Archive for the 'Wave Guide 4: Education' Category

Jul 21 2013

Does “Man of Steel” Support the Rare Earth Hypothesis?

I happened to catch Man of Steel recently and it is definitely one of the best fantasy movies ever made. But, special effects aside, this Superman has one key difference with George Reeves, an earlier MOS who flew into living rooms across America as the first space age was gaining steam.

There was once another Man of Steel who, on small screens in the 1950s, used his superpowers to defend “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”
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The difference is George Reeves never had to contend with General Zod, a super-villain from Superman’s original neck of the woods, Krypton. Although Gen. Zod first appeared on the screen in Superman (1978) and also in Superman II (1980), he really started to get nasty in this movie.

His casual, but deadly approach to stamping out humanity started me wondering if there could be any REAL Gen. Zods out there.

As I’ve documented previously, widespread interest in extraterrestrials — even evil fictional ones — tends to spike as we approach a Maslow Window. The canal-building Martians of Lowell a century ago were part of this trend, as were George Reeves (Adventures of Superman) and the SETI program of Frank Drake in the 1950s and 60s, as are now the discovery of hundreds of extrasolar planets, scientific meetings contemplating ET visits, and cinema like Man of Steel.

But it isn’t just Gen. Zod. For example, Putnam Books is spending big money to exploit the current “renaissance” in popular science fiction (Wall Street Journal, 5/10/13), with Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, characterized as an “alien blockbuster invasion.”

Yancey’s aliens would have warmed General Zod’s heart (if he had one); he envisions eradicating humanity in 5 stages “to preserve the planet’s resources.” First is an EMP-style attack that would fry our electronic and communications infrastructure, then trigger large earthquakes that would kill billions, and third release a lethal virus carried by birds (an idea toyed with earlier in a fun 1965 SciFi film with George Maharis, The Satan Bug)… Anyway, you get the idea!

Very popular super-villain entertainment like Man of Steel and The 5th Wave highlight three obvious issues relating to potentially real extraterrestrials:

1) HUMANS WERE DWARFED:
A major theme of the movie was the extraordinary technology that Gen. Zod and his pals had relative to humans. In one violent encounter, Gen. Zod’s aliens simply flew to an attacking jet, pulled open the cockpit and dragged the pilot out to his death. (Most of us were sitting there eating popcorn thinking it doesn’t matter because Superman will soon take them out … but let’s forget about the “it’s not an S”-guy for a minute.)

In the context of the real Galaxy, it’s a wild sensation to imagine such a demonstration of vulnerability in state-of-the-art human military forces. How should we, as people hoping for a long positive Galactic future, react to such a prospect? This is an important question that is already being openly addressed in the scientific literature.

2) ARE THERE GOOD ETS?
Near the end of the movie, as they were drumming up interest in MOS sequels, a human general (who obviously had thought about Point 1) asked Superman an important question: How can we know that you (Superman) will always be on the side of humanity?

Let’s get real for a second. While everybody would like to weekend on Alpha Centauri, isn’t it more likely that even well-meaning, “Good” ETs would have a net negative effect on humanity? Contact with highly advanced ETs would involuntarily transform our culture — a complex system subject to the Butterfly Effect — in unintended ways. In the original Star Trek TV series, this gave birth to the Prime Directive.

3) DO THE BAD GUYS REALLY EXIST?
Imagine a real Zod-style civilization of advanced aliens who casually view humans as a group that should be wiped out — as long as Earth’s resources are preserved! Think how they behaved in Man of Steel. Of course that was only a movie so it was fun, but let’s imagine now that it’s real.

They could easily find us using their galactic network of self-replicating Von Neumann probes (or something even more exciting), and would have no problem terraforming Earth, as they started to in the film. There would be no compunctions like The Prime Directive, only a focus on achieving their alien goals.

If they existed, wouldn’t they already be here by now and wouldn’t we be under attack? If worlds very similar to Earth are rare in our Galaxy — part of the popular Rare Earth Hypothesis which says that high intelligence is very rare in our Galaxy — this doesn’t help our survival chances very much, because, although there will be fewer space aliens out there — it only takes ONE group to come here. And because they’re evil (and Earths are rare), they would come here as we’ve seen above.

This type of Fermi Paradox argument can be used to assert that NASTY space aliens like General Zod do not exist. If they did, they would already be here. And, as in Man of Steel, we would know it.

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Jul 10 2013

Impressions and Implications of the 2013 Roswell UFO Festival

Yesterday Google cutely reminded us of the 66th anniversary of the Roswell UFO event. In the past, although intrigued, I’ve not attended the annual July Roswell UFO festival mainly because Roswell is far away and has very warm summers.

