Unidentified flying objects (UFOs) have taken on a new designation: unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs). This term change comes as more accounts of inexplicable sightings have come to the forefront. The recent congressional hearing on the matter has sparked considerable interest and raised valid concerns, particularly with David Grusch’s testimony providing evidence that suggests potential extraterrestrial origins of these objects, prompting further examination and discourse.
Exceptionally rare events do occur. This is why individuals beat astronomical odds and win billion-dollar lottery jackpots. However, the rarity of such events can often be attributed to the laws of large numbers—given a significant number of trials in a random experiment, a rare event will eventually take place. The challenge lies in predicting when this will happen.
This concept can also be applied to UAPs. Utilizing statistical analysis and data interpretation, when observed over a substantial period of time and involving a considerable number of observers, it’s inevitable that unusual sightings will emerge. UAP sightings, totaling in the hundreds over several decades, fall into the category of rare events. Grusch’s revelations contribute to this pool of observations, providing evidence that suggests the potential extraterrestrial origins of UAPs.
However, the fundamental question remains: Can these alleged sightings offer enough evidence to conclusively establish that certain UAPs originate from beyond our solar system?
For the sake of exploration and playing the role of a skeptic, let’s entertain the idea that there exists intelligent life outside our planet. Could UAPs serve as the vessels through which these extraterrestrial entities visit Earth?
If we assume that extraterrestrial beings manage to reach our planet, it’s plausible that they’ve traversed vast distances and successfully navigated our atmosphere. This would necessitate highly advanced technology, possibly beyond our current understanding.
There’s also the question of the type of life forms such beings would represent. It’s unlikely that they would adhere to the carbon-based model that relies on water and oxygen, nor would they communicate using a language recognizable to us. While scientific principles would likely remain consistent, there might be phenomena that our current understanding cannot account for.
This could potentially stem from the existence of materials not found on Earth, which could facilitate their methods of transportation and communication. This aspect is of significant concern to the United States military, especially if these extraterrestrial entities, assuming they exist, pose any threat to us.
Numerous uncertainties surround the elements in the Periodic Table. The possibility of elements that are absent on Earth could propel technological advancements beyond our current limitations. This could offer a plausible explanation for how extraterrestrial UAPs manage to reach Earth.
Consider the example of gunpowder: before its discovery in China between the 10th and 12th centuries, weaponry was constrained by the physical capabilities of warriors, making them far less lethal than modern armaments. Interestingly, all the ingredients for gunpowder were present on Earth before its discovery; the challenge was understanding their properties and employing them to create gunpowder.
Extraterrestrial civilizations capable of reaching Earth would likely possess access to materials and knowledge beyond our current scope. Conversely, they might lack knowledge that we possess, especially if their home lacks certain elements available on Earth.
In fact, assuming they can detect activity on our planet in some manner, they might regard our population and society as primitive. This would be akin to our excitement at discovering a planet inhabited solely by single-celled organisms, even though we wouldn’t necessarily classify them as intelligent life.
Thus, any alleged extraterrestrial beings observed on our planet must possess characteristics that we can detect using our senses and available technology. If our instruments cannot measure their presence, they would remain unnoticed, much like how amoebas may be unaware of being observed by more advanced life forms.
These discussions might lean more toward science fiction than empirical science, which is why asserting that UAPs originate from intelligent life beyond our planet remains highly improbable. The pathway to unveiling such origins potentially lies in materials composed of elements not present on Earth. Given David Grusch’s testimony suggesting recovered UAPs, has the composition of such materials been ascertained? Would divulging such information pose a risk to national security?
What’s more likely is that each UAP can be explained given reliable and comprehensive data about it and its origins. The challenge, however, lies in collecting and analyzing such data. Without a robust mechanism for this, certain UAPs will remain unexplained, leaving room for our imaginations to construct narratives that lack empirical substantiation.
Sheldon H. Jacobson, Ph.D., is a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As a data scientist, he applies his expertise in data-driven risk-based decision-making to assess and inform public policy.