Are We Alone in the Universe?
This presentation was submitted to Mr. Kazi Dawood Hafiz, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Arts and Science, AUST as a part of course performance in the cource English and Sociology (HUM 2110)
"Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."
- Arthur C Clarke
A remarkable quote by one of the greatest science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke tells us about the end result of one of the most popular argument in human history. And in this vast space of emptiness, I’d like to believe that we are not alone in the universe and I hope when I’m finished with my speech, you’ll feel the same too.
When NASA announced the discovery of an Earthlike exoplanet, Keplar-452b just a few weeks ago, the immediate reaction of the public was it might contain alien life. Deep down we all are waiting for the day when a NASA press conference will not only confirm the discovery of an exoplanet, but also introduce us to the alien habitants of it. May be some of us are expecting to meet the Superman or similar guardian angels we see in the movies. Although the possibility of finding a human figured alien can be a matter of joke, there’s no reason for us to be alone in the universe.
The Drake Equation, formulated by Dr Frank Drake to elevate the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence or SETI project, summarizes the main concepts which scientists must contemplate when considering the question of other radio-communicative life. It’s a great way to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations. Since the last four terms are unknown, we need to take some wild guesses. As astronomer Carl Sagan pointed out, even without considering these last four terms, there are possibly a 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone with at least some sort of life forms. And when we consider all 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, it becomes of little doubt that there are certainly other kinds of life in 10 trillion other worlds.
The First Contact
Imagine an isolated tribe living in the depths of a vast forest, oblivious to the modern world. While some of them might wonder if there are other creatures like them, others might pass the thought away as too bizarre to think of. So when the first contact happened between them and modern people, the immediate reaction of them was sheer disbelief. Their ignorance and lack of knowledge didn’t let them realize the existence of people like them before the first contact.
Fermi’s paradox asks, “where are they?” well, there may be numerous reasons why no contact with extraterrestrial life has yet been established. The most widely accepted reason is that, the universe is too big and we started looking only recently. Or may be the mode of communications they’re using is not radio technology. It’s possible that intelligent life is rarer than we think, that our assumptions about the general development or behavior of intelligent species are flawed. It’s also been suggested that maybe when they looked at earth with their radio telescope, it was only the dawn of human civilization, or vice versa. Also, it’s quite possible for them to be situated so far that it’d take millions of years for the signals to reach us. Some theories suggests, maybe extraterrestrial intelligence have promptly destroyed themselves. But the most thrilling theory to me is that, may be we are the first! Everything needs a first and maybe we will be the first to initiate contact with others for the first time. Maybe one day we’ll set on a course for interstellar travel to a planet lightyears away to befriend our neighbors from another galaxy.
While the mathematical possibility of alien life of some form is extremely high, the idea of UFO’s roaming in earth’s sky is equally unlikely. Although there have been many reports of UFO sightings, the evidences backing these stories are too weak. What counts is not what's plausible, not what we'd like to believe, not what one or two witnesses claim. But only what is supported by hard evidence rigorously and skeptically examined. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence which is absent for all the UFO sight reporting. So while we can entertain the idea of contacting with aliens, the visits of UFOs can be safely regarded as myths.
It’s time for me to draw conclusion. I stand firm on my opinion and truly believe the existence of alien life forms. I leave you to ask yourself if you believe so. Do you want to remain merely a citizen of earth or do you want to be a citizen of the Cosmos?