206 Comments

First, a detail not often recognized. The Fermi Paradox was first formulated by Enrico Fermi in Los Alamos at a time when national security types were worried about frequent sightings of green fireballs with odd trajectories.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_fireballs

The nerds in Los Alamos (Manhattan Project/cold war era Los Alamos) were split between Soviet probes and UFOs.

Second, your list of three options leaves off two or three that really should be considered.

4) unknown physical phenomena. Those cubes inside spheres are the side effect of frame dragging in a chronosynclastic infendibulum of electromagnetic time crystals. (All made up, because how should I know what undiscovered physics is going on)

5) actual woo. The UFOs are real pixies and sprites, or the astral/etheric effects of Thor throwing down with Hermes.

6) archetypes and the collective unconscious. 1,000 years ago people saw angels and demons because that is what they expected to see. These days people see UFOs (overwhelmingly in the English speaking world) because that is what they expect. Whenever some stimulus doesn't fit into available patterns it gets shunted into forms that make sense. For a fun rabbit hole, look up near death experiences by culture. (The Hindus have the best one, where they see a giant bureaucracy that sends them back due to clerical errors)

Finally, missing from the equation is the interest in space. Life might be abundant, intelligence might be an emergent property, even technological development might be common, but we might be the only species in the universe that cares about space exploration. That might even be limited just to western civilization (Faustian according to Oswald Spengler) and other human cultures lose interest after the west finishes imploding.

Expand full comment
author

You're right, those three possibilities are all viable contenders. I tend to think the observed behavior of UAPs is inconsistent with an abiotic, non-intelligent origin ... but then again, I haven't read up on my chronosynclastic infendibuli, so who knows, maybe they do right angle turns?

That said, 4) and 5) can be folded into 3) if the hypothesis space is expanded beyond "extraterrestrial biological intelligence". Actually I think 6) can be too, since this would still point to a "real" phenomenon (for certain values of real). In any case I strongly agree that it is too early to limit hypotheses ... and in fact, while I favor the ET hypothesis, some phenomena are much too weird for that. It could well be a case of both/and: ghosts, goblins, ET, it's all in play.

As to expansionism, I think this is pretty universal. Every animal species, given access to a new environment, will move into it. Humanity colonized the entire planet back in the deep paleolithic, long before we Westmen came on the scene. In more recent times, the Polynesians were extremely adventurous.

Expand full comment

Life does move into new niches with a fervor, but the costs of interstellar space travel are literally astronomical (pun intended) To send a vessel to another star that can then do something once it gets there is a huge technical challenge over a huge time horizon. The ROI for such a project can only be measured in terms of a culture's values because it will never pay any tangible dividends.

It's possible that we might discover new physics which reduces the cost, but with what we know now an interstellar colony ship would take a significant fraction of the world's GDP for decades just to get to the nearest stars. And they might not be worth going to, we won't really know until we get there. A probe would be less expensive, but we'd have to figure out how to make one that still works after a century or two or 170. And who knows if we'll still be here to receive the reports. Man learned to fly less than 200 years ago and we already have sustainability problems and a couple of near misses on the nuclear war front.

PS chronosynclastic infendibulum is from Kurt Vonegut's Sirens of Titan, not real physics, but it sounded sciencey.

Expand full comment
author

Cost is relative to technology and resource base. What looks ruinously expensive to us may well be trivial to the solar imperium of 3024 AD. The difference between us and a Kardashev II civilization is comparable to gap separating a bee hive from our civilization.

Until masted sailing vessels matured as a technology, transoceanic exploration, trade, and colonization was inconceivable. Literally, as in: no one conceived it. Once the technology was there such voyages became routine.

Expand full comment

Oh I completely agree. The entire US industrial production before the civil war doesn't amount to much more than a rounding error compared to our present output. But I attribute that growth to fossil fuels and I doubt we are going to get lucky again in the cheap and abundant energy sources department. But if we did, I would expect us to move Venus to Mars's orbit, add Mars as a moon, spin it up fast enough to get the core generating a magnetic field, and add ice from the Oort cloud before we tackle interstellar colonization. But you don't see that in any of the scifi or NASA research. Humans (western civ in particular) might have a truly unique fixation on interstellar conquest. It is very hard to tell from our limited sample size.

Expand full comment
author

I think you might be underestimating the energy it would take to rearrange the orbits of the planets etc. It's quite colossal, Red Rising notwithstanding. By contrast, sending a few thousand people fifty light years away is probably a lot faster and cheaper.

Then again, I can easily see a civilization saying: why not both?

Expand full comment

The energy requirements are colossal, but they don't have to be paid out of our solar budget. A couple dozen asteroids looping around the gas giants could do it with gravitational assists (no rockets or engines) and only periodic course corrections. It would would take a long time, but could be done faster with orders of magnitude more asteroids. Here's a nice paper about doing it to Earth to fight climate change: https://arxiv.org/abs/2201.02879

Expand full comment

Worth noting that the settlement of Polynesia appears to have been driven by cultural/religious motivations rather than practical or political ones. Traveling across thousands of miles of open ocean with Stone Age technology was incredibly risky and almost certainly led to large numbers of chiefs getting themselves and their entire family killed.

