“Space," it says, "is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space, listen...”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Sometimes a comment made in jest actually tells us a truth that is difficult to comprehend. The Universe is indeed a vast place and of course it's getting bigger as it is ever expanding, though what into I'll leave for the scientists to try and figure out. With hundreds of thousands of known galaxies with literally billions of stars with a possibility of planetary systems the possibility for life existing elsewhere is at the very least a mathematical possibility.
Speculation has been rife about the existence of life on other worlds both in science fiction and scientific circles for as long as I can remember, and of course classic stories such as War of the Worlds by HG Wells (written as long ago as 1898) have been the stuff of nightmares, especially since the Orson Welles broadcast in 1938 caused widespread panic because it was presented as a series of news bulletins.
In the modern age we have been thrilled by Star Trek, awed by Star Wars and scared by Alien and more since modern technology has allowed the development of such wonderful special effects culminating in Avatar one of the most stunning pieces of science fiction ever put on celluloid. A world that created wonder in the minds of those who watched it, and largely led to the overlooking of what was quite a simple story line.
Aliens had come to paradise and were ruining it. The natives became restless and despite their backwardness overcame the alien invaders, the technologically more advanced human race. We were the villains in this set piece of action and adventure.
This brings me to the point of this post which was to highlight a rather sad news story that appeared on the front page of The Times today. The Ministry of Defence has closed its' UFO desk run by the Royal Air Force for the last 60 years. No longer will you be able to write to them to report a sighting, ask a question (and these were legion it would seem) about such diverse topics as "Planet X", time vortexes and more. The MOD has decided the UFO desk "serves no defence purpose" and "merely encourages the generation of correspondence".
The MOD have a point though. The existence of "Flying Saucers" as they are colloquially known has never been proved despite the hordes of Ufologists that scan the skies, report sightings, post videos and collate stories of abduction and cattle mutilation. Whilst I remain a sceptic having never seen a UFO or any conclusive evidence that such things exist, it is not beyond my imagination. I do have ask why any visitors from so far away would come here just to insert objects up peoples bottoms or take a slice of beef, but heck they are supposed to be "alien".
Trouble is that whilst there are many genuine people who claim they have seen spaceships from another planet, the world of Ufology is full of cranks, crackpots and frankly down right frauds. There's millions of pounds to be made from touting books, videos and lectures around the world because so many of us want to believe.
I find it hard to believe that given the vastness of the universe there is no other life out there. However there is as yet no proof, no contact. For the time being the British Mulder's and Sculley's will have to find another job, but the amateurs can continue to watch and as always there remains hope. Apparently you can now send a tweet into outer space.
The Times helpfully reports that members of the public can do this via Lone Signal who are running a project called METI (messaging extra-terrestrial intelligence) which beams signals to Giliese 526, a star 17.6 light years away via a radio dish in California.
You can join them here: http://www.lonesignal.com/
The truth is out there, I hope..... and one day we'll find it.