UFOs, ET, and other speculation

Rg339

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UFOs are an interesting curiosity. That they exist is clear; the question is what they are. Of course, 90% of UFO sightings are explainable and eventually revealed to be mundane, 9% are hoaxes, but it’s that remaining 1% that poses interesting headscratchers. Some intriguing incidents, like the sightings on the Nimitz, have both radar operators and pilots reporting UFOs performing erratic maneuvers at very high speeds. What was it? Speculation ranges from radar deception devices to extraterrestrials.

Complicating things, former intelligence officials like Richard Doty have confirmed that they used UFOs as a disinformation technique to obscure sightings of then classified military technology by members of the public. This is often claimed by skeptics to have created a UFO myth, creating believers who see spacecraft where there are only weather effects. Other events, skeptics suggest, are misidentification of conventional technology. However, sightings date to the 1400s, and believers contend that although disinformation is present, genuine UFO sightings do exist, from both ancient and modern times.

Where does the community weigh in? Personally, I would bet, but certainly couldn’t prove, that at least a few sightings were of extraterrestrial origin. It’s in keeping with a general belief that Earth and life are unexceptional in the universe. If that is true, interstellar civilizations would likely have the means and will to visit Earth. There could be any number of reasons why that will is present, the most likely, I think, would simply be collecting intel on another sapient species.

edit: grammar
 
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Synobun

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Where does the community weigh in? Personally, I would bet, but certainly couldn’t prove, that at least a few sightings were of extraterrestrial origin. It’s in keeping with a general belief that Earth and life are unexceptional in the universe. If that is true, interstellar civilizations would likely have the means and will to visit Earth.

You present this like one follows the other, but it's not really true. Humanity has been blasting radio waves out into the galaxy for a while but in a cosmically inconsequential timeframe, and the signal degradation is extreme. There isn't really much reason to think that even if the galaxy is crowded, they'd be knocking on our proverbial door.

Also, much like the supernatural, if there were any credence to the claim, there would be footage and evidence more put together than some film-grainy blob that does a trick or two. It's difficult to believe that ET would be advanced enough to pay us a visit and explore, evade all our advanced technology, and then be bested by one single person's cellphone camera from the 90s in the middle of the night.
 

Birdjaguar

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Hello and welcome to Off topic. :)
 

Rg339

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You present this like one follows the other, but it's not really true. Humanity has been blasting radio waves out into the galaxy for a while but in a cosmically inconsequential timeframe, and the signal degradation is extreme. There isn't really much reason to think that even if the galaxy is crowded, they'd be knocking on our proverbial door.

Also, much like the supernatural, if there were any credence to the claim, there would be footage and evidence more put together than some film-grainy blob that does a trick or two. It's difficult to believe that ET would be advanced enough to pay us a visit and explore, evade all our advanced technology, and then be bested by one single person's cellphone camera from the 90s in the middle of the night.

I am doubtful that an interstellar civilization would be dependent upon the capture of radio waves emitted from Earth to be made aware of our presence. If intelligent life emerged millions or billions of years ago(very difficult to say if this is plausible or perhaps even to say if it is possible), we may well be within telescopic range of this or that colony or observation post.

I wouldn’t claim to know the limits of technological advancement, but I’d expect we are nowhere near the limit. Evading detection may be trivial for a hypothetical starfaring civilization, but even here, Murphy’s law could apply. If it can go wrong, it will. Genius intellects and high tech very likely do not provide immunity from the old fashioned blunder.
 

Synobun

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I am doubtful that an interstellar civilization would be dependent upon the capture of radio waves emitted from Earth to be made aware of our presence. If intelligent life emerged millions or billions of years ago(very difficult to say if this is plausible or perhaps even to say if it is possible), we may well be within telescopic range of this or that colony or observation post.