Around 1000-1300 AD a cultural meme took hold that convinced Polynesians that the founding family of a new island would become demi-gods, convincing them that the risk was worth it. Not hard to imagine a similar cultural imperative popping up somewhere in the Milky Way at some point in the last few billion years, regardless of the technical and economic challenges of interstellar travel.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Your point 6 gels well with psychology: people with tendency for schizophrenia displays the symptoms of schizophrenia as portrayed in media. As media and media portrayal changes, so does the symptoms.

Expand full comment

Humanity, at least in science, seems to find comfort in believing there are total and fixed barriers between dimensions. If this turns out to be untrue......this puts a fun (cosmically playful) spin of every theory and the core of our reality as we hope we understand it. At least quantum physics will make more sense....

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

I'm going to be that guy who pisses in the pool it seems.

Just because something /should/ have developed due to similar circumstances sadly has no bearing on whether it exists or not. I'll use a couple of well-known conundrums:

>Why no industrial revolution during the height of Egypt, Greece or Rome? All of the requisite knowledge, materials and socio-economical base conditions were in existence. Not only didn't it happen in the Eastern Mediterranean region, it didn't happen at all anywhere until much later.

>Why didn't an ambitious empire-building colonising culture arise somewhere in Africa, rather than in Europe? The raw materials are there. No winter. Plenty of game and plenty of space for agriculture. And if we believe the "out of Africa-hypothesis", a huge advantage in time. Yet nothing like the persians, the greeks or the romans arose.

While it is both probable and plausible that there are millions of planets with life, long dead or just formed, well... compare to purposeful and conscious exploration of Earth. It didn't take off for real until quite recently, measured on our species' time of existence. Nor was it very systematically performed, initially.

And all the above things doesn't even take religion/spirituality into account, or "prime directive"-stuff. Maybe the UFOs are interstellar sociologists?

My favourite pet-hypothesis is, the dinosaurs ruled the planet for over 100 000 000 years. Obviously, they developed intelligence and sci-tech and left before the impact, throwing their ships into a slingshot orbit around some star or other, course calculated to bring them back to Earth when they could be certain conditions were approaching tolerable. A couple of decades aboard ship, tens of millions of years on the planet, thanks to relativity and time dilation due to the relative velocities.

Making the UFOs scout ships of course.

Maybe that's why Mars looks like it does? They went there because their main engines were that hypothesised kind that chain-detonates hydrogen bombs to push the ship into tens of percent of light speed?

Just spitballing. Very enjoyable read, you spoil us - also nice to see a mention of Brahe, the man with the silver nose.

Expand full comment
author

I'm not sure the Egyptians ever had the knowledge base necessary for an industrial revolution. The Greeks may have, but cultural factors may have played a role (techne being considered low class), but probably the main factor would be the lack of an energy source. AFAIK they didn't know about coal.

African empires: do the Zulu qualify? Certainly the broader Bantu expansion has been compared to that of the proto-Indo-Europeans.

Dinosaurs: I wrote a science fiction story with a very similar premise when I was a teenager. More recently, Niven & Benford's Bowl of Heaven duology played with this idea.

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

Primitive steam-engines can use wood, I believe. And you don't build the great pyramids without knowledge - Imhotep became a deity in his own right over time both for "inventing" medicine and the pillar.

Eh, it's unsolvable really. All we know is, it didn't happen for some reason or reasons, which should serve as a warning to us: what might we be missing that is revolutionary and within reach, yet we cannot see it from within our context?

Sort of what you wrote about I think, re: all those pilots and peasants maybe.

Zulu, Great Zimbabwe, the original inhabitants of what is now Somalia (who traded with Egypt and Mycaenean Crete) - they grew, they developed, they built cities and had written language and art and so on.

And then for some reason their development just sort of petered out. Some who debate and delve into these things have proposed that some kind of "critical mass" of knowledge, need and necessity plus resources must reach a critical point all at the same time while the culture or civilisation in question is challenged - not too little a challenge as with the Aztecs and their neighbours and not too much a challenge as when the spaniards arrived.

As for the dinosaurs, I got the idea from a swedish comic in the 1980s, the writer of which had read "Chariots of the gods" and put a spin on it.

Expand full comment
author

Then again, do we know the Egyptians built the pyramids?

It's quite possible that there have been much more advanced civilizations than we believe, eg during the ice age. Periodic catastrophes could have reset civilization a few times. To take the Roman example, perhaps if they'd not fallen, they would have developed the steam engine.

And yes, wood can be used I believe, but that's a lot of wood to get an industrial revolution going....

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023·edited Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

Didn't they use steam to heat their floors and walls? I also vaguely remember reading somewhere that Archimedes created the first steam engine.

Expand full comment
author

They did. There's also indications of steam engines being used for temple doors and such.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Hero even made sketches of and built a functioning vending machine!

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

Yes and yes. Usually, most of the credit goes to Hero of Alexandria (1st century AD). Then we have Ctesibus of course, and many more.

There's even been suggested that *someone* purposefully has intervened at times to stymie human technological development.

That idea fits neatly into "government and top-oligarks collaborates with aliens to keep the peace and to control how we develop"-narrative and may be the oldest example of it.

Expand full comment
author

Certainly our present elites are doing everything they can to stymie technological progress. See: nuclear.

Expand full comment

If nothing else, it's a fun conversation.

