TZT »« Fox News Officially Divorced from Reality poll

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  1. StevoR says

    Hag on tho’ we know there’s objects in the sky people can’t identify!

    Now okay, most of’em turnout to be Venus but still ..

    Unidentifed flying objects!

    Which ain’t to say natch, that these are flying saucers from Zeta Reticuli .. (& ain’t it funny how we don’t get no flying venusian aliens anymore .. ;-) )

  2. StevoR says

    Until then people, good night. And good morning.”

    THE END.

    Except there’s actually more to that story – its been truncated there and I can’t seem to find the full version anywhere ‘cept on my bookshelf, durnnit.

  3. Ogvorbis says

    Well, hells bells, I’ve seen UFOs. I saw a military transport the other day and I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it was. Didn’t recognize. Could not identify it. And it was flying. And an object.

    I’ve noticed that just about all woo starts to contradict itself within a few theory generations. Or contradicts reality (though that happens even quicker).

  4. lpetrich says

    There are a few things that could be called “real UFO’s”, like ball lightning. There’s some controversy about whether it is an actual physical phenomenon, or something like afterimages.

    “UFO” can be a “UFO” in a relative sort of sense, such as some atmospheric or celestial phenomenon or some technology that is unfamiliar to the observer, like some odd airplane or a hot-air balloon made with candles and plastic bags or a re-entering rocket booster. There are also perception paradoxes like estimating distances or seeming followed around by celestial objects or seeing meteors and the like move upward before moving downward.

    There are several problems with the extraterrestrial spaceship hypothesis of UFO’s, especially with the hypothesis of large fleets of them.

    First, let me dispose of a certain objection made by some UFO skeptics. The ones in our atmosphere need not be the ones that traveled across interstellar space – they could be small explorer craft. Something like a big ship carrying small boats that can reach coastlines. So the well-known difficulties of interstellar spaceflight need not constrain these atmospheric craft.

    Now the problems.

    Why travel with lights on? The purpose of doing so is to advertise one’s presence, which would be inappropriate for a surveillance craft.

    Why no sonic booms with supersonic travel? I’d done some PhD-thesis work involving supersonic motion through a fluid, and I found that it’s awfully hard to get rid of a sonic boom — it’s a shock wave induced by supersonic travel. Boomless supersonic travel would be most desirable for airplane designers, but none has yet succeeded in that.

    Why saucer-shaped ones? It’s likely from Kenneth Arnold’s seeing some distant objects that skipped like saucers. However, that’s not been popular among aircraft designers. The closest approach that they’ve used is the flying wing, and that’s been rare. A missile with thin wings on the side has been *much* more popular, and it has obvious value for lowering air drag.

    Advanced technology? That argument can be stretched to explain *anything*, making the hypothesis meaningless.

  5. says

    The whole flying saucer phenomenon began when we were getting close to spaceflight, and it made sense that Martians or Venusians might have done so before us and were checking us out.

    Then it turned out that there was no intelligent life on other planets, and the idea quit making sense.

    I could see why robot craft might be sent here from light-years away, but not spacecraft containing life. Not unless they’ve made space travel far more cheap and fast that we can imagine, that is.

    So those wanting the probes likely only have their dreams…

    Glen Davidson

  6. David Marjanović says

    So those wanting the probes likely only have their dreams…

    Sleep paralysis.

  7. patterson says

    I had a scare the other day. There appeared to be some kind of Unidentified Farting Object in the house. I was about to call the military but it turned out to be the dog.

  8. StevoR says

    @9.Glen Davidson :

    Then it turned out that there was no intelligent life on other planets ..

    .. And you think there is on *this* one?!

    ‘Course ’tis all relative ..

  9. StevoR says

    Humans are kind of semi-intelligent.

    Sometimes. We have our moments.

    Plus there’s dolphins and bonobos and elephants and chimpanzees and siamangs and orang utans.

  10. StevoR says

    Oh & I almost forgot the octopi!

    Mustn’t forget them and the squid and cuttlefish as well!

  11. sabazinus says

    But, but, all those shows on the History channel! Evidence galore! It’s the History channel, so it must be true…right? right?!?

