Ask Dr. SETI ®
by Dr. John Boardman
from the June, 2013 issue of Dagon, used by permission
There are persistent rumors that extraterrestrials have contacted Americans, including members of the armed forces and other government officials, but that the government is keeping all such contacts secret. Now, six former members of Congress are claiming that such secret contacts were made, and are demanding that they be made public. (Andrew Siddons, New York Times, 4 May 2013). Ex-Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) actually delivered himself of the remark: "Something is monitoring the planet, and they are monitoring it very cautiously, because we are a very warlike planet." This remark merely indicates that Senator Gravel has given up all hopes of being returned to public life by the electorate, even in a state which has elected Sarah Palin. Other ex-legislators in this group are Roscoe G1 Bartlett (R-MD), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), and Merrill Cook (R-UT). Representative Bartlett once represented the district where I live, but was booted out last November by voters who objected to his numerous statements bearing little relation to reality.
Believers in frequent visits to Earth by extraterrestrials blithely ignore numerous scientific facts. Form one thing, it's a very big universe. Distances from our Sun to other stars have to be measured in light-years, the distance light travels in one year. One light-year is just under 9.5 trillion kilometers or, in medieval measurement, about 5.9 trillion miles. And the star nearest to the Sun is a triple star system with at least one known planet, Alpha Centauri, 4.4 light years away. Going there would not be Columbus spending three months crossing the Atlantic, but a staggering engineering operation.
As for travel faster than light, this is not a scientific reality, or even a reasonably based speculation, but a creation of science fiction writers who want travel times to fit into their plot lines. More than a century ago, Albert Einstein showed in the special theory of relativity that nothing could travel faster than light. Since then, no scientific fact or reasonably based theoretical argument has found anything wrong with this concept. I can speak with some authority here, since I was a student of Peter G. Bergmann, himself an associate of Einstein at Princeton.
So, unless their lifetimes are fantastically long compared with ours, no extraterrestrials are likely to be landing their spaceships on Earth and confounding yokels with strange stories, or even (as some "reports" have it) by sexual intercourse with them. There is a reason why such reports come from remote deserts or isolated rural communities, rather than from an alien spaceship landing at Harvard's Department of Astronomy or India's Tata Institute.
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this page last updated 1 June 2013
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