Expand full comment

Your speaking of "checking your premise" I believe. How do we know the Egyptians built the pyramids? We don't. We do know it was not the ancestors of the people occupying that land now due to DNA analysis.

How do we know the pyramids are 3,000 years old? Did we get the dating right? We assume that scientists are accurate in their dating, but are they?

I do agree that many technologically advance societies have existed before us, and been laid low by those "periodic catastrophes" you mention. I wonder how many cycles humanity has been through?

Expand full comment
author

You're right: we don't know the Egyptians of the dynastic periods built the pyramids, or for that matter the Sphinx (for which weathering suggests a much older age than a few thousand years).

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

"And then for some reason their development just sort of petered out. "

Probably the same reason it always does, fighting over who gets to be in charge.

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023·edited Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

The Greeks created the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism so they totally could have had an industrial revolution under slightly different conditions.

I've also thought that given the amount of time that dinosaurs existed, there must have been some dinosaur culture at least on a par with simple human cultures. The problem in finding evidence is that not much of it lasts for tens of millions of years. Almost all created forms go back into the geological shredder over and over such that nothing is left of them.

Expand full comment
author

Silurian hypothesis, yeah. Basically impossible to detect an intelligent species after a few Myr, let alone a few hundred.

Expand full comment

Thanks, I had not heard of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silurian_hypothesis before.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

And that's without even getting into the possibility that the solar system is older than we think, and there was a thriving high-tech civilization on Earth prior to the Theia impact that annihilated all evidence and formed the current day Earth-Luna system.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

But those things did happen, and in a cosmically infinitesimally small period of time after the rise of "intelligent" life on this planet. The universe is something around 14 billion years old. What is possible once an intelligent life form evolves and is given even just millions of years to improve its technology after it harnesses fire and agriculture?

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

The second one isn't too remarkable given what we know about Africans.

Expand full comment

It seems like the industrial revolution could have happened in many places, but it only seems that way.

England had used up almost all of its forests and was mining coal to such an extent that the mines were flooding. They also had a bunch of scholars and tinkerers interested in physics and clocks. That combination allowed for the 1st steam engine to be used in the only pace in the world were it made any kind of economic sense, at the mine head where the water needed pumping and the coal was cheap enough for such an inefficient engine.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

I repeat: everything necessary re: engineering knowledge and technology was present before the 1st century.

Something else was missing, but what? The question is as I stated elsewhere important mainly to try and figure out what we are missing that we could be able to do.

Expand full comment

Are you familiar with cargo cults? In WWII the USA set up a number of bases in the Pacific islands. They valued the imported goods and after the war they staged elaborate rituals with bamboo radio towers, coconut headphones, and reed replicas of planes to bring in more cargo. But they were missing something... they had misunderstood something fundamental, but they didn't realize what.

I think we are currently in their shoes.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Quite possible, given things like "Xtinction Rebellion" and other such doomsday cults gathering followers.

The "What could we actually do, technically, social and human issues aside?" vs. "Why should we try to at all?" vs. "But what if Bad Thing(tm) results from doing it?" - the three legs of the stool of change.

We /could/ try and establish permanent colonies on the Moon and on Mars; the technology, albeit with great risks to the colonists, exists in the world.

Yet we don't, for a great many reasons ranging from practical to humanist. Perhaps the engineers and technologist of ancient Babylon also held such talks as this? "We /could/ build sewage canals of cast bricks and huge separation dams for the city's waste - why aren't we doing that?" sort of.

Expand full comment
author

Ancient civilizations did tend towards a profound conservatism. Then again the Harappans and the Romans both had plumbing and sewage.

Expand full comment
Oct 20, 2023Liked by John Carter

Yes, but they could have had /better/ plumbing and sewage systems.

I believe there's an anecdote (probably completely ahistorical) about Octavian, that he was presented with plans for improving the entire sewr system of the city of Rome - the very latest in greek engineering and materials, something which would have solved all the problems with filthy slow-flowing feces-ridden water causing seasonal epidemics.

Instead, he opted for the people who showed him how to build temples out of marble.

It is, I feel, a very useful fable no matter if it's objectively true or not.

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

I lean towards number 1. I remember reading stories about anti vaxxers in the early 2010's, and thinking to myself, who are these people? I've never met one. The #METOO stuff starts early also, does anybody remember the Duke lacrosse team who were accused of rape by a stripper, and then later the stanford swimmer and the drunk girl at the party? The 90's had plenty of stories of "terrorism" to get everyone ready for you know what. They only publish what they want you to see, as we all learned in 2020. Things are getting crazier by the day, anything that keeps people from pointing the finger where it rightly belongs will be trotted out. Bread and circuses my friends.

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

Heck I remember thinking back when i was in high school that the TV show "sex in the city" was propaganda just from listening to how all the women my age loved it. Devil doesn't get ya by telling you how awful hell is.

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023·edited Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

Who killed Epstein and who used his services? Is he even dead? ;)

Expand full comment

They only publish what they want you to see, as we all learned in 2020.

This is an incredibly important point. Unless you can personally verify it, don't believe it. *cough* Israel *cough*

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

Has everyone forgotten the Iranian general Trump blew up early 2020? World War 3 started in 2014 in "cold" form and went hot in 2020.

