The staid and venerable television program 60 Minutes aired a segment last Sunday night that focused on a topic that has been examined before, but not with the same widespread receptivity and credibility. It had to do with ‘UAPs’, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, what used to be called ‘UFOs’.
These sightings, narrowed down to those made by military pilots and other service members, with corroborating precision instrument readings, indicate that there are some objects that have unusual properties. These properties include the ability to move very fast, accelerate much more quickly than would appear likely by normal physical laws, showing no visible means of propulsion, or even wings, tails or fins.
Some of them seem to be able to move through water as easily as through air, and, presumably, through the vacuum of space. The observers of these phenomena are sober professionals, as are the analysts who seek to understand what it is that has been detected and recorded.
The three likeliest theories are that: these are highly advanced projects of the U.S. military; these are developed by a militarily advanced and potentially hostile adversary, such as Russia or China; lastly, that they could—must?—be extraterrestrial in origin.
One formerly high-ranking military official in the U.S. government investigated the first theory and is nearly one hundred percent certain that these are not American products. Other sources have not detected any sign that foreign nations have the ability to produce such advanced devices.
That leaves the final and most controversial possibility: that these objects originate with one or more species that are not on this planet; potentially, not based in this solar system. It has been the effective policy of the military and political establishments to dismiss any such theory, and occasionally to mock or ridicule anyone who courageously offers it; or, indeed, to question the authorities with anything regarding UFOs or UAPs. That sort of strategy may now be untenable.
Advances in astronomy, particularly planetary astronomy, have led to the discoveries of thousands of so-called ‘exo-planets’; i.e., orbiting stars other than our own sun. Most have turned out to be either too far from or too close to their star, or too small or too obviously enormous ‘gas giants’ like Jupiter or Saturn to have any chance of generating life as we know it – using liquid water and oxygen in the atmosphere. Instrumentation is still not precise enough to be sure, but there seem to be several dozen, if not hundreds, of potential Earth-like planets, but not within a dozen light-years of our solar system.
The limiting factor in interstellar space travel is the speed of light. Even if a spacecraft could approach the speed of light, it would still take years to reach another solar system that might support intelligent life. While it is true that the phenomenon of ‘time dilation’ would make the perceived and experienced elapsed time aboard such a craft far shorter as it approaches the lightspeed, the energy required to do so, and then to de-accelerate as it nears its destination, makes it enormously challenging to conceive of realizing such an adventure, at least for us terrestrial beings with currently known technology.
However, the craft that were observed by the U.S. military were using far more advanced propulsion and maneuvering techniques, which seemed to defy normal physics and are unattainable with today’s know-how, even extrapolating from what scientists and engineers conjecture.
An internet search yields many discussions of how a ‘warp field’ can be created around a spacecraft to enable it to travel at close to the speed of light, with no adverse consequences to passengers. However, most of these theories rely on harnessing ‘dark energy’ and other unproven phenomena, or enormous energy. Yet, there is at least one peer-reviewed paper saying that currently-known physics is sufficient to allow for achieving lightspeed, albeit with many technical challenges to make it come true.
It should be noted that physics is constantly evolving, and just this year there were two phenomena discovered that either violated or revised somehow the ‘Standard Model’ used to describe and unite the forces of electromagnetism, the weak and strong nuclear forces; but not, yet, and tellingly, gravity. The famous mass-conferring Higgs Boson was confirmed to exist 40 years after first postulated.
Any civilization capable of practical interstellar flight will have necessarily discovered the aspects of physics that it can harness and manipulate, and thus display the unnerving speed and acceleration the UAPs show. They would also, undoubtedly, have weaponry or devices usable as weapons, that are also way beyond current terrestrial capability, so hostile engagement with them is likely inadvisable.
Exoplanets exist. Some of them appear to be capable of supporting life. The UAPs exist, have astonishing capabilities, and do not use any technology that Earth’s scientists and engineers have yet developed. These things cannot continue to be laughed off. Whatever authorities know about them should be shared in an open-source way so that all interested parties can examine and analyze the data.
The Pentagon has been directed by the U.S. Congress to divulge what it has with the public next month. If they are unable to figure out what is happening, perhaps others may prove to be more successful.
Ian Madsen is a senior policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Photo by Harry Shelton on Unsplash.