Watch The Delta IV Rocket Launch Live

photo credit: United Launch Alliance

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That seems to be the motto for the United Launch Alliance, who are currently on their fifth attempt to launch a Delta IV rocket to deploy satellites for the US Air Force. The rocket was originally scheduled to launch last Wednesday, but was scrubbed due to an equipment issue. The launch was also scrubbed on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday because of unfavorable weather at Cape Canaveral. The launch window today (Monday) will open at 6:43 pm EDT. At the time of this writing, the launch is still a go and the weather is 60%.

The rocket will be delivering the first two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites which will allow for more accurate tracking of manmade objects orbiting Earth. The second set of two satellites in the GSSAP program will launch next year.

Also being launched today is a satellite for the Air Force’s Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space (ANGELS) which will help provide information about the environment around space assets. During its one year mission, it will test maneuvering techniques above geosynchronous Earth orbit and has sensors to detect, track, and characterize objects in space.

The launch and surrounding events will be streamed live from 6-10 pm EDT, courtesy of Spaceflight Now. You can check it out right here:



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Vatican preparing statement on extraterrestrial life

Pope Francis is reportedly preparing a major world statement about extraterrestrial life and its theological implications. Rosana Ubanell from Voxxi News today reported that due to advances in scientific detection methods for the discovery of extraterrestrial life, Pope Francis wants to be ready with a statement about “First Contact”. Ubanell reports that details have yet to be officially announced but that the Vatican’s interest in extraterrestrial life is well documented through recent astrobiology conferences the Vatican Observatory has sponsored or participated in. Father Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit astronomer and one of the leading Catholic proponents for preparing for the scientific discovery of extraterrestrial life, on July 18, won the Carl Sagan science medal from the American Astronomical Society. Pope Francis, a fellow Jesuit, regularly consults with Consolmagno and other leading Vatican astronomers about scientific issues. It is likely that Pope Francis is preparing an “Urbi et Orbi” speech – Latin for “to the city [of Rome] and the world” – about First Contact with extraterrestrial life.

The Vatican’s scientific interest in extraterrestrial life was publicly revealed for the first time in May 2008 when the head of the Vatican Observatory, Fr Gabriel Funes, also a Jesuit, gave an interview to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. Funes made a series of startling statements about how extraterrestrial life is likely to be more ethically evolved than humans, and can be welcomed as brothers. In his interview, which was titled “The extraterrestrial is my brother,”Funes said that intelligent extraterrestrial life may not have experienced a ‘fall’, and may be “free from Original Sin … [remaining] in full friendship with their creator.” This makes it possible to regard them as ‘our brothers’ as Funes explained:

Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom… “Why can’t we speak of a ‘brother extraterrestrial’? It would still be part of creation…

Most importantly, Funes’ statement makes possible the idea that Christianity can be exported to extraterrestrial worlds that have not experienced a ‘fall’ and are free from original sin.

Just over a year after his interview, Funes was the organizer of the first ever Astrobiology Symposium held by Pontifical Academy of Sciences in November 2009. Consolmagno and Funes have ever since played leading roles for the Vatican Observatory in presenting a theological perspective on the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Most importantly, both have been leading advisors to Pope Francis about scientific issues concerning the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

What is likely to be the content of Pope Francis’ upcoming statement or possible “Urbi et Orbi” speech about alien life? An important clue is a forthcoming presentation by Fr. Consolmagno at a September 18-19, 2014, astrobiology symposium organized by NASA and the Library of Congress that is titled: “Preparing for Discovery: A Rational Approach to the Implications of Finding Microbial, Complex or Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.”

Consolmagno is a featured presenter and will discuss the theological implications of discovering alien life. His topic, “Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?” suggests that Pope Francis agrees that extraterrestrials are capable of the higher ethics involved in understanding the Christian message and becoming Christians.

If Pope Francis is indeed preparing a statement about extraterrestrial life, it is likely to emphasize that there is no incompatibility in Christian teachings with a belief in extraterrestrial life as Fr. Funes proposed in May 2008. More importantly, Pope Francis is likely to emphasize themes of extraterrestrials: not sharing in original sin; being more ethically evolved; and being capable of sharing the Christian message, and being our brothers.

Not all will welcome a statement from Pope Francis advocating extraterrestrials as brothers and worthy of being baptized into the Christian faith. According to Chris Putnam and Tom Horn, authors of ExovaticanaPope Francis I is preparing to lead the Catholic Church to embrace aliens as “brothers in Christ” – reflective of the 1950s and 1960s contactee reports of benevolent “space brothers.” Putnam’s and Horn’s Exovaticana portends a future religious war between those accepting extraterrestrials as “brothers in Christ” and those believing them to be returning demons about to enslave us. Despite the extensive scholarship found in Exovaticana, it unfortunately skews data towards an overly negative assessment of the motivations of extraterrestrial visitors. Thankfully, the Vatican’s evolving public position, as reflected by statements from its leading astronomers, shows a far more enlightened stance on how to consider the discovery of alien life from a theological perspective. A statement or “Urbi et Orbi” speech from Pope Francis expounding on various themes associated with the view that extraterrestrials are potential “brothers in Christ’ is a welcome position to take on a controversial issue with major world significance.



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The Sun Is Eerily Quiet, And Scientists Aren’t Sure Why

Just a few weeks back the Sun was peppered with sunspots- dark areas stretching thousands of kilometers across that come and go. This was hardly surprising given that it is currently in the middle of its solar maximum– the most active period in the Sun’s 11-year cycle. But in an image taken last Thursday by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory there was not a spot in sight. A day later, one lonely sunspot seemed to be making an appearance, and scientists aren’t quite sure why the Sun is displaying this peculiarly quiet behavior.

According to solar physicist Tony Phillips, while this observation is out of the ordinary, the solar maximum we are currently experiencing is the weakest one for a century.

