If you're anywhere in the greater nerd universe, you've
doubtless seen recent reports of Navy pilots spotting objects
zipping around the sky and sometimes diving into the ocean. The
Feds have declassified three
videos of unidentified thimgamajigs doing their airborne
calisthenics in the vicinity of US Navy fighter pilots.
So what is a reasonably sane person supposed to think about
UFOs as a phenomenon are not a new thing. It's older than I am,
and I'll be 69 in a few weeks. Early on, the mythos crystallized
around the theory that such objects are spacecraft (or aircraft)
created by and piloted by intelligent beings from some other star
system. There was (and still is) big money to be made on
alien-based entertainment. Independence Day is one of my
all-time favorite movies. The aliens myth (and I'm speaking in a
Campbellian sense of the word "myth" here) is strong. I'm an SF
writer. I should be a big aliens guy. I'm not.
I'm actually a Rare Earther. There are so many possible terms to
the Drake Equation that I'm pretty sure we as a species are a
vanishingly unlikely fluke. There are either hundreds of millions
(or more) intelligent species in the universe, or there is only
one. I reviewed an
excellent book on Enrico Fermi's question and its possible
answers. It's definitely worth reading.
I've been thinking a lot about the question since I read that
book back in March. So what I'm going to do in this entry is list
all the possible explanations for the Navy sightings that I can
come up with, irrespective of their likelihood. Note well that I
don't "believe" in any of them. I offer them as hypotheses. And
yes, some of them are batshit nuts. I'm an SFF writer. Batshit nuts
is just one more thing we deal with every day.
Buckle up, kids.
Tonight's question: What are those things the Navy pilots
caught on film?
My hypotheses fall into three general categories:
- They really are made and piloted by aliens. I
cite this for completeness only. I have reason to think it's not
the case, since I have a hunch we are alone in the universe. I
won't discuss this category further. It's long since been discussed
- They are made and piloted by Hungarians. (This
is an inside joke. Look it up.) What I mean by it is that the
objects were created right here on Earth, as a result of top-secret
research into novel physics. (Ok, here's a cheat.)
- They are the result of...weirdness. Patience.
I'll get there.
So. It's possible that the objects are in fact aircraft of some
sort, piloted or drones, created in somebody's lab somewhere under
truly deadly secrecy. Physics is not as complete and airtight as
physicists would like the general public to believe. The big glitch
in physics currently is dark matter and dark energy, about which I
have some quibbles, but set those aside. Darkstuff (my coinage) may
be a telltale of novel physics, novel enough to give us
"thrusters," that is, engines that don't depend on action/reaction;
e.g., throwing stuff backwards.
If that's the case, the apparitions may simply be a show of
force by whoever developed the thrusters. Let's hope those
developers are American.
That's the entirety of Category 2 in a nutshell.
So let's take a look at Category 3. This is the fun stuff. I'll
give you another list, of explanations that seem absurd on the
surface...keeping in mind that we as a species have been wrong
before, and we will doubtless be wrong again.
1. They are aircraft from Earth's own future, piloted by human
beings who have figured out time travel. I like this one, as there
is a whole series of novels buried in the premise. (Somebody may
have already written them.) As I understand the physics, time
travel, while difficult, is more possible than faster-than-light
travel. It may require some of that darkstuff to make it work, but
however it works, those Tic-Tac travelers could be somebody from a
few hundred thousand years in our future. What they're up to is
unclear. Maybe they're just testing their machinery. Maybe they'll
announce themselves eventually. Maybe they're trying to stop us
from making some really bad mistakes. (If so, they should
have set their meters to 1900 and prevented us from creating
Communism, which killed 100,000,000 people in the 20th century and
is still killing them.)
2. They are glitches in the simulation that we here on Earth
call The Universe. Glitches--or beta tests of new features. Maybe
bugs--rounding errors, or off-by-one errors. Reality-as-software is
a scary notion to anybody who's done any significant programming.
Supposedly we could determine if we are in fact existing in a
simulation, but I'm skeptical of that claim.
