Class Warfare Blog

May 21, 2020

How I Know UFOs Aren’t of Alien Origin

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
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I was watching a program available on Amazon Prime called Hanger 1 which refers to a storage facility in which the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) keeps its files. An episode I watched last night referred to “crashes and cover-ups,” which “exposes” governments covering up the recoveries of crashed UFOs to harvest their technology out of public scrutiny. (That hypothesis is not hard to accept.)

In any case, at one point they showed a map of the eastern hemisphere with dots indicating all of the UFO crash sites they have identified in just the 1990s and 2000s. There were over a dozen of these crash sites indicated.

At that point I sought another program to watch. (Why was I watching in the first place? Because pandemic, that’s why.)

The reason these claims defy all reason is that the claims of alien origins for UFOs is based upon the hypothesis that aliens have technology far superior to ours (anti-gravity, tractor beams, flight without inertia, etc.) which as enabled them to traverse vast distances through space to come here, to visit our planet and “do things.”

Superior technology, my ass. If it is superior, how come so many of the dammed things crash into the planet. Dozens and dozens have crashed they claim … recently!

Oh, I know, aliens are bad drivers! They are fine when the have vast amounts of empty space around them, but when they get close to a planet, they hit it, repeatedly. No, wait, it is only juvenile aliens who come here to test out their hotrodded spacecraft and, as teenagers here do too, they push those craft a little too hard and Wham! No, wait . . .

September 24, 2019

The Fermi Paradox and Other Aspects of Wishful Thinking About Aliens

Filed under: Reason,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 12:17 pm
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Famous physicist Enrico Fermi once uttered something along the lines of “Well, then, where are they?” in a discussion of the possibilities of there being alien life. Fermi’s exact quote is uncertain, but the gist of it is plain. Since there are so many other places in the universe in which life could develop, why haven’t we been visited by aliens at this point?

Let’s look at this because there is so much bullstuff circulating.

Let’s consider time first. A recent Netflix documentary discussing this topic pointed out that the universe was 14-15 billion years old and the Earth was about a third of that old, 4.543 billion years old. So, there has been plenty of time for aliens to have visited us. WTF? No!

If aliens had visited us 2 billion years ago, how would we have any record of that? Maybe if an enduring alien spacecraft had crashed here and avoided being subducted below ground, there might be such evidence, but that is a rather far fetched scenario. We need to be reasonable and consider that Homo sapiens have been around for probably less than 300,000 years. Any prior visitation would not be noted in any way. We also have had a written language for less than 10,000 years, so any prior visitation could only have been recorded in the form of petroglyphs or cave paintings, and there are some rather bizarre figures that could represent such visitants, but I don’t see any consensus in the scientific community as to whether these are factual representations or imaginative ones.

And, it has only been in the last couple of centuries that we have had the means of recording images of such visitants and the images we have suggesting that possibility are of relatively low quality. Recently, some higher quality recordings have led to the possibility that we have, indeed been visited, but that enquiry is still going on.

So, when it comes to time . . . we have been in a position to document such a visitation for a few hundred years out of the 15 billion years of the universe’s existence, a very tiny (tiny!) fraction of the time involved. So, the time factor is quite disfavorable to the argument that we should have seen something by now.

Also, as a factor of time, have you seen the tiny blue dot illustration? Here it is.

The tiny blue dot represents how far radio waves (and TV, etc.) could have traveled since their invention here. Aliens traversing this blue zone would be able to pick up those signs of intelligent life. Again, this is about 200 years in time, 200 light-years in space. Look at how small that zone is compared to the volume of the entire galaxy. Prior to that time or outside of that space, those aliens would be looking for “signs” of life as we are doing now: indications of water in its liquid form and things like carbon dioxide or methane in planetary atmospheres. These searches may turn up “signs” but no conclusive proof of intelligent life.

Now let’s talk space. Clearly any aliens in other galaxies are just too far away to consider making a trip here. Our closest neighboring galaxy is the Andromeda galaxy which is 2.537 million light years away. If these aliens could travel at the speed of light, they would be entertaining a trip of two and a half million years . . . one way! If they could do 1000 times the speed of light, they would still be looking at a 2500 year journey . . . one way. So, intergalactic aliens should be considered to be completely isolated by time and space (unless wormholes of some other similar phenomena are proven to exist).

