This Friday the latest installment of the alien invasion theme is coming to theaters worldwide in the form of Independence Day Resurgence. Since Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938 we’ve had a fear and fascination with the idea we might not be alone in the universe. We’ve imagined aliens as ranging from hostile, to egalitarian to being harbingers of the last days.
Extraterrestrials are hardly new. Christian theology predating the time of Christ features stories of angels, which are presented to us as intelligent non-human beings (interesting side note: according to theologian Thomas Aquinas, each angel is its own unique species). When you consider this, the notion of aliens shouldn’t surprise us all that much.
Recent advances in our ability to see better and deeper into space and analyze the copious amounts of data we now collect, has revealed something startling: habitable planets are far more common than we supposed. Within just the Milky Way Galaxy there are estimated to be 40 billion planets within what is considered a habitable distance from the star(s) they circumnavigate.
Since the day I learned just how big our universe was (sometime in grade school), I’ve believed we were not alone. To suppose we are the only intelligent life in the whole of the universe, especially knowing what we know now, seems almost laughable. But don’t get too excited about aliens coming to invade us or shake our hands, or even lend us a helping hand anytime soon.
Let’s consider why: Since the 1950s humanity has poured considerable resources into space exploration. Despite our exponential progress in science, sixty-plus years later, the fact remains we’ve only managed to get ourselves as far as the nearest satellite of our own planet, and that only a handful of times. Leaving this rock of ours is no small feat.
Unless physics adheres to different principles somewhere else in the universe, every other intrepid collection of humanoids faces the same problems we do: (1) It takes a tremendous amount of energy to boost a spaceship large enough to serve as a long term habitat for organic life forms off a planet and then hurl it out of the solar system. (2) Once you do get there, space tends to be hostile to organic life forms. Constant radiation bombardment of the spacecraft requires some form of heavy duty shielding and a general shortage of breathable atmosphere, water and food adds even more to the required weight for a manned spacecraft.
By the time an intelligent species has developed the technology needed to actually travel from their own solar system to an inhabited planet in another solar system, they’ve likely mastered nearly limitless energy. With that nut cracked it can’t be too much after that they’d learn how to transmute matter from one form to another. We already know how to do this in some pretty impressive ways in the fields of chemistry and materials science. Give us unlimited energy and we would be able to do so much more.
Therein lies the most likely reason we won’t be seeing or hearing from our intergalactic cousins anytime soon: They don’t need us. Intelligent life that has harnessed all the energy they need and the ability to transmute matter can simply build whatever they require wherever they want.
While I can come up with a laundry list of reasons why such evolved beings would want to come visit/invade us, in almost every case, because of the technology they would already have to complete the journey, to do so would be of little benefit to them.
Besides, if they spent a few decades watching our television broadcasts they would see the movies and television mini-series we've made about what would happen if aliens tried to invade Earth. We’re a feisty bunch and entirely too much trouble to mess with.
Speaking of aliens messing with us, if you are partial to humorous alien contact stories, you can download my latest story "The Ralguudian Assumption: A Tom Panik Novella" for free until midnight today at Amazon.com.