The Three Biggest Questions About Extraterrestrial Contact: When, Where And How
June 23, 2010 3 Comments
Again its time to have a settlement with aliens. There are three unanswered questions about aliens which are frequently posed by some sentient beings, possibly by alien beings as advanced as we. These are:
- When are we most likely to first contact aliens?
- Where in our galaxy are we most likely to find aliens?
- How is first contact most likely to be made?
By J.R. Mooneyham
When are we most likely to first contact aliens?
The greatest probability may well lie with us never encountering an extraterrestrial intelligence, simply for reasons of the enormous distances and expenses involved, and marginal benefits to be gained by any race in such long range ventures from their homeworld(s).
In a digital view of these possibilities, let us assume never encountering aliens to be the negative, while someday encountering them is the positive. Let us here assume the positive– that we do someday meet with intelligent extraterrestrials. In terms of probabilities, the operative word here is someday. That someday could easily be thousands of years from today; or even hundreds of thousands of years; the galaxy and the universe are plenty big enough to make contact plausible, if we allow a long enough time frame. Disappointing as this may sound to contemporary UFO aficionados, it is never-the-less a very real possibility. So it might be best to store all the party hats in the Egyptian pyramids for safe keeping, until they’re needed…
Of much less probability is the scenario wherein we meet our alien counterparts sometime soon– like within just the next few centuries. For this to occur we would almost certainly have to be either under observation by them at this very moment, or on the verge of being discovered by them, or just a few years away from detection of such beings through our own telescopes or spacecraft. For in no other way might a person reasonably cognizant of the physics involved expect such a near term encounter to be prefaced. Let us briefly examine the implications of these three contingencies:
One, we are presently under observation by aliens, and have been for some indefinite period. This is a favorite assumption of UFO conspiracists. This scenario could involve disguised alien observers (or human agents of such aliens) living among us, or working within our governments or corporations, and/or an ongoing covert war against such activities by our governments, and/or a secret agreement between our governments and an alien civilization for an exchange of various items or information.
Two, we are on the verge of being discovered by aliens. This is more plausible than the first possibility in the list, due to our seventy lightyear radius bubble of radio signals surrounding us.
Three, we are only a few years from detecting extraterrestrials via radio telescope. It could well be that we could find such beings before they found us, simply because we’re actively looking and they are not (being busy with more productive activities). Plus, there’s little we do today that could attract the attention of faraway intelligences, while advanced alien civilizations could be constructing enormous Dyson spheres or other artifacts that would show up like gangbusters on our own instruments– if only we look at the right place, at the right time.
Any day now…
Of extremely low probability is the possibility that those of us around today will just happen to witness the spectacle of an alien ship landing on the White House lawn (or our own) tomorrow. The chances of this are far, far lower than those of any one of us winning a $100 million lottery today.
Of course, when you begin exploring possibilities in this extremely unlikely range of events, you’re reaching deeply enough into the improbable to touch upon the strange world of quantum physics itself, which may actually allow events to be manipulated by thoughts and expectations as much as anything else. In other words, it could turn out that anything we think about long enough and hard enough could be made real, by some inexplicable threading through all the needle eyes of those physical laws we presently know, and those we don’t, to weave a truly exotic fabric of events. If we expect a thing strongly enough, we may succeed at bringing it about, albeit indirectly, and in some wildly unpredictable manner. If this is the case, we would do well to dream about friendly aliens rather than hostile ones.
Where in our galaxy are we most likely to find aliens?
Here we won’t attempt to guess where the God-like entities might be found— for even if we bumped into them we might not recognize them, but instead think they were a ‘quasar’ or something.
Come to think of it, we may have trouble recognizing even less developed aliens, too. But let’s give it the old college try, shall we?
The black voids of the introverted races
To find the truly advanced, longest lived extraterrestrial star farers, look to those regions of space which appear the emptiest. Capable of minimizing entropy to a degree unimaginable by us today, such civilizations will likely be able to reduce their energy and signal emanations to near zero, appearing to outsiders as the very emptiest of space. They may well possess numerous automated spies flying about the galaxy collecting information (while giving away little or none themselves), and defenses around their invisible corporeal base designed to appear as natural forces of cataclysmic magnitude exerted on vessels unfortunate enough to wander too near. Or, they may have none of these things, having found more elegant and still less conspicuous methods of data acquisition and security.
Of course, if these races prefer still emptier space than that described above, they might not live inside our galaxy at all anymore– preferring instead to exist outside it, in the greatest empty spots of all– the vast voids between galaxies. If this is the case, we might never find them– the voids are just too damn big.
Galaxy Central, or the Cosmic Bazaar
Our galactic core offers a wealth of possible natural resources to attract intelligent star farers, such as an enormous natural fountain of anti-matter fuel, and oodles of singularities (black holes) just waiting to have their gravity wells tapped for energy generation. The core is also on our way to the opposite side of our galaxy, where a second galaxy is slowly colliding with our own. The foreign galaxy may be composed of dark matter; thus, you have there not only a completely alien galaxy to explore virtually in our own backyard (as galaxies go)– but a tantalyzing opportunity to possibly sample some of the most exotic elements in the Universe as well.
