In recent months several leading astrophysicists from NASA to Harvard have suggested aliens are not science fiction: that advanced and ancient technological civilizations may exist but be beyond our comprehension or ability to detect. Silvano P. Colombano at NASA’s Ames Research Center proposes that we may have missed signals when it comes to looking for UFOs.
“Our form of life and intelligence,” observes Colombano, “may just be a tiny first step in a continuing evolution that may well produce forms of intelligence that are far superior to ours and no longer based on carbon “machinery.”
In a similar vein, the director of Columbia University’s Astrobiology Center Caleb Scharf proposes that alien life could be so advanced it becomes indistinguishable from physics. While Harvard’s Avi Loeb suggests that the first-known interstellar visitor to our Solar System, Oumuamua, could be a probe sent by an alien space-faring civilization, and that the scientific community should be more willing to acknowledge and embrace uncertainty.
After a mere 50 years of computer evolution we are already talking about “super-intelligence” and we are quickly becoming symbiotic with computer power, says Colombano, who adds: I don’t want to address the issue of the survival of our species, or its future “role” within a continuing evolution of millions of years. I simply want to point out the fact that the intelligence we might find and that might choose to find us (if it hasn’t already) might not be at all be produced by carbon based organisms like us.”
“While it is still reasonable and conservative to assume that life is most likely to have originated in conditions similar to ours, the vast time differences in potential evolutions render the likelihood of “matching” technologies very slim,” says Colombano.
In a 2018 paper calling for a more aggressive search for advanced extraterrestrial life In light of our most recent understanding of the age of the planetary systems that might support life, Colombano, thinks we have missed alien life that’s not a carbon-based organism like Earth’s human species.
Colombano said there were certain aspects of UFO sightings that cannot be explained. In his paper published by SETI, he said there may be some signals we have missed when it comes to looking for UFOs.
“We should consider the UFO phenomenon worthy of study in the context of a system with very low signal to noise ratio, but nevertheless with the possibility of challenging some of our assumptions and pointing to new possibilities for communication and discovery.
“We should study UFO reports as a low signal to noise ratio phenomenon. Big Data Analysis could approach several existing data bases such as 130,000 pages of declassified U.S. Air Force documents, National UFO Reporting Center Database and several other international data bases.”
“In the very large amount of ‘noise’ in UFO reporting there may be ‘signals’, however small, that indicate some phenomena that cannot be explained or denied,” Colombano said. The arrival of a UFO could have been overlooked because of the unlikelihood of interstellar travel, he said but this is something he said aliens have mastered.
Columbia’s Scharf points out that Arthur C. Clarke suggested that any sufficiently advanced technology is going to be indistinguishable from magic. “If you dropped in on a bunch of Paleolithic farmers with your iPhone and a pair of sneakers,” Scharf says, “you’d undoubtedly seem pretty magical. But the contrast is only middling: The farmers would still recognize you as basically like them, and before long they’d be taking selfies. But what if life has moved so far on that it doesn’t just appear magical, but appears like physics?”
If the universe harbors other life, and if some of that life has evolved beyond our own waypoints of complexity and technology, Scharf proposes that we should be considering some very extreme possibilities.
Enter Harvard’s Avi Loeb who says that aliens are not science fiction: “I don’t see extraterrestrials as more speculative than dark matter or extra dimensions. I think it’s the other way around.”
Loeb adds in an interview with Endless Thread, “not even putting aliens on the table for discussion is a crime! Because if you look at the history of science, you know, Galileo Galilei argued that the Earth moves around the sun and he was put under house arrest for that. Now, this of course didn’t change the facts. It doesn’t matter what is being said on Twitter, what is being said in other social media or among scientists. This thing is what it is, right? And, you know, the Earth still moves around the sun irrespective of what the church said a while ago. And the fact that Galileo suffered for it has no relevance to nature.”
“Even if the speed of light continues to be an unbreakable barrier, over spans of thousands of years civilizations could probably make interstellar journeys,” Colombano observed. “I think we need to re-visit even our most cherished assumptions.”
“How might that change the above assumptions about interstellar travel? Our typical life-spans would no longer be a limitation (although even these could be dealt with multi-generational missions or suspended animation), and the size of the “explorer” might be that of an extremely tiny super-intelligent entity.