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Could COVID-19 help us understand the current buzz in science media about space aliens?


It’s worth noting that we haven’t established that there are even fossil bacteria on Mars. But we But we are starting to hear more than ever that there are intelligent aliens out there. Most recently from…


Throughout SETI’s 60-year history, a stalwart group of astronomers has managed to keep the search alive. Today, this cohort is stronger than ever, though they are mostly ignored by the research community, largely unfunded by NASA, and dismissed by some astronomers as a campy fringe pursuit. After decades of interest and funding dedicated toward the search for biological life, there are tentative signs that SETI is making a resurgence.

At a time when we’re in the process of building hardware that should be capable of finding signatures of life (intelligent or otherwise) in the atmospheres of other planets, SETI astronomers simply want a seat at the table. The stakes are nothing less than the question of our place in the Universe.

Madeleine O’Keefe, “The real science behind SETI’s hunt for intelligent aliens” at ArsTechnica

and an op-ed at Scientific American:

Recent UAP [unidentified aerial phenomena] sightings, however, have so far failed to generate similar interest among the scientific community [as in the Sixties]. Part of the reason could be the apparent taboo around UAP phenomena, connecting it to the paranormal or pseudoscience, while ignoring the history behind it. Sagan even wrote in the afterword of the 1969 debate proceedings about the “strong opposition” by other scientists who were “convinced that AAAS sponsorship would somehow lend credence to ‘unscientific’ ideas.” As scientists we must simply let scientific curiosity be the spearhead of understanding such phenomena. We should be cautious of outright dismissal by assuming that every UAP phenomena must be explainable.

Why should astronomers, meteorologists, or planetary scientists care about these events? Shouldn’t we just let image analysts, or radar observation experts, handle the problem? All good questions, and rightly so. Why should we care? Because we are scientists. Curiosity is the reason we became scientists. In the current interdisciplinary collaborative environment, if someone (especially a fellow scientist) approaches us with an unsolved problem beyond our area of expertise, we usually do our best to actually contact other experts within our professional network to try and get some outside perspective. The best-case outcome is that we work on a paper or a proposal with our colleague from another discipline; the worst case is that we learn something new from a colleague in another discipline. Either way, curiosity helps us to learn more and become scientists with broader perspectives.

So, what should be the approach? If a scientific explanation is desired, one needs an interdisciplinary approach to address the combined observational characteristics of UAP, rather than isolating one aspect of the event. Furthermore, UAP phenomena are not U.S.-specific events. They are a worldwide occurrence. Several other countries studied them. So shouldn’t we as scientists choose to investigate and curb the speculation around them?

Ravi Kopparapu, Jacob Haqq-Misra, “‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,’ Better Known as UFOs, Deserve Scientific Investigation” at Scientific American

About “our place in the Universe” (ArsTechnica), is there some reason we can’t wait until we find out if we’re not all alone? About “So shouldn’t we as scientists choose to investigate and curb the speculation around them?” (Scientific American), the authors are asking us to believe that renewed investigations would “curb” speculation when they would, in reality, cause it to explode.

Fundamentally, we have found nothing since the Sixties that truly suggests extraterrestrial civilizations. Nothing. If they want to keep looking, fine. Nobody’s stopping them. But spare us the dramatics.

Is it possible that COVID-19 Crazy is sparking interest in odd subjects? Wouldn’t be the first time.


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