3. They are evolved but not intelligent organisms, originating
in our solar system if not necessarily on Earth. (This is a
variation on Category 1, but I put it here because it's way weirder
than canonical big-eyed Aliens.) If exotic physics yielding
thrusters are possible, they could emerge via evolution from
conditions that could be radically different from what we have on
Earth. Who knows what could cook itself up in the atmospheres of
Jupiter or Saturn? What I mean here is something like an animal,
not self-reflective, but posessed of the means to cross
interplanetary distances. Maybe they thrusted their way here,
zipped around for awhile sampling the local environment, and
finally decided it's not fun and went home. It's humbling to admit
that they may not have noticed our presence at all while they were
4. They are poltergeist activity. (Hey, don't zone out. I warned
you!) This is tough to describe, but it's a scruffy box into which
we could place all sorts of "paranormal" phenomena--some of which
look suspiciously like reactionless motion. Telekinesis, psi
powers, all that stuff. A friend of mine was confronting
poltergeist activity fifteen-odd years ago, and Colin Wilson has
written about it extensively. Objects fly around the room, appear
and disappear, with no known force behind any of it. Peculiar
mental powers seem to exist. I've experienced a couple of those
things that I still can't explain. But they happened. (I can't go
into any of it here.) Maybe our UFOs are just astral travelers, out
for a ride without having any suspicion that they can be seen or
perhaps any clear notion of where they are.
5. They are irruptions from the collective unconscious. Some
might choose to toss this in the poltergeist box as well, at least
those who think poltergeists are irruptions from the collective
unconscious. I don't. I've read extensively about Marian
apparitions like Lourdes, Fatima, Zeitoun, and many others. There is something called
the White Lady archetype in Jungian thinking. Humans have a thing
for luminous women popping up in odd places. (The white is their
overall color, not their skin color--I have to say that in this
race-nutso era.) Christianity shaped that archetype into the Mother
of God in Christian visions. However, white ladies were originally
a pagan archetype and are still being seen all over the place in
contexts without any religious framework at all. Seeing odd things
moving around in the sky is also an archetype. It gained strength
in the first half of the 20th Century as popular culture embraced
predictions of space travel and people from other worlds. In 1947,
assisted by movies and TV, the archetype got legs. Note that these
aren't purely mental glitches in the minds of the Navy pilots.
These are disturbances in the physical world that generate/reflect
light and can be photographed.
6. They are intrusions from higher spatial dimensions. Now, this
hypothesis could also be tossed in that scruffy box with the
poltergeists, but I mean it in a more rigorously geometrical way:
If there are in fact more than three spatial dimensions (I've heard
people talk about as many as nine) then suppose some
four-dimensional being is poking at our planet with a stick.
Imagine Flatland here, with a 3-D being poking at the surface of
the plane or sphere or whatever 2-D surface you like. Moving that
stick will appear to the denizens of Flatland as a cross-section of
the stick moving around without any apparent cause. The
cross-section of a four-dimensional stick would be a
three-dimensional lump. Its motive power would be off in hyperspace
where we can't see it. All we would see are the cross-sections of
4-D objects moving around like crazy, unimpeded by Newton's laws.
Why? Who knows? Maybe it's the hyperspatial equivalent of skipping
stones on a quiet lake, done simply for fun. Again, it's possible
that whatever entity is holding the stick has no knowledge of us at
That's what I have so far. If I had to choose one to hold as
most likely (and I don't) I would choose an application of novel
physics by human scientists and engineers right down here on Earth.
Secrets of that sort are very hard to keep, and I wonder
if the leaks have begun, and the Feds are feeling their way toward
eventual disclosure of the technology. It would be perhaps the most
wonderful "unsettled science" ever discovered, as it would open the
solar system to human exploration and habitation.
Remember that this is a rant, and I have my SFF writer's hat on.
I embrace Haldane's Law: The universe is not only stranger than we
imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine--and I can
imagine a lot.