Today, believing in aliens is more a topic for memes than a real expectation to make contact with them. But throughout history, mankind has repeatedly turned to the idea of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, then romanticizing them, then using them as a horror story.
According to a recent survey, 20% of Americans believe that extraterrestrial species have already visited Earth, and 68% believe that extraterrestrial intelligence exists.
There is no single answer from science. Scientists will tell you that the probability of the origin of life in the vast expanses of space is huge, but there is no evidence.
Talking about aliens, a simple question arises: do you believe in them or not? But what do we actually believe or not when it comes to aliens? And why do these issues generally concern humanity so much?
The First Aliens
The first aliens in history were the Selenites. Legendary Orpheus wrote about the “vast land” Selena (Moon), on which “there are many buildings, mountains, and cities.” Ancient Greek philosophers Thales, Heraclitus of Ephesus, Xenophon believed that this celestial body is inhabited by the nation, and it lives just like the earthly one. And another Heraclitus, from Pontus, was possibly even able to communicate with a resident of the moon that came to our planet.
Having learned, among other things, from the works of ancient Greek predecessors, the astronomers of New time found evidence of the correctness of their ancient mentors. Great Johannes Kepler, for example, wrote about the selenites in 1610: “… they dig huge areas, surrounding them with the ground, maybe to get the depths of moisture …” Today, any student will understand that this all is about a meteorite impact crater.
The possibility of life on other planets was also reflected in the science of the Renaissance period. For example, in the 15th century, Nicholas of Cusa suggested that the Universe is infinite, and we are not in its center. Accordingly, life must exist not only on Earth.
So, the aliens appeared next to us in Antiquity and almost did not change until the 19th century. They lived on the moon, built cities, and even from time to time visited Earth to chat with the ancient Greek philosophers. And then, by the way, they did not have any super technologies, blasters and other special effects.
Alien life on was found a long time ago
Progress accelerated, and by the second half of the 19th century, it became obvious to astronomers that the Moon was a lifeless piece of stone. The aliens were evicted from there, but the former selenites moved to Mars.
William Herschel spoke of the possibility of life on the Red Planet in the 17th century. He was the first to prove that the polar caps of Mars are decreasing and increasing depending on the season, and suggested that there is water, and therefore life.
So, the alien mind has found a new residence in the vicinity of the Earth. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli saw channels on the surface of Mars that he called “canali.” The image was blurry, but the scientist claimed to had seen straight lines there. He himself did not interpret his observations in any way, but many of Schiaparelli’s colleagues decided that these depressions were clearly originated artificially.
The saga with Martian channels lasted until the 70s of the 20th century. There were disputes in the professional community, some works were written both in defense of the hypothesis of artificial structures on Mars and against it. However, the analysis of images of the surface of the Red Planet taken by the Mariner 4 in 1965 showed that the very “straight lines” observed by astronomers of the past were just an optical illusion. In addition, there was no atmosphere or magnetic field on Mars. It became obvious that if our cosmic neighbor was once suitable for life, then these times passed millions of years ago.
However, even earlier, in the 1920s, astronomer Edwin Hubble proved the existence of other galaxies and made the Universe truly endless. Life does not have to huddle at the objects closest to the Earth – it can exist billions of light-years from us. This means that the habitat of extraterrestrial civilizations has expanded indefinitely.
Science and fiction
While scientists were arguing about life in the solar system, sci-fiction writers decided not to wait for the end of the battle and brought down an alien invasion on the heads of unsuspecting earthlings.
Herbert Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1897) was the first classic novel about the invasion of space aliens on Earth. Evil invaders from the vastness of the universe were, according to the writer, precisely the Martians. We can say that this book marked the beginning of the “era of invasions” on Earth.
For the first time, guests from outer space appeared in it as creatures completely alien to man. The novel not only gave rise to a lot of imitations, but also became a real bible for several generations of writers, and also inspired many prominent researchers.
In general, scientists and science fiction writers worked side by side and often combined these professions altogether. Wells himself was a biologist by education and, in addition to literature, seriously worked on the main specialty. Isaac Asimov studied chemistry, and Arthur Clarke graduated from King’s College London with degrees in physics and mathematics.
Why do we need aliens?
Why are aliens from distant worlds so firmly settled in our minds? What do we want from them? Why are we looking forward to this meeting and afraid of it?
This whole game to search for life on other planets has changed the meaning of god for the modern man. Now, they have replaced gods with aliens.
