Wired, Nov. 15, 2002
By Mark Baard
WASHINGTON — Aliens may be right under our noses — we’re just not smart enough to see them.
That was the message last week from UFOlogists at a symposium hosted by The George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.
Speakers at the meeting, “The Potential for Interstellar Travel and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” reviewed the evidence for UFOs, from eyewitness reports and photographs to radar blips and chunks of molten metal.
The speakers also insisted that UFOlogy is a science, not a superstition, and called on the scientific community to quit ridiculing them and instead join them in the search for extraterrestrial life.
“Scientists,” said Bernard Haisch, Ph.D., director of the California Institute for Physics and Astrophysics, are more closed-minded on the subject of UFOs than the general public. Many of them have little or no respect for UFOlogy.”
Dr. Haisch, who studied to be a priest before becoming an astrophysicist, said many scientists are repelled by UFO stories because they attract mystics and religious leaders, who have a lousy track record for promoting scientific inquiry.
“Many scientists,” Dr. Haisch said, “may still be reacting to the (Catholic) Church’s cruelty toward scientists back in the 16th century.”
But today’s theologians may help resolve some of the questions raised by UFO discoveries, said Dr. Haisch.
“Religion,” said Dr. Haisch, “may deepen our insight into UFO phenomena. There may well be deeper things at work than what we’ve already touched upon.”
But UFO skeptics, whom the UFOlogists prefer to call cynics, believe UFOs are strictly a religious phenomenon.
“Everyone wants to believe in something greater than themselves,” said Pat Linse, co-founder of the Skeptics Society. “It’s a part of human nature.”
Linse, who believes that UFOlogy is a retelling of the Christian myth, also said the U.S. military secrecy has also encouraged the faith of UFO believers.
“If you’ve ever been to Roswell, New Mexico,” Linse said, “with all of these strange aircraft flying around, you’d see that it’s not such a great leap to start believing in UFOs.”
The speakers at the GWU symposium seemed to take their inspiration from a more recent, American myth, however. Many dotted their presentations with images and references to the spacecraft and species of Star Trek.
But UFOlogists said they are serious about finding real scientific evidence of visits to Earth by extraterrestrials.
And that evidence may be lurking just outside the range of our current sensors.
“Aliens,” said City University of New York physicist Michio Kaku (http://www.mkaku.org) “may be here now, in another dimension, a millimeter away from our own.”
Dr. Kaku theorizes that the universe exists in 11 dimensions, of which scientists have identified only four.
But scientists, said Dr. Kaku, may also want to take another look at the UFO evidence in our own dimension.
Dr. Kaku said a galactic civilization capable of visiting Earth would have to be as advanced as Star Trek’s Borg, and would likely use nanotechnology to visit Earth.
“We’re always looking for space ships,” Dr. Kaku said. “But what if they are using nanoprobes to explore Earth instead?”
Dr. Kaku asked astrophysicist Jacques Valle, Ph.D., to consider reexamining Valle’s samples of UFO fragments for microscopic structures he might have overlooked.
Physicians, Dr. Kaku added, should also be allowed to examine self-described alien abductees for traces of alien DNA.
“If we could find a piece of nanotechnology,” said Dr. Kaku, “or alien DNA, we would nail this to the wall. There would no longer be a debate.”
But a search for UFOs down to the microscopic level will take resources that UFOlogists do not have.
“Scientists,” said Stanford University physicist Peter Sturrock “are not being encouraged, supported or funded in their UFO research.”
Dr. Sturrock, who has received funding from philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller, said that UFOlogists would gain greater respect if reputable academic journals opened their editorial pages to their research.
Universities also discourage research by not granting tenure to scientists who go out on a limb to study UFOs, said Dr. Kaku.
“It’s a good idea,” Dr. Kaku said, “to start asking these questions only after you get tenure.”