“It’s weird, but it’s not super weird,” Phillips told LA Times. “It all underlines that solar physicists really don’t know what the heck is happening on the Sun. We just don’t know how to predict the Sun, that is the take away message of this event.”

Sunspots are caused by extremely strong magnetic fields that cause magnetic pressure to increase in an area while the surrounding atmospheric pressure decreases. This then causes a slight drop in temperature as the concentrated magnetic field prevents hot gas flowing from the Sun’s interior to the surface. Sunspots often occur in pairs with the magnetic field pouring out of one and entering the other.

Sometimes the magnetic fields can become twisted, resulting in a huge build-up of energy and massive explosions on the photosphere. These explosions are called Coronal Mass Ejections and solar flares. When sunspots are particular active, resulting in numerous solar flares, geomagnetic storm activity is increased and we see spectacular Northern and Southern Lights.

As Alex Young, a heliophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, points out, it’s difficult to know what can be classed as “normal” behavior from the Sun given that we’ve only been intensively studying it for the last 50 odd years; a speck on its 4.5 billion year history.

As it stands, whether or not this quiet period will continue for an extended period of time remains unknown and highlights the unpredictable nature of our Sun.



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NASA Launches ‘Flying Saucer’ to Test Mars Landing Tech (Video)

ldsd-rocket-powered-test

Nearby Exoplanet Is Best Candidate For Supporting Life

photo credit: Artistic representation of the potentially habitable Super-Earth Gliese 832 c against a stellar nebula background. Credit: PHL @ UPR Arecibo, NASA Hubble, Stellarium

Finding new exoplanets is always awesome, but discovering exoplanets within the star’s habitable zone are exponentially more exciting. A team led by Robert Wittenmyer of the University of New South Wales has announced the discovery of the Super-Earth Gliese 832 c, which could very well turn out to be the best candidate for extraterrestrial life discovered to date. It’s also fairly close, cosmologically speaking, which adds to the intrigue. The team’s paper has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, but has been made available online in an open access format on arXiv.org.

Gliese 832 is a red dwarf star that is located 16.1 light-years away in the constellation Grus. Astronomers discovered a Jupiter analog orbiting the star back in 2009, but its orbit takes nine years to complete; far beyond the star’s habitable zone. Gliese 832 c looks much more promising. Though only two planets in the system are known, it appears to be organized quite similarly to our own solar system.

The planet is about 5.4 times more massive than Earth and has an Earth Similarity Index (ESI) of 0.81, which compares an exoplanet’s radius, escape velocity, surface temperature, and density to Earth. Other exoplanets with similar ESI values include Gliese 667 Cc (ESI 0.84, 22 light-years away) and Kepler-62e (ESI 0.83, 1,200 light-years away). ESI does not account for the planet’s potential habitability, which makes Gliese 832 c a little more of a priority for further analysis.

Gliese 832 c has an orbital period of only 36 days. While this does seem fairly short by our standards, the host star is much smaller and cooler than our Sun. This results in Gliese 832 c getting the same amount of solar energy as Earth. One aspect of Gliese 832 c that could make or break its likelihood of supporting life is its atmosphere. Researchers aren’t certain about the atmosphere’s composition or density. A dense atmosphere would make the planet much too hot for life, and Gliese 832 c would be more like a Super-Venus than Super-Earth. If the atmosphere is not quite as dense, it could have weather patterns somewhat similar to Earth, albeit with greater seasonal variations.

NASA wants to send a quadcopter drone to Titan

NASA wants to send a quadcopter drone to Titan

NASA wants to search Saturn’s moon Titan for life but they’re having trouble coming up with a good way to cover a large territory and obtain samples. Now they think they may have a good solution: A 22-pound quadcopter that will work from a mothership. After reading about it, it’s a really cool idea.

Larry Matthies—a Senior Research Scientist and the supervisor of the Computer Vision Group, in the Mobility and Robotic Systems Section of the JPL in Pasadena, California—thinks that this may be the only solution that can achieve mission objectives—the search for life or prebiotic chemistry in one of the places in the solar system more likely to have it—safely and at low cost and low risk.

A lander will not cut it because it can’t move. They need to explore this world. A balloon or an airplane can easily move, but they can’t be the solution because they can’t access the surface. And a large, long-range helicopter can work, but it is way too expensive and risky. So he combined all of these ideas and came up with something relatively low cost, low risk, and absolutely logical:

We propose a mission study of a small (< 10 kg) rotorcraft that can deploy from a balloon or lander to acquire close-up, high resolution imagery and mapping data of the surface, land at multiple locations to acquire microscopic imagery and samples of solid and liquid material, return the samples to the mothership for analysis, and recharge from an RTG on the mothership to enable multiple sorties.

Boom. He argues that this is only possible now because of the recent development in robotics and drones here on Earth:

Prior studies have shown the feasibility of aerial mobility on Titan for larger aircraft, from 10 to 400 kg, but none of these studies were in the size range we address and none addressed the daughtercraft, sampling, and recharging scenarios we address.

This concept is enabled now by recent advances in autonomous navigationand miniaturization of sensors, processors, and sampling devices. It revolutionizes previous mission concepts in several ways.

For a lander mission, it enables detailed studies of a large area around the lander, providing context for the micro-images and samples; with precision landing near a lake, it potentially enables sampling solid and liquid material from one lander.

For a balloon mission, it enables surface investigation and sampling with global reach without requiring a separate lander or that the balloon be brought to the surface, which has potential for major cost savings and risk reduction.

And the cool thing is that these drones will be able to fly back to base, return the samples or data, recharge their battery thanks to the nuclear power generator in the mothership, and take off for another flight.

The idea is pretty revolutionary in practice, but not something that we haven’t seen in science fiction movies: Little drones quickly exploring large areas and returning with information to the mothership or base spaceship.

