|No, it's not real. Credit: Getty Images
Topics: Astronomy, Drake Equation, Existentialism, SETI
For many people, "UFO" is synonymous with aliens, but it's worth reminding ourselves that it literally stands for "unidentified flying object." An unidentified object could be just about anything, because … well, it's unidentified. One of our mottoes in science is that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This doesn't mean that crazy-sounding things are never true; it means that we should practice due diligence when thinking about overturning well-understood or well-tested ideas. This motto also suggests we keep an eye on Occam's razor—the idea that the simplest explanation is the most likely to be true.
As enthusiastic as I had been regarding alien visitations (there was a cottage industry in the 1970s that still thrives in Internet circles), one has to ask the question: what would aliens want with Earth? Between here and there whatever their governments are in need of, they can either engineer it or find other options way before engaging warp speed.
Colonization: If history serves as guide, the First Nation/Native Americans encountered colonists that barely survived their first winter. They were repaid like the natives who met Columbus with slaughter.
Africans did trade captured rival tribesmen and women in the budding international slave trade that "made America great." They conferred with Europeans typically with superior weaponry for trade of valuables to compensate their treachery.
Any aliens that can travel parsecs from their home world to Earth doesn't have anything benevolent in mind once arriving, E.T. or Star Trek not withstanding.
Ignoring us: When is the last time you had a conversation with a moth? On the evolutionary scale, you have way more sophistication than something flitting from tree to flower. Aliens if existing and surviving millions of years older than us probably if anything might have the same relationship to us as we have to Lepidoptera.
The sobering possibility: climate change, conventional conflicts, mass shootings pollution and nuclear conflagration - humans are far smarter than the lowly moth, but moths nor butterflies are destroying their own habitat.
We may not see aliens because they may have caused their own extinction before they built starships.
No E.T. Life Yet? That might be a warning, Kelsey Johnson, Scientific American