Spend just 10 seconds thinking, and we bet you can think of three or four movies, a spin-off video game, and an inflatable costume on Amazon, that each involve extra-terrestrials in some form or fashion. For centuries and centuries, we’ve been writing about aliens, other worlds, and UFOs. Yet the demand for this kind of content has persisted.
As recently as late 2019, a time that wasn’t 2020, we saw a Facebook group dedicated to “storming Area 51” balloon to millions of members. For all of us here at Insights, though, we’re pioneering the movement to, once and for all, stop talking about alien—
What’s that you say?
The pentagon acknowledged the existence of a unit called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which had been studying reports of unexplained aerial vehicles?
They said the unit and its funding lapsed in 2012, but a recent report indicated that the program exists to this day and just had its name changed at some point to the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force?
Some who worked for this unit, including an astrophysicist named Eric W. Davis, have said that, in some cases, examination of the materials had so far failed to determine their source and led him to conclude that we couldn’t have made it ourselves?
So, uh, maybe we should talk about UFOs. But not just UFOs, mind you! Because, as usual, this revelation sent us down a rabbit hole that zig zags across all different topics and crosses into a gallimaufry of scientific fields. Everything from interstellar travel to comas to immortal bacteria to the fight against drug-resistant viruses.
Rabbit Hole Stop #1
There’s no shortage of theories out there about the story behind aliens visiting earth. “They’re coming to check in on us to see if we’re grown up enough to join the other advanced civilizations.” Or “they need our resources but want to stay hidden while they harvest materials from our planet.” Or even “they came to beam up unsuspecting people while they sleep and make art in crop fields.”
But two theories that have emerged more recently really tickle the imagination. First, there’s “what if it’s true that aliens have visited our planet but that this happened long before any of us were around.” This theory was posited in a 2019 study that in part aimed to respond to something known as the Fermi Paradox, which basically asks the question “where are the aliens?”
In response to that question, researchers say, “long gone,” theorizing that aliens may have come here around 10 million years ago. The study goes on to suggest that the reason for the big gaps between visits could be because space-faring civilizations are waiting for solar systems and galaxies to move into just the right position to make for the most efficient trip.
In an even wilder plot twist, another theory
, is every bit as intriguing as it is dubious. Here it is: aliens are visiting our planet, but it’s not to gather resources. The “aliens” are here to see their own past. Yep, the aliens are us. From the future! Just like any theory about why aliens may be here and who they could be, these are not much more than something fun to speculate about.
If nothing else, though, they play a role in driving public interest for astrophysics, astronomy, and even pursuing interstellar travel ourselves.
Rabbit Hole Stop #2
With that segue, we arrive at our second stop in this winding rabbit hole. We can sit and ponder about aliens coming to visit our planet, but what about humans venturing out into the unknown and doing a little UFOing (if I may) of our own? Aren’t we long past due our turn to hover over some non-carbon based lifeform’s sustenance-producing-and-harvesting system (farm)? Maybe. But we have to figure out some things before we’re even close to ready.
Yes, we’ve been to the moon. But getting there costs an exorbitant amount of cheddar, which is a super cool way to say money. And we’re talking about the moon, a thing that we can see in the sky with our naked eyes. So what’s it going to take to get us ready to leave our cozy little corner of the Milky Way?
Lots, in both the money and time categories. Realistically, we’re going to need a drastic advancement in our ability to move really fast or to carry out the same mission over many, many years. Preferably both. Right now, scientists are thinking that things like using a warp drive and putting people into a deep sleep could do the tricks. While scientists say we’re much closer to being able to utilize deep sleep than a working warp drive, both these options are currently out of our reach.
Still, the things we’re working on today are monumentally exciting, even if they don’t come close to the feat of interstellar travel. But every advancement we make along the way contributes to our collective technological capabilities. And one day, even if it’s a long time from now, it could pay off in a big way—like “using a warp drive to reach another galaxy” big.
Rabbit Hole Stop #3
For deep sleep or suspended animation to be utilized as a viable tool for interstellar travel, it’s going to have to be controlled, safe, and long enough to last the entire journey. Unfortunately, the best examples we have right now of anything close to that are people falling into comas. But this got us asking the question “how long can comas last?”
In the ill-fated case of Elaine Esposito, it lasted a whopping 37 years. In 1941, she underwent surgery to remove a ruptured appendix, but because of complications, poor Elaine, who was 6 at the time, didn’t wake up. And while she never awoke from her coma, she lived in that suspended state to the age of 43.
While ending up in a coma presents a grave reality for victims and their families, and a serious challenge for medical professionals, there are cases that have given experts hope.
In 2003, a man named Terry Wallis who had gradually been coming out of his 19-year coma, began speaking to his family. Just last year, a woman named Munira Abdulla, who was seriously injured in a traffic accident in 1991 emerged from a 27-year-long coma.
Rabbit Hole Stop #4
Humans going into decades-long comas is a truly astonishing and bewildering thing. But if we’re thinking about a deep sleep on a truly cosmic level, bacteria wins, and it’s not even close. According to a study done this year, it could be the case that microbes buried beneath the sea floor for more than 100 million years are still alive.
You read that right. One. Hundred. Million. Years. Still alive.
The scientists involved in the study say that the microbes are thought to have been sitting dormant in the sediment, without dividing, for eons. If you want to really put that into perspective, you can use this tool that lets you see what the surface of the earth looked like 100 million years ago.
To be fair, some scientists have doubts that this is really a case of bacteria surviving that long. The original study points to the lack of energy sources where the microbes were found as part of the evidence that they were not dividing during this time, but other experts posit that there may have been a yet undiscovered energy source like radioactivity available to the microbes.
Rabbit Hole Stop #5
We may not be able to fully confirm that bacteria can survive 100 million years. But as many scientists warn, revived viruses need not be that old to pose a very real problem. Here’s why:
For as long as humans have been around, we have lived with,
– dealt with, – evolved to resist, – and suffered from oodles and oodles of bacteria and viruses. Over time, our civilizations collectively grow more resistant to the viruses we encounter, and sometimes, we develop treatments, cures, or vaccines for them.
Thanks to climate change, areas of the globe with concentrations of permafrost are seeing temperatures rise enough to melt these layers of frozen ground, exposing what was previously encased within them. In some cases, this phenomenon has made way for some breathtaking discoveries, like this 18,000-year-old puppy that was discovered almost perfectly preserved in permafrost in 2018.
However, for every preserved creature we get to gaze upon in wonder, we have to also wonder (wink) what kinds of microbial life is also being reintroduced into our environment. Scientists are extremely worried about this right now, especially since a team of researchers were able to revive an 8-million-year-old bacterium, proving our fears are warranted.
Rabbit Hole Stop #6
To bring things full flying saucer- I mean circle, what if the very hypothetical aliens who started us down this rabbit hole are right under our noses, like literally. It’s possible, some scientists think, because it’s possible that aliens have visited earth but that they are not the intelligent, walking (slithering?), talking, probing life forms we’ve seen them depicted as in media. Nope, they could be but tiny microbes that we’ve wrongly assumed originated on this planet.
Andrew Fraknoi, the emeritus chairman of the astronomy department at Foothill College, has proposed that advanced civilizations could have sent thousands tiny canisters holding the germs of life that are programmed to incubate and grow when they encounter suitable conditions around a star. For many, this raises many to answer the question of “have aliens visited earth?” with the follow up question “how would we even know?”
For us, though, it also begs the question, is it possible that we end up with a scenario where permafrost melting releases not just a zombie virus, but an alien zombie virus??