Some hope we are. Some pray we are not.

“It is in the highest degree unlikely that this earth and sky is the only one to have been created and that all those particles of matter outside the Earth are accomplishing nothing.” –– Titus Lucretius Carus, First Century B.C. Roman writer and philosopher

I disagree with Titus Lucretius Carus. We can only believe in the high possibility that we are not alone due to logic. To me, the probability of not being alone in this universe is very high. Why? Because our human tools can only perceive what they are capable of perceiving.

Are we alone? It is possibly the most human of questions we pose to search for a cosmic answer. Beyond crop circles, UFO sightings, your brother’s theories about the pyramids and a neighbor’s conspiracy tales, Carl Sagan reminds us, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Perhaps our evidence lies in the language of mathematics, regarded by many as the universe’s Rosetta Stone.

“Nature’s great book is written in mathematical symbols.” –Galileo Galilei

If nature is mathematics, then our evidence could be whatever computation we put our faith in. And, as it turns out, most of the complexities of our world, and thus worlds yet to be discovered, can be simply stated.

Here are some of the numbers:

The Drake Equation: N≈L. Where the number of civilizations in the galaxy (N) is approximately equal to the average lifetime (L), in years, of a civilization.

The universe is made up of a trillion galaxies. It is for all intents and purposes infinite. G.F.R. Ellis and G.B. Brundrit of The University of Cape Town argued that in an infinite universe anything that can happen will happen, and happen infinitely often. But the above mathematical arguments are not evidence, only logic.

It is logical that aliens hoping for contact would try to make their messages easy to understand. Certainly, mysteries abound. Etruscan records are, as yet, unable to be translated. They consist of 281 handwritten lines on linen, assumed to be part of a book cut into strips and used to wrap an Egyptian mummy. The Voynich manuscript was written in a language with no other known example. Dated, as early as 1586, the manuscript is one hundred-plus pages written in script.

Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize Winning physicist once remarked that there is enough energy in a cubic meter of space––any space, anywhere––to boil all the oceans of the world. If this can be tapped, travel to the planets and even the stars will become less expensive and easier. Which is good news for most of us who would just be happy to find a cheaper way to shop for groceries.

Are these mysteries evidence that we have either been visited by aliens or that technology could exist to be visited by extraterrestrials?

Lynn Harper, NASA Ames Researcher, states, “Comets and meteoroids are nature’s enforcers, bringers of water and photocells, destroyers of species, enablers of intelligence, harbingers of change.”

Dr. Ben Bova says in his book Faint Echoes, Distant Stars that it has been estimated that 40,000 tons of extraterrestrial material (mostly microscopic dust particles) bombard Earth each year.

Perhaps a living cell is among the yearly extraterrestrial debris. Or, perhaps, we are all extraterrestrials here as a result of an ancient bombardment of our planet by comets and meteoroids that planted the seeds of our existence.

Could the most compelling evidence come from ancient accounts?

“Reports of flying craft and human-like occupants trace back to antiquity. Reports merge with religion or superstition in a seamless manner. The most striking biblical account is in Ezekiel who describes an encounter with four flying wheel-shaped craft ‘full of eyes’ that ‘turned as they went’ and out of which stepped ‘the likeness of a man.’” ––From the book Are we alone? by Paul Davies.

These are evidence of a kind, but certainly, not the extraordinary evidence called for by Carl Sagan and others. The old adage may prove true in this case “seeing is believing.” If you do spot an alien, be sure to ask him or her for some evidence; a mysterious manuscript, maybe; or a new technology we all can’t live without, like Velcroe™.

On a more serious note, I think the only way we will better understand the universe, ourselves, and be able to interpret the evidence we might happen across will be to bring Astronomy into our schools.

“Astronomy is not taught in the public schools…a student can pass from first to twelfth grade without ever encountering any of the findings or reasoning processes that tell us where we are in the universe, how we got there, and where we are likely to be going.” –Carl Sagan

Perhaps our heirs will look to the stars one day in search of their survival. I hope they will be able to read the signs. In closing, I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes which reflects my own philosophy, from the movie Contact when the main character Ellie Arroway, played by Jodi Foster, asks her dad if we are alone in the universe.

Dad, do you think there’s people on other planets?” Young Ellie says.

“I don’t know, Sparks. But I guess I’d say if it is just us… seems like an awful waste of space.”

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