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Just a speck in the cosmic soup


By Pooja Kansal





Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI), said he believes humans will discover aliens within 25 years. He cites the Drake Equation, a formula that tries to determine the number of alien societies capable of contacting Earth, as evidence.

If Shostak’s prediction comes true, it would be prudent for the United Nations to create a position responsible for communicating with extraterrestrial life. And interestingly enough, the UN recently assigned Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman with a somewhat similar task.

There has been a flurry of speculation surrounding the UN’s decision to assign Othman the responsibility of handling “near-Earth objects.” The London Telegraph first sensationalized the appointment by announcing that Othman is set to be tasked with coordinating humanity’s response if and when extraterrestrials make contact.”

Othman responded to the claim, saying that, “It sounds cool, but I have to deny it.”  

It’s possible that the UN did, in fact, create a position responsible for acting as the liaison between aliens and humans, but even if that were the case, the nature of the job would be highly classified.

But even though we seem to have taken the necessary steps to prepare for such contact, it might be narcissistic to assume we are around the same technological level as other intelligent life.

Michio Kaku, noted theoretical physicist, likens the relationship between humans and aliens to “Goliath and mosquitos.”  He reasons that extraterrestrials capable of traveling to Earth and contacting humans are so beyond our scope of technology and intellect that it isn’t logical for them to disturb us.

When you compare the archaism of the 19th century to the soaring progress made in the 20th century, the theory that humans are technologically inferior to aliens seems rather plausible.

Although the radio was technically invented in 1899, at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries, its use skyrocketed during the 20th century. Computers, spacecraft and the Internet were also born in the 20th century, as well, and have all experienced a rapid rate of growth.
    
A century of technology is a narrow window for extraterrestrial contact with Earth, which is estimated to be 4.6 billion years old. Perhaps aliens have attempted to contact Earth, but considering that human civilization has only been technologically advanced for a fraction of its existence thus far, it’s possible that they already messaged us at a time when radios and satellites were incomprehensible to us, received no response, and, therefore, won’t be coming around again any time soon.     

Despite our immense progress during the past 100 or so years, there are still numerous mysteries of the universe that continue to stump even our best scientists. Dark matter, dark energy and black holes are widely accepted theories but have yet to be supported by concrete evidence.
    
The fact that scientists are aware of these puzzles but lack the means to fathom them demonstrates the existence of greater knowledge and the relative primitiveness of human capability.
    
In addition, you have to question why intelligent life would set its sights on Earth, which is a pint-sized home compared to the other earth-like planets found in the universe. For example, one earth-like planet recently found to be 127 light years from Earth is 1.4 times the Earth’s mass. Another recently discovered quasi-Earth that is 2,000 light years away is estimated to have a mass of three to four times greater than Earth.
    
Kaku reasons there are “lots of pristine planets with plenty of resources,” making it illogical to target a planet already filled with inhabitants. It’s slightly irrational to believe that aliens would pick our humble abode for an apocalyptic takeover when there are more eligible candidates across the universe.  

Unfortunately for all the UFO hunters, it’s doubtful that aliens have any interest in visiting us whatsoever. But watch what you say about them — they might be listening.

E-mail: pkansal@indiana.edu

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