By Jo Rodriguez via Listverse
Is there life elsewhere in the universe? It’s becoming increasingly likely that life must exist somewhere out there, but theories on aliens closer to home have ranged from misguided to idiotic.
10 • Viking Landers Finding Life On Mars
During the ’70s, NASA’s Viking landers probed Martian soil, eagerly looking for signs of life on the Red Planet. While the landers did not find actual microorganisms, traces of carbon dioxide turned up in the collected samples. Some scientists looked at the results and concluded that living organisms had to be on the planet, producing the compound.
The findings have been disputed for decades. Recently, some scientists have concluded that iron particles in Martian soil could have oxidized carbon compounds that exist naturally there.
Though evidence from Viking may not point to current Martians, carbon in the soil may still indicate that life once existed on the planet. Today’s research focuses less on finding living organisms there and more on investigating if the atmosphere could preserve traces of life even after long stretches of time.
9 • Arthur C. Clarke And Martian Vegetation
Beloved author and screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke long believed in life on Mars. In 2001, Clarke downloaded several photos from NASA’s website captured by the Mars Global Surveyor and was delighted to see what he thought were trees.
Clarke spoke to a crowd in his home in Sri Lanka, saying that the pictures showed things that were growing on the planet’s surface. Clarke said, “I’m quite serious when I say I have a really good look at these new Mars images. Something is actually moving and changing with the seasons that suggest, at least, vegetation.” In another interview, he joked, “I’m now convinced that Mars is inhabited by a race of demented landscape gardeners.”
The images were actually simply sand dunes, covered in or affected by frozen carbon dioxide. Over time, dark sand cascades down the dunes, leaving streaks that may look like trees to the less educated eye.
8 • Crazy Experiments To Contact Martians
In 1820, German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss sought to incorporate the work of Pythagoras in his quest to communicate with alien life on Mars. Gauss suggested clearing a large patch of Siberia and planting wheat for miles in a shape that geometrically illustrates the Pythagorean Theorem. By harvest season, the bright yellow crop-filled areas would contrast with the forest’s darker coloring. Gauss believed that Martian observers could spot this gigantic triangle on Earth with a small telescope.
Other odd ideas were also popular during the 19th century. Astronomer Joseph Littrow suggested digging trenches measuring 30 kilometers (20 mi) in length and shaped in various geometric patterns across the Sahara. We’d then fill them with kerosene and light them up. A Frenchman, Charles Cros, suggested building a huge mirror that could focus sunlight and burn messages into the very surface of Mars.
7 • Martians Contact Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla may have been one of the most brilliant scientists in human history, but he also falsely claimed to have received artificial signals of extraterrestrial origin—he said they were from Mars or Venus.
In a letter to the New York Times, Tesla wrote of how Mars, of the two planets, could support life. He viewed the distance of the planets from the Sun in terms of evolution. Venus was at a youthful stage, perhaps unable to fully sustain humanoid life. Earth was at full growth. Mars had reached old age, yet it had passed through prime biological and technological evolutionary stages.
Tesla suggested ways to improve our means to communicate with Mars, first by relocating our observatories to send clearer signals through the atmosphere. In 1937, Tesla’s work led him to believe that he could win the Pierre Guzman Prize of 100,000 francs for “the first person who will find the means of communicating with a star and of receiving a response.” The prize rules excluded contact with Mars, however, because that would have been “too easy.”
The public has never had a chance to analyze Tesla’s supposed observation, but it is likely that he actually detected the pulsing of distant stars. This was far from the intelligent transmission he had claimed to see, but it was still an impressive accomplishment.
A line of reasoning named for Socrates helps us help believers in the strange re-examine their beliefs.
Read transcript below or listen here
Of all the possible perspectives, beliefs, theories, ideologies, and conclusions in this world, which of them are beyond question? None of them. And neither should be any person who holds one of those positions. People believe all sorts of strange things, and even though they might be passionate about them, most will still admit that questioning their belief is an appropriate undertaking. Therefore, we — as scientific skeptics — have an available avenue by which we can always encourage believers in the strange to revisit their beliefs. Despite the fact that we may lack professional expertise in the subject at hand, we can still plant the seeds of an uprising of logic within the mind of the believer. One way to do this is through the application of Socratic questioning.
Returning to our fake example guys used in the past, Starling and Bombo, we can illustrate this concept. Let us choose an example scenario. If Bombo has seen a UFO and believes that it was an alien spacecraft, it would likely be difficult for Starling to reason him out of the idea by offering alternative suggestions. People are often pretty stubborn when it comes to personal experiences that they’ve already interpreted for themselves; Bombo saw an alien spacecraft, and telling him it was the planet Venus would probably be a dead end. Indeed, even offering lines of logic for Bombo to follow on his own would probably be refused. So is there any effective way at all of getting someone to consider a different explanation?