Matthies says that these low cost drones can change not only the exploration of Titan, but any other world. Imagine that Curiosity had a couple of these low cost drones on its back right now. Scientists could quickly fly them to recognize terrain ahead and even retrieve samples to bring back to Curiosity. Then researchers would be able to set new mission objectives according to this information.

And that, my friends, sounds like the future of autonomous planetary exploration to me.

New “Godzilla Planet” Is 17 Times Heavier Than Earth

photo credit: The newly discovered ‘mega-Earth’ Kepler-10c dominates the foreground in this artist’s conception. Its sibling, the lava world Kepler-10b, is in the background. Both orbit a sunlike star / David A. Aguilar (CfA)

 

Among the haul of hundreds of new planets discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope, many have qualified as super-Earths — worlds that are several times larger than Earth, are rocky like our own, and reside in the habitable zones of their stars. But never before had scientists detected a world like Kepler-10c, a “mega-Earth” that looks a lot like home but is 17 times heavier than our planet.

When Kepler first spied this new planet, astronomers measured its diameter to be 29,000 kilometers, or about 2.3 times larger than Earth’s. That would have been remarkable, but not recording-setting. However, when scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) looked at Kepler-10c using the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands, they measured the planet’s mass and found it to be so heavy that it must be made of rocks and other dense materials.

Kepler-10c orbits a star similar to the Sun, located about 560 light years from here. It completes an orbit once every 45 days. And this new finding annouced today about its mass could have profound impacts on the search for life out there among the stars.

Scientists would have thought that any planet as heavy as Kepler-10c would be a gaseous world such as Jupiter and Saturn. Indeed, many of the first exoplanets to be discovered were “hot Jupiters” — gas giants located close to their stars. But life as we know it needs to live on a hard, rocky planet or moon. The discovery of such a gigantic rocky world opens up the possibility of many more potentially habitable planets throughout the galaxy.

Furthermore, new research proposes a link between how long it takes for a planet to orbit its star and how large a rocky planet can grow. That would suggest rocky planets can be bigger the farther you get from the star. If this correlation is true, it would mean that astronomers will find even more mega-Earths as they search for exoplanets with longer orbital periods. (Many of the worlds newly discovered by Kepler are relatively close to their stars.)

This new mega-Earth also means that astronomers could look to very old stars for potentially habitable planets. Kepler-10c orbits a star that formed just 3 billion years after the Big Bang, and scientists had thought it make taken the first few billion years of the universe’s existence just for exploding stars to form enough heavy elements for rocky planets to form.

“Finding Kepler-10c tells us that rocky planets could form much earlier than we thought. And if you can make rocks, you can make life,” lead researcher Dimitar Sasselov says in a press release.

The work was presented today at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Boston.

[Via Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics]

Image: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

Read more at http://www.iflscience.com/space/new-godzilla-planet-17-times-heavier-earth#JAhO7XWSpkrz7Eg8.99

The Fermi Paradox

Everyone feels something when they’re in a really good starry place on a really good starry night and they look up and see this:

 

Stars

 

Some people stick with the traditional, feeling struck by the epic beauty or blown away by the insane scale of the universe. Personally, I go for the old “existential meltdown followed by acting weird for the next half hour.” But everyone feels something.

Physicist Enrico Fermi felt something too—”Where is everybody?”

________________

 

A really starry sky seems vast—but all we’re looking at is our very local neighborhood. On the very best nights, we can see up to about 2,500 stars (roughly one hundred-millionth of the stars in our galaxy), and almost all of them are less than 1,000 light years away from us (or 1% of the diameter of the Milky Way). So what we’re really looking at is this:

 

Milky Way

 

When confronted with the topic of stars and galaxies, a question that tantalizes most humans is, “Is there other intelligent life out there?” Let’s put some numbers to it (if you don’t like numbers, just read the bold)—

As many stars as there are in our galaxy (100 – 400 billion), there are roughly an equal number of galaxies in the observable universe—so for every star in the colossal Milky Way, there’s a whole galaxyout there. All together, that comes out to the typically quoted range of between 1022 and 1024 total stars in the universe, which means that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.

The science world isn’t in total agreement about what percentage of those stars are “sun-like” (similar to our sun in size, temperature, and luminosity)—opinions typically range from 5% to 20%. Going with the most conservative side of that (5%), and the lower end for the number of total stars (1022), gives us 500 quintillion, or 500 billion billion sun-like stars.

There’s also a debate over what percentage of those sun-like stars might be orbited by an Earth-like planet (one with similar temperature conditions that could have liquid water and potentially support life similar to that on Earth). Some say it’s as high as 50%, but let’s go with the more conservative 22% that came out of a recent PNAS study. That suggests that there’s a potentially-habitable Earth-like planet orbiting at least 1% of the total stars in the universe—a total of 100 billion billion Earth-like planets.

So there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world. Think about that next time you’re on the beach.

Moving forward, we have no choice but to get completely speculative. Let’s imagine that after billions of years in existence, 1% of Earth-like planets develop life (if that’s true, every grain of sand would represent one planet with life on it). And imagine that on 1% of those planets, the life advances to an intelligent level like it did here on Earth. That would mean there were 10 quadrillion, or 10 million billion intelligent civilizations in the observable universe.

Moving back to just our galaxy, and doing the same math on the lowest estimate for stars in the Milky Way (100 billion), we’d estimate that there are 1 billion Earth-like planets and 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.[1]

SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is an organization dedicated to listening for signals from other intelligent life. If we’re right that there are 100,000 or more intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, and even a fraction of them are sending out radio waves or laser beams or other modes of attempting to contact others, shouldn’t SETI’s satellite array pick up all kinds of signals?

But it hasn’t. Not one. Ever.

Where is everybody?

It gets stranger. Our sun is relatively young in the lifespan of the universe. There are far older stars with far older Earth-like planets, which should in theory mean far more advanced civilizations than our own. As an example, let’s compare our 4.54 billion-year-old Earth to a hypothetical 8 billion-year-old Planet X.