So, how about aliens inside our own galaxy? With hundreds of billions of stars and trillions of planets in our galaxy, surely . . . surely what exactly? Our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy, is 105,700 light years wide. Traveling at the speed of light, currently thought to be impossible, would require 100,000+ years to go from one edge to the opposite edge, but let’s assume that “our aliens” are not that far away, that they are at least on our side of the galaxy, so their trip would be less, less than 50,000 years at the speed of light. Let’s be honest. If the trip takes more than a decade or so, what benefit would there be in making it? Trade is out of the question as the distances are too far. Trading technology with a less advanced species, again hardly worth the trip. So the only motivation would be a voyage of exploration, or maybe a desperate attempt to find a new place to live. Excluding the latter, because it would be problematic in the extreme (I would venture that those aliens no one wants to meet), let’s consider a voyage of exploration/discovery.

It doesn’t seem plausible that on such a voyage there would be just one stop, here. If I were planning such a voyage, there would be many stops, amplifying my chances of encountering something new. This would go a long way towards justifying the cost of such a voyage. Even if profit or money were not involved (say our aliens are a hive mind, to which such things would be incomprehensible) the amount of effort to be put into the creation of such a ship only to send it off on an “iffy” mission, possibly to be never seen again is an additional barrier to such a voyage. Think back on how many billions of U.S. dollars were expended sending astronauts to the moon, just 250,000 miles away. Imagine what would happen if President Trump were to announce an ambitious new project to explore some of the rest of the galaxy. The projected budgets surely would go into the trillions of dollars and the howls of fiscal irresponsibility would be heard on the moon.

So, the answers to the Fermi paradox seem rather straightforward.

  1. They came but were too early to see anything promising.
  2. They came and met some sapient Earthlings, but those Earthlings had no way of leaving an enduring, credible record of their visit.
  3. They came but we do not count the reports of their visits as being credible “alien encounters.”
  4. They are coming but haven’t gotten here yet.
  5. They looked for places to go, but outside of the tiny blue dot, there were only vague signs of life, certainly none of intelligent life, so we were just one of myriad possible sites to check out and they chose other places to visit.
  6. They considered coming but nixed the idea as there was no “upside” in the form of trade or technology transfers to warrant the trip.
  7. They have taken such voyages but we are too far away to travel here or to even communicate via EMR signaling.
  8. We were so far beneath them that visiting us would be the equivalent of us trying to communicate with a slime mold.
  9. They were planning such a voyage but the early cost overruns were too scary and they backed out of the project. (They are more advanced than us, remember.)
  10. They were on their way but had an accident and had to limp home.
  11. And, of course, the old tried and true opinion of many theists: “They don’t exist; we are alone in the universe, because . . . we . . . are . . . special!”

Of course, there is also the “Ancient Aliens theorists” conjecture that they came a long time ago and jiggered with our DNA to help create another sentient species in the galaxy. Would you want to meet such a species, one that would take such liberties with lower life forms, to whom we would surely still be a lower life form?

August 22, 2019

What’s the difference between science and the supernatural?

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:06 am
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The title of this post was a question asked on the Quora website which had, at the time of my viewing, 52 answers. I was shocked at how many of them implied that science was incapable of studying the “supernatural,” whatever the heck that is. Here is but one example:

“Take a look at the word supernatural. It means above or beyond the natural order. Science by its very nature deals only with the natural order, and cannot even directly detect or deal with the supernatural order. Science can only deal with the natural order, which is why scientists tend to be naturalists in their approach and worldview and treat the supernatural order as nonexistent, because science doesn’t have the tools to measure and test the supernatural order. Only recently with the advent of the field of quantum mechanics, some theoretical physicists have reason to believe there are higher dimensions in addition to the three dimensions we tend to think is the sum total of reality. These theorists being naturalists shy away from terms like supernatural because of its association with the ideas of the spooky or religion, but use similar and other terms to articulate their work.”

