Belmont Club

The Thing From Our World

When there’s something strange in the neighborhood.

One might think that the UFO the amateur astronomer saw was a high altitude surveillance aerostat. But the funding for that sort of thing has been declining of late. Aviation Week wrote about the downturn in funding for aerostats and other persistent surveillance platforms just this week. “(Bad) timing is everything in aerospace. At the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, airships looked to be the answer to demands for persistent, “staring-eye” surveillance. But problems developing the systems – including, surprisingly, the decades-old technology of building a lighter-than-air vehicle – means they are coming along just as the window of opportunity is closing.”

But what is burgeoning under the Obama administration is funding for Green Energy. One of its technologies are high-altitude wind generators, meant to capture “the power of winds high in the sky by use of tether and cable technology”. Some of the proposed generators are untethered.

Wind towers or tethered floating devices are not the only way to harvest energy from the atmosphere as un-tethered flying units are also capable of harvesting wind energy. In order to do away with tethering, the device would need to use the updrafts and ‘dynamic soaring’ using the energy in wind gradients commonly used by soaring birds.

The storage of energy would need to be considered and according to one of the possibilities an air liquefaction machine is set in motion letting the produced liquid air be the energy storing medium. There is no need to forward the liquid air to the ground continuously, e.g. by means of a pipeline. It can be done in distinct doses, in so called „quanta”, by means of GPS-guided parafoils. Another way is applying molten salt energy storage systems, utilizing heat of fusion. Research is going on all over the world to find even larger heat effects for energy storing, e.g. heat of formation of chemical substances instead of heat of fusion.

Whatever the unidentified flying object might be it was probably designed on earth. Despite the most efforts to find extraterrestrial life all the artifacts that have been discovered so far were made by the human race. Though it seems unlikely it is just possible that the human race is all there is.

In 1950, while working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Fermi had a casual conversation while walking to lunch with colleagues Emil Konopinski, Edward Teller and Herbert York. The men discussed a recent spate of UFO reports and an Alan Dunn cartoon facetiously blaming the disappearance of municipal trashcans on marauding aliens. They then had a more serious discussion regarding the chances of humans observing faster-than-light travel by some material object within the next ten years, which Teller put at one in a million, but Fermi put closer to one in ten. The conversation shifted to other subjects, until during lunch Fermi suddenly exclaimed, “Where are they?” (alternatively, “Where is everybody?”). One participant recollects that Fermi then made a series of rapid calculations using estimated figures. (Fermi was known for his ability to make good estimates from first principles and minimal data, see Fermi problem.) According to this account, he then concluded that Earth should have been visited long ago and many times over.

“Where are they?” But then you never know. All that needs to happen is to come into contact one alien artifact, one alien race to answer Fermi’s question. Naseem Taleb argues that we are conditioned by past evidence to assuming something is universally true when it only means that we have not yet encountered the falsifying fact. Our beliefs may be skewed by the incompleteness of our dataset. For centuries it was believed that swans were white.

The phrase “black swan” derives from a Latin expression; its oldest known occurrence is the poet Juvenal’s characterization of something being “rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno” (“a rare bird in the lands, very much like a black swan”) …

Juvenal’s phrase was a common expression in 16th century London as a statement of impossibility. The London expression derives from the Old World presumption that all swans must be white because all historical records of swans reported that they had white feathers. In that context, a black swan was impossible or at least nonexistent. After Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh discovered black swans in Western Australia in 1697, the term metamorphosed to connote that a perceived impossibility might later be disproven.

The significant thing to remember is that alien life is not forbidden in principle. It could happen, and therefore it might have. But then quantum immortality is also possible according to some theorists,  “if the many-worlds interpretation is true, a superposition of the live experimenter necessarily exists, regardless of how many iterations or how improbable the outcome. Barring life after death, it is not possible for the experimenter to experience having been killed, thus the only possible experience is one of having survived every iteration.”

Mark Adler of NASA speculated that the origins of life were somehow bounced around the solar system during an earlier phase of its formation. In that case “life” is already in the universe and to rediscover it in another form will be like finding cousins.

“Earth and Mars exchanged material in the early days when life was forming on Earth,” says the deputy mission manager for the Mars Exploration rovers.

“Was Mars part of our past? Maybe we are the Martians.”

Well if the high altitude structures are the work of environmentalists then they would appropriately be from Little Green Men. That may be more romantic than finding the things were launched by Janet Napolitano.

Keep watching the skies.

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