In a world where, after all these years, the White House is still accused of hiding space aliens, in “What might they want?” (London Review of Books, November 17, 2011) Jenny Diski reviews The Myth and Mystery of UFOs by Thomas Bullard, from which we learn:
In 1967, astronomers in Cambridge listening to deep space with their new radio telescope heard signals pulsing at precise and regular intervals. One possible explanation they came up with was that they had tapped into an invitation to say hello sent out by intelligent beings from another galaxy. Martin Ryle, the future astronomer royal, was in charge of the group. His response was unambiguous: if they had really found extra-terrestrials they should immediately dismantle the new telescope and not tell a soul about the signals, on the grounds that they wouldn’t be able to resist replying and alerting the possibly hostile aliens to our existence in this cosy, uninvaded corner of the universe. In fact, they had discovered pulsars. Stephen Hawking agrees: ‘If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.’
Some of us see the White House’s accusers as a tabloid version of the elite “Statistics show They’ve gotta be out there!” Sadly astrobiology really is still a discipline without a subject.
It would be so much better if the White House were hiding space aliens, perhaps, in the unfathomable bureaucracy below – some place where their peculiarities had never been much noticed in the general confusion.
Scandal of a day, to be sure, but endless research possibilities for the future. Alas, …