The Renaissance, the industrial and scientific revolutions of the eighteenth and twentieth centuries changed beyond recognition the archaic picture of the world with a paradise in heaven and hell underground. The man looked through a telescope and found neither God nor angels. Then he flew under the clouds, entered orbit, landed on the moon.
Now, through the lenses of microscopes, we found bacterias and viruses cause diseases, not a punishment given by gods.
Hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes – the favorite methods of influencing a person that the gods resorted to – are also quite explainable today. Scientific progress has triumphed on all fronts.
Aliens possess all the traits that we previously endowed with the gods. They are smarter than us, their civilizations are millions of years old, and the most brilliant inhabitants of the Earth often cannot comprehend the motives of guests from outer space. Sometimes, representatives of a higher race do not even pay attention to us.
Where are aliens?
No matter what science fiction authors invent or whatever people believe, the UFO problem in different years has been of interest to the military. Programs for the study of the unidentified flying objects existed in the UK, France, the USA, and the USSR.
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From 1977 to 1990, the program of the Academy of Sciences for the study of UFOs and other “abnormal phenomena” worked in the Soviet Union. For 13 years, the commission has collected and analyzed hundreds of eyewitness accounts.
UFOs began to appear at the end of the 19th century and still remain a favorite topic of the yellow press and various interesting personalities. However, it is easy to trace a simple pattern. Interest in alien ships arises simultaneously with the beginning of the active development of aeronautics.
Then eyewitnesses described the alien transport as airships or “balloons in the sky.” By the end of the 1940s, UFOs began to appear in the form of “luminous lights” and “cigar-shaped objects” moving with great speed. It’s easy to guess jet planes and missiles in them. And if you recall that all this happened against the backdrop of a frenzy of fiction in those years, then the picture is quite clear.
Flying saucers are the most popular type of UFO among people. They tried to build disk-shaped aeronautics since the 1910s. Work on the creation of such machines was carried out by German and American designers in the 1930–50s. Nothing practical came of it, but photos of the prototypes became for many a proof that the USA military had contacts with extraterrestrial civilizations or tried to reproduce their technologies.
The peak of interest in aliens and UFOs occurred in the 60s, which is not surprising, given the rivalry in space and the arms race between the USSR and the USA – a lot of dangerous and mysterious things really flew across the sky. True, exclusively of terrestrial origin.
After the relative lull of the 1970–80s, in the 90s, there was a new surge of interest in the topic of aliens and UFOs. This was due to several circumstances.
In 1993, the most popular series The X-Files was launched. It involved millions of people in the “hunt for green men.” In 1995, the famous mystery film “Alien Autopsy” released, which for many years remained the Holy Grail for adherents of contact theory. Only in 2006, the creators of the fake confessed everything. However, as often happens, they did not dissuade many “believers.”
The increased interest in the other world in the 90s is easy to find more prosaic explanations. First, the Cold War ended, and the world was in a state of blissful relaxation. What else to do when the threat of a nuclear apocalypse has passed? Come up with a new one, of course! Just not so real.
Secondly, the massive spread of cheap photo and video equipment has spawned a shaft of new “UFO sightings”. Having watched all the same “X-Files” and films like “Independence Day,” people began to send their murky pictures to television with muddy photographs and trembling videos of Venus, Mars, jet planes and glare on glass.
But do not think that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence left at the mercy of ufologists and other exalted enthusiasts. The equation, drawn up in 1960 by astronomer Frank Drake, prompted serious scientists to search for alien civilizations. The SETI program has been running for almost 60 years, and although from time to time researchers catch some abnormal signals from space, they all end up being of natural origin.
With his equation, Drake tried to answer the Fermi paradox. The situation is really amazing: on the one hand, in our galaxy should be millions of worlds inhabited by intelligent creatures. And on the other hand, scientists have not even found a hint of at least some traces of their activities.
Today, one of the promising methods for detecting possible life in the Universe is the search for terrestrial exoplanets. These are celestial bodies that have a certain mass, density, and chemical composition and are located in the habitable zone of stars. In general, scientists are looking for planets that are similar in parameters to Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury.
Are we alone in the universe? Mankind may never find the answer to this question or will know it tomorrow. But we have so long and diligently invented aliens, endowed them with so many human and superhuman qualities that meeting with a real “alien mind” will undoubtedly be the most exciting adventure in history.