Physics still applies. Their telescope would need to be within a hundred light-years of us and have clear line of sight, and then they'd need a way to communicate findings to whoever their boss is. As of right now, there is no plausible way, even theoretically, to grant instantaneous awareness or communication. Because of that, it isn't logical to assume a spacefaring civilization has access to those things.

I wouldn’t claim to know the limits of technological advancement, but I’d expect we are nowhere near the limit. Evading detection may be trivial for a hypothetical starfaring civilization, but even here, Murphy’s law could apply. If it can go wrong, it will. Genius intellects and high tech very likely do not provide immunity from the old fashioned blunder.

Why do these so-called blunders universally take place in settings where quality and reproducibility are negligible?
 

Rg339

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Physics still applies. Their telescope would need to be within a hundred light-years of us and have clear line of sight, and then they'd need a way to communicate findings to whoever their boss is. As of right now, there is no plausible way, even theoretically, to grant instantaneous awareness or communication. Because of that, it isn't logical to assume a spacefaring civilization has access to those things.



Why do these so-called blunders universally take place in settings where quality and reproducibility are negligible?
It’s about time and scale. 1 or 2 billion years is more than enough time to colonize the galaxy, even if operating within the bounds of our current understanding of physics. Plenty of time to get both within range and perform necessary communications. This is presuming our understanding of physics will not be radically revised in future, revealing much more efficient ways of both travel and communication. It may be the current consensus holds, and it may be some quantum mechanic upends it in time; I don’t know enough to assess likelihood, but I would note the general pattern of history that the person who says “the ceiling is X” is often wrong

The Nimitz incident is not exactly lacking in quality; there was clearly an object present, detected by both US military pilots, their instruments, and radar operators aboard a carrier. It may have been some sort of electronic warfare device performing radar deception, misinterpreted by pilots. Even staunch skeptics don’t dispute some object was present, however.
 

Valka D'Ur

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However, sightings date to the 1400s, and believers contend that although disinformation is present, genuine UFO sightings do exist, from both ancient and modern times.
What is your source?

Where does the community weigh in? Personally, I would bet, but certainly couldn’t prove, that at least a few sightings were of extraterrestrial origin. It’s in keeping with a general belief that Earth and life are unexceptional in the universe. If that is true, interstellar civilizations would likely have the means and will to visit Earth. There could be any number of reasons why that will is present, the most likely, I think, would simply be collecting intel on another sapient species.
This member of the community subscribes to Sagan's tenet: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

When Carl Sagan was a child, he enjoyed reading the John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs (according to the episode of Cosmos in which he discusses UFOs). But being a science fiction fan doesn't give a pass to ignore science. I'm perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief on the issue of UFOs when it comes to science fiction or fantasy, but real life isn't like Doctor Who or Star Trek or any of the many, many novels I've read that include aliens visiting Earth.

It's easy to get panicked over something seen in the sky that the viewer doesn't understand. Back in the late '70s I was babysitting the neighbor's kids one January night, and suddenly a frantic knocking happened. The neighbors on the other side were all there, all very worried about some very bright, color-changing light they had seen in the sky. They knew I was into astronomy, so they came over to ask if I knew what it was... because they were convinced it was a UFO.

So I stepped outside, looked up, and didn't see anything unusual. I asked them where this thing was they were worried about, and they pointed to it. I shrugged and told them, "It's just Sirius. It's a star, and it's normal that it looks like that."

Sirius has a high albedo and many people have mistaken it for a UFO. But it's just going about its normal stellar business, and there's absolutely nothing to worry about.

I am doubtful that an interstellar civilization would be dependent upon the capture of radio waves emitted from Earth to be made aware of our presence. If intelligent life emerged millions or billions of years ago(very difficult to say if this is plausible or perhaps even to say if it is possible), we may well be within telescopic range of this or that colony or observation post.
Where do you think these hypothetical aliens are based? Keep in mind that many of the stars we can easily see are the large, young ones that are much more massive than the Sun and many of those will end as supernovae. They won't live long enough to produce planets stable enough to host intelligent life.

