” she says. “On Earth we may be co-inhabiting with microbial lifeforms that have a completely different biochemistry from the one shared by life as we currently know it.”
It is a striking idea: We share our planet with another domain of life that exists “like the realm of fairies and elves just beyond the hedgerow”, as David Toomey puts it in his newly published Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different from Our Own. But an alternative biosphere to our own would be more than a mere scientific curiosity: it is of crucial importance, for its existence would greatly boost expectations of finding life elsewhere in the cosmos. As Paul Davies, of Arizona State University, has put it: “If life started more than once on Earth, we could be virtually certain that the universe is teeming with it.”
However, by the same token, if it turns out we have failed to realise that we have been sharing a planet with these shadowy lifeforms for eons, despite all the scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, then we may need to think again about the way we hunt for life on other worlds. Robot spacecraft – such as the Mars rover Curiosity – are certainly sophisticated. But what chance do they have of detecting alien entities if the massed laboratories of modern science have not yet spotted them on our own planet? This point is stressed by the US biologist Craig Venter. As he has remarked: “We’re looking for life on Mars and we don’t even know what’s on Earth!”
The concept of a shadow biosphere was first outlined by Cleland and her Colorado colleague Shelley Copley in a paper in 2006 in the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is now supported by many other scientists, including astrobiologists Chris McKay, who is based at Nasa’s Ames Research Centre, California, and Paul Davies.
These researchers believe life may exist in more than one form on Earth: standard life – like ours – and “weird life”, as they term the conjectured inhabitants of the shadow biosphere. “All the micro-organisms we have detected on Earth to date have had a biology like our own: proteins made up of a maximum of 20 amino acids and a DNA genetic code made out of only four chemical bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine,” says Cleland. “Yet there are up to 100 amino acids in nature and at least a dozen bases. These could easily have combined in the remote past to create lifeforms with a very different biochemistry to our own. More to the point, some may still exist in corners of the planet.”
Science’s failure to date to spot this weird life may seem puzzling. The natural history of our planet has been scrupulously studied and analysed by scientists, so how could a whole new type of life, albeit a microbial one, have been missed? Cleland has an answer. The methods we use to detect micro-organisms today are based entirely on our own biochemistry and are therefore incapable of spotting shadow microbes, she argues. A sample of weird microbial life would simply not trigger responses to biochemists’ probes and would end up being thrown out with the rubbish.
That is why unexplained phenomena like desert varnish are important, she says, because they might provide us with clues about the shadow biosphere. We may have failed to detect the source of desert varnish for the simple reason that it is the handiwork of weird microbes which generate energy by oxidising minerals, leaving deposits behind them.
The idea of the shadow biosphere is also controversial and is challenged by several other scientists. “I think it is very unlikely that after 300 years of microbiology we would not have detected such organisms despite the fact that they are supposed to have a different biochemistry from the kind we know about today,” says Professor Charles Cockell, of the UK Centre for Astrobiology at Edinburgh University. “It is really quite unlikely,” adds Cockell, whose centre will be officially opened this week at a ceremony in Edinburgh.
Ways need to be found to determine whether or not the shadow biosphere exists, says Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. “If you want a clue you can count up the amount of carbon that is emitted by living things – cows, sheep, grass, plants, forests and all the planet’s bacteria. When you do, you find there is a discrepancy of around 5% when you compare the amount given off from Earth’s standard biosphere and the amount you find in the atmosphere.”
In other words, there is slightly too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than can be explained by the emissions of standard lifeforms on Earth. There could be an error in these calculations, of course. Alternatively, the shadow biosphere could be responsible for this excess, says Sasselov. “There is plenty of room for a shadow biosphere. That is clear. Certainly, it is not true, as some allege, that we have strong evidence to show that it does not exist. In fact, the opposite is true: we do not have good enough evidence to dismiss it.”
A key point to note is that scientists – although describing the inhabitants of the shadow biosphere as weird – still assume they will be carbon-based entities. Complex chemistry based on other elements, such as silicon, is possible, they acknowledge but these alternatives cannot create the vast range of organic materials that carbon can generate. In other words, the shadow biosphere, if it exists, will almost certainly be inhabited by carbon life, albeit of an alien variety.
