Today, belief in aliens is more of a meme topic than a real expectation of making contact with them. But throughout history, mankind has repeatedly turned to the idea of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, sometimes romanticizing them, sometimes using them as a horror story.
According to a recent poll, 20% of Americans believe that aliens have already visited Earth, and 68% believe that extraterrestrial intelligence exists.
Science does not have a definitive answer. Scientists will tell you that the likelihood of life originating in the vast expanses of space is huge, but there is no evidence.
Speaking of aliens, a simple question arises: do you believe in them or not? But what do we really believe or not when it comes to aliens? And why do these questions bother humanity so much?
The first aliens in history were selenites. The legendary Orpheus wrote about the “spacious land” of Selene (Moon), on which “many buildings, mountains and cities” existed.
The ancient Greek philosophers Thales, Heraclitus of Ephesus, Xenophon believed that this heavenly body is inhabited by people, and it lives in the same way as the earthly one.
Heraclitus, from Pontus, may even have been able to communicate with an inhabitant of the Moon who arrived on our planet.
Having learned, among other things, from the works of the ancient Greek predecessors, the astronomers of the New Age found evidence of the correctness of their ancient mentors.
The great Johannes Kepler, for example, wrote about selenites in 1610:
“… they dig huge areas, surrounding them with earth, perhaps in order to extract the bowels of moisture …”
Today, any schoolchild will understand that it’s all about the impact of a meteorite.
The possibility of life on other planets was also reflected in the science of the Renaissance. For example, in the 15th century, Nicholas of Cusa suggested that the universe is infinite, and we are not at its center. Accordingly, life must exist not only on Earth.
So, aliens appeared next to us in Antiquity and hardly changed until the 19th century. They lived on the moon, built cities, and even visited Earth from time to time to converse with ancient Greek philosophers. And then, by the way, they did not have any super-technologies, blasters and other special effects.
Alien life was discovered 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 rock. The aliens were evicted from there, but the former Selenites moved to Mars.
William Herschel talked about the possibility of life on the Red Planet as early as the 17th century. He was the first to prove that the polar caps of Mars decrease and increase depending on the time of year, and suggested that there is water, and therefore life.
So, the alien mind has found a new home in the vicinity of the Earth. In 1877, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli saw channels on the surface of Mars which he named “canals”. The image was blurry, but the scientist claimed to have seen straight lines there. He not interpret his observations in any way, but many of Schiaparelli’s colleagues decided that these depressions clearly arose artificially.
The epic with the Martian channels lasted until the 70s of the 20th century. There were disputes in the professional community, works were written both in defense of the hypothesis of artificial structures on Mars, and against it. However, an analysis of photographs of the surface of the Red Planet taken by Mariner 4 in 1965 showed that the very “straight lines” observed by astronomers of the past were just an optical illusion. In addition, Mars had neither an atmosphere nor a magnetic field. It became obvious that if our space neighbor was once habitable, then these times have 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 infinite. Life doesn’t have to huddle around objects closest to Earth—it can exist billions of light-years away. This means that the habitat of extraterrestrial civilizations has expanded to infinity.
Science and fiction
While scientists were arguing about life in the solar system, science fiction writers decided not to wait for the end of the battle and unleashed an alien invasion on the heads of unsuspecting humans.
H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (1897) is the first classic novel about an alien invasion of Earth. The evil invaders from the vastness of the universe were the Martians, according to the author. 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 beings 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. Wells himself was a biologist by education and, in addition to literature, seriously worked in his 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 established in our minds? What do we want from them? Why do we look forward to this meeting and are afraid of it?
This whole game of finding life on other planets has changed the meaning of God for modern man. Now they have replaced the 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 heaven in heaven and hell under the earth. The man looked through the telescope and found neither God nor angels. Then he flew under the clouds, went into orbit, landed on the moon.
Now, through the lenses of microscopes, we have discovered that bacteria and viruses cause disease, not the punishment given by the gods.
Hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes – the favorite methods of influencing a person that the gods resorted to – are also quite understandable today. Scientific progress has triumphed on all fronts.
The aliens have all the features that the gods have previously endowed us with. They are smarter than us, their civilizations are millions of years old, and the most brilliant inhabitants of the Earth often cannot understand the motives of guests from outer space. Sometimes the representatives of the superior race do not even pay attention to us.
Where are the aliens?
No matter what science fiction authors invent and no matter what people believe, the UFO problem has been of interest to the military over the years. Programs for the study of unidentified flying objects existed in the UK, France, the USA and the USSR.
From 1977 to 1990, a program of the Academy of Sciences for the study of UFOs and other “anomalous 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 follow 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 late 1940s, UFOs began to appear as “luminous lights” and “cigar-shaped objects” moving at great speeds. They are easily detected by jet planes and rockets. And if you remember that all this happened against the background of the riot of science fiction of those years, then the picture is quite clear.
Flying saucers are the most popular type of UFO among people. There have been attempts to build disk-shaped aeronautic equipment since the 1910s. Work on the creation of such machines was carried out by German and US designers in the 1930-50s. Nothing practical came of it, but photographs of the prototypes became proof to many that the US military had contact with extraterrestrial civilizations or tried to reproduce their technologies.
The peak of interest in aliens and UFOs came in the 60s, which is not surprising, given the rivalry in space and the arms race between the USSR and the USA – many dangerous and mysterious things really flew across the sky, most probably with exclusively terrestrial origin.
After a relative lull in the 1970s and 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 TV series The X-Files was launched. Millions of people were involved in the “hunt for little green men”. In 1995, the famous detective film “Alien Autopsy” was released, which for many years remained the Holy Grail for adherents of the alien contact theory. Only in 2006 did the creators of the fake movie confess to everything. However, as often happens, they did not convince many “believers”.
It is easy to find more prosaic explanations for the increased interest in the other world in the 90s. First, the Cold War ended and the world plunged into blissful relaxation. What else to do when the threat of a nuclear apocalypse has passed? Come up with a new one, of course! It’s just not that real.
Secondly, the mass distribution of cheaply edited photos and video equipment gave rise to a wave of new “UFO sightings”. After watching the same X-Files and films like Independence Day, people began to send their hazy pictures to television with blurry photographs and trembling videos of Venus, Mars, jet planes and glass flares.
But do not think that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is at the mercy of ufologists and other exalted enthusiasts. An equation compiled in 1960 by the astronomer Frank Drake, prompted serious scientists to look for alien civilizations. The SETI program has been in operation for almost 60 years, and although researchers pick up some anomalous signals from space from time to time, they are all 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 there should be millions of worlds inhabited by intelligent beings. On the other hand, scientists have not found even 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. Basically, scientists are looking for planets similar in parameters to Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury.
Are we alone in the universe? Humanity may never find the answer to this question, or will know it tomorrow. But we have been inventing aliens for so long and diligently, endowing them with so many human and superhuman qualities that meeting with a real “alien mind” will undoubtedly be the most exciting adventure in history.