The answer is yes, and it involves getting Bombo to arrive at alternate explanations on his own. We’re all far more prone to accept our own ideas than someone else’s. Starling might well able to get Bombo to consider the idea that the UFO might not have been an alien spacecraft by employing Socratic questioning. Named (quite obviously) for Socrates — the ancient Greek philosopher (also quite obviously) — the Socratic questions are primarily teaching tools. Just as Bombo better accepts his own ideas, so do students of all types. Socratic questioning helps people to take a second, closer look at their own beliefs, and to apply critical thinking even when they least expect it.
There are six commonly described categories of Socratic questions, and they’re all good. You could familiarize yourself with any one of them, and you’d have a pretty good chance at changing Bombo’s mind, or that of anyone else who has made a conclusion based on faulty logic. An adept at all six types of questions would be a formidable reformer of popular pseudoscience believers.
Let’s begin with the first type:
- Skeptoid #384: Asking the Socratic Questions (skeptoid.com)
- Socrates Is The Most Influential Teacher In History (jasmineleigh17.wordpress.com)
- “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Socrates (terjanianpascal.wordpress.com)
- Socrates has a question for you… (therapyandstuff.com)
- it’s time to start thinking like Socrates! (newspaperprojectlangford.wordpress.com)
- Socratic Teacher Questioning in Science Classrooms (psychologytoday.com)
Believing that a pile of debris from a military surveillance nuclear-testing device found in the New Mexico desert in 1947 was the wreckage of an extraterrestrial aircraft—well, it’s a plausible belief. You’d have to ignore a great deal of very persuasive disconfirming evidence and believe in an extremely large and extremely secretive government conspiracy, but, hey, a lot of people think along similar lines. Looking up at the night sky and seeing alien ships when others see Venus, unconventional aircraft, odd stellar formations, northern lights, blinking towers—or any other visual manifestations from a potpourri of earthly phenomena—hey, that’s not too strange. Some people have more imagination than others; they fill in the blanks where the rest of us stick pretty close to what their eyes tell them.
But alien abductions are another kettle of fish altogether. This is not a matter of perceiving ambiguous stimuli in a certain way or believing in conspiracies. And remember, some conspiracies do happen. But do alien abductions? Extraterrestrials kidnapping humans, taking them to their space ships, performing experiments on them, cutting them open, raping them, forcing women to bear hybrid babies? Thousands of people believe they have been abducted by aliens. Their memories of these experiences are vivid, painful, and terrifyingly real. What’s up here? Should we believe their stories?
Tales of alien contact have been narrated for centuries. Francis Godwin‘s The Man in the Moone (1638) and Ralph Morris’ A Narrative and the Life and Astonishing Adventures of John Daniel (1751), are taken today as intended fiction. However, in 1758, in Concerning Earths in Our Solar World, Emanuel Swedenborg made the claim that he had actually visited all the then-known planets, which he described in great detail, all inhabited by creatures who had devised ideal societies. We now know of the existence of planets that were not described by Swedenborg (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—the last of which astronomers have declassified as a planet), and we know the ones he described bear no relation to his accounts, and of course, all the evidence we have says they’re uninhabited. And how was Swedenborg to know that half the planets in the solar system were gaseous and can’t support the weight of solid objects, such as humans? Or that Venus is a toxic hothouse of sulphuric acid that could support no conceivable life whatsoever. The truth is, he knew virtually nothing about what was on our solar system’s planets—and he couldn’t have.
The pre-1947 literature on alien contact usually has the contactee visiting another planet. These narratives include an account given in 1890 by Helen Smith of Martians speaking a language that sounds very much like French; in 1906 by Sarah Weis, who described nonexistent Martian canals in great detail; in 1918 by Aleister Crowley, who describes contact with “Lam,” an inhabitant of a distant constellation who has a bulbous head and tiny, beady eyes; and in 1930 by one Willard Magoon, who described Mars as a beautiful, lush planet of forests, parks, and gardens.
MORE . . .
- Ancient Aliens Debunked (illuminutti.com)
- NASA Finds 461 Alien Planet Candidates, Some Possibly Habitable (space.com)
- Russian PM: ‘Extraterrestrials Live Among Us’ (exohuman.com)
- NASA Finds 461 Alien Planet Candidates, Some Possibly Habitable (livescience.com)
- Shape-shifting Aliens control the Earth (Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories) (illuminutti.com)
- 17 Billion Earth-Size Alien Planets Inhabit Milky Way (space.com)
- ‘Moons rather than planets are the best place to find aliens’ (todayonline.com)
- Moons ‘could hold alien life’ (bigpondnews.com)