“Billions of years ago, life based on different types of carbon biochemistry could have arisen in several places on Earth,” says Cleland. “These varieties would have been based on different combinations of bases and amino acids. Eventually, one – based on DNA and on proteins made from 20 amino acids – formed multicellular entities and became the dominant form of life on Earth. That is why we find that life as we know it, from insects to humans and from plants to birds, has DNA as its genetic code. However, other lifeforms based on different bases and proteins could still have survived – in the shadow biosphere.”
A different prospect is highlighted by Sasselov, who points out that a complex organic chemical can come in two different shapes even though they have the same chemical formula. Each is a mirror-image of the other and are said to have a different chirality. “Amino acids are an example,” says Sasselov. “Each comes in a right-handed version and a left-handed version. Our bodies – in common with all other lifeforms – only use left-handed versions to create proteins. Right-handed amino acids are simply ignored by our bodies. However, there may be some organisms, somewhere on the planet, that use only right-handed amino acids. They could make up the weird life of the shadow biosphere.”
But how can scientists pinpoint this weird life? Microbes are usually detected in laboratories by feeding nutrients to suspected samples so they grow and expend. Then the resulting cultures can be analysed. A weird lifeform – such as one made only of proteins formed out of right-handed amino acids – will not respond to left-handed nutrients, however. It will fail to form cultures and register its existence.
One solution to this problem is being pursued by Sasselov and colleagues’ Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. They are building an artificial cell – or bionic system – made only of right-handed components including right-handed DNA and right-handed ribosomes. “If there are right-handed lifeforms out there, many of them will be viruses – which will attempt to hijack the DNA of our bionic cells,” adds Sasselov. “When they do that they will leave evidence of their existence. Essentially we are building honey traps to catch any right-handed viruses that might live in the shadow biosphere and so reveal their existence.”
Other scientists suggest a different approach – by looking at Earth’s most inhospitable ecological niches: hot vents on the seafloor, mountaintops, highly saline lakes, Antarctic ice sheets and deserts. Standard lifeforms, mainly bacteria, have been found in these places but only a few. Some niches, researchers speculate, may prove to be just too inhospitable for standard life but may just be tolerable enough to support weird life. Microscopic studies would reveal their existence while standard culture tests would show they had a different biochemistry from standard lifeforms.
Stripes of desert varnish line the canyon walls of Capitol Gorge in Utah. No laboratory has been able to re-create the phenomenon. Photograph: Larry Geddis/Alamy
And a promising example is provided by the desert varnish proposed as a target by Cleland and backed by David Toomey in Weird Life. “No laboratory microbiologist has been able to coax bacteria or algae to make desert varnish,” he states. “It is also possible that the stuff is the end result of some very weird chemistry but no one has been able to reproduce that either.” So yes, these sites could provide proof of the shadow biosphere’s existence, he argues.
Not surprisingly, Cleland agrees. “The only trouble is that no one has yet got round to investigating desert varnish for weird life,” adds Cleland. “I confess I find that disappointing.”
Fascinating. I have come across different versions of Earth “shadow” life over the years; Mac Tonnies’ “cryptoterrestrials“, ancient creatures older than mankind whom remain hidden and undetectable from us. And Peter Watts’ “Behemoth” right-handed amino acid life forms taking over the Earth during the 21st Century.
And I’m not even counting legends of elves, Bigfoot, dwarves, demons and angels from past decades and centuries.
So the idea of Earthly “alien” life isn’t new.
But maybe, just maybe with advanced biotechnology techniques, we’ll be able to detect this shadow life.
Perhaps a whole hidden world!
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
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.
Almost 70 years ago, Dr. C. E. R. Bruce offered a new hypothesis about the Sun. Being an electrical researcher, as well as an astronomer, Bruce proposed that the Sun was a discharge phenomenon:
“It is not coincidence that the photosphere has the appearance, the temperature and spectrum of an electric arc; it has arc characteristics because it is an electric arc, or a large number of arcs in parallel. These arcs quickly result in the neutralization of the accumulated space charge in their neighbourhood and go out. They are not therefore stable discharges, but may rather be looked upon as transient sparks. Arcs thus continually appear and disappear. It is this coming and going which accounts for the observed granulation of the solar surface.” (A New Approach in Astrophysics and Cosmogony ByC. E. R. Bruce)
Years later, in 1972, the late Ralph Juergens wrote a series of articles suggesting that the Sun is not an isolated body, but is the most electrically active object in the solar system—the focus of a radial electric field extending outward almost to the next star system. Juergens was the first one to link electricity in the Solar System to the galactic circuit and to theorize that the Sun might have an external power source.