 

Planet X

 

If Planet X has a similar story to Earth, let’s look at where their civilization would be today (the orange is a reference to show how long these timelines really are):

 

Planet X vs Earth

 

The technology and knowledge of a civilization only 1,000 years ahead of us could be as shocking to us as our world would be to a medieval person. A civilization 1 million years ahead of us might be as incomprehensible to us as human culture is to chimpanzees. And Planet X is 3.4 billion years ahead of us…

There’s something called The Kardashev Scale, which helps us group intelligent civilizations into three broad categories by the amount of energy they use:

Type I Civilization has the ability to use all of the energy on their planet. We’re not quite a Type I Civilization, but we’re close (Carl Sagan created a formula for this scale which puts us at a Type 0.7 Civilization).

Type II Civilization can harness all of the energy of their host star. Our feeble Type I brains can hardly imagine how someone would do this, but we’ve tried our best, imagining things like a Dyson Sphere.

Dyson Sphere

Type III Civilization blows the other two away, accessing power comparable to that of the entire Milky Way galaxy.

If this level of advancement sounds hard to believe, remember Planet X above and their 3.4 billionyears of further development (about half a million times as long as the human race has been around). If a civilization on Planet X were similar to ours and were able to survive all the way to Type III level, the natural assumption is that they’d probably have mastered inter-stellar travel by now, possibly even colonizing the entire galaxy.

One hypothesis as to how galactic colonization could happen is by creating machinery that can travel to other planets, spend 500 years or so self-replicating using the raw materials on their new planet, and then send two replicas off to do the same thing. Even without traveling anywhere near the speed of light, this process would colonize the whole galaxy in 3.75 million years, a relative blink of an eye when talking in the scale of billions of years:

 

Colonize Galaxy

Source: Scientific American – Where Are They?

 

Continuing to speculate, if 1% of intelligent life survives long enough to become a potentially galaxy-colonizing Type III Civilization, our calculations above suggest that there should be at least 1,000 Type III Civilizations in our galaxy alone—and given the power of such a civilization, their presence would likely be pretty noticeable. And yet, we see nothing, hear nothing, and we’re visited by no one.

So where is everybody?

_____________________

 

Welcome to the Fermi Paradox.

We have no answer to the Fermi Paradox—the best we can do is “possible explanations.” And if you ask ten different scientists what their hunch is about the correct one, you’ll get ten different answers. You know when you hear about humans of the past debating whether the Earth was round or if the sun revolved around the Earth or thinking that lightning happened because of Zeus, and they seem so primitive and in the dark? That’s about where we are with this topic.

In taking a look at some of the most-discussed possible explanations for the Fermi Paradox, let’s divide them into two broad categories—those explanations which assume that there’s no sign of Type II and Type III Civilizations because there are none of them out there, and those which assume they’re out there and we’re not seeing or hearing anything for other reasons:

Explanation Group 1: There are no signs of higher (Type II and III) civilizations because there are no higher civilizations in existence.

Those who subscribe to Group 1 explanations point to something called the non-exclusivity problem, which rebuffs any theory that says, “There are higher civilizations, but none of them have made any kind of contact with us because they all _____.” Group 1 people look at the math, which says there should be so many thousands (or millions) of higher civilizations, that at least one of them would be an exception to the rule. Even if a theory held for 99.99% of higher civilizations, the other .001% would behave differently and we’d become aware of their existence.

Therefore, say Group 1 explanations, it must be that there are no super-advanced civilizations. And since the math suggests that there would be thousands of them just in our own galaxy, something else must be going on.

This something else is called The Great Filter.

The Great Filter theory says that at some point from pre-life to Type III intelligence, there’s a wall that all or nearly all attempts at life hit. There’s some stage in that long evolutionary process that is extremely unlikely or impossible for life to get beyond. That stage is The Great Filter.

 

Great Filter

 

If this theory is true, the big question is, Where in the timeline does the Great Filter occur?

It turns out that when it comes to the fate of humankind, this question is very important. Depending on where The Great Filter occurs, we’re left with three possible realities: We’re rare, we’re first, or we’re fucked.

 

1. We’re Rare (The Great Filter is Behind Us)

One hope we have is that The Great Filter is behind us—we managed to surpass it, which would mean it’s extremely rare for life to make it to our level of intelligence. The diagram below shows only two species making it past, and we’re one of them.

Great Filter - Behind Us

This scenario would explain why there are no Type III Civilizations…but it would also mean that wecould be one of the few exceptions now that we’ve made it this far. It would mean we have hope. On the surface, this sounds a bit like people 500 years ago suggesting that the Earth is the center of the universe—it implies that we’re special. However, something scientists call “observation selection effect” says that anyone who is pondering their own rarity is inherently part of an intelligent life “success story”—and whether they’re actually rare or quite common, the thoughts they ponder and conclusions they draw will be identical. This forces us to admit that being special is at least a possibility.

And if we are special, when exactly did we become special—i.e. which step did we surpass that almost everyone else gets stuck on?

One possibility: The Great Filter could be at the very beginning—it might be incredibly unusual for life to begin at all. This is a candidate because it took about a billion years of Earth’s existence to finally happen, and because we have tried extensively to replicate that event in labs and have never been able to do it. If this is indeed The Great Filter, it would mean that not only is there no intelligent life out there, there may be no other life at all.

Another possibility: The Great Filter could be the jump from the simple prokaryote cell to the complex eukaryote cell. After prokaryotes came into being, they remained that way for almost two billion years before making the evolutionary jump to being complex and having a nucleus. If this is The Great Filter, it would mean the universe is teeming with simple prokaryote cells and almost nothing beyond that.

