Many years ago I wrote a novel about first contacts. It was published by Avon and titled The IFO Report, and it sold moderately well. It got optioned for the movies but never produced, and now it’s available second-hand from Amazon for about a dime plus shipping.
When I wrote it, the field of ETI was considered the realm of crackpots. NASA had the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program which every year struggled to get financing, and then Senator William Proxmire, a man not known for his appreciation of science, gave the effort his Golf Fleece award. The initiative almost succumbed.
Times have changed.
Revolutionary advances in astronomy now allow us to estimate that there are more stars in the known universe than there are grains of sand on Earth. Numerous planets orbiting these stars are Earth-like and could support life. Those that are not like us may nevertheless have sentient beings that are other than carbon-based. All this makes the possibility that we are the only sentient beings around fairly remote.
In yesterday’s paper, a story reported the sighting of a rare object hurtling through our solar system. It’s cylindrical, dark and reddish and a quarter-mile long, according to astronomers at the University of Hawaii, and traveling at 160,000 mph. What makes the asteroid Oumuamua—Hawaiian for ‘traveler’—unusual is the fact that it does not behave like other asteroids, which “circle the sun on the same plane, like water swirling around a basin,” according to the feature story. This asteroid is barreling straight through our system. It is shaped like a giant cucumber which, according to Harvard University Astronomer Avi Loeb, “is the optimal design for a vessel meant to travel through space.”
The following day, the Washington Post reported the existence of a secret program funded by the Pentagon to study UFO sightings by military and other pilots. There have been hundreds of such incidents over the last sixty years, and though many have been explained, some remain baffling.
The initiative has been in existence since 2007. Called Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), its findings have never been made available to the public, though its former director, Luis Elizondo, is lobbying to do just that. He released three videos just prior to leaving the program, and sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis to complain that a potential threat to national security is being ignored.
My personal belief is that we may indeed have been visited, but, if so, our very location in the known universe makes us—universe-wise—the equivalent of the Kerguelen Islands. It’s unlikely that anyone or anything is very interested in our existence. What’s meaningful here is that no one is laughing anymore when ETIs and contacts are mentioned.
Cancer again. The latest tests show something unwanted that will need to be removed surgically within the month.
It struck me today that the cancer, like me, is trying to survive. I don’t think it’s sentient, as I am, but the fact that both of us are struggling to live is sort of interesting.
I’ve always, in my mind, visualized the cancer cells as bad guys in black hats fighting the good guys in white hats. It’s simplistic and possibly not the most mature way to explain things, but it helps.