10.16.2011

Hypotheses for Why Aliens Might Be Hiding From Us


Calvin and Hobbes - Bill Watterson
Let’s pretend for a second that aliens wouldn’t be imperialistic, one of the most common anthropocentric characteristics forced onto extra-terrestrials. So, why would they want to stay away from earth? Maybe they’re horrified of our way of life, or maybe we’re just too far away to be worth the bother; maybe they’re watching us right now, or maybe, since they’re aliens and all, their methods of reasoning are a bit different from our own and we won’t be able to figure it out (my money’s on a bit of all of those with an extra emphasis on the last). However, people have managed to come up with a few fairly cool (and creepy) reasons why aliens might be hiding from us.

The Zoo Hypothesis

The galaxy is a zoo, and we’re the ones on display. Ostensibly an answer to the Fermi Paradox, the zoo hypothesis hypothesizes (naturally) that aliens are well aware of our earth-inhabiting selves, and are content just to watch us – for the moment. These aliens are hiding their existence for either of two reasons: one,  they want to observe us in a natural habitat with no outside influence because we’re interesting, or, two, experimental scientists are studying us.

I’m not quite sure which idea is worse. The zoo idea is a bit demeaning, but the idea of being involved in a galactic social experiment is creepier. But either option is better than invasion, destruction, or the occasionally voiced idea that aliens aren’t destroying us because it’s only a matter of time before we destroy ourselves.

This leads me to the good news about the zoo hypothesis. Aliens might be watching us, but proponents of this theory think it’s so they know when we’re more civilized and ready to take our place in the universe.

10.09.2011

Aliens Don't Need Our Resources


A couple posts ago I figured I'd start going over potential motives for an alien invasion. I figured that means, with this post, I'll just start at number one.

1) They could be seeking to make use of the Earth's natural resources.

Alright, here's the deal. I actually didn't want to include this one but since it's one of the most used reasons, I figured I had to at least address it. Point blank: it's retarded. Though I guess that's not enough to convince anybody, so I'll have to go more in-depth.

-sigh-

Okay, I'll be honest -- it's possible that an alien civilization might come to earth for its resources...

It just requires a bunch of assumptions about the aliens. Why? Well, let's think about it. What resources does the earth have? The first thing you might think of is water. Guess what -- water's not that rare in the universe. If you don't feel like reading the link, it basically explains that water is one of the most common molecules in the universe, probably due to the fact that both hydrogen and oxygen are fairly common. Even in our own solar system there are other sources of water. Europa, one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter has a surface almost entirely composed of water that's estimated to be 100km thick. Naturally it's frozen -at least the surface is, though it's thought that there might be either a soft ice or a liquid layer under the frozen layer due to tidal motion - because of its distance from the sun. However, I find it difficult to accept that an alien civilization capable of making the voyage to our solar system would have an issue collecting frozen water. About the only valid reason they might come to earth for water is if they decide liquid water is easier to collect and they're sufficiently advanced that even with us as potential competitors the challenge we pose (hint: none) is less than the challenge posed by collecting frozen water.

Alright, since water's not all that likely, what other resources does the earth have? Not all that many actually. There's a reason we keep hearing rumors about people wanting to mine asteroids and comets. We've got Iron, oxygen, silicon, magnesium, sulfur, nickel, calcium, aluminum, and about 1.2% trace amounts of other elements. In space, there are asteroids composed of iron and nickel; we've gone over oxygen, silicon,is the 7th most abundant element in the universe, magnesium (8th), sulfur (10th) and aluminum (14th). Calcium -once thought to be fairly rare- is now fairly common due to its appearance in the dust left from a supernova. With all of this in mind, it really doesn't make much sense to come to earth for any of these resources, especially since most of them don't actually appear alone in nature on earth but instead as a complex molecule or alloy. 

There's a reason why aluminum was once a precious metal, after all.




Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

10.05.2011

Are There Aliens?


Maybe:

Drake, using the Drake equation in 1961, hypothesized there were 10 detected alien civilizations in the Milky Way. Current estimates range from 2.31 communicative species (and 200 that aren’t interested in, or capable of, reaching others) to 0.000065 on the low side and 20,000 on the high side.

There’s a bit of a disparity, but the biggest and most well-explained section in Wikipedia points to the 2.31 estimate, so there we go.

Another interesting way to go about hypothesizing is to look at the number of planets that could house Earth-like life: Glise 581 d (about 20.5 light years from Earth) is one of the first known Goldilocks – conditions are just right – planets, and University of California Santa Cruz’s astronomy professor Steven Vogt is putting the probability of life at 100%. Maybe not life the exploring the galaxy, but life.