There are a number of other possibilities—some even think the most recent leap we’ve made to our current intelligence is a Great Filter candidate. While the leap from semi-intelligent life (chimps) to intelligent life (humans) doesn’t at first seem like a miraculous step, Steven Pinker rejects the idea of an inevitable “climb upward” of evolution: “Since evolution does not strive for a goal but just happens, it uses the adaptation most useful for a given ecological niche, and the fact that, on Earth, this led to technological intelligence only once so far may suggest that this outcome of natural selection is rare and hence by no means a certain development of the evolution of a tree of life.”

Most leaps do not qualify as Great Filter candidates. Any possible Great Filter must be a one-in-a-billion type thing where one or more total freak occurrences need to happen to provide a crazy exception—for that reason, something like the jump from single-cell to multi-cellular life is ruled out, because it has occurred as many as 46 times, in isolated incidents, just on this planet alone. For the same reason, if we were to find a fossilized eukaryote cell on Mars, it would rule the above “simple-to-complex cell” leap out as a possible Great Filter (as well as anything before that point on the evolutionary chain)—because if it happened on both Earth and Mars, it’s clearly not a one-in-a-billion freak occurrence.

If we are indeed rare, it could be because of a fluky biological event, but it also could be attributed to what is called the Rare Earth Hypothesis, which suggests that though there may be many Earth-likeplanets, the particular conditions on Earth—whether related to the specifics of this solar system, its relationship with the moon (a moon that large is unusual for such a small planet and contributes to our particular weather and ocean conditions), or something about the planet itself—are exceptionally friendly to life.

 

2. We’re the First

We're the First

For Group 1 Thinkers, if the Great Filter is not behind us, the one hope we have is that conditions in the universe are just recently, for the first time since the Big Bang, reaching a place that would allow intelligent life to develop. In that case, we and many other species may be on our way to super-intelligence, and it simply hasn’t happened yet. We happen to be here at the right time to become one of the first super-intelligent civilizations.

One example of a phenomenon that could make this realistic is the prevalence of gamma-ray bursts, insanely huge explosions that we’ve observed in distant galaxies. In the same way that it took the early Earth a few hundred million years before the asteroids and volcanoes died down and life became possible, it could be that the first chunk of the universe’s existence was full of cataclysmic events like gamma-ray bursts that would incinerate everything nearby from time to time and prevent any life from developing past a certain stage. Now, perhaps, we’re in the midst of an astrobiological phase transition and this is the first time any life has been able to evolve for this long, uninterrupted.

 

3. We’re Fucked (The Great Filter is Ahead of Us)

We're fucked

If we’re neither rare nor early, Group 1 thinkers conclude that The Great Filter must be in our future. This would apply that life regularly evolves to where we are, but that something prevents life from going much further and reaching high intelligence in almost all cases—and we’re unlikely to be an exception.

One possible future Great Filter is a regularly-occurring cataclysmic natural event, like the above-mentioned gamma-ray bursts, except they’re unfortunately not done yet and it’s just a matter of time before all life on Earth is suddenly wiped out by one. Another candidate is the possible inevitability that nearly all intelligent civilizations end up destroying themselves once a certain level of technology is reached.

This is why Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom says that “no news is good news.” The discovery of even simple life on Mars would be devastating, because it would cut out a number of potential Great Filters behind us. And if we were to find fossilized complex life on Mars, Bostrom says “it would be by far the worst news ever printed on a newspaper cover,” because it would mean The Great Filter is almost definitely ahead of us—ultimately dooming the species. Bostrom believes that when it comes to The Fermi Paradox, “the silence of the night sky is golden.”

 

Explanation Group 2: Type II and III intelligent civilizations are out there—and there are logical reasons why we might not have heard from them.

Group 2 explanations get rid of any notion that we’re rare or special or the first at anything—on the contrary, they believe in the Mediocrity Principle, whose starting point is that there is nothing unusual or rare about our galaxy, solar system, planet, or level of intelligence, until evidence proves otherwise. They’re also much less quick to assume that the lack of evidence of higher intelligence beings is evidence of their nonexistence—emphasizing the fact that our search for signals stretches only about 100 light years away from us (0.1% across the galaxy) and has only been going on for under a century, a tiny amount of time. Group 2 thinkers have come up with a large array of possible explanations for the Fermi Paradox. Here are 10 of the most discussed:

Possibility 1) Super-intelligent life could very well have already visited Earth, but before we were here. In the scheme of things, sentient humans have only been around for about 50,000 years, a little blip of time. If contact happened before then, it might have made some ducks flip out and run into the water and that’s it. Further, recorded history only goes back 5,500 years—a group of ancient hunter-gatherer tribes may have experienced some crazy alien shit, but they had no good way to tell anyone in the future about it.

Possibility 2) The galaxy has been colonized, but we just live in some desolate rural area of the galaxy. The Americas may have been colonized by Europeans long before anyone in a small Inuit tribe in far northern Canada realized it had happened. There could be an urbanization component to the interstellar dwellings of higher species, in which all the neighboring solar systems in a certain area are colonized and in communication, and it would be impractical and purposeless for anyone to deal with coming all the way out to the random part of the spiral where we live.

Possibility 3) The entire concept of physical colonization is a hilariously backward concept to a more advanced species. Remember the picture of the Type II Civilization above with the sphere around their star? With all that energy, they might have created a perfect environment for themselves that satisfies their every need. They might have hyper-advanced ways of reducing their need for resources and zero interest in leaving their happy utopia to explore the cold, empty, undeveloped universe.

An even more advanced civilization might view the entire physical world as a horribly primitive place, having long ago conquered their own biology and uploaded their brains to a virtual reality, eternal-life paradise. Living in the physical world of biology, mortality, wants, and needs might seem to them the way we view primitive ocean species living in the frigid, dark sea. FYI, thinking about another life form having bested mortality makes me incredibly jealous and upset.

