Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, October 28, 2016


Alien robot Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still
Topics: Astrobiology, Astronomy, Existentialism, Exoplanets, Politics, SETI

"Gort" is the robot above from the 1951 movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still." We've been fascinated as a species by the visitation of gods, goblins, demons, fairies and off-world entities since I can remember. "Chariots of the Gods" was a bestseller until the science by its author was proven speculative farce. Erich von Däniken has managed to live on on the History 2 channel: "Ancient Aliens," which is always the only conclusion so much so it like the historian with the frizzy hairdo is cliche.

Even our popular comic fiction speculates on the weirdness such an encounter would be; mind and societal-altering. In the fictional Marvel world of The Avengers, their advent is known to the non-powered humans as "the incident" in disturbing, ominous tones. The thought of being surrounded by super powered beings wouldn't likely be reassuring as they were in the 50's and 60's. What if instead of being benevolent do-gooders, they imposed a fascist order with martial law? What indeed would stop them? Thankfully, it's all wildly speculative fiction from the fertile minds of us mere mortals.

For those of us who believe in Close Encounters of the Third and Fourth Kind (contact, abduction): 1. What makes our planet in parsecs of other candidates so special? 2. If they are that advanced, we're kind of like worms or piglets in a biology class - if it's happening, that's more than a bit disturbing.

Even if we got a chance radio transmission following up the "WOW" signal, we probably couldn't stop talking about it. And if the aliens were to actually pay us a visit, our self-concept would be jolted; holy writ would be reexamined to see how the existence of intelligence obviously beyond us on our "0.7 Kardashev Scale" would make us feel puny and...threatened.

Still, 13.6 billion years is a long time and a lot of still, silent space to be alone in. I think I prefer to think (and hope) someone else is out there. That's a lot of real estate to go extinct in by our own hubris - climate or nuclear, and if we did the point of existence - our discoveries, literature, art, music theater, dance, and languages - would have been sadly moot.

In Preparing for Contact George Michael has given us a tour de force exploration of the thinking, issues, and dilemmas surrounding the search for extraterrestrial life in the universe.

Those familiar with Professor Michael’s other books and articles—on a wide variety of critical topics including politics, nuclear proliferation, science, and terrorism—know that he conducts rigorous research and major scholarly inventories before completing a manuscript. Preparing for Contact clearly represents years of thinking and research on the subject. Michael’s approach is meticulous, objective, and fearless in examining every relevant aspect—historical, current, and futuristic—of the alien civilization question. The book dives into fundamental questions. First, what have been the scientific (or otherwise) endeavors to consider if intelligent life might exist elsewhere in the universe? Second, if we do make contact with an alien civilization, how should we respond, and what might be the larger implications for our civilization

Preparing for Contact has a logical chapter progression. From early speculation about extraterrestrial life, including Egyptian, Roman, Hindu, and Central American civilizations’ speculations to the recent findings of astrobiology and astronomy, to the UFO phenomenon, and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project, Michael proceeds in systematic fashion. Regarding possible life on Mars, for example, the Swiss author Erich von Däniken’s wildly popular book, Chariots of the Gods, became a US television film. However, its assumptions of alien life on Mars were disproven after successive probes of Mars found only natural structures, not artificial ones. Additional space probes make us confident that we are the only intelligent life in this solar system. But what about farther out in the Milky Way galaxy, among the thousands of exoplanets which are being discovered at a rate of about two a week?

Skeptic: Meeting ET, Lawrence E. Grinter

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