Expand full comment

Maybe this is only tangential: I just finished reading a sci-fi book called "Ascension" by Nicholas Binge. Without spoiling it, I hope, I'll say that the premise is: do ants, for example, know that we humans exist? They may steal our food, live in our houses, and be killed by our feet...but perhaps they think these are just natural phenomenon, and have no idea humans exist. What if we are in the same situation?

Expand full comment
author

I wonder about that a lot.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Allegedly, there's a ratio: 70 kilos of ants for every kilo of human on the planet.

That kind of stuff can keep me up at night.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

It's their planet, we're just infesting it for a while.

Expand full comment
Oct 20, 2023Liked by John Carter

This from a woman who used to work in micro/cellular biology re: brains and how they communicate:

"Imagine every ant as a single neuron. One neuron is no loody use, right? But how many ants are in an anthill of 2 cubic meters? One ant is not smart, but the anthill seems to be able to learn and to remember - where does it store the knowledge? How it is transferred between generations?"

(Cue my impression of a fish on land, trying to formulate questions)

Her: "What if all the anthills of the same species in a given region can exchange information of some rudimentary level? What if anthills are networked somehow?"

This was ten+ years ago. The other month I spoke with my brother who's currently deep into machine learning, neuralnets, brain-code interfacing and training AIs:

"Hey, rember that thing about ants you mentioned years ago? Yeah, we've started basing some of the modelling of our theories and projects on anthills and similar things now!"

I really don't want to live in a world with cyber-organic ants forming communication networks linked up to central comptrollers, for our safety of course...

Expand full comment
author

If you really want to give yourself nightmares, look up the supercolonies formed by the Argentine ants in Europe. They cooperate on continental scales.

Expand full comment

I can think of a reason why all this might seem more acceptable now: we've just been culled by our governments, men are now women, the life we knew is going or gone, war is hanging over us, evil is everywhere ascendent. Hell, what's a few aliens...

Expand full comment
author

Yes this is also probably a factor.

Expand full comment

Oh, definitely. People talk about UAPs being nothing more than a psyop to distract us from other matters, but "psyop" and UAPs being real, physical, and possibly alien craft are not mutually exclusive. Some truth can always give an assist to deception.

"And a lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."

Deep Throat

The X-Files

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

I saw weird lights in the sky my whole childhood doing things conventional wisdom said man-made aircraft couldn't possibly do. I also lived near several bases where the military tested rockets and experimental aircraft.

Having worked on those bases later in life, and having had privileged access to things that most people, including the pilots of those aircraft, did not have access to, I can tell you it's not at all unusual for the pilots not to be aware of the existence or capabilities of other aircraft being tested at the same time and same location as the ones they're testing.

Compartmentalization in experimental military technology is so extreme that lack of coordination between projects sometimes causes serious accidents.

Another thing I can say is that none of it is as impressive as wild speculation and runaway imaginations sometimes makes it out to be. No known laws of physics are being broken. Oddly shaped objects moving (or hovering) in ways jet planes can't doesn't require Clarketech. Drones that you can now buy at walmart move in ways and at speeds that ordinary people believed wasn't possible only 30 years ago.

The reason you don't always see these gadgets revealed to the public is sometimes they turn out to not be very useful and the project gets shut down. But the military jealously guards their secrets, just in case the commies might see a use for it that they don't.

Sadly I can't say more or they'd have to kill me (or put me in jail forever more likely). But more than once I've seen a UFO freakout that I could perfectly explain because I knew exactly what it was, but of which I am not permitted to speak. I promise none of them involved anti-gravity, hyperspace, faeries, or anything else other than conventional propulsion technology. But the spooks and arms dealers don't mind you thinking that because it muddies the waters and serves the purpose of keeping these things secret.

Expand full comment
author

Yep, this is definitely a possibility. Of course, if it's all secret military programs, and the entire UFO mythology is one gigantic COINTELPRO psyop, that is fascinating and scandalous in its own right.

Frankly, there should be a sunset clause on military secrets. Some of that tech might have no military use but it could have civilian applications that Lockheed-Martin just hasn't thought of.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Sure, and to be fair it's been a long time since I did that work. If you want to keep hope alive you could say "yeah but this time it's real". I just maintain skepticism because of how many I personally know to have been mistakes. I don't doubt at all most of the testimony (though some are hoaxes); I just doubt they're anything without terrestrial explanation.

Expand full comment
author

This is why I refuse to prematurely restrict the hypothesis space. Black research projects are a definite possibility, and tend to be my go-to assumption for most visual sightings of aerial phenomena. OTOH some of the aerial sightings seem very difficult to reconcile with any capabilities that could reasonably be extrapolated from known physics. On the other other hand, maybe I'm just not imaginative enough.

A large part of the problem is the secrecy itself. For example, you say that you have inside knowledge of black research projects, but you're just a name on the Internet, so it's functionally hearsay, and on a similar level to the hearsay of others with similar backgrounds who say, no, the USG is reverse engineering alien crashes. I'm not saying that I think you're lying: rather, that the lack of transparency in the national security state renders everything intrinsically uncertain and, thereby, breeds paranoia.

