Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Little Green Men? I think not.
We seem to be going through something of a UFO sightings glut at the moment. Mark Parsons, an old school friend of mine who now lives in Houston, Texas and who works in the aviation industry, sent me this news story by email yesterday:
'HOUSTON - Federal officials are working to find out just what happened in the sky over Houston this morning. An 'unexplained object' was reported to be flying toward Continental Flight 1544 (a Boeing 737) when it was 11 miles east of Bush Intercontinental Airport after takeoff this morning. The pilot called the tower to report an object near the plane. There are no details yet what the object could have been. The plane was at about 5,000 feet at the time of the report and the flight continued on to Cleveland. Sources told 11 News that the flight was met by Continental officials and FAA investigators to interview the passengers and crew.'
Then this from my native Cornwall recently (as reported in The Sun):
'Following our story of a UFO seen off Cornwall on December 29 we were inundated by calls from people who had similar things all over the country. Some claimed they had seen alien spacecraft off the same bay in Cornwall where our original UFO was snapped. A man who asked just to be called Edward snapped a strange shaped object which appeared to be 'buzzing' a Navy ship. He said: "I was taking photos of the ship when a helicopter from it took off, flew west then landed back on board just a few minutes later. It was only when I blew up the photos on my computer that I realised what the helicopter had gone off to take a look at. It was in the exact same bay as the one featured in The Sun earlier."
American holidaymaker Ian Mulford also believes he snapped a UFO at virtually the same spot as Edward. Ian said:"I was taking photographs and did not see anything unusual at the time, but after reviewing the pictures I found something very unusual in the background of a picture of one of the family. It didn't look like any normal aircraft so I am sure it is a UFO".’
Er ... well, if it's an object that was flying that cannot be identified, it would be a UFO, Ian. That's what UFO stands for. But that does not automatically mean spaceships or alien visitors, does it? That's why the acronym is suitably vague and noncommittal.
Then, just last week, the British free commuter newspaper Metro reported on the UK's 'secret X Files'. Basically, a whole bunch of sightings reported to the Ministry of Defence over the years are to be released for public consumption. The MOD are quick to point out that there is 'certainly no evidence that alien spacecraft have landed on this planet'. Despite this, the files include physical descriptions of incidents, statements of witnesses and drawings of supposedly alien craft and their occupants. Here are three of them:
Oddly humanoid, wouldn't you say? Even the bat/werewolfy chap is an upright bipedal humanoid with binocular vision and bilateral symmetry. The other two look like the sort of kids I see hanging around on housing estates all over London. In fact, I think I may have a vinyl figure of the middle one. He's called Ezra (above right) and he's from the In-Crowd series Young Ruffians by James Jarvis.
But to be serious for a moment ... how many more of these silly sightings will there be before we finally accept that aliens are not visiting us? And even if they are, which seems unlikely for so many different reasons not the least of which is the immense distances between us and the nearest stars, the chances of them being remotely humanoid are next to nothing. It just doesn't make any sense.
If there's one thing that 100 years of evolutionary and genetic study has shown us clearly, it's that nature is a capricious mistress. We are quite amazing creatures. We are the result of an extended series of chance advantageous mutations that have taken place over four billion years. Can you even begin to visualise just how big a number four billion is? To put it into perspective, just one billion (that's one thousand millions) seconds ago it was 1977. One billion minutes ago, it was the year 106AD and the Roman Emperor Trajan had just conquered Dacia (Romania) and Nabbatea (Arabia). One billion hours ago, it was 114,155BC and human society was in its Stone-Age infancy. We still shared the planet with our Neanderthal cousins (and would do for another 75,000 years). Now imagine how long one billion years is. It's a very, very, very long time and we've had four billion years to get where we are today ... and all by sheer trial and error. As the late great Stephen Jay Gould so beautifully put it, if you could 'rewind life's tape' and play it again from scratch, humans would very probably not be the end result. So how likely is it that humans developed on other worlds? Frankly, it's so close to impossible as to not be worth trying to calculate.
And why is it that I can vaguely wave a digital camera in the direction of something and get a crystal clear picture of it ... while every UFO photo is rubbish?
Next you'll be telling me that, despite continuous negative results from all of our advanced radar, sonar and photography technology that there's a monster in Loch Ness ...