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   Our planet, our sun, our solar system, our galaxy, other galaxies and, in fact, the whole universe, contains strange, bizarre, unsolved mysteries to fascinate and astound us. A few of these mysteries have finally begun to reveal their previously unattainable secrets, forced into submission by the cutting edge of modern physics.

   Flying saucers and extra-terrestrial ‘unidentified flying objects’ are, however, most definitely not among them. It is now time, once again, to terminate this tedious, farcical and frankly lamentable reversion towards mysticism and also to eliminate from all scientific journals any mention of a subject which has its origins in the unstable and emotionally insecure imaginations of psychologically disturbed individuals who, once they sight a flying saucer, should be made to see a psychiatrist or attend a drug rehabilitation unit rather than pester poor Patrick Moore or any rational scientific publication. If my stance appears unequivocal then it is not without justifiable cause.

   We call these mythical objects ‘flying saucers’ and not ‘unidentified flying objects’ (UFOs) because the protagonists of this ludicrous notion insist that the said objects originate from alien star systems; if that is so then logically these examples of aerial crockery are no longer ‘unidentified’.

   In any case, ‘flying saucer’ is an obviously more pejorative term and by implication, the acolytes of this absurd belief are treated with the disdain they so richly deserve. However, it is to this apparent ‘identification’ we shall now turn. After a few basic scientific facts have been supplied, it will readily be appreciated that where ever these strange oddities originate (should any such objects exist at all), it is most emphatically not from the depths of uncharted space.

   In order to pursue this matter with at least some semblance of logic, we need to speculate on the probability of the frequency of other life forms spread throughout the cosmos from whence such spacecraft may derive. Since the nearest galaxy to our own, the huge spiral in Andromeda (classified as M31 after the French astronomer Charles Messier who compiled a most impressive chart of many of the galaxies, star clusters and nebulae that can be seen from the northern hemisphere), is 2,200,000 light years from us, we can be forgiven if we confine our study of possible alien life forms to our own galaxy for the present time.

   There are quite sufficient viable solar systems from which to choose within the Milky Way without recourse to the invention of exotic new methods by which we may violate the laws of relativity in order to provide a rationale for how alien spacecraft can traverse the cosmos via hyper-light speed velocities. Since light takes 2,200,000 years to travel from M31 to us, any alien UFO that elects to travel from it to Earth is destined to take rather longer than that. Give me British Rail any day.

   In our galaxy there are at a conservative estimate about 135,000,000,000 stars; this provides us with a theoretical 135,000,000,000 planetary systems of, if we assume our solar system to be typical, about 9 planets and 20 major satellites to each system.

   This assumption possesses one crucial flaw, of course: many stars are absolutely unable to support a planetary system, or at least one on which there can exist any planets

on which there can ever have evolved any form of life: eclipsing binaries, red giants, white dwarves, neutron stars and pulsars, for a start. Therefore we have to concentrate upon G class stars not unlike our own Sun to provide eligible bodies.

   If we also assume that life may only develop on planets of similar orbital properties and atmospheric conditions to that of Earth - a possibly spurious assumption but which I believe to be entirely justified - then these criteria must immediately be applied in order to eliminate other unsuitable candidates:

1)      planets too near to, or too distant from, their sun;

2)      planets with rotation periods which are too erratic or eccentric to allow the formation of stable weather patterns to develop;

3)      planets that orbit stars which are too cool for the necessary nuclear reactions to occur that give rise to warmth upon which the genesis of life depends;

4)      planets that orbit stars which are too hot and therefore possess stellar cycles that are too brief to accommodate the duration of time required for life to evolve;

5)      planets that orbit unstable systems such as variable stars, multiple stars and so forth.

   These considerations leave us, after we have made the necessary calculated estimation, with a possible 640,000,000 planets that possess attributes similar to Earth in mass, temperature, chemistry, orbit, revolution and sun. This is the same as to say that 1 out of every 210 stars in our galaxy, or 1 out of every 4,000 planets, are eligible candidates for a scrutiny of our erstwhile flying saucer hunters. There are other considerations to be added but for the moment, let us continue with this actually rather optimistic set of parameters. Two linked questions arise at once.

   On how many of these 6×4 x 106 Earth-like planets has an intelligent species of life developed? On how many of these same planets has an intelligent species evolved a civilisation? The two questions are similar but possess that significant difference. It can be argued with justification that gorillas are intelligent but do they possess a technological civilisation? Since we currently possess insufficient criteria upon which to base direct inference we shall have to resort to the use of our own planet as a reference source.