Since there were so many such comments, I have to accept that there are many who support claims that “the supernatural” exists. Some of the comments refer to the miracles of Jesus, others with just unexplained phenomena. (One was batshit crazy.)

I was expecting most of the responses to be similar to this one:

“Science explains the ways in which the things we see around us in nature work and behave.

It does this by examining closely the actual data in as much detail as is available, proposing some experiments and some theories and then testing those theories to see if they fit and explain and predict the phenomenon.

The theories are then reviewed by your colleagues around the world rigorously, who test the theory to see if there are holes, or better explanations – and to ensure that they too get the same results. It then becomes accepted scientific understanding which we then build on.

Science deals with what is actually happening.

The supernatural – is a what happens when people don’t do science. People instead ‘make up’ explanations for things that they can’t immediately explain.

The larva coming out of the ground becomes the gateway to hell, until science explains it and then it doesn’t. Old women who live on their own and who provide herbal remedies become witches to burn at the stake whenever something unusual happens in the village that can’t be explained. An old house which will naturally be creaky and have lots of drafty spaces, will become haunted at night, when people see and hear things move.

The supernatural is not real and it is how humans existed before we discovered how to do science right.”

But responses like these were not the majority.

The Supernatural—Real or Not?
So, are supernatural phenomena real or not? Seems a simple question, but of which I have more questions. For example: If someone claims that something is a supernatural phenomenon, how do they know this? Apparently something that cannot easily be explained is observed. The first thing I would challenge is my ability to explain, but. . . . We can rule out the common mis-identifications of old women collecting herbs being witches (would that they had not suffered from that label) and old ramshackle houses creaking in the wind at night being haunted (what else can a loose house do but creak, rot, and eventually fall down?). So, there seem to be many such phenomena that are clearly not supernatural, yet were claimed to be. Let us set those aside for now.

If someone says: “it was clearly a supernatural phenomenon” we have to ask “why do you think this?” If this phenomenon is “beyond nature” then how can we even perceive it as we are “in nature.” How does the supernatural impinge upon the natural? Some dodge this question by stating that supernatural phenomena are just those that do not obey the normal rules of nature. How they know this is also subject to question, but let’s ride with this for a minute, treating it as we would any other hypothesis. So, something is observed and that observation shows a violation of natural laws (the laws of physics, chemistry, etc.). How does the observer know this to be such a violation? Doesn’t one need to know what those laws are to claim the event violated them? How many advocates of supernaturalism know the laws of say, physics, for example.

It seems that people, like Deepak Chopra, are only too willing to claim support for their worldviews by plucking quantum mechanical events out of current theory and use them as justification for their beliefs. For example, the multiverse shows that there are “higher dimensions of existence.” No, it doesn’t. The existence of a multiverse is entirely hypothetical at the moment and thus cannot be used to prove anything. Another example is “quantum leaps.” These are leaps in energy (not space per se) which are incredibly tiny in size. They are grabbed by these folks to explain jumps of large scale objects through space and time. Cherry picking concepts out of a field of science, then misunderstanding and misrepresenting those concepts, seems to be rife in the “supernatural community.” But I diverge from my main point.

How does the observer of a “supernatural event” know this to be a violation of natural laws? Seeing, for example, a disembodied human head floating in front of you is a violation of the principles of gravity and wouldn’t need a theoretical understanding to recognize that fact. But how does one rule out other interpretations? We humans have become adept at showing all kinds of violations of physical laws in movies. These images, being entertaining and graphic, may just get stored away in our heads. Anyone who has ever seen the first Alien movie cannot get the image of the little beastie bursting out of the crewman’s chest. Can you? Could you erase that memory? (If you can, I want to know how you did it. I have a couple of ex-wives I wish to expunge.)

How do you know that you haven’t had a hallucination or a waking dream or even a sleeping dream that you had forgot but for some reason got triggered and you just recalled it (along with all of the associated emotions it evokes)?