Each year for a few days around July 4, Roswell celebrates and evaluates the most famous UFO event in history. (Images by Bruce Cordell.)
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But given the recently high profile of the UFO phenomenon — Citizen Hearing, scientific meetings at the Vatican and the Royal Society — and key people speaking at Roswell (e.g., Dr. Jesse Marcel, Jr.), I decided to take the plunge.

This time Roswell not only had elevated temperatures but also an unusually early and intense monsoon. Both may have conspired to bring the crowd down a little although everyone seemed to enjoying themselves.

In Roswell UFO-related gift shops and bookstores abound. My favorite was “Roswell Landing” where I found a speculative, but interesting book by mathematician and MUFON staffer Don Burleson, about how J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the A-bomb, may have been directly involved in UFO crash analyses.
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My impression of the Roswell demographics was an interesting combination of the younger family-oriented groups you’d encounter at Disneyland plus the more senior folks who frequent WalMart. If you survey the festival’s schedule of events (linked above) you’ll see there was something for everyone from eight to eighty.

A lot of the action took place in the International UFO Museum and Research Center on Main Street. I remember strolling though it shortly after it was founded in 1992. This time it was much more elaborate including an autographed poster of wondrous actress Adrienne Barbeau who was a celebrity guest in 2010.
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Friday afternoon in the IUFOMRC North Library well-known Roswell authors Tom Carey and Don Schmitt reiterated their contention that over the last 60+ years the U.S. government has fibbed often about UFOs and especially Roswell.

In particular, since 1947 the government has offered 4 different, official explanations of the Roswell event — the most laughable being a weather balloon! Carey and Schmitt continue to be firmly supportive of the idea that alien bodies were also retrieved at Roswell and expressed particular frustration with the New York Times for showing no interest in witness testimony. Big surprise.

Not being a Roswell expert myself, I’ve always been curious of what became of Roswell base commander Col. Blanchard who sent out the stunning first, but rapidly countermanded press release that indicated the military had retrieved a crashed flying saucer!

Did it hurt his career?

According to Carey/Schmitt, Blanchard shot up the ladder to the Pentagon and became a 4-star general. Shortly thereafter in May, 1966 Gen. Blanchard died “at his desk” of a massive heart attack, while expecting even brighter things in his sadly aborted future. Imagine what the conspiracy theorists of today’s politicized world would make out of that…

The highlight of the UFO Festival for me was Saturday morning at 9:30 am in the Roswell Civic Center Exhibit Hall when Jesse Marcel, Jr., M.D. recounted his story of how, as an eleven-year-old in 1947, he personally examined the debris from the Roswell UFO crash. Dr. Marcel and his daughter are pictured here.
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Marcel comes across exactly like I expected him to: smart, authentic, competent, patriotic, and even very personable. It was quite an experience to hear the most celebrated (publicly speaking) living witness to what was apparently the debris of a crashed alien spacecraft. The fact that Marcel later earned an M.D. and became a successful practicing physician is relevant to his current testimony about events in 1947 because it indicates he has an excellent eye and memory for details.

Marcel likes to talk about the strange “mathematics-like” symbols on the I-beams, but I find the extraordinary properties of the “foil”-like materials more compelling. The symbols could have been faked by someone trying to simulate a crash site, but I doubt, even today, if the properties of the materials (as described by Dr. Marcel and his father, intelligence officer of the base) could be duplicated.

Dr. Marcel has no doubt personally that the Roswell debris was from a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft. Listening to him I began to feel the same way, although I still have serious doubts that are not related to Dr. Marcel. They’re based on new discoveries in astrophysics which suggest that human-level civilizations and Earth-like planets are so complex and unlikely that even in a Galaxy of 300 billion stars we could be the only custodians of high intelligence.

While smart aliens still might exist elsewhere they would need exotic transportation concepts (e.g., wormholes) to come here from other galaxies or even other universes, and would be way, way too sophisticated for clumsy Roswell-style crashes in thunderstorms.

The question is: Can we reconcile new insights about the low probability of Earth-style civilizations based on current astrophysics with Dr. Marcel’s and others’ observations of apparent extraterrestrial technologies and capabilities?

Here are two options (others are possible):
Option I. Dr. Marcel is right!
Roswell is due to an ET spacecraft. This implies that astrophysical cautions about high intelligence in our Galaxy are overestimated and high-tech civilizations exist elsewhere in the Milky Way. It also indicates that extremely advanced civilizations from other galaxies or universes also probably exist and we can expect visits from them, if they aren’t already here.

Option II. Dr. Marcel is wrong.
Roswell debris is not extraterrestrial and thus is probably due to a secret military project. If other suspected UFO crash sites are likewise not ET spacecraft it’s likely that, based on astrophysical insights, we are alone in the Galaxy. Other ultra-advanced extragalactic or extra-universal civilizations may exist and already be here, but would have little in common with us because they are tens- or hundreds- (or more) of thousands of years ahead of us.

