Monday, 8 November 2010

Is there anybody out there?

Her name is Mazlan Othman, she’s an astrophysicist and the UN has so much confidence in her they’re getting ready to appoint her to greet ETs. Yes, you heard right - the UN are appointing an envoy to welcome ETs. It’s unlikely the meeting will be over coffee at the UN’s New York headquarters, but it’s looking increasingly likely there will be a meeting. And now that we’ve accepted that, we’ve started to get ready for the big day. We’ve chosen a leader.

The Case for Aliens

Stephen Hawking, the earth’s eminent physicist, told The Times of London in an interview in April:  "To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational…The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."

In the same interview, Hawking also said: “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. The outcome for us would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

His opinion, and that’s all it is, creates a few points of contention for this writer. The first one: In anticipating what aliens may be like, he assumes that they are exploitative beings who want to make contact only because they’ve bankrupted their own resources. This is cynicism at its most grandiose. He’s basically saying, ‘they’re not curious, they’re hungry, now RUN for your lives.’

The second point of contention: Hawking uses an historical reference – an earthly one at that - to anticipate an event in the future. His thinking goes along the following lines: ‘Well, I know that the last time unkown lands were discovered here on earth, the explorers pillaged and wrecked the place, so that’s bound to be what will happen when the aliens arrive.’

Perhaps, and this is only a suggestion, we should make sure Hawking is busy when the aliens arrive? Because the man has a flaw and it’s this – he’s a scaredy cat. ‘This bad thing happened in the past, so it’s going to happen again in the future,’ is not the strongest belief system. If an individual reported to their doctor with Hawking’s beliefs, that doctor, or any loving person, would diagnose the individual with low self-esteem. The individual would also be encouraged to see things in a more positive light. Unfortunately, we seem to accept low self-esteem and fear-based thinking on a collective level in a way we just don’t in a private individual.

How do you feel?

There’s no right or wrong answer, there’s just a preferred answer, and that’s open. That is, of course, assuming we all want a friendly universe - especially now that we’re coming to accept that the universe doesn’t just revolve around us.

Are you frightened? Intrigued? Ecstatic? Confused? I ask because your answer, our answer, will ultimately shape how the greatest ever meeting in history will go. The most important question we can ask, and Einstein will back me up on this, is: ‘Is the universe friendly?’  Our perceptions – this is scientifically proven – shape our reality. I’m not saying it’s simple, but I am saying that it’s science. If you anticipate friendliness, it’s likely that you’re going to be met with friendliness. For humanoids who need the support of empirical evidence, I will elaborate on that. To those of you who ‘just know’ and need no proof, I say, you’ll get something out of reading the proof anyway. Here it is:

The Observer Effect

What you observe as affects what you observe. Quantum physicists have collectively spent eons on this concept, trying to tidy it up and iron out all of its ambiguities. They found that each time they tried to prove a particular concept, they did indeed prove it. If they chose to disprove the very same one, then they could do that, too. How?

The most famous experiment, and the one that featured in the paradigm shifting documentary What The Bleep Do We Know? is the experiment conducted on light. It went like this:

Scientists shone a beam of light on a barrier with two open slits. Some of the light travelled through the barrier, indicating that light has the property of a wave. The rest of the light went through the slits, indicating that light also has a particle property. When they closed one slit, and left the other open, the light appeared as just a single shaft of light. Besides the fact that the experiments proved that light can be both a particle and a wave – at the same time – it proved that the behaviour of light depended on the experimental setup. Ask a question a certain way and you get a certain answer. That’s what quantum physicists call The Observer Effect.

Intriguing, eh? Not to mention the fact that we can use a word like behaviour when referring to light.

Is the universe friendly?

When a highly specialist, vast and intricate pattern appeared in a crop field in Chilbolton, England, on the morning of August 14th 2001, locals were left scratching their heads. Who had created it? How had they created it? Why did they create it? Darcy Ladd, manager of the nearby Chilbolton Radio Observatory, reported that no unusual activity had been detected the night before – either in the field or in the airspace above. How could they – whoever it was that formulated and executed the genius pattern – have gone undetected? An aerial view of the wheat art revealed a human face, expertly woven into the crops through a series of what looked like megapixels.

A few days later, another pattern or glyph appeared in a nearby field. The second glyph appeared to be a response to a transmission sent into deep space thirty years previously by the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). SETI called it the Arecibo Glyph. Having calculated that it wouldn’t reach its destination - a star cluster in far space - for thousands of years, they reduced the crop message to hoax. Daniel Pinchbeck, New York based journalist and author, wasn’t satisfied with the brush off and investigated further. In an article for Wired magazine the following year, he addressed naked facts.

The original Arecibo message was fired into space as an encoded radio transmission. It contained the numbers one to 10, the atomic numbers of elements important to human life, a depiction of the physical structure of DNA, our solar system, a human figure, and the radio dish that was used to send the message. The response contained the following fascinating alterations:

-          Silicon – with an alternative atomic number
-          An altered strand of DNA
-          An altered solar system
-          A picture of a big-headed humanoid
-          A completely different transmitter.

Now, unless there are some brainiac individuals on this planet with knowledge and equipment the rest of us don’t have, the glyph was a pretty clear message that we’re not alone. If it’s taken for what it is, then we can assume that the aliens are friendly, too – since they’re swapping notes with us. But, alas, we’re human, and we don’t believe just any old thing. Maybe, then, we should just keep an open mind.


Da Vinci once famously said “I am still learning.” This summed up an attitude of total openness. He couldn’t, and we can’t, know all there is to know. How could we? The universe is constantly changing and evolving. We can only try to keep up with that change and avoid anchoring ourselves to the familiarity of fear-based beliefs. The unkown is not a place where bad things happen; it’s a place that hasn’t been explored yet. True, our history has taught us that explorers aren’t the nicest people, but history belongs in its place – the past. We take the positive lessons from it and dump the rest. Is that not what we do in our individual lives?  It has never been more important for us to replace our fear with curiosity. We are on the cusp of a complete paradigm shift. Even the UN thinks so. If it’s going to happen, why not embrace it? 

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