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Real World Physics Problems Newsletter - Aliens Watching, Issue #49
October 28, 2019
Are Aliens Watching?
Look closely at the above picture. Do you think that's an alien peeking out from inside a cave? This picture was taken by a rover on Mars in 2016, and it has some people thinking that it could be an alien. UFO hunters are more easily convinced of this. Scientists, as expected, are much more skeptical.
I fall into the skeptical camp myself. Whenever the latest "alien photograph" comes up purporting to show evidence of aliens, it's always kind of a blurry picture, with features that appear a certain way because of a combination of light and shadow. UFO sightings are notorious for this. For such a bold claim you really need unambiguous evidence.
But at the same time, I do not rule out that very advanced aliens might be watching us from a well-hidden location. I think of this as a type of evolutionary natural selection. Any aliens that are around most certainly have been in existence much longer than us, so they are much more technologically advanced than us. The fact that we can't see them means that they don't want to be seen, and combining this with the fact that they almost certainly have been around much longer than us (by thousands or millions of years) means that them being hidden is a key survival strategy. Some animals, such as snakes, have evolved to be elusive because that favours their survival, and the same could be true for aliens.
On the other hand, the fact that we can't see aliens might also mean that they are not there. But according to the Fermi Paradox, this premise is highly questionable. There are many planets in the galaxy that are billions of years older than Earth, so if a civilization developed on any of those planets, they would likely be much more advanced than us, and if any of these civilizations developed the means to colonize the galaxy than we should be surrounded by aliens, and be seeing them everywhere. Unless of course they don't want to be seen. Any alien civilization that didn't mind being seen could have gone extinct, due to conflict with some other advanced alien race. Over a long enough timeline, this is bound to happen.
So we can rule out the obvious ways in which we would notice aliens looking at us, such as from inside a cave. What about not so obvious ways? Well, they could have probes disguised as fly-by asteroids, gathering information on us as they pass by the Earth. The object known as Oumuamua had some people wondering if it was an alien probe disguised as an oblong asteroid. The photo below shows an artists impression of Oumuamua, which was detected in October 2017.
Source: ESO/M Kornmesser/PA
This cigar shaped object was estimated to be between 100 m and 1000 m long, and was first observed when it was 33 million km from earth. Based on its speed and trajectory, scientists determined that it originated from outside the solar system. Doesn't sound like anything alien to me. Scientists also scanned it to see if it emitted any unusual radio signals. But no signal was found.
Yep, aliens are smart. They make real sure we can't detect them. That doesn't mean that the object was alien in nature though. Most certainly it was an actual asteroid, although somewhat unusual in shape, but hardly conclusive as being something alien.
Either advanced aliens are out there or they are not. And an opinion can go either way as to which one is the case. Ultimately we need evidence. But we are looking for it, such as by trying to detect alien radio transmissions using very large receiver dishes, or by scanning space for thermodynamic waste heat produced by extremely large alien machines, known as megastructures.
In my latest article, I go into a lot of detail in an attempt to answer the question, "Are aliens real?" Check out my article, Are Aliens Real?
Until next time.
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