So if not radio waves, how to you think they would know about us? There are the Voyager and Pioneer probes that have left the solar system and the Voyagers have the records attached to them... but keep in mind that it would take these probes over 40,000 years to reach the next-nearest solar system - and they're not even heading in that direction. So no, there won't be any Star Trek/Voyager probe shenanigans either as in TMP or in the movie where the Klingons destroyed one for fun. They have a looooong journey before they're found... if they're ever found (and I say this someone who hopes they'll be found and studied even if the finder never has a snowball's chance anywhere of actually contacting us while there are still humans to contact).

It’s about time and scale. 1 or 2 billion years is more than enough time to colonize the galaxy, even if operating within the bounds of our current understanding of physics.
On what do you base this assumption?

Plenty of time to get both within range and perform necessary communications.
As long as you're not assuming FTL travel or communications. Star Trek is entertaining; there's a marathon on the science fiction channel here tonight and I'm waiting for "the one about the whales" to come on just before midnight"... but it's fiction.
 

Rg339

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What is your source
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_reported_UFO_sightings The list includes some pre-airplane. There are others not listed, but it’s a start. Perhaps these are all metaphors; or perhaps one was recorded exactly as claimed.

This member of the community subscribes to Sagan's tenet: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
Yeah, the ET theory is a belief, it’s speculation. Nobody’s able presently to empirical prove it. That may not always remain the case, though. Democritus could not prove that the atom existed, either, but the principles of his belief was proven well founded some 2500 years later

Where do you think these hypothetical aliens are based? Keep in mind that many of the stars we can easily see are the large, young ones that are much more massive than the Sun and many of those will end as supernovae.

The answer to this depends on propulsion techniques. If they use efficient mechanics not yet known to mankind, the answer could be anywhere. If the current understanding of physics is a hard ceiling, I would imagine that an ET civilization would adopt a decentralized approach to governance out of practical necessity.

I’d imagine a colony is established and then more or less functions as its own independent state. If one is established in the neighborhood, the lines of communication would not be so long. Impractical, laborious, yeah, but on strategic principle, keeping an eye on other tool-developing species would be very likely. If the colony is long established, Earth and other planets harboring or capable of hosting intelligent life would be similarly monitored, likely for millions of years.
So if not radio waves, how to you think they would know about us?
I answered this on some level previously above, but the suspicion I have is that given the age of the universe, if abiogenesis is common and Earth unexceptional(lotta ifs, I am aware), then an ET civilization would’ve been long set up. It would’ve already spread to its hearts content, and would’ve been in position long before man walked upright for the first time. A simple observation post, established by a long existent civ in a nearby system, that gives periodic reports on our developments(eye on potential threat/rival) to nearby relevant colonies/polities is another possibility.

Because of time, nearly every method of discovery is possible. There’s simply so much time to map the galaxy and establish an eye network over the whole of it.

If not already discovered, something about Earth or humans is exceptional. That might be the case, but I doubt it’s the most likely possibility.

On what do you base this assumption?
Present day spacecraft move at about 30km/sec, approx 1/10000th of the speed of light. The galaxy is approximately 100000 light years across. When done, the math adds up to about 1 billion years. Of course, the closer you get to light speed, the less time it’d take.
 

EvaDK

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There's far too little data to make any kind of conclusions. The distances in space are enormous; the speed of light is fast within the context of the means of human travel. In the context of the size of the Universe, the speed of light is very slow.

If another civilization is indeed able to visit us, I reckon it's more likely they come from or via higher dimensions, rather than from somewhere else in our Universe or Galaxy.
 

Sarin

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If another civilization is indeed able to visit us, I reckon it's more likely they come from or via higher dimensions, rather than from somewhere else in our Universe or Galaxy.

Higher dimensions?
Spoiler :


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. We know of existence of planets around other stars, but higher dimensions? What is that, exactly?