  12. Pyra says

    I saw something I couldn’t identify when I was a teenager. It was slow-moving and looked like half a blimp lit up, though it was 2 or 3 a.m. and it didn’t seem *likely* to be a blimp. It sauntered across the sky, and never did I see anything mentioning what it might be. Yet, never did I ever think of it as an alien spacecraft. I watched Close Encounters every chance I got, as a kid, so I always did hope to see something more convincing.

  13. jakc says

    I’d much rather have aliens visiting us than angels. It’s a shame they arent, but ….

  14. unclefrogy says

    do aliens = gods and angles (supernatural beings)?

    if we could solve the problems involved in interstellar travel what reason would we have to travel there other than “scientific exploration” or colonization?

    would it be easier to engineer a “new planet” or colonize a planet with an existing biosphere? Given we solved the problems of interstellar travel.

    uncle frogy

  15. grendelsfather says

    I think Calvin and Hobbs got it right (as they did with so many things):

    “Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.”

  16. Sastra says

    One of the contradictions endorsed by the UFO/alien crowd which bothers me the most has to do with their conspiracy theory regarding the “coverup.” Presumably, NASA knows all about the visitors from outer space but keeps it all very hush hush. Because that’s just what NASA would do, right?

    I mean, if they let slip the fact that aliens from other planets were in our sky space, their funding would go right through the roof! Nervous congresspeople and voters would make sure the NASA budget gets an astronomical boost, so they might better examine and understand what we’re dealing with. Most of the scientists and administrators now in NASA would get dozens of new people under them, to handle the heavy load of new work and discoveries. NASA would be on everyone’s radar, the place to be, the hub of excitement and interest.

    Boy, NASA sure wouldn’t want that to happen, would they? Money, fame, and a chance to be right in the frontline of a major advancement — the major advancement — in the space program? Naw, let’s all keep this under wraps. All of us. People might panic. Or something.

    Now that’s just stupid. It’s just the wrong conspiracy theory about the wrong conspirators. Evil government organizations are trying to GAIN power — not throw it away out of some vague and ill-defined sensitive concern or some even vaguer and more poorly designed nefarious purpose.

    Phil Klass, one of the best known and regarded of the UFO skeptics, once said that the idea that everyone in NASA could or would generate and get involved in the kind of massive cover-up they would need here was ludicrous. He had met the people in NASA who would have to be “in on it.” He’d dined with them, gone out for drinks with them, sat with them for many hours. He said that in his opinion none of them could keep a secret about anything — let alone something this major, and in their passionate area of nerdy interest. NASA folks are evidently a sincere and chatty bunch.

    The UFOlogists are wrong on multiple levels. Their wrongness piled up would reach the moon.

  17. Sili says

    He does fail to take into account the possibility that aliens are just arseholes. They could be coming here to taunt us, much like we tear the wings off flies.

  18. says

    One major argument against UFOs, besides the literally DOZENS of other argument, is how aggressively defense contractors lobby Congress and appeal to the public for big-ticket air defense projects. If there were really aliens flying around don’t you think they would be hyping up the “aliens invading our airspace” thing to push for us to buy an F-22 and Patriot battery for every household?

  19. Sili says

    But do we dare ignore the evidence compiled by “The Kids in the Hall”?

    Great. After all the good work on rape jokes, I can’t really enjoy that sketch anymore.

  20. Sili says

    I did see a rather annoying UFO the other night. Most like a satellite that happened to pass through where I was waiting for an Iridium Flare.

    But 1) it wasn’t listed, 2) the direction was odd (downwards towards the horizon) and pretty slow.

  21. says

    I once saw a glowy green thing flying through the sky, about 20 – 30 feet above me, very quickly. To be honest, it looked like a bunch of glowy green things–the closest thing I could analogize it to is a school of flying green fish in formation to look like a stingray, only more organized than you’d normally expect a school of fish to be. And they were too small to tell if they were really fish-shaped or not.

    That was in Nevada. My friend saw it too.

    Any ideas as to what it might be? I’ve been wondering about this for years now.

  22. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    patterson:

    There appeared to be some kind of Unidentified Farting Object in the house. I was about to call the military but it turned out to be the dog.

    You too?
    It’s a conspiracy. The aliens have planted UFartO’s in homes across the world. That’s how they’re going to take over.

