Of course we are not alone in the universe, but not for the reasons suggested by most UFO enthusiasts.

I can’t tell you how much I wish the UFO stories were all true.   In fact I’d be thrilled if even *one* of them was a credible story.   But they aren’t.  It’s very, very unlikely that even a single one of the thousands of reported stories about aliens visiting earth are true, for the reasons I discuss below.

Every so often Astronaut Ed Mitchell is quoted – here at CNN – talking about the Government cover ups of Roswell and other alien incidents he is convinced prove the existence of extraterrestrials and their visits to earth.    With all due respect to Mr. Mitchell’s accomplished career this is an area where he’s by no means an expert and clearly has just been convinced by the same silly stories that have convinced thousands of other people “We are not alone”, mostly because they want to believe rather than because there is any compelling evidence.    In fact there is no compelling evidence of alien visits to earth, and the idea the Government is covering up those visits is just dumb.

Don’t get me wrong – it is in my view it is nearly *certain* that there are at least *millions* of other planets with intelligent life on them.   I’ve blogged about why I think there’s a very high likelihood that there are probably many billions of civilizations in the universe.     In short it’s because we – as little replicating macromolecular structures – are unlikely to be all that special and because the universe is so darn huge with hundreds of billions of *galaxies*, each with hundreds of billions of stars and probably billions of planets.

But unfortunately for us earth lies in the low traffic zone of our milky way galaxy.    We are so far from the center, and so far from even the closest star, that visits from aliens – especially organic ones like the dude pictured in the silly Roswell hoax – are very, very unlikely.    Even with advanced technologies it would likely take many organic being lifetimes to travel to earth.  Tommo corrects me on this – time dilation would allow organic beings to travel extensively if the ship could approach speed of light.

Why would they choose this part of the Galaxy when the center is teaming with  star systems and probably millions of times more life per sector?

Don’t flatter yourself – the idea that we have attained some special status of great interest to more advanced beings that have the technologies to travel throughout the galaxy is a weak idea.   Possible, sure, but weak.

We are NOT alone in the universe, but we won’t be visited anytime soon.


Roswell Joe

Hulu Aliens Eat Boxee’s Brain

Hulu.com had one of the best superbowl commercials, where the increasingly menacing and chubby Alec Baldwin explains Hulu’s plans for world domination as a brain-eating alien.

I thought they were kidding and just pretending to be ruthless and menacing aliens.

But today Hulu announced that it is dispatching Boxee in one fell swoop by preventing the very popular, award winning service from distributing Hulu’s content. Boxee’s approach was allowing people to view the Hulu content on regular TVs – in a sense focusing on the opposite direction of Hulu which is allowing you to view TV shows on computer and mobile devices. The Boxee/Hulu combination could be used to cut out a cable or satellite provider while retaining a lot of that functionality, but I don’t think this is what bothered Hulu. Instead I’m guessing they simply are dispensing with the big happy family convergence model and doing their Web 2.0 business the old fashioned way – kill your competitor before they can grow to threaten you.

Hulu’s apologetic blog post “sorry we ate your brain Boxee”

Fred Wilson’s take.  As a Boxee investor it’s not surprising he’s unhappy though I’m guessing he expected a buyout rather than a freeze-out.

If I was a better advocate for the virtues of convergence, open media, and copyright dodging I’d express more outrage but I don’t really have dog in this fight, and frankly I’m tired of the predictable and short sighted arguments on both side of the convergence and copyright issues.

New media folks whine about how the big players need to see the light and give away their high cost of production stuff and will make more by doing so when of course they will not make more. Legacy media profits have come in large part from controlling the means of distribution and profits will fall as that control goes away. I don’t see this loss as anything all that significant. Our entire culture is adrift in a sea of media mediocrity and whatever replaces it is more likely to improve rather than diminish our lives.

Old media folks are on even weaker ground when they suggest that users benefit from copyright rules, which currently do far more to protect the interests of the vast network of distribution and marketing middlemen than the interests of most artists and end users. Does anybody seriously think that pruning the songs and mega profits of Britney Spears or the Jonas Brothers is worthy of more than a tiny footnote in music history? Even now, as the old rules fall away and are ignored by end users we are seeing something of a niche musical renaissance as artists who had no chance in LA or Nashville can make their mark, promote, and distribute their work online. Few will make millions this way but many will be able to keep doing what they love and entertaining fans – in many cases establishing closer relationships with fans than any superstar could ever enjoy.

If Boxee fans show enough loyalty Hulu may even have to regurgitate their tiny competitor, though I’d guess Hulu is already close to launching their Boxee equivalent.

The Hulu aliens ate Boxee’s brain, and the show goes on.

The aliens are out there, but they have not landed

Robert Roswell IIIRobert Roswell III

Uncle Bob?
You’ve lost some weight!

Given the prevalence of planets, water, and our own observations in our solar system, I think there is a near certainty (99%+ likelihood) that there is plenty of intelligent life in the universe.

In fact I’d guess the universe is *teeming* with life – at least billions of planets with intelligent life and probably hundreds of billions.

If you simply assume there is a *single planet with intelligent life* in each of the 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe it suggests we have a *lot* of company.     Although we only have a single data point (= ourselves), it seems we should also assume that we are about in the median range of the intelligent life spectrum, meaning that about half of the life in the universe is smarter than us and half is …. dumber.

But I would assert that Aliens probably wouldn’t bother to visit earth because we are at the edge of the galaxy and we are probably not very interesting once you have advanced technologies that can simulate almost all aspects of reality.    What would they come here looking for?

Also, they would likely not visit un organic “bodies”, rather as automated devices.     The idea that Aliens visit earth, interact with people and thus appear not to have a  “no interference” policy, and then leave without saying official “hello” or making their presence broadly known is very questionable.

If they have a no interference policy we’d never detect them.   On the other hand if they allow some interaction why would they probe a few lonely lumberjacks deep in the woods and then leave?   In the case of the Roswell incident you seriously think they have technology that allows an organic being to travel *quadrillions of miles* over a likely period of *millions of years* only to run out of gas and crash?
Whoops, ET didn’t have a quarter to phone home for a tow – BAM !

I think there’s a tiny possibility we’ve been visited, but a much higher one that people imagine things and use silly, obvious hoax stuff to spur interest.

Visits and Alien existence are totally different issues.  Of course Aliens are very, very, very likely to exist but there is pretty much zero credible evidence they ever come here.

The technology to travel here by organic beings would be incredibly advanced.   If they wanted to “hide” they would have no trouble hiding and erasing all evidence we have of their visits.   If they wanted us to know they were out there they could take over the network and simply announce their presence.   Niether of those happen.  Instead, we have thousands of obviously bogus reports and a handful of seemingly credible people who have odd experiences they think come from Aliens.   Whenever I look into these they are incredibly weak.   No quality photos, no souvenirs, no Alien DNA or probes left in bodies.  You have to believe the Aliens do an incredible cleanup job but then leave sloppy, inconclusive pieces of evidence around in a haphazard way.   Sure, it’s possible those little items are evidence of alien visits but reason suggests that instead we are seeing yet another example of … mistaken impressions.

You can think the tiny number of credible people misinterpreted things as we humans are prone to do, or you can believe the Aliens allowed those guys to interact with them and only them.

But hey, maybe distinguished astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who believes the Government is covering up the Alien visits, is right:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Mitchell