Then there are the more intimate encounters, in which people claim to have come into contact with aliens directly. These are hard to explain as aerospace projects. Maybe as MKULTRA-style mind control projects, induced hallucinations. etc? But again, if the security state has been pulling that on people for several decades, that's pretty wild in and of itself.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Sure absolutely, I nearly wrote in the caveat that "I'm just some anonymous asshole on the internet so take it for what it's worth" but I figured it went without saying.

"Black research project" makes it sound kind of spooky and mysterious, which is not really how I see it, but maybe my perspective is odd thanks to where and when I grew up. They were just cool new aircraft to me that everybody sorta knew we weren't supposed to go telling out-of-town relatives about.

RE: aerial sightings, in the dark with fast-moving things, or using blurry and unreliable instruments, it's very easy to misread a situation. Particularly with experimental aircraft, which often have weird shapes. For examples the B-2 and B-21, the SR-71, the F-117, and what would become the F-35 all got their share of UFO reports, and they're far from the weirdest. Incidentally I had photos of these and saw several of them in person before most people knew they existed, and thought they were the coolest things ever *because* they were so "alien" looking compared to widely known aircraft at the time. We're pretty used to them now but they were freakin' weird and impossible looking in the 80s and 90s.

When you see unfamiliar things, especially from an odd angle in the dark, and don't know what they are, your mind can go to weird places trying to make sense of it. You always get that uncanny sense of seeing something unfamiliar and maybe dangerous. I remember a coat hanging on a vacuum cleaner scaring the crap out of me one night when I was a kid. For about 5 seconds I believed in witches, ghost and aliens simultaneously.

As for visitations from otherworldly beings, we've been experiencing those for as long as we've been humans. Your guess is as good as mine as to what they are. I tend to think they are not things that break the laws of physics, but "just in our heads" is not exactly adequate either. I suspect metaphysical entities with a life of their own, in a way, that are outside any individual's consciousness, but that's a longer discussion.

Expand full comment
author

Fixed wing aircraft will still fly like any other airplane, regardless of how weird they look. Many of the sightings report objects pulling crazy manoeuvers, like right-angle turns, crazy accelerations, hovering in place perfectly motionless. All quite odd.

As to breaking the laws of physics: that's definitionally impossible. Whether our physics is correct is the question.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023·edited Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

*known physics yeah.

Imagine that an aircraft, which from behind looks like <odd shape>, is flying directly in front of you, having dropped down from above your field of view. Not knowing what to make of it or how big it is, and because its position in your field of view is fixed, you can't tell how far away it is, how fast it's moving or what direction it's traveling. It appears to "hover".

Then it banks hard to the left, fires afterburners, and shoots off out of sight. From above, this looks like a rounded corner. From your point of view, the object appears to "change shape" as it rotates relative to you (since you have no mental model of its true shape). It also appears to accelerate rapidly from a standstill.

Add to this that spooky "what the fuck is that" hyper-aware altered consciousness moment.

Most of the videos I've seen could fit this kind of scenario, and I've seen a few "sky lights" moments like this where I just happen to know what is flying. It's not entirely uncommon for fighters and interceptors to pull these kinds of maneuvers around commercial aircraft when they're flying close to restricted airspace, or for other security reasons.

I've yet to see anything that seems implausible. I'd love to have a "wow" moment like that, but so far no personal experience or video evidence has yielded it. But what is implausible to me is somewhat different from an average person's mental model about what airplanes can do.

I'll leave the door unlocked just in case something incredible comes knocking.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

That's funny, because my ex, who was no aircraft ID expert, or even interested in things aerospace, immediately ID'd a B-2 bomber, when it suddenly dropped out of a low (200') cloud layer about a 3/4 mile from us (presenting a front-on aspect, to boot - it looked like a black sliver). She instantly cried, "Look! It's a stealth bomber!" If she was able to do that in a flash, without ever having seen one (and not knowing the difference between a P-38, the fighter, and a P38, the can opener), I have to scoff at claims that people regularly mistake a stealth aircraft for something other-worldly.

Additionally, there is nothing "alien" about the B-2 to the many aviation enthusiasts who were well-aware of Jack Northrop's aircraft of the 1940s. It's a flying wing. The most salient components of most UAP reports are not about what they have (e.g. wings) but what they don't have (e.g., wings, intakes, exhaust, no control surfaces, no means to produce thrust, no noise, etc.). All stealth aircraft have all of those parts, making them stand out, except under rare conditions, as entirely terrestrial.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Reasonable but - would she have recognized it before anyone had ever heard of one? Again, it produced many UFO reports during test flights. There are fewer triangle-shaped UFOs these days.

As for newer ones, do they not have those things, or were they just not readily apparent, especially at a distance with poor visibility as seems to often be the case with sightings? A quadrotor seen at 100 yards would pass most of those checks. They do obviously have a means to produce thrust, but the rotors are small and nearly transparent when in motion. If you saw one zipping around in the distance in, say, 2003 I'd bet you'd have no idea what it was.

Similarly what would become predator/reaper drones were responsible for " silver cigar shaped" UFO reports in the early 2000s.

I'm willing to bet a whole other class of unexplained aerial phenomenon will suddenly be explained when there's a major war in a decade or so and the US, China, or whoever is flying them has to admit they exist.

Expand full comment

Lasers, when first invented, were considered interesting toys, with limited potential for application in scientific research. Now they're ubiquitous, and have probably raked in trillions of dollars over time. Certainly, the spin-off technologies that use them certainly have, if not the lasers themselves.