  23. says

    Pretty sure there’s life out there somewhere, just given the sheer number of stars in our galaxy alone.

    But given the distances one would have to travel, I doubt anyone from “out there” has ever visited our tiny little corner of existence.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    For a motive to maintain an alien presence on Earth that actually makes sense, read the novel “Crysis; Legion” by Peter Watts.
    It also includes the only possible explanation of why Earthling soldiers in the story (presumably millions of years behind, technologically) could hold their own even for five minutes.
    The explanation is not flattering for humans.
    — — — — — —
    Ball lightning appears to be a real phenomenon, but if it is plasma-related I am not surprised no one has worked out the “nuts and bolts”. Plasma is weird.

    There was some article that showed a correlation between confirmed weird-ass light sightings and tectonically active sites in the USA, but I lack the background knowledge about piezoelectric mineral crystals (for instance) to have an opinion.

  25. KG says

    Pretty sure there’s life out there somewhere, just given the sheer number of stars in our galaxy alone.

    But given the distances one would have to travel, I doubt anyone from “out there” has ever visited our tiny little corner of existence. – WMDKitty

    On the contrary, the absence of alien visitors is strong evidence that either we’re the first technological culture in our galaxy, or such cultures invariably destroy themselves. Either that, or we’re living on a reservation. It would only take a few million years for any culture a little more technically sophisticated than ours to cover the whole galaxy using von Neumann probes.

  26. Menyambal --- Sambal's sockpuppet says

    Half the people on this planet believe that aliens are visiting us. Some of them have their entire self-worth wrapped up in that belief—it would be kinder to beat them to death than to prove aliens don’t visit (if it were possible to prove anything to them).

    Yet NASA can’t admit aliens exist, because it would cause panic.

  27. aziraphale says

    Not all Ufologists are sold on the alien abduction stories. Some just think that there is evidence of something technological in our atmosphere not accounted for by known aircraft.

    I could believe that somewhere in our solar system there are self-replicating probes, sent out long ago for reconnaissance by inhabitants of a nearby system. They would be programmed to observe our system and report back when an interesting technology appeared. They could record our TV broadcasts and satellite internet transmissions, and send the highlights back home. They could be getting new instructions any day now…

  28. lpetrich says

    I remember liking Donald Menzel’s and Philip Klass’s books on UFO’s, like PK’s UFO’s Explained.

    On the other side, I remember George Adamski’s Inside the Space Ships. He claims to have gone aboard some of them and to have met their operators — who look human but better-looking, and who come from Venus, Mars, and Saturn. They claimed that they were very concerned about humanity’s building lots of nuclear bombs (this was 1955) but they were reluctant to intervene in force. From its introduction:

    The latest book to appear concerning the planet Mars has been written by Dr. Hubertus Strughold (This Green and Red Planet). It proves that if our instruments and their information are correct, intelligent organic life as we know it could not last ten seconds on Mars. But Strughold ends by admitting that perhaps we have overlooked some crucial factor and really the only way to be quite sure is for us to travel to the other planets for ourselves and find out firsthand. There is an alternative: that men from these strange worlds come to visit us first.

    Since then, several spacecraft have been sent to both Venus and Mars, and they have reported on the conditions there — we’d die in a few minutes. Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Connection has an amusing argument over the fate of Venera 4, which stopped transmitting on its way down. CS argued the spacecraft had gotten destroyed by Venus’s atmosphere, while his Soviet colleague A.D. Kuzmin had claimed that it had landed on a tall mountain. Later spacecraft did make it to Venus’s surface, though the longest they have survived there is 2 hours.

  29. says

    I’m disappointed. Where are the dozens of posts from people utterly outraged that PZ could dare question that aliens are here and buttprobing people?

    I can think of a bunch of reasons why probes from an advance alien civilisation, if it exists, aren’t here. An obvious one is that, unlike humans, they aren’t interested in doing that kind of thing. Just because we’d be flying to every planet in sight if we had the capability doesn’t mean other creatures will.

  30. Sili says

    I’m disappointed. Where are the dozens of posts from people utterly outraged that PZ could dare question that aliens are here and buttprobing people?

    Those who could rightly be upset, have all been abducted.

  31. Akira MacKenzie says

    Funny, but never underestimate the UFO-loons capacity for special pleading.