   Life has been in existence on Earth for approximately 3 x 109 years; we have had civilisations for no more than 10,000 years so that we can say the ratio of the duration of time bereft of civilisation to that with civilisation is 300,000 : 1. If we assume Earth to represent a general rule with regard to the typical evolution of life and subsequent civilisations then we may take it to be a typical, or average, example. Beware: we have just made an assumption for which there currently exists no empirical evidence and may therefore turn out to be completely spurious.

   With these data it is reasonable to assume that out of 300,000 life-bearing planets at any given time, 1 should contain a society that has evolved a civilisation. Therefore, in our galaxy there could be 2,150 civilisations extant on various planets. However, the Ionians of 600 BC provide a perfect example of a civilisation yet they were 2,557 years away from the technology required to send vehicles into space.

   We have had an industrial civilisation, then, for approximately 200 years so the ratio of the duration of time bereft of an industrial civilisation to that with industrial civilisation is 50 : 1.

   If we now assume (based on a reasonable, if optimistic, supposition) that 1 out of every 50 extra-terrestrial civilisations has reached the stage of industrial technology then there are perhaps 43  civilisations extant within our galaxy which display an industrial technology.

   Now let us suppose that our industrial technological age represents a typical case - again, a dangerous assumption since it cannot presently be verified. Based on this assumption it is reasonable to assume that half of these theoretical civilisations will be less advanced than that of Earth while the other half will be more advanced and, by implication, will utilise space travel.

   Therefore we can say that about 21 space-faring civilisations could reasonably be said to exist in our galaxy. At this point a flying saucer enthusiast could lift up the hood of his anorak and demand to see the credentials upon which my scepticism is based. I can reply in just a single word - distance.

   If our hypothetical 6×4 x 106 life-bearing planets are scattered equidistantly throughout the galaxy, each life-bearing planet would be (on average) 45 light years away from the next one; therefore, our 21 planets with space-faring civilisations will be 13,500 light years apart from each other. What do you believe to be the likelihood that we shall receive regular visits from extra-terrestrial spaceships from a ‘neighbour’ 13,500 light years away?

   Consider also the bizarre notion that none of these ‘craft’ ever seem to land upon our halcyon shores, that they choose instead, like so many celestial flying Dutchmen, to wander the skies above our planet after they have travelled such an immense distance.

   In order to try to appreciate the sheer scale involved, Pluto, the most distant planet from our sun, has a mean orbital diameter of 11,800,000 kilometres. Multiply that figure by 4, add a few hundred thousand kilometres and you have the approximate distance in kilometres equal to just 1 light year. Now remember that our nearest extra-terrestrial space-travellers are 13,500 light years away, or 13,500 x 47,200 kilometres from us!

   Since light travels at 300,000 kilometres per second (186,282 miles per second), then that is the limiting speed for any alien spacecraft that tries to traverse the celestial highways between neighbours; even if we assume that our aliens possess a technological profligacy sufficiently advanced to enable them to travel at almost the speed of light (and there are in fact objections to this which I shall describe later) then the journey from their world to ours and back again will take them no less than 27,000 years.

   This fact alone makes a mockery of the notion that ship after ship buzzes across our skies, night after night, especially as the vast majority of them don’t even take the trouble to land!

   But I can imagine a disgruntled UFOlogist bray as his last desperate hope fades into the sunset, just because on average the closest extra-terrestrial neighbour to us should be about 13,500 light years away, that does not mean that, perhaps by sheer serendipity, there is not just one such alien

civilisation, say, 50 light years away, does it? Certainly not; I am able to accept that as a feasible proposition.

   However, I offer the same response to that as I would to all these contenders for ‘neighbours on our cosmic doorstep’ propositions: an advanced industrial civilisation may have colonised other planets and built outposts which are still nearer to us; maybe they have learnt how to circumvent the speed of light without violation of relativity laws - perhaps the laws of relativity are themselves incorrect?

   My answer to all these queries, then, is simply this: if any of these propositions are valid then why has not one interstellar envoy ever landed upon Earth and greeted us? ‘Maybe they want to observe us without actually landing here.’ This bizarre sentiment was actually expressed to me in all sincerity by a typical ‘rainbow sticker Renault socialist worker and non-sexist kiddies books’ individual but it tends to be the last moan of any stubborn saucerite who clings with delicious tenacity to any whimsical idea that may enter his head.