Based on non-secret information, my evaluation of the situation is that both options are still potentially viable. And we need more data to resolve them. (Notice that in either case, we expect extremely advanced civilizations to be here, but they would not be expected to contact us directly.)

A dual track of activities like the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure as well as astrophysical studies that illuminate the origin and development of high intelligence (e.g., extrasolar planets) will eventually reveal these cosmic mysteries to everyone.

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Jun 26 2013

Award-Winning British Astrophysicist Throws Cold Water on Smart Aliens

Dr. Paul Murdin of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University, recently published his provocative book, Are We Being Watched (2013). Murdin added the subtitle, “The Search for Life in the Cosmos,” not so much to distinguish it from recent NSA controversies (j/k), but to focus on an issue of great cosmic importance: Are there actually intelligent space aliens out there?

Despite the fact that our Galaxy has hundreds of billions of stars and planets almost everywhere, it isn’t obvious we have company, according to Murdin, who previously identified the first stellar black hole (Cygnus X-1) in our Galaxy.
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Murdin, a high-energy astrophysicist who received the 2012 Royal Astronomical Society Award and in 1988 was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire), reports doing a one-eighty during the writing of his book and now takes a doubtful view of space aliens, especially those with big brains.

Murdin’s book is interesting in a variety of ways, including that it is strongly consistent with two key trends. The first, a megatrend, is that interest in space aliens (as indicated by science, the media, etc.) increases rapidly as we approach a Maslow Window; Click:Citizen Hearing on Disclosure Supports Maslow Forecasts.”

The second trend is a growing science-based view — based on new science about the Earth, Solar System, and our Galaxy — that we may indeed be alone in our Galaxy; Click: “Is Earth Unique? What this “Benchmark Moment” Means for ETs and our Future

Murdin rightly disposes of the Drake Equation, which astronomers have tried to use for ~50 years to estimate the number (N) of high-tech civilizations in our Galaxy, by quoting ASU physicist Paul Davies who, at a 2011 conference in London, described N as “utterly moot,” and concludes that:

It is an unsatisfactory position to be in after fifty years of hard work…

It’s interesting that Murdin chooses to not mention the the well-known ideas of Richard Gott (the Copernican Argument) or Andrew Watson (anthropic model for development of intelligence) to illuminate N. They support Murdin’s bottomline that N is most likely very small.

I was surprised that Murdin included a description of the Roswell UFO story in a book primarily about astrobiology, and then surprised again when he casually dismissed it (“inconsistencies,” “hoaxes”). Actually some of the compelling testimony associated with Roswell and the strange history of government cover-ups (even self-admitted!) to the present day, make Roswell of continuing interest — although not necessarily in the context of ETs.

The reason is that Murdin’s and others’ science-based belief in small N argues against accidental crashes by clumsy space aliens. Click:New Science and Prospects for Visits By Extraterrestrials.”

Murdin saves his best stuff for the last chapter when he admits that,

I changed my mind as I wrote this book … I began … thinking on general grounds that it was impossible for us to be the only intelligent life in the Cosmos. I was rather surprised to find … that it is conceivable that intelligent life on Earth is, to all intents and purposes, unique.

In the stimulating spirit of the approaching 1960s-style Maslow Window and especially of the Rare Earth Hypothesis, he leaves the door open slightly but continues to point to very low N:

If there is complex life elsewhere , it would seem that it is very rare, quite likely not as advanced as humans (possibly hardly advanced at all), and probably a very long way away indeed.

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May 05 2013

Citizen Hearing on Disclosure Supports Maslow Forecasts

This week’s Congressional-style inquiry into the reality of ET contact with humans was very significant, both in terms of its content and what it reveals about our societal trajectory.

Dr. Jesse Marcel, Jr. — who allegedly examined the Roswell crash debris in 1947 — testified last week at the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
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Running from April 29 to May 3 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the “Citizen Hearing on Disclosure” — while not perfect — hit a genuine homerun.

Before I get to the details, here’s the context:

A variety of long-term and current indicators — including macroeconomic (financial Panic of 2008), geopolitical (the Iran-North Korea crisis), technology (the Mach 25 X-37B space plane), and others — suggest strongly that we are rapidly approaching a 1960s-style “critical state,” apparently due to self-organization over decades of the international economic system.

Such twice-per-century “critical states” can be traced back to Lewis and Clark and always dramatically change the world. Although typically preceded by financial panics and geopolitical stress, critical states are best seen through Maslow Windows that are triggered by major JFK-style economic booms and driven briefly by the societal euphoria (“ebullience”) that always follows.