Expand full comment

_And yet, personally, I don’t trust any elements in the regime. At all. Even if there’s fire where that smoke is, and I lean strongly in the direction that there is, I suspect there’s some kind of angle they’re playing._

So, pretty much "option 1 is not exclusive of option three... there's something real, AND the government is likely lying about it in some way."

Expand full comment
author

Correct.

Expand full comment

Pretty much my take on the moon landings - because sooo many of the arguments are insanely, as in "have you ever done photography or perspective in art" insanely, stupid.

But why were those tapes wiped?

Expand full comment
author

Yep. We very obviously went to the Moon. It is very unlikely we're being told the entire story about why, or what happened up there.

If anything the hoaxists are useful idiots, channeling all the energy into Stanley Kubrick film criticism rather than prying into more interesting questions.

Expand full comment

I always liked the "he was such a perfectionist he insisted on filming on location" gag.

Expand full comment
author

Classic.

Expand full comment

Regarding the emergence of civilization on Earth, it took (we think) about half the planet's expected 10 billion year lifetime. That would be consistent with a miniscule probability (say one in a million), even if simple life can form quickly. Still, the rapid development of simple life would be required to support the billions of years of evolution that produced us. It's hard to avoid the anthropic principle...

I vote for UFO option 1, psyop. Government is trying to distract from its failures.

Thanks for highlighting the failures of reason. We should expect that every step has at least a 50 % chance of being wrong. "Because reasons" is a great saying.

Expand full comment
author

I think that reasoning process is a bit flawed. There was zero chance of civilization during the Precambrian for example - no intelligent life forms. Need time for them to develop, but given time, and the obvious tendency of encephalization to increase over time, the probability of a biosphere generating an intelligent species approaches unity.

That said about 3.5 Gyr elapsed before multicellular life emerged, so, indeed, quite a bit of time is required. Now you could say, life could get wiped out during that long gestational period ... But bacterial life is very resilient.

Expand full comment

By 50%, I meant other people 😉

Expand full comment

There's another possibility: For whatever reason, the aliums have decided it's time to make their presence known, and our pathetic loser excuses for leaders are trying to get ahead of it, so as to try and retain what little credibility they have left.

After all, as Uncle Clif has noted, if the government is helpless to protect us against UFOs (and all the abductions and cattle mutilations) then why the fuck should we give them any authority at all?

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

The aliens are inside the leaders and are using their meat puppet leaders to tell us to put to their self-assembling nano doodles inside us.

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

I'm going with massive psy-op overcapacity in government so they're doing it for some trumped up reason, essentially for the LOLs.

Historically a lot of apparent UFO activity was just different branches of the military doing stuff the others weren't aware of is also likely as the military is even bigger and more byzantine now.

Watch the Skies by Peebles is a great book from 1994 published by the Smithsonian that tracks UFO sightings in the US, the "UFO myth" and shows how they follow historical themes. The current government semi-but-not-quite admissions would fit in well as an additional chapter.

"The interaction between believers has been a major influence on the myth’s history. The flying saucer myth … also involves how the believers view the role and nature of government… This interaction both fed the flying saucer myth and brought about the very things the government sought to avoid"

Expand full comment

Great essay. Your point that the Fermi Paradox is only a paradox because we ignore UAPs/UFOs needs to be widely circulated.

Expand full comment
author

It just seems obvious to me lol. And has seemed so for many years....

Expand full comment
Oct 20, 2023·edited Oct 20, 2023Liked by John Carter

A strong argument. One niggle:

"The emergence of life more or less immediately tells us one of two things: either life was seeded on Earth from somewhere else, or physics makes the emergence of life highly probable once the conditions are right."

There is at least one other possibility. It is possible that our current understanding of physics is missing a key ingredient of life's emergence, which may serve to invert the supposed prerequisites (in causal terms).

In other words, what appears to us human observers to be a fertile sphere in which life automatically develops could instead be the effect of a life "signal" causing changes in its immediate surroundings that advantage the flourishing of dynamic complexity. "The tree makes the soil" may sound like hippy-dippy bullshit, but so far there doesn't seem to be a method of proving it's impossible.

How does that third option relate to the prospect of extraterrestrial life capable of interstellar/galactic adventure? It depends on your opinions about the nous, and the prospect of life as the result of divine intelligence rather than the dice games of Fermi and others.

Expand full comment
author

Yeah so that gets into Gaia theory, and there's a lot to be said for that. I think that only makes it more likely that advanced life is relatively common, since it would increase the probability that microbial life terraforns environments in which it becomes established.

Expand full comment
Oct 20, 2023Liked by John Carter

From empirical observation of my garden and the terrain where I live, the tree most definitely makes the soil, and not metaphorically.

Most of the "soil" here is Ice Age-remains: morraine, Rogen morraine, and old melting period river beds of mineral/rock sand so fine it's like dust when dry and quick sand-like custard when wet. Beneath that is water-bearing bedrock, meaning the entire top layer despite being tens of yrds deep in places moves every Fall and Spring: the water logged layers freeze and thaw, creating movement and erosion.

On top of all that is a - at best - foot-deep layer of mulch and real soil, all composed of old compost from ten millennia of trees growing, dying and decomposing.