   But if the ‘aliens who observe from a distance’ proposition is true then what possible motives can they have for their journey here in the first place? Surely if these erstwhile extra-terrestrials adhere to a strict policy of non-interference with primitive life forms (such as we would no doubt appear to interstellar travellers), then they would also be clever enough to carry out their observations in a manner that ensured we remained utterly oblivious of their presence?

   To blatantly buzz around in circular spaceships in plain view of all and sundry, especially incest-ridden Utah farmers, surely amounts to interference of a kind that is hardly negligible? They cannot be afraid of us, for to have constructed craft able to span light years or to have evolved sufficient technical expertise and sheer knowledge to evade the light speed barrier, it is unthinkable that any of our mightiest weaponry would be of the slightest import to them.

   The situation would be akin to that of a stone age tribe being visited by NATO troops. It pleases me to believe, however, that our extra-terrestrial visitors possess a somewhat different set of beliefs and attitudes to those that prevail among most government soldiers of Earth!

   I referred earlier to the fact that to travel close to the speed of light would in reality create extreme problems for the space travellers concerned. First: as Albert Einstein revealed in his special theory of relativity, the faster one travels, the greater is ‘the time dilation effect’.

   This factor concerns the nature of the relation between mass and velocity such that as ones’ speed approaches that of light, an intriguing effect upon ones’ perception of time occurs: on the spaceship you may experience a year pass; but on the planet you have left, the further away it is, the more time will have elapsed so that many of thousands of years will have passed on a planet many light years away during the single year which passed on your spaceship.

   Our alien travellers, should they manage to travel at, say, 250,000 kilometres per second, will return to their own planet perhaps only to discover that it no longer exists because their sun went supernova, or that while their planet still exists, their race died out aeons earlier.

   Second: as you increase your velocity to approach the speed of light, there is a proportional increase in your mass so that in effect your mass (and that of the craft in which you travel) increases with a magnitude that directly corresponds to the increase of velocity such that velocity is converted into mass.

   The implication of this is obvious: whatever energy system you adopt to propel your ship through space, the system will

need to move a mass that ever increases, so that more energy will be required to move your craft the faster it travels. Thus for this purely mechanical reason, speeds that approach the speed of light, while possible in theory, are highly improbable in practise. Therefore it will take considerably more than 13,500 years for our alien friends to travel from their planet to Earth.

   At the risk of incessantly irritating those of you in possession of a scientific training, I shall briefly enter into a matter which may perhaps be considered relevant by those most stalwart members of the Flying Saucers From Fomalhaut fraternity, simply to prevent, in advance, any possible correspondence along this line of argument. I have clearly indicated the total improbability that an alien spacecraft will travel immense distances at speeds close to that of light.

   However, is it not conceivable that a sufficiently advanced technological civilisation may have developed a matter transmitter, that is to say, a device that may focus onto a distant point (perhaps Salt Lake City in America on Earth) as its prime objective, and then proceed to ‘lock onto’ this co-ordinate and ‘beam’, particle by particle, their respective spacecraft complete with multi-tentacled crew, to that objective virtually instantaneously?

   The idea is hardly novel, as any glance at a few science fiction stories from the 1950s (and of course those interminably awful editions of the sadly popular serial ‘Star Trek’, one of the many examples of facile garbage exported to our shores from America) will reveal. Well, obviously it is conceivable; the previous paragraph proves that. The question I should have asked was this: is it possible?

   Now I am quite familiar with the work of Sir William Preece who stated, emphatically, that ‘subdivision of the electric light is an absolute ignis fatuus’; evidently, that gentlemens’ fatuousness was not in the ignis. I am also familiar with the astronomer Simon Newcomb who stated that flying machines were impossible. William Pickering stated that aeroplane speeds equal to that of locomotives were impossible, while A W Bickerton said that spaceflight was impossible and even our own astronomer royal, Dr Richard Van Der Riet Wooley, retorted in no uncertain terms that ‘space travel is utter bilge’ even though, by some bizarre quirk of fate (or maybe economics), he later became a leading member of the government committee that dealt with space research.

   So while I hesitate to say that matter transference is ‘impossible’, (far be it for me to follow in the carpet slipper steps of the less than illustrious gentlemen listed already) the teleportation or instantaneous transference of complex, sentient organisms appears to me to be such wild fantasy as to be eligible for dismissal even for consideration.