It is interesting that these experiences are rarely shared (except, for obvious reasons, by crowds of the religious gathered at, say, a religious shrine, expecting a miraculous event and then after standing out in the hot sun getting dehydrated, someone shouts “I see it, do you?”). Since these experiences are rarely shared and, obviously, not repeatable, we end up discussing personal events which cannot be studied further, which supernaturalists turn around and claim is a weakness of science.

Scientists have studied supernatural claims scientifically many, many times. And nothing comes out of those studies, just <cricket, cricket, cricket>. Telekinesis studies, ESP studies, past life regression studies, on and on.

This is why supernaturalists are now claiming that science “cannot” study these events science is only suitable for studying nature. This is akin to the game of hide and seek played by god believers. Their gods start out walking around being sighted by people and interacting with them. (Consider how many times both Yahweh and Jesus are quoted (Quoted!) in the Bible. You can’t quote someone unless you have “heard” them. But these gods invariably end up in a locale such as “beyond all time and space” whatever that means. (Without space, nothing can move. Without time, nothing can change. Without space and time <cricket, cricket, cricket>.)

If supernatural events can affect people inside of nature, they aren’t supernatural. They could be evidence of advanced aliens invoking Clarke’s Third Law (Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.), and, gosh, don’t you know, that is being claimed right now, right here in River City, as I write this!

Supernatural claims are easy to make. One just opens one’s mouth and poof, out one comes. “I have a theory . . .” No, you don’t, you have an opinion.

The supernatural began in human history as explanations for things not understood. Brooks, rivers, oceans, mountains, you name it, all had gods in them, controlling them. Later gods became more human-like, appearing as human figures (often modified to make sure those gods wouldn’t be mis-recognized as actually being human). We no longer have brook gods, river gods, tree gods, and angels who push the planets along on their heavenly paths. Why? Because we found out what really was happening and we gave up our fantasies. But thousands of years living with fantasies has made us adept . . . at living with fantasies. (Religions, of course, are teaching each new generation that fantasies are believable!) The fantasy of the supernatural is another zombie idea that won’t die, partly because of people wanting to believe that they understand what really is going on. (I do. You do. We all do.) But, at some point, if we want to mature intellectually, we have to ask questions like “How do we know that. . . ?”

May 30, 2017

If the Universe Is So Vast, Where Is Everybody?

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:29 am
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The question in the title is a variant of “Are we alone?” Are there other sentient life forms in our galaxy? Enquiring minds want to know.

This post is prompted by a review of a new book (ALIENS: The World’s Leading Scientists on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life, edited and with an introduction by Jim Al-Khalili).  I have not read the book and do not intend to. The reason? The discussion is premature.

One of the powers of human minds is to imagine (possibly the greatest of human powers) but it has a gigantic flaw: garbage in, garbage out. If our imagination has little to no data to work on we come up with quite fallacious outcomes. This is how we got demons and gods and unicorns and leprechauns.

So, what evidence do we have regarding the universe? We have optical and EMR evidence for the existence of billion upon billions of stars in our galaxy and billions upon billions of galaxies in our universe. But realize we have not known this for long. One hundred years ago, we knew that the Milky Way was a manifestation of other stars in our “neighborhood” but we though that that represented the totality our universe, too. We had observed fuzzy spots in those star fields but hadn’t acquired the evidence to recognize them as other galaxies. And while we had speculated that many of those stars would have planets about them, we had no direct evidence that was so until quite recently. The first actual planet circling another star was identified in … wait for it … 1992. So, we have been aware that there are other planets “out there” for all of 25 years. We have subsequently identified hundreds of others.

Do we have any evidence that life exists on those planets? No, but we do not have any evidence that life does not exist either. At this point, we are not yet ready to make those discoveries (although we are close).

The question in the title implies that since there are so many stars, there must also be unbelievably large numbers of planets, and if life is not an isolated accident, or divine bit of magic, occurring here and only here, then where are those other peoples? There is a mistake embedded in this question though, leading to flights of imagination fueled only by fairy dust. The universe is indeed vast, but the primary constituent of our universe is empty space, aka nothing. The next closest star to us is about four light years away from us. To go there to get direct evidence of what exists there, we would have to travel for four years at the speed of light. Since the fastest speed ever achieved by a man-made object is about 25 miles per second, and the speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second, at that speed (as an average), a trip to Alpha Centauri would take a bit under 35,000 years. If we could get their magically and then sent data back to Earth, it would take four years to get here and when it arrived the information would be four years old.

