Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 22 - Little Green Men and Flying Saucers Are So Passé: New Ideas About Aliens‏

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Little Green Men and Flying Saucers Are So Passé: New Ideas About Aliens

Published: April 20, 2010
The scientific project known as SETI — the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence — began in earnest 50 years ago, when an astronomer named Frank Drake pointed a radio telescope toward a few nearby stars and began to sift through the aural static. A half-century later SETI has matured and remains a bustling enterprise, even though it no longer receives government financing and even though E. T., if he’s out there, does not appear to have Earth on his speed dial.

Paul Davies’s new book, “The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence,” is a birthday card of sorts to SETI, an appraisal and acknowledgment of the interesting (if quixotic) work the project has done thus far. It’s also a pointed wake-up call. Mr. Davies believes that SETI has grown conservative in its methods. He thinks we’re looking for alien life in all the wrong places, and in all the wrong ways.

Mr. Davies is a British-born physicist and cosmologist, an astral popularizer in the Carl Sagan mold. He’s written more than 20 books, and has made BBC radio documentaries and Australian TV shows with titles like “The Big Questions.” He is the director of Beyond, the Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, at Arizona State University, which according to its Web site (, seeks “to create new and exciting ideas that push the boundaries of research a bit ‘beyond.’ ” It looks like the kind of place where you wouldn’t be embarrassed to put some Jean Michel Jarre space music on your iPod and get sort of heavy.

More saliently, for the purposes of this book, Mr. Davies is chairman of the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, dedicated to thinking about how Earthlings might react, and how we should react, to a signal from beyond. He’s an interesting and sometimes funny thinker on this topic.

“A statement solely by a politician or religious leader” in response to alien transmission, he writes, “is too horrible to contemplate” — a nightmare image of Al Sharpton or Pat Robertson bogarting the celestial intercom.

As it happens, Mr. Davies is an interesting thinker about nearly every aspect of our search for other intelligent life in the universe. “The Eerie Silence” may reprise material from his earlier books and lean on the work of futuristic thinkers like Freeman Dyson and Raymond Kurzweil. It gets moderately woo-woo at times, too. But Mr. Davies is smart enough to coax you rather slowly out onto the mental gangplank with him, from where the view becomes genially starry and mind-bending.

The problem with SETI as it’s currently conceived, in Mr. Davies’s view, is that it has been blinkered by anthropocentrism, the assumption that alien beings will be anything like us. He quotes the British biologist J. B. S. Haldane, who remarked that “the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”
We must “jettison as much mental baggage as possible,” Mr. Davies advises.

“Forget little green men, gray dwarfs, flying saucers with portholes, crop circles, glowing balls and scary nocturnal abductions,” he continues. Drop those “X Files” DVDs and walk slowly away.
It’s mildly batty to search for radio signals, sent intentionally or not, from what may be a very advanced civilization, he writes, because even Earth’s own radio output is already beginning to fade. Radio signals are outdated technology, nearly as sun-bleached as an old issue of Omni magazine. (E. T. surely has cable by now.) And because even a nearby alien civilization would probably be some 1,000 light-years away, conversation is just about impossible. Even if this distant civilization could spy on us, here’s what they’d see right now: Earth about 1010, long before the Industrial Revolution.

Mr. Davies’s arguments in “The Eerie Silence” are multiple and many-angled, and difficult to summarize here. But among other things, he thinks we need to pay as much attention to Earth as we do to the cosmos. If we can find evidence that life began from scratch more than once on our own planet — a “second genesis” — it would vastly increase the odds that the universe is teeming with life. What’s more, because it’s as likely that alien civilizations visited Earth a million years ago as last month, they might have already been here, and we’ve missed the signs.
When we do look up at the stars, we should squint hard at things that, in Mr. Davies’s words, “look fishy” or out of context. In other words, we should try to “identify signatures of intelligence through the impact that alien technology makes on the astronomical environment.”

Should aliens actually arrive on Earth, forget the whole “take me to your leader” business. Looking at the future of human intelligence, Mr. Davies projects and argues that alien life would probably be postbiological.

“In a million years, if humanity isn’t wiped out before that, biological intelligence will be viewed as merely the midwife of ‘real’ intelligence — the powerful, scalable, adaptable, immortal sort that is characteristic of the machine realm.”

By the same token, he adds, “Should we ever make contact with E. T., we would not be communicating with Mekon-like humanoids, but with a vastly superior, purpose-designed information-processing system.” It’s not that far-fetched, Mr. Davies writes, that E. T. will log on to the Internet. Take me to your WiFi hot spot.
The best sections of “The Eerie Silence” are those that deal with the effect a signal from another civilization would have on humans. About this signal, Mr. Davies asks, “How and by whom would it be evaluated?” and “How would the public get to learn about it?” (From TMZ or WikiLeaks, wouldn’t you think?)

He goes on: “Would there be social unrest, even panic? What would governments do? How would the world’s leaders react? Would the news be regarded with fear or wonderment? And in the longer term, what would it mean for our society, our sense of identity, our science, technology and religions?”

Rightly, he fears our instinctive first response. “Humans have fought each other for millennia over tiny differences in race, religion or culture,” he writes. “Imagine how most people would react to beings that were truly alien?” He adds, “My personal message to E. T. is to ‘Keep well clear and defend yourself,’ before stepping into the hornets’ nest of our militaristic society.”
If, sadly, there happens not to be life elsewhere in the universe, it’s all the more reason to take better care of ourselves and our planet, to wash behind our moral and ecological ears.

“It would be a tragedy of literally cosmic proportions if we succeeded in annihilating,” he observes, “the one truly intelligent species in the entire universe.”

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How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:

Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:

Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.



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