What was that saying from the X-Files? “I Want to Believe.”
News today that several dozen people in the Texas town of Stephenville (coincidence? I think not…) witnessed a large silent object with bright lights flying low and fast. Some reported seeing fighter jets chasing it. One pilot who saw the object from the ground said the object he saw was a mile long and half a mile wide. “It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts,” he said.
Brody: You’re gonna need a bigger boat.
– Jaws (1975)
Now, I believe that there is life elsewhere in the universe. Big surprise as as a science fiction writer, I know.
I’m even willing to bet that some percentage of that alien life is intelligent. And, like I said, I’d like to believe that there are alien travelers and explorers capable of journeying across the vast gulf of interstellar space, even if all they seem interested in is buzzing rural townsfolk and mutilating the occasional cow.
The problem is that the laws of physics as we understand them seem to prohibit such travel between star systems in any workable time frame (like, say, your average human lifespan). Even exotic suggestions for getting around the universe’s cosmic speed limit, that of light (1,079,252,848.8 km/h–thanks a lot, Einstein!), like wormholes or propulsion systems like the Alcubierre drive and the Krasnikov tube either wouldn’t allow anyone to travel through the phenomenon, appear to require vast, if not infinite amounts of energy to make happen, or violate a whole host of energy and causality principles as we currently understand them.
As I’ve said before, the history of science is the history of people being wrong about things. It was said at one time that no heavier-than-air machine could ever fly, that we couldn’t break the sound barrier, that human beings could never survive outside the atmosphere of the Earth, that 640K ought to be enough for anybody…you know–things we know are wrong now.
So I’m hoping that we, for all our genius, are wrong about the possibilities for interstellar travel and that the aliens have found some better, more space-commuter-friendly understanding of physics and actually can come visit and molest our cattle.
After all, like the man said: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. FTL travel may seem like magic to us now, but let’s just hope that alien civilizations have some pixie dust or ruby slippers that can get them (and maybe someday us) there and back again.