Column: E.T. wasn't trying to phone home after all | Squamish Chief

Column: E.T. wasn't trying to phone home after all

I’ll admit it. I do believe there are other kinds of life out there in the universe beyond our own solar system. I mean, there just has to be. I don’t know if I could live in a universe where the most evolved and intelligent beings were folks who also watched the Kardashians or thought Donald Trump would make a swell world leader. I figure the reason we’ve not had any hard evidence of aliens is because they are still waiting for us to get our act together, evolve, and stop hating and killing each other because of differences in skin tone, which piece of dirt we happened to be randomly born upon, or which invisible and imaginary supernatural sky man we happen to believe in. I guess they figure if we can’t get over our own human differences, we will never be able to accept some squid-like creature with seven arms and purple blood who worships the great Celestial Armpit, or something.

However, last week there was some speculation that aliens may indeed exist, after it was revealed that a Russian radio telescope had detected a “strong signal” coming from the direction of a star some 95 light years away from Earth. Suddenly, news agencies all over the world were reporting on the signal from the star called HD 164695 (which is a name that sounds more like a motor oil formula than a star harbouring a potentially highly evolved alien culture and civilization) and speculating about the existence of aliens. The Seti Institute (which stands for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence), an alien-seeking group of reputable scientists, was intrigued enough by the signal to “cautiously” investigate the findings. And they rightly should be cautious, because there are certainly a number of things that don’t add up about the signal. First off, since our own early television and radio signals have not yet traveled 95 light years, any alien civilization at good old HD 164695 would be unaware of our existence… so why aim a signal in our direction? Space is pretty big, so there would have to be a reason to direct a strong signal at our little needle in the universal haystack. The second little issue is that for a signal to reach us from 95 light years away would require a transmitter using an amount of energy equal to the entirety of human energy consumption. That’s quite a schwack of power, and scientists have theorized it would require a much more advanced civilization able to harness the power of a star using energy-sucking satellites. So, if the aliens do exist, they better be the friendly type, because they’ll certainly have us outgunned.

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But don’t run out and get ready to greet our alien friends (or overlords as the case may be), because the search for other life in the big universe has been fraught with mistakes. For instance, one set of possibly alien radio signals detected by a radio telescope in New South Wales turned out to be one of the scientists opening a microwave door.

“Um, sorry, that wasn’t E.T., it was only Orville Redenbacher popcorn… want some?”

There was also the “Wow” signal from 1977, where an astronomer at Ohio State University recorded a 72-second radio burst from the Sagittarius constellation. Scientists couldn’t find an Earthly explanation for the signal, but unfortunately it was never heard from again. The same seems to be true for this newest signal. Nobody has been able to reproduce the signal or find it again, and some researchers have said it may be something easily explainable like Earth signals reflected off planets, or background space radiation… or maybe someone is making popcorn again, who knows?

Regardless of the outcome, I’ll still continue to believe that somewhere out there aliens do exist, and one day – when we have our crap together – they’ll drop by for a visit. But until that time, I hope scientists keep listening to the stars, in case E.T. ever does decide to give us a call. 

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