The universe is unimaginably vast, but this is also misleading because it is also vast in time. A civilization could have arisen around Alpha Centauri, to the point that it was capable of building spacecraft capable of very high speeds who could have made the trip in under 20 years, let’s say. But if this occurred 100,000 years ago, there wouldn’t have been anyone here to notice. (That doesn’t stop the imagination, of course, … Ancient Aliens!)

The universe is vast in time as well as space. In order to generate a signal that we could interpret as synthetic instead of natural, that civilization would have to exist within a small radius in space and time. If it is over 100 years out of phase with us now, we wouldn’t have a chance of detecting it. So, 100 years in time is our bubble. How many years has the universe been around? That number is 14,000,000,000 years, roughly. Our “time” as a species capable of detecting another sentient species in our vicinity is therefore about 0.0000025% of the time that has occurred to now. Considering that our spatial bubble is roughly 100 light years wide and the universe is roughly 28,000,000,000 light years wide, we have in out neighborhood, 0.0000012% of the universe’s space. Consequently, we have a combined fraction of the universe’s space and time of  3 x 10–14%. In other words, 99.99999 … 9999% of the universe is outside of our purview, either existing in the past or so far away as to be unattainable.

Something you need to know. Those extra-solar planet hunters … when they “find” evidence of yet another such planet, if that planet is, say, 540 light years away, when the light gets to us it is showing us what was going on 540 years ago. Even if there were a planet with a civilization what could produce radio waves or some such we could detect, that information is 540 years old. What is to say what will happen to us in the next 540 years? Right now our prospects of existing that long do not look good. At the rate we are shitting in our own food bowl, we might not have much of a civilization to be found by aliens.

February 26, 2016

Aliens and Creationists

I am beginning to believe that the ability of ordinary people to think is vanishingly small and probably smaller if you are a creationist or IDer. And, no I am not talking about the candidacy of Donald Trump. I am talking about the creationists’ obsession with aliens. Apparently their god didn’t create any. How they could know this is quite beyond me.

One aspect of their blather is the so-called Fermi Paradox which is neither Fermi’s nor a paradox. The FP goes like this: if aliens exist, some must be very advanced and have noticed us by now; where are they? It sounds reasonable, but the obvious answer (They don’t exist!) is unwarranted.

Just put on your thinking cap for second. We have been producing radio waves and other electromagnetic signals for a bit over 100 years. So, lets be very conservative and say that there is a bubble 500 light-years in radius that our presence can be detected. (500 years of travel at the speed of light in a vacuum is a reasonable maximum supposition). The universe as a whole is 14+ billion light years in radius, so what percent of the entire universe does our “close enough to notice the humans” bubble consist? Since the volume of such spaces is proportional to a cube of the radius, the percent is (5003/14,000,000,0003) x 100. I will do the math for you .. uh … essentially zero (It is 0.00000000000000000000000455%.) This is also the probability that any aliens would fly through our bubble and notice our presence. This assumes that the aliens had sufficient technology to fly around faster than the speed of light and other apparently impossible abilities.

Now, those are the spatial odds. Regarding time, our 500 years is a very small fraction of the time the universe has existed (14+ billion years). Let me be generous and assume that the first 4+ billion years were needed for alien life to evolve (the creationists creator need not be so limited) so with regard to time, we have been signally for (500/10,000,000,000) x 100 = 0.000005% of the time period since life began in this universe (approximately). So, the aliens would have to be alive and looking during our time period to find us, no? So, the probability that aliens would find us is the product of these two probabilities, the spatial and the temporal probabilities, which is 0.000005% of basically zero.

So, for all you creationists who are asking “Where are these aliens?” Shut the fuck up and sit down. Besides, we really do not want them to find us. History shows us that when more “advanced” technological societies meet less advanced, it doesn’t go well for the less advanced.

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