When I was an intern doing a rotation in the emergency department, on one particularly busy shift a nurse commented (to no one in particular) that it must be a full moon. I habitually look at the moon and generally know what phase it is in (right now it is a waxing gibbous, almost full), and so I knew at the time that in fact there was a crescent moon in the sky. I informed her of this. She gave a disappointed look and then went on with her work without any apparent further thought on the matter.
The episode struck me at the time. It seemed to me that I just witnessed a clear example of confirmation bias – what if it had been near a full moon? That would have confirmed her prior belief in a lunar effect, while this negative correlation was brushed aside and likely did not have any negative effect on her belief. (Although, my interpretation and memory of this event can itself be an example of confirmation bias regarding confirmation bias.)
Belief in the so-called lunar effect, that the phases of the moon exert an influence on human behavior with the most common element being a full-moon inducing extreme behavior, is very common. In my experience it is one of the most common pseudoscientific beliefs I encounter in the general public. One survey indicates that 43% of adults believe in the lunar effect, especially mental health professionals, including nurses.
When someone expresses such a belief to me I often use it as an opening to discuss skeptical principles. While belief in the lunar effect is widespread, it is usually not part of any emotionally held religious or ideological belief. It is therefore an excellent teaching opportunity. One question I like to ask is, “how do you think that works?” The most common answer I receive is probably the least plausible – that the tidal effects of the moon influence the brain because the brain is sitting in water (spinal fluid).
The tidal effect answer is incredibly implausible for a number of reasons.
By Chip Taylor via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI
With a half a century plus of interest in UFOs, astronomy, and science, I’ve despaired that in all that time I’ve never seen a real UFO. (With emphasis on what the “U” stands for of course.) I’ve seen bolides (really bright meteors), nighttime aerial refueling operations by USAF jets, odd contrails, space satellites, balloons, kites, birds, and insects. Some of these were initially unidentified, but only for a brief moment. Thus it was fascinating, weird, puzzling, and astonishing that in September of 2012 I actually got to see a real UFO that didn’t seem to fit any sort of known aerial object.
On a pleasant Sunday afternoon I was participating in a ham radio contest on Block Island, which is about a dozen miles off the Rhode Island mainland. It was one of those casual contests where there is plenty of free time to enjoy the day and watch the views. And there were a lot of things to watch. My friend and I were on an open roof deck of a house on the highest point of the Island on a crystal clear day with visibility to the horizon. Binoculars at hand, I was watching planes come and go at the nearby airport, sailboats off shore, an advertising blimp hovering between Narragansett and Newport, and birds flying about. Not a thing out of the ordinary.
And then, through the binoculars, I suddenly saw it: some kind of craft or “thing“ flying parallel to the distant shore at an estimated speed of perhaps thirty miles per hour. Too far away to see without binoculars, and even with them all I could make out was a parallelogram-shaped craft moving very slowly and into the wind. There was no sign of anything towing it and no sign of wings or motors. That was strange enough, but as it moved along it seemed to change shape: sometimes it was almost square, sometimes almost cigar shaped, but often getting shorter or longer as I watched. The shoreline was about eight or nine miles away I guessed, and if this object was directly above the beach then it would have to be quite large—dozens of feet long and high.
I watched for several minutes and finally thought to take a photo or two. About a minute afterward it dove steeply down and disappeared behind some low hills that were a short distance behind the beach. That steep dive seemed unusual. What was back there? Where did it go? What was it? Well, I was in the middle of a radio contest (My partner was so engrossed with the radio he didn’t even bother to check out this weird craft), I was quite comfortable that I wasn’t seeing alien visitation or biblical angels, so an investigation would have to wait.
Once back home it was time to see if I could determine just what it was that I saw.
For decades now we have been trying communicate with other intelligent life else where in the universe, or at the very least find proof that they are other intelligent life forms out there in the universe.
Despite all of our efforts through SETI and other programs like SETI, we still haven’t found any proof that there are other intelligent life forms out there.
So why is it that despite all of our efforts to find and communicate with other intelligent life forms in the universe we still haven’t done so?
Well, there are a few reasons why we haven’t yet:
They don’t exist.
As difficult (and statistically improbable) as it may seem to be, there is a very real (yet microscopic) possibly that the reason why aliens haven’t talked to us yet is because their is no other life in the universe, or at the very least that there are no other worlds besides this one that has life on them that have evolved into intelligent life forms.
They’re not advanced enough to communicate with us or get here.
One of the reasons why aliens may have never communicated with us or have come to our planet is because they are not technologically advanced enough to either travel to the stars, or create a communication system that would allow them to send out signals into interstellar space. This isn’t very surprising since we are barely able to do this ourselves (By the way, we are able to travel to the stars, and we do have a technology that would allow us to do so if we were to give it the funding. It’s called nuclear pulse propulsion).
Despite the fact that the universe is around 13.8 billion years old, there is no reason to believe that there are any other civilizations out there that are just as advanced, if not more advanced than we are, and that we may be the most advanced civilization in the universe. But, considering how old the universe is, there is also no reason to believe that there are no civilizations out there that are far more advanced than we are as well, and can easily get from one star to another.
They are able to communicate with us and even get here, they are just very far away.
Maybe they are able to travel between the stars, and even able to send out radio signals, but they just haven’t gotten here because of one simple reason: distance.
The universe is a very vast place, and the fact is that unless you have a way to travel and/or communicate faster than the speed of light, it can take years, even centuries, for a radio signal or a space ship to get from one star system to another, so it is entirely possible that the reason why we have never found an alien radio signal, or that an alien space ship has never come here, is because it just hasn’t reached us yet.
They are unaware of our existence.
One of the reasons why aliens have never communicated with us is the same reason why we haven’t communicated with them: they don’t know we are here.
It is entirely possible that an intelligent alien species has seen and heard our radio signals, and either can not figure out where it came from, or they can’t understand it and dismiss it as natural phenomenon (which we could be doing with radio signals from space right now that we believe are natural radio signals given off by stars, but are really alien radio signals).
Plus, who is to say that they are even looking for other intelligent life out there like we are? For all that we know aliens might not even believe that it is possible for intelligent life to exist on other worlds, and thus aren’t even trying to find other intelligent life forms out there in the universe.
- New Tech Could Transform Search for Intelligent Alien Life, SETI Says (space.com)
- Is There Anybody Out There? (astrosalford.wordpress.com)
- How do we know we are not alone? (stuff.co.nz)
- The new equation for estimating alien life across the universe (theguardian.com)
- Why I’m Listening for Radio Signals from Space (bigthink.com)