The most recent Maslow Window was in the 1960s and featured an extraordinarily diverse agenda typical of critical states including the Cuban missile crisis, Apollo Moon program, and Peace Corps. A similar transformative, albeit bumpy road is expected with the arrival of the next critical state/Maslow Window — by mid-decade.

Over the last 100+ years, public fascination with intelligent life in space has surged as we approached each new Maslow Window; Click: State of the Wave: ETs Surge to Center Stage
And recent interest in UFOs, extra-solar planet discoveries, and now the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure indicate this pattern is continuing.

The CHD featured an unprecedented gathering of 40 of the world’s most significant UFO researchers and witnesses.

My favorite was the Tuesday afternoon panel on tampering with nuclear ICBM launch sites in the U.S.. Four former USAF personnel (including three officers) violated their security oaths (one, Capt. Schindale, for the first time) by describing multiple examples of UFOs hovering around Minuteman launch sites, including instances where ICBMs were mysteriously disabled by the UFO. The men and their stories continue to be believable and the national security implications are obvious and stunning.

The Wednesday afternoon panel on the UFO crash at Roswell in 1947 was good too; it featured the usual riveting suspects — Kevin Randle, Don Schmitt, and Stan Friedman. It’s always impressive to hear Dr. Marcel describe his first-person view, as an 11-year old, of the Roswell debris that his father brought home directly from the crash site.

During the week, several participants were invited to speculate on rationales for the multi-decade UFO cover-up by the U.S. government. The suggestions ranged from military technology to new game-changing energy sources.

However, on the Friday “Truth Embargo” session, historian-researcher Richard Dolan recounted two stories of the very disturbed emotional states that former President Jimmy Carter and (later) a high-level Reagan official appeared to be in after receiving key classified information regarding the nature of UFOs. Dolan speculated that a fear-factor may also be involved in the cover-up.

The CHD organizers hope that increased exposure of the facts about UFOs to the media and the public will trigger a true Congressional investigation into what the government and all its retired members actually know about UFOs.

And it’s likely the CHD will be a key step in that direction as we begin to become engulfed by the 1960s Camelot-style ebullience of the approaching Maslow Window.

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Dec 24 2012

Merry Christmas 2012 !

Christmas is an official national holiday in the United States and the day that Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ about 2000 years ago.

This year we are being treated to a heavenly sky show involving a dance between the most spectacular planet in the sky — Jupiter — and our favorite satellite — the Moon — which are less than 2 degrees apart on Christmas evening. Click HERE for details.

The Moon and Jupiter are two of the closest friends the Earth has ever had!
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(Courtesy D.A. Seal/JPL)

As you enjoy this cosmic Christmas spectacle, keep in mind that the Moon and Jupiter are credited with playing major roles in making Earth habitable for humans!

For example, Earth’s axial tilt of 23.5 degrees — which produces the annual seasons — is anchored by the Moon’s gravity. In its absence our axial tilt would chaotically vary from 0 to 85 degrees, producing either no seasons and enlarged polar ice caps (for near-zero tilts) or winter-like snows near the equator (for larger tilts). This kind of climate instability would have made life for early humans (i.e., ~200,000 years ago) much more difficult, if not impossible.

Jupiter is traditionally viewed as a comet deflector stationed in the outer solar system, but recent studies indicate its role has been much more proactive and nuanced. For example, its mass and position are apparently tuned to deliver just the right amount of water to Earth (to form its oceans) via ancient asteroid impacts — too much and the continents would have been covered by water and too little and life could not have flourished. Always the cosmic guardian, other asteroids apparently targeted by Jupiter caused mass extinctions on Earth, including the most famous one 65 million years ago that took out the dinosaurs, paving the way eventually for humans.

However, now that the dinosaurs are ancient history and Earth has plenty of water we take a dimmer view of potential Jupiter-inspired asteroid extinction events on Earth. Far from making Jupiter a villain in disguise as some have recently suggested, it appears that Jupiter is continuing in its nurturing/protective role for humanity by encouraging us to learn how to mitigate cosmic threats to Earth by expanding into space.

This process is being accelerated by the approaching transformative Maslow Window, expected to arrive by mid-decade.

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Jun 27 2012

New Science and Prospects for Visits by Extraterrestrials

Decades of sightings of unidentified flying objects that have been archived and studied by scientific groups like MUFON, suggest extraterrestrials may be visiting Earth.

Where might they be coming from?

If new science continues to suggest that we are alone in the Galaxy, how should we rethink famous UFO sightings like Roswell?
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This is a question of growing public interest — a situation typical of times since the 19th century when we are approaching a transformative, 1960s-style Maslow Window (such as now) — as evidenced, for example, by serious meetings in recent years on ETs at the Vatican and the UK Royal Society.

What’s especially interesting is that new scientific data and theories — especially in astrophysics and physics — when applied to intriguing UFOs from around the globe, significantly narrow the range of plausible explanations for UFOs while they expand our worldview.