In the electric Sun hypothesis, the Sun is an anode, or positively charged terminal. As previously mentioned, the cathode is an invisible “virtual cathode,” called the heliopause, at the farthest limit of the Sun’s coronal discharge, millions of kilometers from its surface. This is the double layer that isolates the Sun’s plasma cell from the galactic plasma that surrounds it.
In the Electric Universe model, the voltage difference between the Sun and the galaxy occurs across the heliopause boundary sheath. Inside the heliopause the weak, constant electric field centered on the Sun is enough to power the solar discharge. The visible component of the glow discharge occurs above the solar surface in layers.
In the chromosphere, at 500 kilometers above the surface, the coldest temperature exists: 4400 Kelvin. At the top of the chromosphere, 2200 kilometers up, the temperature rises to about 20,000 Kelvin. It then jumps by hundreds of thousands of Kelvin, slowly continuing to rise, eventually reaching 2 million Kelvin in the corona. The Sun’s reverse temperature gradient agrees with the glow discharge model, but contradicts the idea of nuclear fusion.
The discovery that a “solar wind” escapes the Sun at between 400 and 700 kilometers per second was a surprise for the nuclear theory. In a gravity-driven Universe, the Sun’s heat and radiation pressure are insufficient to explain how the particles of the solar wind accelerate past Venus, Earth and the rest of the planets. Since they are not rocket powered particles, no one expected such acceleration.
According to the Electric Sun theory, an electric field focused on the Sun accelerates charged particles: the faster they move, the stronger the field. But as noted, the interplanetary electric field is extremely weak. No instrument would be able to measure the voltage differential across 100 meters, but the solar wind acceleration over tens of millions of kilometers does confirm the Sun’s e-field, enough to sustain a drift current across the Solar System. Within the spatial volume, the implied current is sufficient to power the Sun.
In 1979, Earl Milton composed a paper titled, The Not So Stable Sun in which he wrote:”In order to maintain a stable sheath between the photosphere and the corona a great many electrons must flow downward through the sheath for each ion which passes upward. The solar gas shows an increasing percentage of ionized-to-neutral atoms with altitude. Some of the rising neutral atoms become ionized by collision. Some fall back to the solar surface. The rising ions ascend into the corona where they become the solar wind. The descending gas flows back to the Sun between the granules—in these channels the electrical field is such that ions straying out from the sides of the photospheric tufts flow sunward, and hence the electrons flow outward. The presence of these channels is critical to the maintenance of the solar discharge”
I don’t really know much about the Electric Universe Theory, but it’s a refreshing alternative to the mainstream stuff that is put out there today with it’s invisisble “dark matter” and “dark energy” that make up 95% of the Universe supposedly.
The late researcher of UFOs, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, once wrote that, “In one’s frustration it is all too easy to seize on an explanation of the “Men from Mars” variety and to ignore the many UFO features unaccounted for… We may be inadvertently and artificially increasing the significance of the conspicuous features while the part we ignore–or that which is not reported by the untrained witness–may contain the clue to the whole subject.”
I would also argue just as well that, in addition to part of the UFO enigma that remain hidden, there might be researchers in this field that do the same.
I recently attended the 2013 International UFO Congress as a speaker, as well as a panelist for a discussion with fellow researchers Stanton Friedman and Richard Dolan, where we discussed the state of ufology in the 21st century. The Congress, arguably the largest and most well-attended UFO conference anywhere in the world, is not only a proving ground for both the budding young researcher and the decades-in ufologist alike; it is also a breeding ground for new ideas and the formation of new hypotheses, which may eventually sow the seeds of new insight toward solving this enduring mystery.
International UFO Congress – Educating the World One Person at a Time
And yet, while there is this obvious mainstream component to the UFO research community, there is another more clandestine arm of the community that is less active before the public eye… but not all things that are “secretive” are necessarily nefarious or part of some grand dark conspiracy. In truth, it may be within the humble confines of Ufology’s “Shadow Research Community” that some of the more innovative thinkers exist, working out problems behind the scenes that many point-and-click researchers of today might overlook altogether.
