Space Aliens

No, NASA is not hiring someone to protect the planet from them:

Though this should be abundantly clear by now—that NASA isn’t planning to launch an attack on aliens they don’t know exist—Shostak gets some colorful phone calls from those who want to believe.

“I have to say, people do call [me] and say, ‘Do you know anything about the Pentagon’s plans to defend Earth?’” he said. To be clear, Shostak does not know anything about ‘the Pentagon’s plans’ and thinks that even in some alternate reality where he did, the Pentagon wouldn’t waste time or money trying to save us. So please stop calling him.

Sigh.

16 thoughts on “Space Aliens”

  1. I’m depressed that this is real, but not surprised.

    The reason I’m not surprised is I’ve encountered quite a lot of people who thing that “alien life” = sci-fi type intelligent aliens.

    I’ve learned the hard way to rephrase my own beliefs from “alien life probably exists” to “bacterial alien life probably exists.”

      1. Bacterial, or more properly monocellular, life is pretty basic, and can exist in harsh environments. So, given the utterly enormous number of stars we extrapolate the universe as having, coupled with the percentage of stars we’ve detected as having planets, I think it’s more likely than not that, somewhere, monocellular life has developed.

        Just an opinion though, which is why I term it a belief, rather than trying to assert it as a fact. 🙂

        1. You are repeating a common but bad argument there.

          It doesn’t matter that there are lots of stars and lots of planets around them. We still cannot conclude that life is common, since we cannot place any good lower bound on the probability that life arises on a planet.

          The non sequitur you’re following there appears to fall squarely into a common failure mode of human probabilistic reasoning.

          1. Actually, the amino acids essential to life are ubiquitous in the universe. It seems rather highly probable that life will emerge even under the most marginal conditions than not. Life has been so tenacious on Earth that even under conditions of 97% extinction it has held on, then expanded tremendously. This isn’t an accident, but rather an inherent property of matter.

          2. MfK: you are committing another version of the same fallacy. It doesn’t matter how common the non-bottleneck parts of the process are; the chance of life arising will be controlled by the rare steps, if they exist.

            The tenacity of life once it arises has nothing to do with the chance it arises, of course. This is yet another example of the same class of fallacies.

          3. Well, of course. But then I wasn’t the one making the positive assertion about the likelihood of life. “We don’t know X” is not the same as “we know not-X”.

            One may be able to place some constraints on intelligent life from the lack of galactic colonization, but that requires some assumptions. Still, I find it interesting that K3 civilizations occupy fewer than 1 galaxy in 100,000, with the data being consistent with there being none at all.

  2. I worry about dangers from outer space from, in descending order: solar flares; meteor/comet strikes; surrender of “high ground” and mineral resources to Earthly competitors such as China; space viruses; space invaders; and global warming.

    And yes, the prospect that global warming *IS* real, but that we may be looking at the wrong causes instead of taking Svensmark as seriously as he may deserve. If we could save only one human life…

    1. I’m more concerned about global cooling than warming. The historic record has us doing better in the warm periods than the cold.

      1. Great novel — only one of Crichton’s books that had any real suspense.

        But you kept reading them until you found one that did?

  3. “No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” H. L. Mencken, ‘Notes On Journalism’ in the Chicago Tribune (19 September 1926), often paraphrased as “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” (The Yale Book of Quotations, 2006, p. 512) – https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/H._L._Mencken

  4. Remember the Apollo contamination chambers on the first few recovery aircraft carriers? Just think of mars as one of those chambers, which only lasted until we realized how stupid we were. The solution to backward contamination is don’t bring anyone back until we feel that stupid.

    We’re already that stupid about forward contamination. The only way to prevent it is never to go. We’re talking about pissing into the ocean here. We could not seriously contaminate a planet if that were our intent and spent all our resources to attempt it.

    Actually never going doesn’t even prevent it. If life exists on mars it’s either the same as on earth or it’s not. If not, we will recognize it. If so, it will not matter and we’d still recognize it if it’s a new variation of earth life.

    Planetary protection then becomes one of the stupidest things humans have ever taken seriously. …and that’s before any of earth’s real whackos get involved.

  5. “NASA has an officer in charge of fighting aliens, Will Smith-with-a-Carbonizer-style.”
    I will take the job, but only of I get a noisy cricket!

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