In one of the greatest space programs ever, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first roughly Earth-size planets in orbit around Sun-like stars, suggesting that — while still quite rare — they may be more common than expected in our Galaxy; i.e., about 2-3% of Sun-like stars may have one.

Using an updated, anthropic version of the Drake Equation — including the latest Kepler data — I estimated last year that it’s likely we are alone in the Galaxy. This point has also been made in more depth by others, including especially UK astrophysicist John Gribbin in his 2011 book, Alone in the Universe:

Even if other earths were common, my view is that while life itself may be common, the kind of intelligent, technological civilization that has emerged on Earth may be unique, at least in our Milky Way Galaxy.

In their stunning JBIS paper of 2005, Deardorff et. al asserted that the UFO problem must now be informed by inflation theory which points to an infinite Universe including the real possibility of a multiverse. They conclude

that current cosmological theory predicts that we should be experiencing extraterrestrial visitation…

Extragalactic visitors or those from other universes (if they exist!) would be fundamentally different than emissaries from nearby stars or Mars. Unlike Klaatu and Gort (who originated from our Solar System), the very distant visitors would require exotic transportation concepts (e.g., wormholes) to physically reach us. This suggests an ultra-civilization that’s 10s or 100s of thousands of years (or more) in advance of us, as opposed to only 100+ years for more local visitors. So their technology would be unfathomable to us; as Deardorff et al. (2005) puts it:

The huge technological head start of the presumed ETs would still come as a great shock to many scientists as well as citizenry … It could be so great as to seriously challenge our consensual reality, a not insignificant danger.

For the moment let’s take these budding scientific paradigms seriously and assume we’re alone in the Milky Way Galaxy (the Empty Galaxy Hypothesis; EGH) but that very, very advanced ETs can visit from other galaxies or other universes (the Infinite Universe Hypothesis; IUH).

Here is a preliminary list of 5 EGH/IUH rules-of-thumb that can guide us as we rethink famous UFO cases:

I. Ultra-ETs are assumed to be living biological entities formerly like humans, but are now extremely advanced. For example, their nanosystems almost instantly detect and fix any system defect to the molecular level, so there will be no vehicle crashes or accidents. With such impressive command over space-time in this and possibly other universes, it’s unlikely that ultra-ETs wil experience any equipment-related or environmental surprises.

II. There will be no direct contact with Ultra-ETs. They are so advanced that it would be of little interest.

III. Radio SETI can be expected to fail and there will be no interstellar Von Neumann Probes due to EGH. VNPs — self-replicating machines that could colonize the Galaxy — would be archaic and unnecessary for Ultra-ETs.

IV. Ultra-ETs will be highly rational, for obvious reasons. But it will often be difficult for us to discern their thought patterns.

V. It is unlikely that ultra-ETs have violent or negative intentions toward each other or toward humans because they would have already exercised them. And we’re still here.

To demonstrate the potential utility of this science-based approach, let’s rethink some famous UFO cases in light of new science (EGH/IUH).

1. Roswell UFO Incident (1947):
Previous Analysis: Stan Friedman and other well-known UFO investigators have traditionally regarded Roswell as evidence of a crashed ET spacecraft complete with alien bodies. Indeed, the story has been subjected to multiple — even self-admitted — government coverups.

EGH/IUH Analysis: EGH suggests the Roswell UFO did not come from our Galaxy, and IUH argues that crashes are not viable (Rule 1). Thus it apparently came from Earth, and may indeed have been a secret military project, although not necessarily one of those specifically mentioned by the U.S.

Similar logic would apply to other alleged UFO crashes, such as Kecksburg, PA in 1965. The Roswell pattern is reinforced by stories of lost NASA documents relating to their investigation of the retrieved UFO. (NASA obviously couldn’t report on their study of a secret military vehicle.)

2. Fr. Gill, Papua, New Guinea (1959):
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Previous Analysis: The presence of 3 dozen+ witnesses watching a large UFO for many hours on 2 successive nights and the testimony of respected Anglican priest William Gill (1928-2007) make the case one of the best of all-time — this includes the 4 human-like creatures on the UFO who waved back to Fr. Gill. Dr. J. Allen Hynek investigated the incident and accepted their stories which imply an ET spacecraft.

EGH/IUH Analysis: This UFO probably did not come from our Galaxy because of EGH. Is it plausible that ultra-ETs who are extragalactic or even extra-universal were hovering for hours in full view of humans near Papua New Guinea while they repaired their spacecraft, and even waved back at the ground? This appears to contradict at least the spirit of Rule I and possibly Rule II above and argues against an Ultra-ET. So the Gill UFO apparently came from Earth. Initially Fr. Gill thought the UFO was an American experimental aircraft!!…and ultimately, he seems to have suggested the most scientifically likely explanation.