No doubt, a statement of this caliber might be enough to anger many prideful UFO researchers at large (although I would argue that most serious UFO researchers will learn early on to rid themselves of any pride, lest they be crushed by the seething sensationalism in the mainstream media, and their overt approach toward the UFO community in general). But again, the notion of their being an underlying academic element that persists behind the mainstream study of UFOs–if one could ever call UFO research “mainstream” at all–is nothing new.
French Ufologist and computer scientist Jacques Vallee in his book Alien Contact by Human Deception argued that there were many private UFO researchers in academic circles–perhaps a few hundred he knew and had worked with–that studied the UFO problem intently, but without doing so publicly. Vallee referred to this as being a sort of “Invisible College” that has continued serious scientific study of UFOs, despite the fact that since the late 1960s, Edward Condon and his University of Colorado UFO Project helped determine that once and for all, the UFO mystery would forever be pseudoscientific.
Hynek and Vallee
Indeed, the general study of UFOs has largely been pseudoscientific, in that the largest body of serious research spanning the last several decades has been carried out by civilians, and often those with little or no academic or technical training suited for study of the phenomenon. While this has often been a point of criticism by scientists the likes of Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and many others, it also highlights yet another problem in the UFO field: the tendency for academics to push for debunking of UFO phenomenon or labeling it as pseudoscientific, while doing very little on their own accord to help further the serious scientific study of the phenomenon aside from waging an ongoing war of words.
To the credit of the academicians, it should be noted that to openly and publicly embrace the study of UFOs most often becomes equivalent to academic suicide in the Western world. There are many instances where professionals have been forced to choose between studying fringe subjects and maintaing a career by more conventional standards. Scientists such as Dean Radin, who lost his teaching position for openly discussing parapsychology, comes to mind, as well as members of the media like Angelia Joiner, who famously reported on the Stephenville, Texas UFO flap several years ago; the latter was eventually pinned into a position where she felt she had to resign as a reporter for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, in order to be able to continue following the UFO story.
Altogether, the problem here is that UFO research, by virtue of the fringe or “kooky” subject matter it has often become directly associated with, warrants blacklisting among professionals (especially scientists, university professors, etc). In my own experience, I’ve had numerous interactions with those in academia who reach out to me, often under aliases at first, to express interest not just in UFO research, but to share their own ideas and findings (albeit covertly) from an academic standpoint. The reasons these individuals would reach out to ufologists at all most often has to do, in my experience, with a hope for finding someone who will allow them to plead their case, but also that they might be able to influence or steer with their own professional observations. On both counts, this is usually a good thing, as it allows the academics to find others who won’t be so openly critical with the treatment of fringy subject matter, but the less technically skilled civilian researcher also gains insight from members of the scientific community.
Thus, while there is certainly a “trickle down effect” with regard to academics who occasionally reveal tidbits of insight to the publicly known UFO researchers, it could be argued that some of the most plausible and interesting insights into the field of ufology may exist behind the scenes, in what Vallee dubbed a so-called “Invisible College.” Today, could we ever get a serious, ongoing academic discourse on UFOs back into mainstream scientific circles… or is this even something that could ever be afforded the modern UFO research community, with an ever-growing divide that is occurring between the “believer” and “skeptic” diametric?
I actually don’t find it odd that there are some “mainstream” scientists working on the UFO mystery on their own time. After all that is what Jacques Vallee and Stanton Freidman did before devoting their studies of UFOs full-time .
The late J. Allen Hynek was a little different, he waited until he had a government pension before becoming a convert to studying UFOs on a full-time scientific basis.
Believe it or not, it is this “covert mainstream” that is fueling SETI, astroarcheology, astrobiological and advanced propulsion technology research.
Or perhaps, it’s the “science-fiction” collective consciousness?
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
From Centauri Dreams:
The assumptions we bring to interstellar flight shape the futures we can imagine. It’s useful, then, to question those assumptions at every turn, particularly the one that says the reason we will go to the stars is to find other planets like the Earth. The thought is natural enough, and it’s built into the exoplanet enterprise, for the one thing we get excited about more than any other is the prospect of finding small, rocky worlds at about Earth’s distance from a Sun-like star. This is what Kepler is all about. From an astrobiological perspective, this focus makes sense, as we want to know whether there is other life — particularly intelligent life — in the universe.
