Life Beyond Earth

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There are many conspiracy theories about major global events. Many believe Michael Jackson was murdered, the Illuminati ( a secret group) want to rule the entire world, or that the Holocaust never happened, but one of the most interesting conspiracy theories is about life beyond Earth. A conspiracy theory is the idea that important political, economic, or global events happened because of plans carried out by secret groups, unknown to society. 

Area 51 and the Zoo Hypothesis are two alien conspiracy theories and they both began with a man named Robert Lazar. While some scientists believe aliens exist, others aren’t so sure. If aliens do exist, would it be smart to reach out to them? Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking thinks communicating with aliens could be dangerous and that we can’t trust them. James Green, a leader of NASA’s solar exploration says if they do exist, we should reach out, and that there are tools to find them and make contact.

Interest about aliens first began with Area 51, a U.S. military base in Las Vegas. For decades, the site stayed hidden from almost all citizens and it was full of mystery. Satellite images of the area were even deleted from government databases, so people wouldn’t know it existed. Even now, to gain access to Area 51, you need permission to enter from top security and from the highest levels of the military and intelligence community

The mystery surrounding the location was and still is suspicious to many. Some believe that an alien spacecraft crashed in Roswell, New Mexico and the U.S. government sent the spacecraft and an alien’s body to Area 51 to study. Others think that the facility has underground levels and tunnels connecting it to other secret sites. Conspiracy theorists say Area 51 has buildings full of alien technology and living aliens.  

In 1989, Robert Lazar went on tv and told reporters he was part of a military operation that worked on alien technology. He also said the government had nine alien spacecrafts at a base called S-4. Critics looked into the story and found several aspects did not add up. Lazar said he held a master’s degree from California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but there is no evidence he ever attended either university. 

When Lazar heard the media was checking into his background, he claimed the government was trying to get rid of all traces of him to discredit him. Both the Air Force and the Los Alamos National Laboratories denied he ever worked for them. In 2013, a writer tried to contact him for the upcoming 25th anniversary of his tv interview and was told “Mr. Lazar no longer involves himself in matters related to the topic of UFOs.” Much of the public is divided on whether or not Lazar is right and aliens exist, or if he made up the entire story. Even though no one knew whether he was speaking the truth, millions of people became interested in aliens because of his story.  

Another popular theory about aliens is the Zoo Hypothesis; aliens are trying to prevent humans from contacting us so they don’t get in the way of our natural development. In this theory, Earth is a zoo and aliens watch us from their planet to see how we grow and evolve as species. 

James Green an American physicist who works for NASA believes alien life exists on Mars and moons Titan, Europa, and Enceladus. For life to exist, we need three ingredients: water, energy, and organics (things we can eat). Mars, he argues, has all three. The planet has rivers, and the space rover Curiosity showed that water has been flowing on the planet for years. Mars also has evidence of hydrogen, sulfur and other organics, all ingredients necessary for life. 

Enceladus, the sixth largest moon of Saturn, blasts sheets of water all over the solar system and may have heated vents just below the surface. When scientists realized this moon could have vents, they concluded that it must have life because Earth has similar vents, filled with living organisms. Europa, one of the smaller moons orbiting Jupiter, has an ocean and organics, and Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has nitrogen, liquid lakes, and methane, which point to signs of life.

While the prospect of life on other moons and planets is exciting to many experts in the field, Stephen Hawking said intelligent aliens may be robbers and outlaws “roaming the cosmos in search of resources to plunder and planets to conquer and colonize.” In the Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places documentary, Hawking says we may soon receive a signal from a planet or moon. “We should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”

House Committee chairman on Science, Space and Technology Lamar Smith, believes finding alien life would make a huge difference, and we cannot ignore the possibility of other life forms. “Finding other sentient life in the universe would be the most significant discovery in human history,” he said. Seth Shostak a senior astronomer at the Seti Institute in California (the world’s leading organization for finding alien signals) also disagrees with Hawking and feels we have nothing to worry about when it comes to aliens.

 “This is an unwarranted fear,” Shostak says. “If their interest in our planet is for something valuable that our planet has to offer, there’s no particular reason to worry about them now. If they’re interested in resources, they have ways of finding rocky planets that don’t depend on whether we broadcast or not. They could have found us a billion years ago.”

Whether or not scientists agree about embracing contact with aliens, we may already have the tools to find out their location. Astronomers use radio signals and ultra short laser pulses to find extraterrestrial life, but we could also be using less expensive methods. Avi Loeb, an American/Israeli theoretical physicist, believes we should be looking for city lights on planets.  “Looking for aliens would be a long shot, but it wouldn’t require extra resources. And if we succeed, it would change our perception of our place in the universe.”

If aliens use technologies (like lights), today’s advanced telescopes should be able to see light in areas of space occupied by Pluto. While scientists have made many discoveries since Robert Lazar went on tv in 1989, there are questions that still remain. Does alien life really exist? What do aliens know about us and what could they teach us? How can we interact with living beings from space? There could be many pros and cons about contacting alien life, but as of now, the scientific community still isn’t 100% sure aliens exist and if they do, how and when we can approach them.