I've seen UFO once, though whether it was someone messing with a drone, aircraft that only seemed to pull an impossible turn due to my misjudgement of the distance or actual alien craft remains undecided. After all, judging a size and speed of flying object against overcast sky is tricky.

But I'm skeptical. Most UFO sightings don't make sense, as if the aliens were intentionally pranking us. Why allow themselves to be seen that way?
 

Valka D'Ur

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I’d imagine a colony is established and then more or less functions as its own independent state. If one is established in the neighborhood, the lines of communication would not be so long. Impractical, laborious, yeah, but on strategic principle, keeping an eye on other tool-developing species would be very likely. If the colony is long established, Earth and other planets harboring or capable of hosting intelligent life would be similarly monitored, likely for millions of years.

I answered this on some level previously above, but the suspicion I have is that given the age of the universe, if abiogenesis is common and Earth unexceptional(lotta ifs, I am aware), then an ET civilization would’ve been long set up. It would’ve already spread to its hearts content, and would’ve been in position long before man walked upright for the first time. A simple observation post, established by a long existent civ in a nearby system, that gives periodic reports on our developments(eye on potential threat/rival) to nearby relevant colonies/polities is another possibility.

Because of time, nearly every method of discovery is possible. There’s simply so much time to map the galaxy and establish an eye network over the whole of it.

If not already discovered, something about Earth or humans is exceptional. That might be the case, but I doubt it’s the most likely possibility.


Present day spacecraft move at about 30km/sec, approx 1/10000th of the speed of light. The galaxy is approximately 100000 light years across. When done, the math adds up to about 1 billion years. Of course, the closer you get to light speed, the less time it’d take.
I have to ask if you've ever read anything by C.J. Cherryh. She's a science fiction author whose SF novels fall into the "hard science" category of the overall space opera subgenre. I'm specifically referring to the Alliance-Union novels that feature a 24th/25th-century civilization spanning numerous solar systems and star stations orbiting stars that have no habitable planets. Cherryh explains how humanity managed to make government and economics work in combination with relativity due to STL technology. When FTL tech was discovered it caused havoc with some of the bases and worlds since they could simply be bypassed.

Merchant ships were crewed by extended families who had to be careful about inbreeding, so the idea of marriage, monogamy, and child-rearing had to change. Trips that would be months on ship's time would be years on station and planet-time, and that caused a cultural splinter between the various groups.

So it's easy to say FTL = no problem, get it done fast, BOOM. Finished.

The practicalities are quite different.


As for monitoring us from a "nearby system"... the nearest star to ours is Proxima Centauri, at 4.3 light-years away. That's close enough for almost real-time study of the star itself and any planets it might have, but it's still impossibly far to actually get there given current technology (ours, that is).
 

EvaDK

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Higher dimensions?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. We know of existence of planets around other stars, but higher dimensions? What is that, exactly?
1. I made no claims. ;)

2. 'Higher dimensions' = anything outside the 4 dimensional Universe we can detect. Also other Universes > our Universe being part of a Multiverse.
 

Rg339

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I have to ask if you've ever read anything by C.J. Cherryh. She's a science fiction author whose SF novels fall into the "hard science" category of the overall space opera subgenre.
No, I’ve not. Between chess, civ and Pdx games, my free time is, uh, not really my own. It belongs to the games, I guess. The adaptations made to no FTL travel do however sound entirely plausible; there’d be pretty radical but necessary social adjustments that’d need to be made should humanity ever endeavor to colonize the stars
So it's easy to say FTL = no problem, get it done fast, BOOM. Finished.

The practicalities are quite different.