But interstellar expansion may not involve terrestrial-class worlds at all, though they would still remain the subject of intense study. Let’s assume for a moment that a future human civilization expands to the stars in worldships that take hundreds or even thousands of years to reach their destination. The occupants of these enormous vessels might travel in a tightly packed urban environment or perhaps in a much more ‘rural’ setting with Earth-like amenities. Many of them would live out their lives in transit, without the ability to be there at journey’s end. We can only speculate what kind of social structures might emerge around the ultimate mission imperative.
Moving Beyond a Planetary Surface
Humans who have grown up in a place that has effectively become their world are going to find its norms prevail, and the idea of living on a planetary surface may hold little interest. Isaac Asimov once wrote about what he called ‘planetary chauvinism,’ which falls back on something Eric M. Jones wrote back in the 1980s. Jones believed that people traveling to another star will be far more intent on mining asteroids and the moons of planets to help them build new habitats for their own expanding population. Stephen Ashworth, a familiar figure on Centauri Dreams, writes about what he calls ‘astro-civilizations,’ space-based cultures that focus on the material and energy resources of whatever system they are in rather than planets.
Ashworth’s twin essays appear in a 2012 issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (citation below) that grew out of a worldship symposium held in 2011 at BIS headquarters in London. The entire issue is a wonderful contribution to the growing body of research on worldships and their uses. Ashworth points out that a planetary civilization like our own thinks in terms of planetary resources and, when looking toward interstellar options, naturally assumes the primary goal will be to locate new ‘Earths.’ A corollary is the assumption of rapid transport that mirrors the kind of missions used to explore our own Solar System.
Image: A worldship kilometers in length as envisioned by space artist Adrian Mann.
An astro-civilization is built on different premises, and evolves naturally enough from the space efforts of its forebears. Let me quote Ashworth on this:
“A space-based or astro-civilisation…is based on technologies which are an extension of those required on planetary surfaces, most importantly the design of structures which provide artificial gravity by rotation, and the ability to mine and process raw materials in microgravity conditions. In fact a hierarchical progression of technology development can be traced, in which each new departure depends upon all the previous ones, which leads ultimately to an astro-civilisation.
The technology development Ashworth is talking about is a natural extension of planetary methods, moving through agriculture and industrialization into a focus on the recovery of materials that have not been concentrated on a planetary surface, and on human adaptation not only to lower levels of gravity but to life in pressurized structures beginning with outposts on the Moon, Mars and out into the system. Assume sufficient expertise with microgravity environments — and this will come in due course — and the human reliance upon 1 g, and for that matter upon planetary surfaces, begins to diminish. Power sources move away from fossil fuels and gravitate toward nuclear and solar power sources usable anywhere in the galaxy.
Agriculture likewise moves from industrialized methods on planetary surfaces to hydroponic agriculture in artificial environments. Ashworth sees this as a progression taking our adaptable species from the African Savannah to the land surface of the entire Earth and on to the planets, from which we begin, as we master the wide range of new habitats becoming available, to adapt to living in space itself. He sees a continuation in the increase of population densities that took us from nomadic life to villages to cities, finally being extended into a fully urbanized existence that will flourish inside large space colonies and, eventually, worldships.
An interstellar worldship is, after all, a simple extension from a colony world that remains in orbit around our own star. That colony world, within which people can sustain their lives over generations, is itself an outgrowth of earlier technologies like the Space Station, where residence is temporary but within which new skills for adapting to space are gradually learned. Where I might disagree with Ashworth is on a point he himself raises, that the kind of habitats Gerard O’Neill envisioned didn’t assume high population densities at all, but rather an abundance of energy and resources that would make life far more comfortable than on a planet.
This reminds me of an old Analog article I read back in the 1970s by Larry Niven titled “Bigger Than Worlds” in which Niven gave several examples of structures that evolved into massive structures from interstellar vessels to Ringworlds and Dyson Sphere, all of which were safer than natural planets.
Of course this goes by the assumption if human goes by the “expansion” route, or the “evo devo” route proposed by Jon Smart.