Probably Not (Or, At Least Not Practically):

The Fermi Paradox, in a nutshell, says that if there were intelligent alien life, at our level or above, we would’ve heard about it by now (this is a fair point: if aliens saw the Pioneer plaque, they’d have joined the debate about how appropriate it was to use an arrow symbol). The paradox tacitly agrees with the theoretical possibility of extraterrestrials, but finds the lack of corroborating evidence fairly damning.

Not to throw in an anthropic bias, but a technologically advanced alien race is likely to begin colonization, or at least exploration. Ian Crawford in a 2000 Scientific American article gives even lackadaisical interstellar travel as taking 5 to 50 million years to cover the Milky Way – considering the abundance of stars far more than 50 million years older than our star, there’s a pretty decent window for aliens to set out on their own galactic Lewis and Clark expedition. Since they haven’t (or we can’t observe it), chances are good there’s no one to do so. Of course, we exist, and our newly downsized practically canceled space program brings up the point that there could be limitless numbers of multi-cellular intelligent life, it’s just blocked by bureaucracy and bad budgeting.

Supporters of and contributors to the Fermi Paradox hypothesize a number of reasons why we have no contact with aliens. For one, there aren’t any. Two, they blew themselves up. This particular input is brought about by the thinking that increased technology equals more chances to screw up, and bigger ways to do it, ranging from nuclear catastrophes, chemical contamination, a Brainiac-like super-intelligence that’s more bent on destroying civilization than possessing Lex Luthor, or some sort of other terrible occurrence they brought on themselves (kind of like our ongoing inability to realize that nuclear weapons are bad, and so is destroying the environment). Subtheory #3 is nature-based destruction: tidal waves, gamma rays, eruptions, giant meteorites with no Bruce Willis to save them – things like that.

Even these theoretically extinct civilizations haven’t been found. Some sort of broadcasting, energy output, or any sort of waves, really, would have noticeable, even if the species was wiped out or the planet self-destructed.

But there’s nothing, so chances are there is nothing.

…Until you get to some pretty cool theories as to why aliens might be hiding from us, at least.

Probably, But I Really Hope Not:

Stephen Hawking says aliens are entirely possible, and, if they do exist, they’re probably coming straight for us. And not in the friendly, let’s-spread-the-love intergalactic council sort of way but the ‘oh, cool, free labor and resources’ kind of way, complete with big ships, unimaginably advanced technology, and the kind of tolerance for humans that European imperialists had for natives.

Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

What Do Alien Invasion Novels Even Mean?


They mean it’s time to step onto your soapbox, because something’s wrong with humanity.

In all the subsets of the sci-fi genre, alien invasion seems to be the most weaponized. In most any book about an alien invasion, whether or not the human race dies out, becomes enslaved, goes to war against the aliens, or is cultivated as a food supply, alien invasion novels protest a number of things, usually military hegemony or some other violent societal flaw.

What specific societal evils can be transformed into the unforgivable acts of an evil, apocalypse-causing extraterrestrial race? Overt military power for one, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia. The War of the Worlds (the novel, not the 2005 monstrosity that made nearly everyone hope the director would break with the source material and have Tom Cruise die) set the standard in demonstrating why hostile military takeovers and imperialism really, really suck for at least one side of the equation.

While an overly enthusiastic military presence is an immortal theme, ready and waiting for our constant critique, specific world events are also mirrored in sci-fi, too. Foreign occupation and Cold War paranoia?  Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood Ends, in which the human race has screwed itself so thoroughly we need some Overlords to push us into being civilized. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Jack Finney) induces some McCarthian paranoia where the characters can’t trust anyone because it’s impossible to know who’s still human and who’s an alien disguised as your former best friend – after all, you never know when Donald Sutherland will point his finger at you and rat you out to an aggressive species of extraterrestrial leech-plant seed pods. And then there’s the entertainingly mediocre They Live movie, where capitalists take one for the team and are the bad guys instead of evil, communist aliens. It doesn’t get points for subtlety (how can it when the leading ass-kicker justifies his rampage through lack of bubble-gum instead of some degree of indignation and human camaraderie?), but it’s nice that someone tried to round out the Cold War critiques.

There’s also the catch-all category of aliens telling humans to shape up or die a fiery death. Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar series (which features Nazi Germany as so screwed up aliens can’t figure it out), the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still (again, not the modern remake which makes that aforementioned fiery doom pretty eye-catching), and even Bruce Coville’s My Teacher is an Alien series all feature aliens that are pretty disgusted with our genocidal, polluting, and all-around evil selves.