3. The Travis Walton Abduction (1975)
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Previous Analysis: This incident remains controversial despite 6 eyewitnesses to the abducting UFO whose basic story was supported by polygraphs, and active police searches for Walton during the 5 days he was missing. Inside the UFO Walton claims to have encountered 3 Greys with large eyes and a few other beings who appeared to be human-like.

EGH/IUH Analysis: The UFO was not native to our Galaxy according to EGH. The presence of both Greys and human-like creatures in the UFO is an interesting detail, but the Walton story suffers from the same issue of most alleged abductions — motive. Why would Ultra-ETs continue to abduct defenseless humans? It contradicts Rule V and suggests that either the event did not occur or Walton was manipulated by an Earth-based attempt to simulate an encounter with ETs, similar to what Jacques Vallee has previously suggested.

4. The Washington, D.C. UFO Sightings (1952):
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Previous Analysis: On two successive weekends numerous UFOs were spotted on both civilian and military radar, and seen from the ground and in the air by pilots and others. The UFOs appeared over the White House, Capitol and Pentagon and when fighter jets were scrambled to intercept them, the UFOs disappeared only to reappear when the jets left. Radar returns measured UFO speeds up to 7000 mph and in one close encounter with multiple UFOs and a jet, the UFOs easily outmaneuvered it. Apparently the Truman White House was concerned enough to issue a shoot-down order for any UFOs that didn’t land when instructed to.

EGH/IUH Analysis: EGH argues against the UFOs being Galactic, but it’s also difficult to imagine anyone from Earth testing secret military hardware over the White House, especially without Truman’s knowledge! This leaves Ultra-UFOs from far away and, with full awareness of Rule IV, invites us to speculate on their motives. Ultra-ETs would not need to test their systems against ours to ascertain their vast superiority, however they might be interested in seeing our reaction to our own helplessness, reminiscent of the Deardorff et al. (2005) quote above.

The theme of high UFO superiority also appears in other UFO incidents such as the Iran UFO of 1976, and the bottomline appears to be the same.

Although some have noted similarities between the celebrated Phoenix Lights of 1997 and the Washington UFOs, it appears more likely that a military explanation suffices for Phoenix.

A FINAL NOTE: None of these very brief discussions should be regarded as conclusive. The point is merely to demonstrate how new perspectives based on new science in astrophysics and cosmology can alter prevous interpretations of UFOs.

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May 07 2012

Sputnik-like Concerns About U.S. Education Linked to Economic Growth

Serious concerns about the quality of the U.S. education system continue to grow. Recently (Wall Street Journal, 5/1/12), former Secretary of State George Shultz and his colleague at the Hoover Institution, Eric Hanushek, have emphasized the need for K-12 reforms in the context of economic growth, income disparity, and global competitiveness.

Annual growth of GDP per capita from 1960 to 2000, is directly correlated with international math test scores.
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In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries’ PISA rankings for 2009 the U.S. ranked only 31st in math — comparable to Portugal or Italy — while 16 other countries dwarfed the U.S. with twice as many “high achievers” per capita in math. Even the state of California — once a national leader in K-12 education — is now ranked behind 40 other states in math achievement, at about the level of Greece.

This kind of performance will condemn the U.S. to a “low-growth path,” and is consistent with record low SAT scores in reading and writing, China’s ascent to world leadership in math and science scores, and even the World Economic Forum ranking the U.S. 48th in quality of math and science education.
For example, click: State of the Wave — 10 Space Trends for 2011. (see #4).

These concerns are reminiscent of Sputnik-era anxieties about U.S. education and technology that triggered the first Space Age, and are harbingers of the approaching new Space Age, as I wrote in 2010:

As we approach the 2015 Maslow Window, legitimate public concerns about the state of education will skyrocket because of anxiety over America’s ability to compete with the rest of the world in space and technology. And it’s already begun.

Shultz and Hanushek suggest that if the U.S. adoped K-12 reforms that made it competitive with Canada — i.e., increasing its PISA scores by 40 points —

The improvement in GDP over the next 80 years would exceed a present value of $70 trillion. That’s equivalent to an average 20% boost in income for every U.S. worker each year over his or her entire career.

In their recent front-page Sputnik-style headline, the Wall Street Journal (4/26/12; D. Wessel, S. Banchero) suggests that an “Education Slowdown Threatens U.S.” Since Lewis and Clark, nearly each successive generation in America has had considerably more education than their parents — until now.

For example, when Babyboomers born in 1955 reached 30, they had almost 2 years more education than their parents, compared with the 30-year-olds born in 1980 who had only 8 months more. This has key implications for increased unemployment and lower wages which typically afflict less educated workers, as well as a lower general standard of living in the U.S.