    “Well, it wouldn’t take 30 generations if the aliens had some sort of warp drive technology.” (BTW, If I hear about these so-called “loopholes” in relativity that are suppose to allow for FTL-travel, I’m going to gouge my ears out with a olive fork!)

    “Well, an advanced alien species should be able to accomplish equally advanced feats of genetic engineering to create a human/grey hybrid.”

    And so on…

  32. Akira MacKenzie says

    Where are the dozens of posts from people utterly outraged that PZ could dare question that aliens are here and buttprobing people?

    They’re staying away from COMPUTERS, lest the REPTOID-proxies in the CIA and MAJESTIC-12 BOMBARD their FRONTAL LOBES with MIND-ALTERING MK-ULTRA EMP WAVES!

  33. Menyambal --- Sambal's sockpuppet says

    If a slowboat/generation ship had arrived here after many centuries of travel, the present UFO scenario would make sense.

    The aliens wouldn’t be in any hurry to get off their cozy home/ship, but they would have to stay here instead of going back to Snarkobus 7. So they’d hide behind the moon or something, and use their small boats to do lots of research on humans, and then conduct a secret propaganda campaign to be sure they are welcome when they do reveal themselves.

  34. patterson says

    @Tony
    Makes sense, they would trigger them as they flew over your house so you wouldn’t look out the window.

  35. Manu of Deche says

    I’m not even bothered that much by the fact that “they” would have to travel quite some distance for some time. Maybe there is a way around that “light-barrier” (though I doubt it quite strongly, but lets just assume for the heck of it). One thing most of those UFO nuts forget about is the sheer scale of our universe.
    If you wanted to travel to Australia in 1500 CE, you’d need a few weeks worth of travel by sailing vessel. Today we manage to do it within one day (much less if you could cheat and use the ISS). Distance is not the main problem. If you travel along the surface of the Earth, what you basically have is a mildly curved 2D surface. But space is truly four-dimensional, i.e. not only would “they” first have to find us, they’d also better be able to predict our trajectory in space in order to not miss us by millions or billions of kilometers.
    To me, the only remotely likely way to do that, is when you already have knowledge of our puny solar system (space probes?), and you’d be so technically advanced that there was no way we could ever detect them, would they be visiting us. It would be like an ant trying to figure out how a nuclear power plant works.

  36. isilzhaveni says

    Is it wrong that, before I’d die, I’d really LOVE for there to be incontrovertible evidence that extraterrestrial intelligence exists??

    They don’t HAVE to visit, but I’d wish they would!! I also want it to be in MY lifetime, damnit!!

  37. puppygod says

    @KG 33

    On the contrary, the absence of alien visitors is strong evidence that either we’re the first technological culture in our galaxy, or such cultures invariably destroy themselves. Either that, or we’re living on a reservation. It would only take a few million years for any culture a little more technically sophisticated than ours to cover the whole galaxy using von Neumann probes.

    Unless they choose not to. Or they did, but didn’t register it yet – just remember, that out of the 4.5 bln or so years life exist on this planet we have the intelligence and material culture to make us detectable (as in sending radio signals out there) for hundred something. Even if the universe is overflowing with intelligent life-forms it’s highly unlikely that anyone noticed us. And even if they did, the signal bearing news still might be traveling to their nearest outpost.

    Personally, until we have more data, I think that most probable hypothesis is that life is relatively common in the universe, but intelligent life with advanced material culture is extremely rare. And chances of two of them crossing paths – practically nil.

  38. Rip Steakface says

    Nervous congresspeople and voters would make sure the NASA budget gets an astronomical boost,

    I see what you did there.

