Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why Not Me?

There's been talk in the local press over the last few days about UFOs after a Winnipeg based UFO monitoring group announced that the Saskatchewan town of Maidstone had one of the highest number of UFO sightings in Canada last year. This made me wonder why I've never seen a UFO. Because I've had an interest in aviation since I was little I still frequently look up at the skies, especially if an aircraft passes over. But I've never seen anything I'd call a UFO.

The closest I came was a winter night years ago. Going out to eat I spotted a strange light in the sky. It seemed to be revolving as it came closer. However it soon became obvious that it wasn't something inexplicable, although it was something unusual. It was a light aircraft carrying an animated billboard, advertising something that I unfortunately can't remember. No wonder it looked like it was revolving. I would suspect there are at least a couple of people who saw that plane that night who to this day thought they saw something from "out there."

It's fair to say most people automatically think alien spacecraft when they hear the term UFO. But frankly I think this continued association is due to a lack of knowledge, or a lack of imagination. People still imagine aliens visiting Earth in large crewed spacecraft visible to observers on the ground as they pass by. But given the development of our own technology I expect this is unlikely. On Earth we can already produce small remotely operated vehicles that are designed to be hard to observe from the ground. Such vehicles are predicted to be a major tool for first world militaries over the next few years. Beings who can build interstellar spacecraft will presumably be able to build such vehicles that would be undetectable by current Earth technologies, and if they don't have any interest in contacting us at the moment they would all but certainly use such devices to completely conceal their prescense from us.

There's also the fact that, as far as our current knowledge of physics indicates, interstellar travel will neither be cheap nor quick. It will be much easier for aliens to send the equivalent of our space probes to explore our solar system than building a ship to support a crew for the years(in fact it is more likely to be decades, or centuries) it would take to cross the light years that separate our homes. Even if a cheap and quick way of interstellar travel is found using unmanned vehicles will still be cheaper, while not putting the crew at risk, especially if contact is not desired.

People place great faith in eyewitness testimony, which is part of what drives the belief that alien objects of some sort may be visiting Earth. Unfortunately eye witness testimony is the weakest form of evidence, and to date there is no corroboration of stories of encounters with alien spacecraft or aliens. Until physical evidence shows up all we're left with is interesting stories to make us wonder.

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