Atop all this, the core also offers some of the oldest stars and systems in our galaxy– and possibly a natural meeting place and transportation/navigation hub for advanced star farers from all over. Such a region may be the most logical place to find large scale star faring activity, such as commerce, communications, and transportation (See the novel “Contact” by Carl Sagan for an excellent treatment of this subject).
All these possibilities may well make the galactic core the most ‘Star Trek’-like alien-mingling spot for tens of thousands of lightyears around. Different scientists have different opinions on this, and there’s really no way to be certain what frequency of radio wave aliens will use, or even if they will use a radio wave at all. It may well be that other, far more efficient techniques for communications are available that we simply haven’t found or invented yet.In advanced system is eventually put to use by human beings themselves offering instantaneous communications across infinite distances, but offering zero opportunities for third party eavesdropping, being utterly point-to-point– with no detectable signals in the intermediate void between comm stations. If aliens were already utilizing such a technology, there’d be no way we could detect such ongoing communications, even after we too attain the same level of relevant technology.
Today, radio astronomers are generally considered to have the best chance for detecting alien signals, while those dependent on purely optical means might sight grand engineering projects underway in a far system– if they, by some enormous cosmic accident, happen to look in the proper direction at precisely the proper moment (Sorry, but this is unlikely. Our main hope for such a sighting is to automate the process, and allow teams of powerful super computers and satellites to perform our search for us, over a period of decades at minimum, calling our attention only to those things that almost definitely cannot be considered to be of natural origin).
So far (as of early August 2002) neither of these groups (radio or optical astronomers) have found anything to indisputably indicate an intelligent presence out there.
Many claims have been made by various citizens of encounters with, and even abductions by, extraterrestrial visitors. Though a small percentage of these claims are difficult to explain (as would be expected whether the incidents happened or not, due to our remaining substantial ignorance of natural phenomena, and even of our own psyche, as well as the natural ability of many of our number to deceive the rest of us to an astonishing degree), most are easily dismissed as attempts to exploit the concept for publicity, profit, or both.
The engineering difficulties and socio-economic hardships implied in such acts (interstellar journeys), on the part of the alien society which launched them, as well as the crew who manned such vessels, would be substantial so far as we may ascertain from our present knowledge. These facts, as well as others explored elsewhere in this text, would seem to greatly diminish the plausibility of present day claims of UFO abductions, encounters, and conspiracies.
It could also be that much or all of the present small percentage of alleged alien encounters presently voiced but not easily explained could be the result of secret military or corporate experiments by our own fellow human beings. Experiments not only in aerospace technologies, but also in genetics, biological weapons, advanced computer interfaces, and new hallucinogenic or other mind altering drugs. In some cases a fictional link with alien encounters might even be encouraged in the victims by the perpetrators to divert attention away from highly illegal or unethical acts. The probability of this being the case (if there’s anything to UFO claims in the first place) seems sufficiently high so as to explain perhaps all of those cases inexplicable by any other means– especially when the other considerations listed in this article are added to the debate.
But even if all the present day hype about UFOs is just that– hype– there still remains the possibility that someday, somehow, real contact WILL be made for the first time. In that case, what is the most likely scenario?
Unfortunately, the most probable scenarios, based on the information in this piece, are these (in order of likelihood):
- Contact is never made, for the simple reason that relatively few sentient races with star faring technology exist, and these are spread so thinly throughout an imaginably vast galaxy that it simply isn’t practical for far-flung cultures to communicate or visit– plus, any race with an ounce of self-preservation instinct will tend not to directly reply to messages of unknown origin, or to actively beam out messages broadcasting their location to unknown races. In centuries to come however, we do get the consolation prize: we find worlds with lesser life forms, usually only at the level of microbes, or jelly fish floating in vast alien seas…but discover at least one world in a neighboring system with cave dwelling alien primitives and a complete alien eco-system comparable to that of Earth’s during 50,000 BC or so.
- A few hundred to a thousand years from now, we discover artifacts of a dead or departed alien civilization equivalent to our own of 10,000 BC to 1,900 AD, via a robot probe exploring many lightyears from the nearest human occupied outpost. No sign of living inhabitants is found– then, or for centuries following.
- Millennia from now we detect and possible capture a functioning long range alien probe, and we receive our first and last two-way communication with sentient aliens in our history. Their sole message? Leave us alone and we’ll leave you alone– or else.
- Millennia from now we get the impression that possibility three above has occurred, but it turns out the aliens did this only to put us off guard; a few centuries later some awful mega weapon or war fleet appears among our local systems and does a pretty good job of wiping us out, in a cosmic example of pest control. There’s not enough left of us to retaliate, and even if there were, we’d have no idea where the enemy lived. And that’s that.
Yes, the above contingencies are not nearly as romantic, adventuresome, or fun as those painted by Hollywood and generations of science fiction authors– but they reek of practicality and probability.
[Image Credit: Alex Ries]