Possibility 4) There are scary predator civilizations out there, and most intelligent life knows better than to broadcast any outgoing signals and advertise their location. This is an unpleasant concept and would help explain the lack of any signals being received by the SETI satellites. It also means that we might be the super naive newbies who are being unbelievably stupid and risky by ever broadcasting outward signals. There’s a debate going on currently about whether we should engage in METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence—the reverse of SETI, which only listens) or not, and most people say we should not. Stephen Hawking warns, “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.” Even Carl Sagan (a general believer that any civilization advanced enough for interstellar travel would be altruistic, not hostile) called the practice of METI “deeply unwise and immature,” and recommended that “the newest children in a strange and uncertain cosmos should listen quietly for a long time, patiently learning about the universe and comparing notes, before shouting into an unknown jungle that we do not understand.” Scary.[2]

Possibility 5) There’s one and only one instance of higher-intelligent life—a “superpredator” civilization (kind of like humans are here on Earth)—who is far more advanced than everyone else and keeps it that way by exterminating any intelligent civilization once they get past a certain level. This would suck. The way it might work is that it’s an inefficient use of resources to exterminate all emerging intelligences, maybe because most die out on their own. But past a certain point, the super beings make their move—because to them, an emerging intelligent species becomes like a virus as it starts to grow and spread. This theory suggests that whoever was the first in the galaxy to reach intelligence won, and now no one else has a chance. This would explain the lack of activity out there because it would keep the number of super-intelligent civilizations to just one.

Possibility 6) There’s plenty of activity and noise out there, but our technology is too primitive and we’re listening for the wrong things. Like walking into a modern-day office building, turning on a walkie-talkie, and when you hear no activity (which of course you wouldn’t hear because everyone’s texting, not using walkie-talkies), determining that the building must be empty. Or maybe, as Carl Sagan has pointed out, it could be that our minds work exponentially faster or slower than another form of intelligence out there—e.g. it takes them 12 years to say “Hello,” and when we hear that communication, it just sounds like white noise to us.

Possibility 7) We are receiving contact from other intelligent life, but the government is hiding it.This is an idiotic theory, but I had to mention it because it’s talked about so much.

Possibility 8) Higher civilizations are aware of us and observing us but concealing themselves from us (AKA the “Zoo Hypothesis”). As far as we know, super-intelligent civilizations exist in a tightly-regulated galaxy, and our Earth is treated like part of a vast and protected national park, with a strict “Look but don’t touch” rule for planets like ours. We wouldn’t be aware of them, because if a far smarter species wanted to observe us, it would know how to easily do so without us noticing. Maybe there’s a rule similar to the Star Trek’s “Prime Directive” which prohibits super-intelligent beings from making any open contact with lesser species like us or revealing themselves in any way, until the lesser species has reached a certain level of intelligence.

Possibility 9) Higher civilizations are here, all around us, but we’re too primitive to perceive them.Michio Kaku sums it up like this:

Lets say we have an ant hill in the middle of the forest. And right next to the ant hill, they’re building a ten-lane super-highway. And the question is “Would the ants be able to understand what a ten-lane super-highway is? Would the ants be able to understand the technology and the intentions of the beings building the highway next to them?”

So it’s not that we can’t pick up the signals from Planet X using our technology, it’s that we can’t even comprehend what the beings from Planet X are or what they’re trying to do. It’s so beyond us that even if they really wanted to enlighten us, it would be like trying to teach ants about the internet.

Along those lines, this may also be an answer to “Well if there are so many fancy Type III Civilizations, why haven’t they contacted us yet?” To answer that, let’s ask ourselves—when Pizarro made his way into Peru, did he stop for a while at an anthill to try to communicate? Was he magnanimous, trying to help the ants in the anthill? Did he become hostile and slow his original mission down in order to smash the anthill apart? Or was the anthill of complete and utter and eternal irrelevance to Pizarro? That might be our situation here.

Possibility 10) We’re completely wrong about our reality. There are a lot of ways we could just betotally off with everything we think. The universe might appear one way and be something else entirely, like a hologram. Or maybe we’re the aliens and we were planted here as an experiment or as a form of fertilizer. There’s even a chance that we’re all part of a computer simulation by some researcher from another world, and other forms of life simply weren’t programmed into the simulation.[3]

________________

 

As we continue along with our possibly-futile search for extraterrestrial intelligence, I’m not really sure what I’m rooting for. Frankly, learning either that we’re officially alone in the universe or that we’re officially joined by others would be creepy, which is a theme with all of the surreal storylines listed above—whatever the truth actually is, it’s mindblowing.

Beyond its shocking science fiction component, The Fermi Paradox also leaves me with a deep humbling. Not just the normal “Oh yeah, I’m microscopic and my existence lasts for three seconds” humbling that thinking about the universe always triggers. The Fermi Paradox brings out a sharper, more personal humbling, one that can only happen after spending hours of research hearing your species’ most renowned scientists present insane theories, change their minds again and again, and wildly contradict each other—reminding us that future generations will look at us in the same way we see the ancient people who were sure that the stars were the underside of the dome of heaven, and they’ll think “Wow they really had no idea what was going on.”

Compounding all of this is the blow to our species’ self-esteem that comes with all of this talk about Type II and III Civilizations. Here on Earth, we’re the king of our little castle, proud ruler of the huge group of imbeciles who share the planet with us. And in this bubble with no competition and no one to judge us, it’s rare that we’re ever confronted with the concept of being a dramatically inferior species to anyone. But after spending a lot of time with Type II and III Civilizations over the past week, our power and pride are seeming a bit David Brent-esque.

That said, given that my normal outlook is that humanity is a lonely orphan on a tiny rock in the middle of a desolate universe, the humbling fact that we’re probably not as smart as we think we are, and the possibility that a lot of what we’re sure about might be wrong, sounds wonderful. It opens the door just a crack that maybe, just maybe, there might be more to the story than we realize.