   In case, mentis gratissimus, this sounds stubbornly parochial to you, I should like to now consider carefully the implications involved in the proposition that an alien civilisation may send their spaceships and sentient crews through immense vistas of space by the diligent application of teleportation or matter transference. I suggest that an equally diligent application of logic will despatch this notion to the oblivion it deserves.  

   Since with even our own crude technology we are able to send sounds and images from one country across oceans to another, it is surely then not unreasonable to suggest that within a few decades or centuries we shall have reached the stage where we shall be able to transport people with equal ease?

   Forgive me but I deliberately allowed an erroneous statement to be made in the previous paragraph, simply to

illustrate a most cardinal misconception that frequently occurs among many people today who are bereft of a basic scientific education, no doubt due to the lamentable number of Marxist teachers who contend that it is better to give children ‘peace studies’ than a basic awareness of physics.

   You see we do not in fact ‘send sounds and images’ anywhere! What we actually send is information in the form of electrical waves from the broadcasting station to the receiver, be it a wireless set or a television. There the electrical signals are processed in order to recreate a copy of the original source from which the electrical signals were initially comprised.

   Once the sound or image has been created, it dies a fraction of a second later so of course is never ‘transmitted’ anywhere even if we possessed the technology to send actual sounds and actual images through the air to receivers in other countries. It is therefore the electronic code used to identify the 9th Symphony of Robert Simpson which leaves the BBC and ends up via the World Service in Hong Kong, not the actual symphony itself.

   Since we can understand, once we have learnt the basic concepts behind cathode ray tubes, transistors, valves, speakers and so forth, how television and radio works then the fundamental operation could surely be repeated with a more complex source, such as a formation of spacecraft?

   However, this leads to the absurd notion that reptilian beings from Sirius 4 wish to entertain themselves by transmitting colour three-dimensional holographic motion light and sound reproductions of their spacecraft through the cosmos, perhaps to indicate to us how clever they are, or maybe because they have managed to contact (via telepathy of course) our suffering flying saucer fanatics and, as an act of contrition, vindicate their otherwise vain vigils for aliens in the skies above Warminster?

   Obviously I dismiss this as fourth rate science fantasy melodrama. If an alien civilisation was able to construct such a ludicrous (and frankly pointless) device, they would evidently possess the means by which to send real spaceships here so the concept is ridiculous.

   The actual codification of signals from a source of sound is fairly simple, especially since the human ear is unable to perceive sounds above 20,000 vibrations a second. A limit is thus set upon the amount of information the bandwidth (i.e. the sound channel) needs to carry. For images the situation is more complex since here we deal with a two-dimensional pattern of light whose configuration constantly changes as a function of time.

   The method employed is actually closer to that of a surveyor than a simple camera-person since the image is fragmented into 250,000 picture elements - pixels. This information is reported to the receiver apparatus which then uses these data to relay the corresponding light values onto the cathode ray tube.

   Thus it will be appreciated that a television broadcast system actually only transmits an electrical signal of one minuscule point of light at any given instant but because about 250,000 points of light are flashed across the screen of the television receiver in much less than one second, the human eye and brain are deceived into a perception of a continuous picture.

   The swiftness of the cathode ray tube deceives the eye! The whole scan and relay process is in fact repeated 30 times a second. Therefore in 1 second a vast amount of information has passed from the transmitter to the receiver: 30 x 250,000 or 7,500,000 individual signals per second.

   For transmission of an actual object itself (say, a computer) rather than the electrical conversion into wave data of the object, we require a device which utilises x-rays to scan the three dimensions of the object so that it scans the subject to be transferred in a manner so as to produce a set of electrical impulses which state that here is an atom of carbon, here a billionth of an inch away is nothing and here a billionth of an inch further along is an atom of oxygen and so forth.

   Such a device would then have to recreate the object, atom by atom, in its desired location in the reverse manner that it first deconstructed the object into electrical impulses. To transmit this computer from Edinburgh to New York would therefore involve the transmission of billions of bits of information. How long do you think it would take for such a device to achieve this?

   Also, since what we would in fact have done would be to construct a copy of the original rather than send the actual subject, we would have built not a matter transporter but a matter duplicator. Do we want the world to be cluttered up with a surfeit of computers?