I make so-called growing-loaves or Hugilbeds by clearing ground, then covering that with leaves, pine and spruce needles, bark, ensilage from the chicken huts, ash from the stove and on top of that twigs, forming a three feet deep layer initially. This is then covered and left alone over winter. Come spring, I plant potatoes as the first crop in every new "loaf". After three years, those three feet of assorted stuff have become maybe 6" of real soil.

This isn't my invention: archelogical finds from middle Sweden have shown people did it this way 9 000 years ago, maybe even earlier.

Seed needs sun, warmth and water. Dead plant nourishes new seeds. Eventually, we have soil to grow in. But nowadays, no leaders whether politcal or business sector understand.

Expand full comment
author

It isn't only the trees that make the soil: it's also humans. We've been doing that for thousands of years, and not only in Sweden: the deposits of "black earth" all over the Amazon testify to a long-standing practice of soil cultivation by the natives.

So much for the theory that humans are purely ecologically destructive parasites.

Expand full comment
Oct 20, 2023Liked by John Carter

Yup. Scania in Sweden is among the top 5 soils in the entire world; depending on crop and weather, two or three harvests are not impossible. It's black earth, chalky clay, loam all the way down.

But hey hey, remember that "agriculture" and "keeping animals" was first developed in the Fertile Crescent... right.

Expand full comment
author

Hmm.

This is consistent with something I've been wondering about for some time. Dogs were the first domesticated organism, and that was in Siberia. Grains were relatively late in the game - 10,000 years later.

Expand full comment

That's why "agriculture was invented in the Golden Crecent" is basically a fully arbitrary notion. I think it harkens back to 19th century archeology and how the then-brand new filed of science was viewed, thought of and (ab)used back then. It was still very much a product of Medieaval and Renaissance historical writings where the main point was to draw the heritage of the ruler or mecenate in question back to Adam, so to speak, so as to establish why people and crown X was superior to all others (in the christianised world that is).

Rather, multiple groups of humans gradually domesticated local animals over time and also developed techniques for planting, growing and harvesting while being semi-nomadic.

The "fäbod" of Sweden, still some active today, is probably our current-day version of it though much refined from the original obviously. Basically, the pre-Ice Age nomads followed more or less set routes and herds from winter to summer camp sites, and would meet up with other groups at pre-arranged times (solstice f.e.) to exchange news, goods, handle marriages and so on. It then falls natural to plant such seeds as you carry so that you will be able to harvest when you come around there next harvesting season.

Eventually, technology permitting, the best such sites became the first permanent settlements.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

You can count me in as a moon landing denier. Judging it by how NASA treats what should be nearly sacred film more like an old movie prop: by losing it! Same with moon rocks. It would appear that the USA can’t or won’t go back, and the moon shots become more difficult to replicate ‘in a lab’ every day. That said, the moral argument for the moon landings is strong, and I don’t mean just the astronauts. I mean the many scientists and engineers who worked on the project, believed in the project, and never wrote conspiracy theory books.

Expand full comment
author

Consider that much of the oddness may also be consistent with there being more to the story than we've been told.

As to not going back: Nixon preferred war, the Democrats preferred dem programs, and the boomers as a generation lack any sense of vision.

Expand full comment

Also the moon program was astronomically expensive. I'm just hoping we don't get a complete anti-space backlash, similar to what happened after the Ming Treasure Fleet Voyages of Zheng He.

Expand full comment
author

Yep. NASA's budget was, what, 10x higher? Resulting in "Whitey's on Da Moon" protests.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

I love the story of Zheng He. I guess space exploration has to mean $$$ or else no deal. Still think some way of getting out there is gonna happen, by NASA or some space garage bros.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Boomers got cars with tail fins, not flying cars, and were satisfied with the simulacrum. Will modern generations do any better? Plato's Cave and what not.

Expand full comment
author

The boomers may have been history's worst generation, but history isn't over yet.

Expand full comment
Oct 19, 2023Liked by John Carter

Sadly governments losing important documents isn't all that unusual. Even when they have no particular reason to want them to go missing. Most of the federal bureaucracy are make-work clowns keeping desk chairs warm while doing the minimum possible amount of work to avoid getting fired (which is shockingly minimal, since governments operate without profitability constraints). They "oopsie" and cover up staggering mistakes all the damn time.

Expand full comment
Oct 20, 2023Liked by John Carter

I would like you Yanks to go back, but I know that it won't be three Anglo-Saxons up there. It will be some gibbering third-worlders with thick, foreign accents. The whole thing will have to be run remotely to cover for their obvious deficiencies, of course.

Expand full comment

"To be sure, many remain skeptical. And not without good reason. It isn’t like officialdom hasn’t lied to us before. They lie to our faces daily. About everything. It seems to be their main joy in life." I reman skeptical and this line epitomizes it. As a simpleton who found Sagan interesting, this essay is what I would hand to someone wanting to steelman the ET exist argument. High-level.

For my money, if UAP is ET, then I am going with possibility 4): 1, 2, & 3. Cheers.

Expand full comment
author

4 is my preferred option as well.

Expand full comment

I'm for #1 with it being a distraction and throwing more things in the psyop brew, if it's only between the three presented.