 

To humble you further:

Putting Time In Perspective

4 Mind-Blowing Things About Stars

 

Sources:
PNAS: Prevalence of Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like stars
SETI: The Drake Equation
NASA: Workshop Report on the Future of Intelligence In The Cosmos
Cornell University Library: The Fermi Paradox, Self-Replicating Probes, and the Interstellar Transportation Bandwidth
NCBI: Astrobiological phase transition: towards resolution of Fermi’s paradox
André Kukla: Extraterrestrials: A Philosophical Perspective
Nick Bostrom: Where Are They?
Science Direct: Galactic gradients, postbiological evolution and the apparent failure of SETI
Nature: Simulations back up theory that Universe is a hologram
Robin Hanson: The Great Filter – Are We Almost Past It?
John Dyson: Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation

ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment

***QUICK NOTES ABOUT HDEV VIDEO***

Black Image = International Space Station (ISS) is on the night side of the Earth.
Gray Image = Switching between cameras, or communications with the ISS is not available.
No Audio = Normal. There is no audio on purpose. Add your own soundtrack.

For a display of the real time ISS location plus the HDEV imagery, visit here: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/HDEV/

The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment aboard the ISS was activated April 30, 2014. It is mounted on the External Payload Facility of the European Space Agency’s Columbus module. This experiment includes several commercial HD video cameras aimed at the earth which are enclosed in a pressurized and temperature controlled housing. Video from these cameras is transmitted back to earth and also streamed live on this channel. While the experiment is operational, views will typically sequence though the different cameras. Between camera switches, a gray and then black color slate will briefly appear. Since the ISS is in darkness during part of each orbit, the images will be dark at those times. During periods of loss of signal with the ground or when HDEV is not operating, a gray color slate or previously recorded video may be seen.
Analysis of this experiment will be conducted to assess the effects of the space environment on the equipment and video quality which may help decisions about cameras for future missions. High school students helped with the design of some of the HDEV components through the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program. Student teams will also help operate the experiment. To learn more about the HDEV experiment, visit here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/917.html

5-perfil-do-planeta-terra-tendo-ao-fundo-espaco-sideral

Citizen Hearing On Disclosure

By Foster Gamble

 

Introduction

Are we being visited by ETs? And if so…so what?

My research in living geometry and frontier science led me into the realms of advanced knowledge encoded by ancient cultures and into “new energy” technologies that transcend the understanding of traditional physics. To my great surprise these discoveries compelled me to open my mind to the possibility that we are actually being visited by extra-terrestrials. How does all of this tie together? Let’s see…

I have been shown a vast amount of compelling evidence suggesting that UFOs of extraterrestrial origin (referred to by the military as AVCs — Alien Visitation Crafts, as opposed to ARVs — Alien Reproduction Vehicles, which are man-made advanced anti-gravity craft) exist and have been contacting and communicating with humans for many years — perhaps even centuries. This has huge implications. If other intelligent life is capable of getting here, then there must be ways to not only transcend space-time as we know it, but also to access energy in an abundant way that surpasses the capacity of any energy source currently employed on earth. It implies that we too could get off of fossil fuels, create more sustainable energy systems and go voyaging among the stars.

Unfortunately, my research proves that the UFO phenomenon has been deliberately suppressed by world governments and military powers and in turn dismissed by the public due to ridicule and disinformation. When I explored the facts and distinguished between common myths, hard evidence, and speculation, I found fascinating, paradigm-shifting evidence and insight for the existence of advanced life beyond Planet Earth. It appears that we are not just members of the world, but of the cosmos, and that there is much to be learned from other-worldly civilizations.

Crunching the Numbers

By simply looking at the numbers it seemed to me illogical and arrogant to assume that humans are the only intelligent life. Our sun is only one of about 400 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way, which is approximately 100,000 light years in diameter. The Milky Way is only one galaxy among hundreds of billions in the recognized Universe. What are the odds we’re the only sentient beings?

According to a poll conducted in 2007, roughly one-third of Americans believe in UFOs and 14% say they have seen a UFO.

Recent UFO Disclosure

I was stunned to learn that governments, military officials, pilots, and astronauts are increasingly disclosing information about UFOs.

Citizen Hearing on Disclosure

On April 29–May 3, 2013 in Washington D.C., testimony was given before former members of Congress by researchers, activists, and political, military, and agency representatives from 10 different countries, compiling over 30 hours of testimony on evidence of extraterrestrial visitors in contact with life on earth.

Government Disclosure

The UK Ministry of Defence has released hundreds of UFO files — with thousands of pages of documentation — for the public to see in its National Archives. France has also opened up more than 1,600 UFO cases to the public. And in 2004, Mexico’s Secretary of National Defense authorized the release of UFO video footage from a military aircraft.

Military Disclosure

Steven Greer’s “Disclosure Project” has identified over 400 witnesses from the military and intelligence community — including the CIA, NSA, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army — who are willing to testify about their experiences with UFO and ET visitation. At the National Press Club on May 9 of 2001, many ofthese witnesses came forth and provided evidence to the media, asking the American Congress to officially investigate the subject and grant immunity to these witnesses. The issue has since been largely ignored and no further action has been taken by government.

Astronaut Disclosure

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the 6th person to walk on the moon, and Gordon Cooper, one of the seven original astronauts in Project Mercury, have both encountered UFOs and spoken out about their experiences.

“I have no doubt that aliens have visited this planet.”

— Edgar Mitchell

“I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which obviously are a little more technically advanced than we are here on Earth.”

— Gordon Cooper

More Compelling UFO Cases

CNN — Larry King Live — UFOs Are They For Real?

Larry King interviews military officials, political figures, and UFO experts about some of the most remarkable UFO sightings.

Footage of UFOs from Mexican Military Plane

Multiple UFO’s were captured on video by Mexican pilots in 2004. Mexico’s Secretary of Defense authorized the release of this video footage.

Phoenix Lights

In 1997 thousands of people in Arizona reported seeing mysterious lights over Phoenix. No official explanation was ever given. It’s one of the biggest UFO sightings in history.