   Take the implications of this further: we can now send human beings across the globe in this manner, so San decides to visit his friends in Belfast; he then decides he will pay his respects to Wong Fei Hung in China and later..., after a few journeys, there are now fifteen identical copies of San who wander around different areas of the planet. What happens when he meets himself in Tangier, perhaps?

   The opportunities for crime, warfare and political manipulation are fearful should such a device ever be constructed and made to successfully operate. A note of interest for Buddhists: do you suppose that such a machine, even if it was able to recreate each and every atom and molecule of a human body exactly, could this wonderful machine also manage to faithfully transmit (that is, duplicate) the spirit or soul of a person as well as the skin, flesh, bones, blood corpuscles, chemical constituents, cells, molecules and atoms exactly?

   I personally do not believe in spirits or souls but this in no manner affects the argument in any way. Could we ever conceivably achieve this monumental task in a practical manner? A simple mathematical investigation will reveal the actual magnitude of the problem and, as a consequence, the probability of an answer.

   Bear in mind that the atoms and molecules in a human body are all in constant motion all the time. Now think about the transmission of a person from Edinburgh to London as the Star Trek machine deconstructs the body atom by atom and converts the body into electrical impulses or digital code, then reconstructs the body at the receiver station. What exactly will be recreated in London?

   The human body contains 5 x 1027 atoms or, if you would prefer to see it as a more traditional number, that is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 multiplied by 5! This is rather more than the mere 250,000 elements transmitted by a television station.

   It takes 1/30 second to transmit 250,000 elements so, with the use of similar equipment, how long will it take to transmit 5 x 1027 elements? I shall save you the calculation. The answer is impressive: 2 x 1013 (or, if you prefer, 200,000,000,000,000) years. I think I’ll take the bus, thanks. Obviously with a little technical ingenuity a few noughts could be knocked off that figure but not so many as would make any real difference to just how unfeasible the problem remains.

   There is an additional factor here when we consider this machine which is basically a replication device: if a copy is to be made of a human being at the receiver station, from what is this copy to be made and how are the materials to be obtained?  

   If we desire to go a stage further and rather than build a replicator, we go for the big one and construct an actual teleporter (or, more accurately, a matter transferor), what we actually propose is a machine that will decompose us, atom by atom, until we are in a physical state conducive to being sent perhaps as a beam of digital impulses to a destination on the other side of the world, where we shall be reconstituted, perhaps in the manner of adding water to dehydrated powdered milk, atom by atom, into our original form.

   Now imagine one of these machines develops a worn motor or a burnt out capacitor so that it behaves in the manner of a typesetters’ block which, through continual use, has begun to blur around the edges...or, better still, imagine a person is sent along the route to his destination and, by sheer chance, encounters the atomic or digitised beam of a person being sent somewhere else and the two beams meet so that elements from both decomposed people mix and mingle...just what, in both cases, would emerge at the other end?

   I could now suggest as a proposition that the enormous distances involved in interstellar travel may be circumvented by such intrepid extra-terrestrials as those who have discovered ‘loop-holes’, ‘hyperspace’ and ‘curvatures’ within the universe.

   Perhaps a flying saucer can travel along one of those celestial strands of cosmic string that silly Stephen Hawking postulated in that curiously contrived concoction of absurdities which feebly masquerades as a science textbook, ‘A Brief History Of Time’. I think not. These ideas, although popular among the lunatic fringe of astrophysicists and mathematicians, possess little scientific foundation and certainly even less empirical evidence.

   There is in fact absolutely no tangible proof that any such exotic entities exist outside the equation littered notepads of these scientists who would do us all, and themselves, a service if they returned to actual science rather than the mystical realms of metaphysics.

   I refuse to entertain the notions as loop-holes, worm-holes, hyperspace or, especially, cosmic string, although I do not refuse to believe that such entities within the universe may not eventually be discovered, verified and ultimately used but until that time, owing to the wildly hypothetical nature of these concepts, I prefer not to consider them as a viable avenue for discussion since further speculation is futile. The ‘what if’ protagonists may huff and puff with indignation for the rest of the millennium but I deal where possible in facts, not fantasy. Worm-holes in space? Bah - humbug!

   The ‘what if’ propositions of the UFO enthusiasts become increasingly more arcane and, subsequently, weak. To combat the problem of the vast distances involved in interstellar space travel, we have to assume our aliens possess an advanced industrial and technological civilisation and have somehow managed to discover a method to break or circumvent the speed of light.