  39. KG says

    I can think of a bunch of reasons why probes from an advance alien civilisation, if it exists, aren’t here. An obvious one is that, unlike humans, they aren’t interested in doing that kind of thing. Just because we’d be flying to every planet in sight if we had the capability doesn’t mean other creatures will. – timgueguen

    Unless they choose not to. Or they did, but didn’t register it yet – just remember, that out of the 4.5 bln or so years life exist on this planet we have the intelligence and material culture to make us detectable (as in sending radio signals out there) for hundred something. Even if the universe is overflowing with intelligent life-forms it’s highly unlikely that anyone noticed us. – puppygod

    The “they might not want to” argument has to apply to every other technological culture in order to work since, as I already said, there appears to be no technical barrier to a single such culture sending probes to every star in the galaxy (except perhaps those near the central black hole, where conditions might be too hostile) within a few million years. As for “they didn’t register it yet”, such a probe would (a) almost certainly have been here for a long time and (b) almost certainly have the capability to detect a developing technological culture and interact with it long before it started sending out radio signals. Of course it’s possible there are just a few technological cultures and none of them have chosen to send out self-replicating probes; but the Fermi paradox (“Where is everybody?”) really is strong evidence against technological cultures being common – unless we’re on a reservation. If they are common, then almost certainly some are much older than ours, and almost certainly, at least one would have sent out intelligent self-replicating probes.

    Personally, until we have more data, I think that most probable hypothesis is that life is relatively common in the universe, but intelligent life with advanced material culture is extremely rare. And chances of two of them crossing paths – practically nil.

    First sentence – I agree, based on the time it took for life to establish itself here (more or less as soon as there was an ocean), as against the time it took for a technological culture to arise (4.65 gigayears). Second sentence – I disagree completely, for reasons already given.

  40. birgerjohansson says

    Any interstellar travellers would be “strong” AI uploaded into nanotech (smart dust). The low mass would enable them to be accelerated close to C by a laser.

    I don’t see what we would have to say to each other.
    — — — — — — — — — — — — —
    Please read Stanislaw Lem’s excellent “His Masters’ Voice” on the subject of SETI, his “The Invincible” on the subject of alien AI, and, of course, “Solaris” (the recent translation directly from Polish, not the old one).

    You could also read Strugatsky’s “Wayside Picnic” on the subject of garbage left behing by aliens, later made into the film “Stalker”.
    Hint; primitive humans playing around with supertech stuff -even the garbage left behind- is not very safe.

  41. birgerjohansson says

    Everyone in the media keeps conflating “life” and “intelligent life”.

    Existence of life-supporting planets; quite rare among planetary sytems, but not non-existent .

    Existence of prokaryotes/ bacteria analogues among suitable worlds: Likely. They will manifest as pond scum along the beaches of the exooceans.
    .
    Existance of microbe eukaryotes; less frequent but likely.

    Plate teconics combining with oceans and continent formation to keep CO2 levels stable; rare.

    Oxygen-rich atmospheres supporting multicellular life; even more rare.

    Multicellular life evolving to really complex forms before stellar evolution causes runaway greenhouse; Really, really rare.

  42. lpetrich says

    Yes, there are lots of steps on the way, and I recently tried to identify them.

    The Last Universal Common Ancestor of prokaryotes, at least, was rather complex, and it had a lot of evolution between it and the RNA world. It was likely chemoautotrophic, and it had DNA, proteins, and electron-transfer and chemiosmotic energy metabolism. The RNA world itself likely originated from something that used some alternative to ribose, like peptides or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

    From there, photosynthesis emerged twice. Bacteriorhodopsin in certain Archaea, but only as an energy source. Chlorophyll in Eubacteria, as both energy source and electron input for biosynthesis. The best-known form of the latter splits water, though some photosynthetic organisms get electrons from other materials.

    Eukaryotes? Ancestral ones share lots of features, and beyond being some mishmash of various organisms, their origin is a mystery. However, eukaryotes can manage much larger genomes than prokaryotes can.

    Multicellularity? Animal-like differentiated multicellularity originated exactly once, as far as anyone can tell. Most multicellularity is plantlike or funguslike.

    Going into freshwater and onto land is relatively easy. Manipulative organs have evolved several times, and lens-camera at least 3 times (vertebrates, cephalopods, spiders).

    As to intelligence, I’ve seen the “social brain” hypothesis, which suggests a certain lack of motivation for building technology. However, some of us have Asperger’s syndrome, which can make its sufferers more capable of thinking about impersonal sorts of things.

  43. drbunsen, le savant fous says

    flying through the sky, about 20 – 30 feet above me, very quickly. To be honest, it looked like a bunch of glowy green things / a school of flying green fish in formation to look like a stingray / Any ideas as to what it might be?

    Fairies.