Thirty years ago the U.S. led the world in young people (25-34) with at least 2 years of college. Since 2009, the U.S. has been superseded by 14 other developed countries. By the way, The Space Report 2012 indicates that China is currently the leader in production of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) university bachelor degrees, having doubled their production between 2002 and 2006.

Part of the reason for the decline in college education in the U.S. is rising tuition costs and large student debt, but the New York Times Sunday page one story (5/6/12; S. Greenhouse) also blames it on:

the worst job market in decades.

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Feb 27 2012

Foreign Affairs Features The Case for Space

The current issue of Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2012) featues “The Case for Space” by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. In 2004 he was appointed by President Bush to the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” Commission, so he is familiar with the range of arguments relevant to U.S. space exploration policy.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D. believes we should spend more time and money reaching for the stars.
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How Much is a New Planet Worth?
Tyson initially grabs our attention by asserting that a manned mission to Mars would “surely cost hundreds of billions of dollars — maybe even $ 1 trillion.” This is a surprising number since the whole 1960s Apollo Moon program cost ~$ 150 B in today’s dollars. To approach $ 1 T you would have to look at a multi-decade program of manned Mars missions, which is not currently in the cards. Zubrin has recently shown how we can fly to Mars by 2016 for far less than the Apollo program.

On the other hand, in 2009 I estimated — based on cost ratios of pre-Maslow MEPs to the major Maslow MEPs over the last 200 years — that the coming Maslow Window (expected by mid-decade) will feature a total MEP expenditure of between $ 1 and 3 T (current USD). But this could include a variety of projects such as manned Mars, lunar bases, and space-based solar power infrastructures.

Because of their large costs, importance to national prestige, and use of high technology, major space programs become political issues, and Tyson highlights what he sees as the end of “immunity to partisanship” of the space program after 2004 when the Shuttle Columbia was lost. It got worse when President Obama took office in 2009. Partly due to his space policies and other controversial issues, Obama is the most polarizing president on record according to Gallup; his rating of 68 (the difference between the percent of Democrats and Republicans who approve of his job performance) is the highest on record for a president’s 3rd year, as were his partisan gaps for his first and second years (65 and 68).

Tyson notes that in the end, Obama’s suggestions for manned Mars missions in the 2030s have not been taken seriously because

When a president promises something beyond his years in office, he is fundamentally unaccountable … The only thing guaranteed to happen on his (Obama’s) watch is the interruption of the United States’ access to space.

While Tyson’s focus on politics is understandable, it misses the real point: Economics is the fundamental problem.

Doesn’t anyone watch Animal Planet anymore?
The last time I checked, when the main waterhole is drying up, disputes become common and everyone tends to be edgy about everything.

The same is naturally happening with the economy today. Negative animal spirits call into question positive visions of the future like space.

Tyson naturally believes — and he is right — that a visionary U.S. space program is the solution to motivating youth and revitalizing the American education system, as well as stimulating innovation and the economy. And most importantly:

The United States will once again witness how space ambitions can shape the destiny of nations.

But he does not emphasize that the fundamental reason we have been trapped in Earth orbit for 40 years (since Apollo) is because of the lack of a JFK-style economic boom that created exuberance by increasing prosperity to virtually every group in society and dropping unemployment to nearly zero.

Two hundred years of macroeconomic and political patterns as well as current global trends suggest we’re on trajectory for the next 1960s-style golden age of prosperity, exploration, and technology… to begin by mid-decade.

The political realignment that began in 2008 is continuing and will determine its exact timing.

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Feb 11 2012

Bruce Joins Board of Editors for “Space and Evolution” Journal

It’s a pleasure to announce that I’m joining the Board of Editors of the journal Space and Evolution. Thanks for the invitation to David Christensen (formerly Lockheed Martin), George Robinson (formerly Smithsonian Institution), and Joerg-Henner Lotze, the Publisher and Director, Eagle Hill Foundation.

Space and Evolution provides a focus on human survival and prosperity through expansion into the cosmos.
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Space and Evolution (SPAEVO) (ISSN 2153-6678) is a new, online inter-disciplinary peer-reviewed journal which serves as a forum for professionals who understand the critical and timely need for the integration of all knowledge pertinent to humankind’s potential for survival and evolution through its exploration of Space, and eventual permanent migration to, and settlement of, Space.

If you have questions about the journal or are interested in possibly writing a manuscript, feel free to contact me (click on “Contact” above).

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Jan 05 2012

Is Earth Unique? What this “Benchmark Moment” Means for ETs and Our Future

Astronomer John Gribbin (Alone in the Universe; 2011) uses the latest astrophysics to make an impressive scientific case that we are alone in our Galaxy.

This is despite several hundred planets currently known to exist around nearby stars, and despite NASA’s recent discovery of Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like stars, as well as the potential for billions of such worlds in our Galaxy of almost one trillion stars.