   To combat the problem of motivation, we have to assume they find Earth a sufficient source of interest and fascination to frequently pester us and yet possess some mysterious objection to an actual landing to meet us personally, even after they have travelled many light years across the vast empty vistas of space. Even if our atmosphere was perhaps

poisonous to these erstwhile alien visitors, they would surely be able to send messages to us via radar, radio or similar means?

   Now let us study the ‘evidence’ which exists for the presence of flying saucers. After even the most exhaustive search, however, we discover that there is scarcely any evidence at all. Consider ‘eye-witness’ accounts. They are, to all intents and purposes, quite worthless. Stories of spacecraft sightings by small numbers of people uncorroborated by any other evidence are just that - stories.

   Any drunken tramp can tell you his mother was seduced by a multi-tentacled monster who stepped out of an over-sized metal ashtray and he will no doubt be able to persuade some of his equally intellectually challenged pals to support his tale. Does that mean we are expected to believe such a wheen o’ blethers? I should say not.

   All mystical and religious doctrines are ‘supported’ by eye-witness accounts, i.e. by people of an emotionally disturbed and over-imaginative frame of mind. The few people we have ever encountered who have been interviewed with regard to apparent encounters with extra-terrestrials, who, they would have us believe in all seriousness, have even been taken on board these spaceships, have without exception been mentally unbalanced, emotionally fragile or otherwise incapacitated.

   Note also that every report so far received from a flying saucer enthusiast who claims to have been taken for a joy-ride in one of these legendary craft is, in almost every detail, taken from Star Wars, Close Encounters, Alien, 2001 or Doctor Who. Is it also not rather bizarre that not one of these people ever remembers to ask the aliens for some small item which they could take back to their friends and newspaper reporters back on Earth to add at least some token of credibility to their account?

   There is, finally, ‘eye-witness evidence’ for ghosts, levitation, sea serpents, spirits, abominable snowmen, were-wolves, fairies and all manner of other spurious and utterly fictional entities. If that constitutes ‘evidence’ then this is some new meaning of the word of which I was previously unaware.

   In reply to the notion that flying saucers ‘must be spaceships for they can be nothing else’, I offer by way of explanation the chief difference between theory and practise. In mathematical models, we may present a finite and known number of factors and definitions, eliminate all but one and then state that this remainder must represent the truth provided we have proved that it is not also possible for none of them to be true.

   This does not apply to experimental and observational disciplines where the total number of factors may be indefinite and not all the factors known. The lack of logic and paucity of clear thought among flying saucerites is rife: usually the stories, accounts and reports are so confused, jumbled and incoherent that it is in fact impossible to ascertain what was seen, if anything.

   Every extra-terrestrial UFO sighting is a mistake, a hoax or a hallucination.

   Now let us consider some other factors which have probably resulted in the mass hysteria and self deception that prevails among so many people in the latter half of the 20th century. In the middle ages, for example, people of disturbed mind and unstable character ‘saw’ angels and demons appear from the skies, and from out of the ground and often vanish into thin air.

   Today, people ‘see’ flying saucers which reveal themselves to be remarkably similar in appearance to those bizarre examples of aerial crockery which became a regular feature of those badly acted, poorly made 1950s ‘science’ fiction films from America, often known as ‘B’ films. (I suggest the ‘B’ stands for ‘bad’.)

   No doubt if we can rely upon the human condition whereby self delusion and mindless slavery to superstition and mysticism persist, in a few decades from now, our visitors will be hyper-intelligent shades of fizzy pop with compact disc to match, ‘hands-on workability’ and other computerese influenced insults to grammar.

   The UFOs people ‘witness’ are merely a symptom of their culture, background and history such that monks see heavenly ambassadors, primitive tribes see gods and spirits while the progeny of industrial technology see spaceships, the very same fleet-flighted metal discs anticipated by science fiction films decades previously.

   Also, as a contributory factor to the depressing resurgence of mysticism and occulture over the past decade, it must be recognised that in a society which has dehumanised the individual to rob him even of his identity, where each human being is encouraged to be merely an insignificant producer of wealth for a tiny elite minority, a consumer and a mindless statistic, it is hardly a surprise that those of a weak and undisciplined disposition fall prey to the reptilian R-complex component of their brains and conjure up UFOs along with tarot cards, ouija boards, ghosts, palmistry, feng-shui, monsters in Scottish lochs and on Tibetan mountains, gods, devils and other superstitious, mystical balderdash.