What I think, though, is that there has been a shift in how we view things. Because each individual now holds a smaller and smaller percentage of the total information we know, we rely on books, authorities, and experts to know things for us, and then trust them. However, you can only write a book or be an expert on a few things - meaning these experts themselves also trust other experts.

This leads to us having to change our target for analysis from the factual (things we know to work because we have experienced them) to the counterfactual (things we have not experienced but we are told should work or have been vetted by the "know betters"). There used to be a release valve for this in the form of saying "I don't know", but that's not something we're allowed to do anymore, because you can "just Google it!".

This means you either have to believe or disbelieve - no middle ground, no neutral - very polarizing.

It might really just be that we don't know what we're observing, and we shove it into the "aliens!" mental schema, because that's something close to hand.

https://open.substack.com/pub/argomend/p/book-smart-and-street-smart?r=28g8km&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

Expand full comment
author

Actually, I try to do just the opposite. Rather than binning everything into the binary of "true/false", I tend to think of things in a more Bayesian or probabilistic sense. I don't mean to imply that I explicitly quantify the degree of accuracy of a given proposition; rather, I hold as many things as possible in the "maybe" category, with some more likely than others but very little ruled out entirely.

Further, I think this is the only sane epistemological approach in the current information environment.

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023·edited Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

Yeah, I'm finding that having a big spectrum of "maybes" is a lot better. Like recently, my government has a goal to have 50% of vehicles "electric" by 2040 (this is what I heard).

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1846647/fwd-marcos-wants-50-of-cars-on-the-road-to-be-electric-by-2040

At first, I thought "no, they'll never hit that" - but then I realized. A hybrid vehicle is an "electric" vehicle (whether plug-in or fuel hybrid). An electric motorbike is an "electric" vehicle - and motorcycles alone are half of vehicles, and most of those in turn are motor scooters used for shorter trips. In the same way that in the Luton fire, a diesel-electric hybrid is suddenly a "diesel".

That makes it a lot easier since hybrids and battery bikes don't really run into the recharging problems that true EV's do, making it a fair bit more possible.

With a little investigation and creative accounting, I moved from "never" to "plausible" quite quickly.

Edit: I am a proud quaspiracy theorist. I don't know, but I reserve the right to guess.

https://open.substack.com/pub/argomend/p/i-am-a-proud-quaspiracy-theorist?r=28g8km&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

Expand full comment
author

Quaspiracy theorist. That's great.

If hybrids are included in the definition of EVs, the goals become more plausible (and also less annoying). Worth noting though that many governments have been backtracking....

Expand full comment

I certainly hope they are - battery-only EV's aren't going to replace heavier vehicles because the battery's weight goes up a lot faster than just more fuel. What they're really good at is low-weight, short-range applications - urban ones!

Less charitably you could say EV's are for bugmen. If it's a second vehicle, though, you could go with one that has a light chassis to begin with (motorbike, quadricycle) and use more of that capacity on additional cargo - making it practical for short hops and tight streets like in denser, old-growth cities, characterized by tight alleys and narrow streets that make navigating with even a car... difficult.

Most obvious example is old Europe. I actually have some video here in an older post, right up by the top:

https://open.substack.com/pub/argomend/p/turn-off-the-information-superhighway?r=28g8km&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

Roads too narrow to have two lanes for cars are pretty common in older cities - you can tell which streets were planned with cars in mind and which were not.

Expand full comment
Oct 18, 2023Liked by John Carter

I've thought that the 50% (or more - California and Washington state have pledged to eliminate all new IC vehicles by 2040) pledge to be complete bollocks

Why? Because nobody's building new powerplants, that's why.

You're going to double or triple the electric demand, but aren't going to increase the supply? Yeah, that's gonna work.

Wind and solar are intermittent supplies, which need to be backed up watt-for-watt with something else (typically natural gas, as that's one of the few power sources that you can turn on and off quickly).

Expand full comment
author

It works fine if they don't expect most people to drive.

Expand full comment

Yep, as far as I'm concerned, a move to pure electric is nuclear, natural gas, and transmission lines by the backdoor, if it's for real.

Fast charging requires three-phase power, which entails rewiring connections since normal home connections are one of the three phases at the substation. So if you want to spread fast-charging, you need a a 200% increase in current distribution wiring.

In terms of backups, yep, there's nothing but natgas that can ramp up and down that quickly and still be efficient. Diesel is right there if you can stomach the cost and the insult of burning diesel in a generator to make electricity to move cars instead of... burning diesel to move cars.

Dredging up the rare earths for batteries is also going to be a challenge, though I've heard of new battery chemistries coming out that may alleviate this need. Time will tell if they're ready for primetime, though.

Expand full comment

I saw a green fireball myself on Oct 19, 2019, above Moffett Field. At first I thought it was a plane coming in too fast, but then it vanished in a green flash. I was stunned. No one believed me until I found that someone else got a video of it coming down, though not the green flash itself, sadly:

https://patrick.net/post/1328018/2019-10-20-patrick-saw-a-green-fireball-last-night

I find it unlikely that it just happened to occur over a military airfield.

Expand full comment
author

That's extremely cool. There are plenty of videos and photos of such kicking around, so they're not that rare - still a once in a lifetime sight though.

The one I saw was nowhere near any military facilities (and it was in Canada, where we don't have black programs lol).

Expand full comment