Even Gort and Klaatu (from “The Day the Earth Stood Still“; 1951) could learn a trick or two from the ultra-ETs — suggested by current astrophysics and physics — that might be visiting us today.
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Despite this “benchmark moment in the history of science” according to Berkeley astronomer Geoffrey Marcy (Wall Street Journal, 12/21/11), Gribbin traces the origin of human intelligence and civilization from the Big Bang to today, and shows that the odds of our development are so small that we are most likely the first high civilization to arise in the Milky Way.

For example, Gribbin points to the origin of the Moon by an impact with a Mars-size body over 4 billion years ago as a pivotal and yet very dicey event. The impact itself had to avoid destroying Earth’s spin (as apparently happened at Venus) and yet excavate and launch into space enough material to form an unusually large Moon that could gravitationally anchor Earth’s axial tilt. Without such a Moon our rotation axis would wobble chaotically due to tugs by Jupiter, Venus and other bodies, and undermine the long-term climate stability conducive to the development of high intelligence and civilization.

Last summer Howard A. Smith of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics also independently found ETs to be scarce in the Galaxy — in American Scientist (July-August, 2011) — as did I last March: Click HERE. I used an updated, anthropic version of the Drake Equation to show that unless a high-tech civilization lives for at least millions of years (highly unlikely) we are probably alone in the Galaxy.

However, other scientists hold contrary views. For example, as I noted in October, 2010:

Following scientific meetings in 2009 at the Vatican on Extraterrestrials, the prestigious UK Royal Society has had not just one, but 2 scientific meetings in 2010 (in January and just last week) to consider if exterrestrials are here on Earth and how to properly greet them.

This current growth of interest in ETs and Earth-like planets is part of a multi-century trend recognized by 21stCenturyWaves.com. It extends back to at least the 19th century and has presaged and figured prominently in each transformative Maslow Window since that time.

For example, just after the financial Panic of 1893 that ultimately led to “Panama fever” and “pole mania” of the early 20th century Maslow Window, it featured the founding of Lowell Observatory in Arizona to study evidence for a highly intelligent canal-building civilization on Mars. Early in the Apollo Maslow Window, Frank Drake began the radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) almost a decade before humans first landed on the Moon in 1969.
For more see: “State of the Wave: ETs Surge to Center Stage.”

If we take Gribbin’s conclusion seriously for a moment, it has a number of intriguing implications for the cosmos, ETs, and our future:

1. If we are the first lofty civilization to develop in our Galaxy then radio SETI should not expect success, and we will never see interstellar Von Neumann machines in our vicinity. But the good news was envisioned by Marshall Savage in The Millennial Project (1992):

The stars are our destiny…Strewn like diamonds…All these treasures are free for the taking. There is no guardian genie. There are no alien owners to be bargained with, no evil empires to be vanquished…The galaxy is free and open now in a way it never will be again.

2. If there are no native ETs in our Galaxy, then UFOs may come from very far away — other galaxies or even other universes — and will require exotic transportation concepts (e.g., wormholes) to arrive here. This is a future that could begin tomorrow or may already be in progress, and was imagined — both the good and bad news — by Deardorff et al. in JBIS (2005):

While the ‘We are alone’ solution to Fermi’s paradox was once a seemingly valid one, this answer is now incompatible with the infinite universe and random self-sampling assumption consistent with inflation theory. We thus find ourselves in the curious position that current cosmological theory predicts that we should be experiencing extraterrestrial visitation…

The huge technological head start of the presumed ETs would still come as a great shock to many … The implication that we would be powerless relative to their presumed capabilities and evolutionary advantage may be most unwelcome … science would have difficulty coming to terms with the situation.

3. If there are no ETs from anywhere, then UFOs may originate from covert, terrestrial sources (e.g., secret military aircraft) and we have arrived in Jacques Vallee’s intriguing world of Messenger’s of Deception (1979):

UFOs may be a control system…there is a genuine technology at work here, causing the effects witnesses are describing. But I am not ready to jump to the conclusion that it is … some kind of “spacemen.”

The social, political, and religious consequences of the (UFO) experience are enormous … over the timespan of a generation… Is the public being deceived and led to false conclusions by someone who is using UFO witnesses to propagate … social conditioning?

and

4. Gribbin’s conclusion scientifically elevates human civilization to the pinnacle of the Galaxy which has important implications for both space colonization and theology:

My view is that while life itself may be common, the kind of intelligent, technological civilization that has emerged on Earth may be unique, at least in our Milky Way Galaxy…

Whether or not you see the hand of God in any of this, it would mean that we are the most technnologically advanced civilization in the Universe, and the only witnesses with an understanding of the origin and nature of the Universe itself.

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