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Opinion Relays Edition

The ongoing debate — are aliens real? (Part 1 of 2)

Sager is a sophomore magazines major and can be contacted at sarah.sager@drake.edu.

The belief in aliens feels like hype.

Television shows are popping up everywhere discussing whether or not aliens exist. For some of us it’s more than hype — it’s a belief that we cannot be the only ones in an ever-expanding universe.

In the ’70s people only knew of nine planets. Today, more people think about the possibility of aliens. We have discovered more stars with more planets orbiting them.

Charles Nelson, professor of physics and astronomy at Drake, said from an evolutionary point of view, even if the possibility of a planet with evolutionary potential is one or two in a billion out of 100 billion, that’s 50 to 100 inhabited planets. In the scheme of things, 50 to 100 feels like a substantial number.

There is a reason we haven’t met them or tried to seek them out. It takes a long time to get from one place to another when it comes to space travel.

Einstein said you can’t travel faster than the speed of light. However, we can’t even travel at the speed of light. Nelson said to get an object to the speed of light, it takes an infinite amount of energy — particle acceleration has proven this. It would take 45 years to travel to the nearest star at half the speed of light, but that’s expensive in terms of energy. So to balance with that expense we would be forced to travel at 1/10 the speed of light.

This means a mission to another star would take a lifetime plus 100 years to complete. Because of these time constraints, we wouldn’t attempt the mission.

We often hear of UFO sightings, more often than not on a tabloid’s cover. Nelson said it’s doubtful that these sightings are of aliens. Some are hoaxes, while others are people simply unsure of what they see — a true unidentified flying object.

There are a lot of reasonable arguments against believing in aliens. Science fiction television shows give hope, but pseudo-science diverts us from finding evidence. Credible science requires real evidence, and there currently is none.

Shows like History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” series often make other believers look less credible. The show assumes that ancient cultures were not intelligent enough or did not have the technology to complete these different feats. Nelson said these people had the same IQ possibilities, we just lost track of how to do things by hand because we don’t have to.

“Like the Internet, you have to be careful,” said Herbert Folsom, professor of physics and astronomy. “These shows are made for entertainment. Some are jazzed up. Just like the Internet, they can be a good resource, but you have to take things at face value.”

With all of that space out there, it feels more than a little arrogant to believe we are the only planet with life capable of evolution, but in terms of evidence, there are many things in life we believe in without seeing. Why should life on other planets be such a crazy idea?


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