UFOs in Ancient Art

UFOs are not only a recent phenomena. They have been reported and recorded throughout history. Even cave drawings dating back thousands of years depict alien-like figures and flying objects in the sky. This is just a small sampling of UFOs in ancient art. There is some controversy around these images. Of course we can’t know the original experience of the artists, however, the vast number of similar looking alien-figures that appear all around the world, begs the question…could they be ancient alien visitors?

Valcamonica, Italy, c. 8,000 BC

Sahara Desert, North Africa, c. 6,000 BC

Australia, c. 2,000 BC

Utah, 2,000 BC to 500 AD

Abydos, Egypt, c. 1200 BC

Sigiburg Castle, France, 776 AD

Japan, 900 AD

Windsor Castle, England, 1783

Suppression

I became convinced by mountains of reputable testimony that the U.S. government is suppressing critical data about UFOs and ET contact, even as other governments around the world are disclosing more and more information. The American government covers up evidence by denying eyewitness accounts, confiscating military records and video footage, and suppressing information from people who claim to have direct contact with ETs.

Steven Greer, director of the Disclosure Project, suggests that suppression of UFOs is also tied to the oil industry. Because UFOs don’t rely on fossil fuels, the knowledge their capabilities point to threatens to put the oil industry out of business.

Denial of Eyewitness Accounts

A common tactic used by the government and mainstream media to suppress UFO sightings is to deny eyewitness accounts and provide alternative explanations. They frequently point to swamp gases, light aberrations, atmospheric phenomena, weather balloons, misidentified aircraft, and hoaxes. For example, in January of 2008 dozens of witnesses reported seeing a UFO in Stephenville, Texas. Despite compelling witness accounts, the military discounted the event pointing to “optical illusions” and “superior mirages.”

Confiscation of UFO Documentation

If people don’t see compelling pictures or videos of UFOs, then it’s harder to believe. The government knows this, and they have been confiscating important UFO documentation for years.

Suppression of ET Contactees

Some people claim to have direct contact with ETs. Among them are James Gilliland and Lane Andrews, who both had similar, but separate, experiences with ETs. Gilliland and Andrews have been repeatedly harassed by government agencies and closely followed.

Gilliland is the founder of the Enlightened Contact with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (ECETI) organization. For years, he has invited others to his 70-acre retreat in Trout Lake, Washington to witness UFOs where sightings happen frequently. The sightings are documented on his website.

Lane Andrews reports being taken on an ET spacecraft. After the experience she produced very complex drawings of the ship and described that it was propelled by a colorful energy field in the shape of a torus.

Richard Dolan, one of the top UFO researchers thoughtfully explains all the implications that disclosure would have and why it is a “paradox that is impossible but also inevitable.”

Crop Circles

Could UFOs be sharing key information with us through crop circles?

I have been deeply moved by the phenomenon of so-called “crop circles” that have been appearing with greater frequency all over the world for the last twenty years. They are most often found in England near sacred ancient sites but they have also appeared in such countries as the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Russia, and Israel.

While some crop circles are clearly hoaxes, most are remarkably intricate geometric patterns that appear in the middle of the night and are virtually impossible to replicate without taking a great deal of time and leaving traces of the task. Some of the unique features of crop circles that lead me to believe that many of them are of extraterrestrial origin are:

  • The plants are bent in some peculiar way at a 45–90 degree angle at the node junction near the base of the stalk in a spiraling pattern in such a way that they stay alive.
  • Plants within crop circles have longer nodes than those in undisturbed surrounding crops.
  • Reproductive capacities of plants in crop circles are severely altered. Immature crops will often be incapable of producing seeds or produce stunted seedlings while mature crops will often experience a significant increase in growth-rates.
  • Holes are often blown out of nodes on crop circle plants, also referred to as expulsion cavities. This has only been replicated in a lab by heating plants up in a commercial microwave for 20–30 seconds.
  • Many people report malfunctioning of electrical equipment within or around crop circles including photographers, pilots, and nearby residents. It has even been reported that cell phones will sometimes stop functioning within the boundaries of crop circles and work perfectly just outside of them. This suggests that crop circles may be produced by electromagnetic radiation that leaves behind concentrated energy fields.

I believe many of these crop circles may well be communications from advanced civilizations from beyond our planet, who are contacting us with key information about the way energy works in the universe. What more important message could we receive as pollute the air we breathe, fight to take the oil under other people’s land and risk nuclear annihilation of life as we know it on this planet. There is even high level testimony that UFOs are helping protect ourselves from the dangers of our own nuclear weapons.

The fundamental patterns of the torus and the vector equilibrium, the shapes of the primary flow and structure of energy show up in hundreds of crop circles. Could they be showing us a way to access clean, abundant energy? A key to traveling through space-time?

The entities responsible for the genuine patterns are sometimes even more explicit in their communication. In 2001 a crop circle showed up next to the Chilbolton Radio Telescope in England. It appeared to be a response to a transmission message sent out from the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico in 1974. The original message sent from Earth described basic human features such as our number system, important biological elements, DNA structure, shape of the human figure, world population, location of Earth within our solar system, and an image of the Arecibo dish transmitter that was used to send it into space. Crop circles in 2001 appeared to be a response — using the same code, they depicted aliens with larger heads, a different DNA structure, and other relevant information.

Implications and Conclusions

Full disclosure of the ET and UFO phenomena could dramatically transform the quality of life on this planet. It has the potential to alleviate poverty worldwide, by allowing for new energy technologies to emerge, and shifting geo-political power on a massive scale. Right now multiple industries have a vested interest in maintaining secrecy and suppressing UFO evidence — particularly oil, gas, and coal companies. However, if we can expose the suppression, reveal the truth about ET visitation, and further develop new energy technologies that ETs apparently rely on, then we can decentralize power and make massive strides toward a thriving future.