Voltaire also gets a few points for pre-empting the whole alien invasion genre back in 1752 with Micromégas. There’s nothing like a story that condemns human arrogance by having two giant alien friends visit Earth and think that the planet is uninhabited because humans are so tiny and insignificant. While you can’t call the majority of alien invasion literature subtly refined, this denunciation is a bit blunt. But then, Voltaire lived in exile for a reason.


Social commentary can be a touchy thing – after all, too much protest about the United States’ actions during the Cold War would have swept you up in the Red Scare, blacklisting you from Hollywood’s top slots at best. So, all in all, it used to be safer (and probably still is, once you add the Patriot Act and accidental Guantanamo Bay guests to the mix) to make aliens the bad guys.


Even if they’re really not.

Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

10.02.2011

The Logical Fallacy of Planning for an Alien Invasion


I guess the first thing that should be addressed in any kind of alien invasion scenario (and yet often the most overlooked) is the why. Why are the aliens trying to take our planet? Why are the aliens trying to kill us? Why does country music make their heads explode? And why can't we come to some peaceful resolution with them?

Unfortunately most of these questions are incredibly difficult to answer (which might explain why they're generally ignored) and require a great deal of assumption on our part. Any conceivable (yet realistic) reason we can come up with to explain why an alien race would come to earth is limited by logic (duh). While at first that might seems a bit strange consider this. In 2009 a study was published that determined cats weren't able to solve the same types of logic puzzle that dogs (and humans) could. While some (myself included) decided to use this piece of evidence to settle the eternal war between cats and dogs, Britta Osthaus the psychologist who performed the study came to a much more interesting conclusion; cats think differently not because they are less intelligent but because they have a different system of logic.

Even assuming that Miss Osthaus' is wrong about logic though, we are inherently limited to our own flawed system of logic and our own anthropic bias. Even our system of mathematics, something that I always assumed to be near perfect, has been proven by Godel's Incompleteness Theorem to have inherent problems. What's worse is the only way to truly remove an anthropic bias is to (and I hate saying this cause it sounds like a Disney movie) believe anything is possible.

In other words, any kind of planning we do regarding an alien invasion is bound to our own system of logic and while it's highly unlikely the aliens have the same reasoning we do, I think it's a bit more fun (and terrifying) to pretend they do, if for no other reason than to play-through childish fantasies.

So starting at the beginning; Why would an alien civilization invade earth (assuming of course they aren't just doing it for fun and they aren't killing us because of some slight we've made against them)? Well logically they would do it for any of the basic reasons we humans use to justify invasions. Basically this boils down to three things they could be seeking:

1)They could be seeking to make use of the Earth's Resources. (which I don't actually think is valid)

2)They could be seeking to colonize planets suitable to their species.

3)They could be seeking to liberate us from a perceived oppressor or to educate us.

I guess this means in the next couple posts I'll expand upon these reasons and (if somebody would like to help) debate the validity of these reasons or any additional ones in the comments section.


Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

9.29.2011

Say aliens have invaded Earth -- what do we do now?


Aliens appear in the sky above us. Our reaction is two-fold: we try to open communications, and we simultaneously prepare our frightening but fairly ineffectual nuclear weapons (at the target floating in space, where nuclear explosions don't actually do much damage). After a while some country panics and opens fire, and, like any species capable of high speed space travel that can reach different solar systems logically would, the aliens dismiss the weapons in their own equivalent of a raised eyebrow and eviscerate the threat.

Nearly all humans die.

What happens next?

Well, we don’t really know either, but by all estimates it wouldn’t be pretty. When there are cities like Leicester openly admitting that we aren’t even ready for a zombie apocalypse and the application of a well-placed, well-powered EMP could make parts of Die Hard 4 almost realistic, the picture is definitely dismal.

This blog will form as we, Rachel and Rusty, write about the probable aftereffects about that hypothetical apocalypse. Power sources would become useless, cities would fall apart, and social order of any magnitude would become sketchy at best. Expect links to (and commentary of) international emergency procedures, writing techniques, philosophy, survivalism guidebooks and pretty much anything else under the sun.

There will be excerpts, arguments, scientific theories, and maybe even an offhand zombie reference or two (because regardless of if it’s alien, zombie, or nuclear, an apocalypse is an apocalypse) as we figure out what’s what and what’s likely. So grab your generator, your ham radio, and your most authoritative sci-fi novel, and welcome to:

How to Survive Alien Invasion Novels