As for monitoring us from a "nearby system"... the nearest star to ours is Proxima Centauri, at 4.3 light-years away. That's close enough for almost real-time study of the star itself and any planets it might have, but it's still impossibly far to actually get there given current technology (ours, that is).
Agreed, with present tech, it is not exactly practical. If you’re a starfaring civ that can approach light speed, it becomes much more practical. Even with current practical difficulties, however, if ET were proven beyond dispute tomorrow, we would immediately begin devoting resources at a considerable scale to their study. People who’ve studied competition would be aware that regardless of observed behavior/stated intent, the possibility of ET power being projected would merit close attention.

Presuming human behavior is unexceptional, it’s easy for me to imagine things like establishment of observation posts. Other than the implosion of the universe itself, what existential threats would a starfaring species face? Little to none, the sole possible exception being warfare with another advanced, sapient, tool-making species. It’s the one thing that’d register and provoke the threat radar to action.
But I'm skeptical. Most UFO sightings don't make sense, as if the aliens were intentionally pranking us. Why allow themselves to be seen that way?
Well, the easiest explanation is that 99% of sightings are mundane, the result of misinterpretation.

But with that said, I don’t think you can assume aliens would act in a way you’d find entirely rational. You mention pranking us, and alotta supposed encounters do seem like horsing around. Doesn’t seem rational.

thing is though, across the world today, more than one man will take a woman to a zoo and decide that it’d impress said woman if he “bravely” jumps into the Gorilla enclosure. If humans are unexceptional, aliens may similarly determine that what appears at first to be irrational is a justifiable risk if it could lead to some sort of potential social reward.
 
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Sarin

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1. I made no claims. ;)

2. 'Higher dimensions' = anything outside the 4 dimensional Universe we can detect. Also other Universes > our Universe being part of a Multiverse.

If another civilization is indeed able to visit us, I reckon it's more likely they come from or via higher dimensions, rather than from somewhere else in our Universe or Galaxy.

Just this is claim that you believe that such "higher dimensions" exist. To this day, such things are only domain of sci-fi and some quantum physics speculations.
 

EvaDK

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Just this is claim that you believe that such "higher dimensions" exist. To this day, such things are only domain of sci-fi and some quantum physics speculations.
No, I only speculated that higher dimensions may exist; I made no claim that they do exist.
 

Sarin

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No, I only speculated that higher dimensions may exist; I made no claim that they do exist.

If it was mere speculation, then overall it wouldn't be more likely that visitors from the mundane parts of the universe.
 

EvaDK

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If it was mere speculation, then overall it wouldn't be more likely that visitors from the mundane parts of the universe.
I suggest you look up the official definition of 'claim' and compare that with what I wrote and you'll hopefully understand that I made no claims in my post.
 

El_Machinae

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On the UFO question, I think it helps being older. What I've experienced my whole life are claims that are right out of threshold of 'provability' despite our technology at each stage. In other words, their camouflage ability has been shifting along one step more advanced than our detection ability for multiple decades now.

The anecdotal stories are more compelling. Obviously, they're harder to collect evidence on and each can be individually dismissed. And even whole swaths can be dismissed based on sub-tying them ("delusional", "attention seeking", "fanciful imagination", etc.). Because I like sci-fi, I've descended into this rabbit-hole more than once, and the compiled mythology is very fun. (It's why I enjoyed the movie The Fourth Kind more than most, because I recognized the mythology they were drawing from).

As to the Fermi Paradox itself, I don't have any answers. Honestly, I find the Paradox so compelling that I hold the Simulation Hypothesis as a 'reasonable explanation' for it. But when we're discussing our signalling the universe, we have to remember that we've been sending spectroscopic signals of "life is here" for hundreds of millions of years. So, the only reasons why we would not have been visited would be (a) the capability to visit us doesn't exist or (b) life-bearing systems are so common that it's 'boring' that Sol has life.

I tend to not like things that slow our technological progress, and the Fermi Paradox is one of the reasons why. Once we're reading spectroscopic signals of planets, we're going to learn a lot.
 

EvaDK

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Biological activity/life could be widespread in our Galaxy. That's not too big a leap to make at all. Intelligent life on the other hand....
 
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