   If a society desires to rid its people of such immature and desperate fantasies, build a healthy intellectualism and accrue strength in its education then it must first relinquish its worship of economics, consumerism and political rhetoric, then learn to restore respect for the individual. What, I hear as the last desperate wail of the anorak brigade, of the very small number of UFO reports that seem to be neither hoaxes, mistakes nor hallucinations?  

   That of course does not ‘prove’ they are extra-terrestrial spaceships; rather it proves that we do not know yet what they are, if it can be said to prove anything at all.

   For example, you may not know who composed ‘Rule Britannia’ but if I tell you it was Robin Banks, the fact you may know nothing to the contrary does not prove my statement. (It actually comes from an opera called Alfred by the 18th century composer Thomas Arne - check it up in the Groves Dictionary of Music if you doubt this!) Reports of flying saucers are infested with cranks, eccentrics and practical jokers bereft of a genuine sense of humour.

   Remember also that there are a few scientists (such as the astronomer Joseph Allen Hynek) who systematically endeavour to study UFOs but they are at a considerable disadvantage: the scientific method is efficacious when concerned with systems readily available for observation, experimentation or both - the Andromeda galaxy is usually available for telescopic study; the Tetse virus is generally available for microscopic scrutiny and so forth. UFOs are unheralded, unannounced, unpredictable and utterly irregular in their brief ‘appearances’. (The fact that they are also completely fictional probably has some bearing on the problem too, of course!)

   I suggest these few UFOs so far unexplained by known phenomena will all turn out to be, like ball lightning and showers of frogs, natural freaks of nature but of no less interest because of that. Such sightings abound with, and are perhaps inevitably related to, unusual circumstances,inaccurate information and heightened emotional states of the observers in all cases.

   On these criteria, is it any surprise that no reliable accounts of flying saucers currently exist? I can give perfect examples of what I mean: a strange, glowing object is seen, totally unexpected, to move in an odd way across the sky one night; the observer becomes rapidly too excited to scrutinise the source in a manner that is sufficiently calm to extract all the necessary information. On other occasions, bright moonlight interferes with accurate observation and thus obliterates the star background against which weather balloons and our own artificial satellites may be tracked. It is also impossible to judge the angular movements of objects which appear to be vertically overhead.

   Finally, I stated earlier that I was required to qualify - in fact amend - the figure derived for the number of Earth-like planets in our galaxy, that is, 640,000,000. The considerations implied are crucial if certain theories with regard to the central hubs of spiral galaxies (of which ours is a fine example) are later found to be accurate.

   It looks likely that the central nuclei of nearly all spiral galaxies are the vast stages upon which violent scenes are enacted: black holes and immense stellar eruptions on a gigantic scale. These attributes are not conducive to stability or calm evolution, both of which are factors essential to the formation and development of life.

   Since 90% of the stars in a spiral galaxy (with the inclusion of our own) are located within this central nucleus, the figure derived with utterly desperate optimism earlier should hereby be amended to just 64,000,000 at the very most. This, you will now appreciate, knocks off many zeroes from our later calculations and decreases by a significant degree the number of possible worlds upon which advanced industrial technological civilisations may exist.

   In conclusion, the whole subject of UFOs deserves a few decades of either complete neglect or at least quiet, unobtrusive scientific and academic study by people of a stable, thorough disposition; UFOs may well reveal themselves to be natural phenomena presently unexplained by contemporary science, should they be shown to exist at all.

   I am inclined to this same belief on alternate pancake days but usually I dismiss them as the products of mentally unbalanced, malicious, over-imaginative or simply mistaken people who leap to conclusions on a subject about which they are ignorant. To say that UFOs are spaceships is naïve, geocentric and anthropocentric.

   I predict that, like the witches and angels of the middle ages, UFOs will come to be regarded, in fifty years time, as bereft of substance, a quaint fashion once entertained by unstable, gullible people in the second half of the 20th century who, reluctant to face reality and unable to approach logic, chose instead to immerse themselves in superstition.

   There is, however, one final lesson to be learned from flying saucers and the many hundreds of people who claim to believe in their existence as the interstellar vehicles of extra-terrestrial ambassadors: they tell us nothing at all about the possible intelligence on other planets but they do prove how rare it is on Earth.

Andy Martin ã 2005 Unit.




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