where are they?

Page 1

where are they?

where are they?

Copyright Š 2020 Yuki Obayashi All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: Stories Told In Sunday School.p. cm.Includes bibliographical references. isbn: 978-0-615-77132-8 Library of Congress Control Number: 2012953198Art and African American History. i. Title. ii. Title: Stories Told In Sunday School. Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Published by Yuki Obayashi (pages: 14, 28, 34, 42, 46)Susan Skarsgard (pages: 12, 16, 24, 26, 30, 32, 36, 38, 40, 44)Karen Sanders (pages: 18, 20, 22, 32, 48)Fingers Tap in Doubled Time: Archives, Schomberg Center, NY Public Library Phototography of fans for the book Patrick YoungPrinted and boundin the United States by University Lithoprinters, Inc.Ann Arbor, MichiganFans were printed on an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 Printer, laser cut and hand assembled.Typefaces: Fette Fraktur and SabonPaper: 100lb Hanno Art Silk cover; 80lb Hanno Art Silk text; 30lb clear text Reich Transluscent for the dust jacket.


I’ve always hated science. Anything to do with numbers and equations never failed to make me question my basic intelligence. Science was a space I felt unqualified to wander in. However, that drastically changed after a night at Headlands Dark Sky Park. My friend and I found a place on the beach totally encapsulated in darkness. We spent hours looking at the stars trying to differentiate the planets and constellations. Usually softspoken, my friend began telling me about the various probabilities of extraterrestrial life and whether they have already visited us. Somehow, our conversation about a topic otherworldly and vast felt oddly comforting, and my ideas, usually obscure and highly imaginative, had a legitimate place amongst the theory of space. Finally I felt like I understood. The Fermi Paradox combines theory with speculation, and beauty with the unknown. I hope that you are able to find comfort in the expansiveness of the universe. There is so much left to be discovered, and this book will simply be an introduction into it. I hope that you find yourself questioning the potential for alternate life, and find that your speculation is


valid and essential to the advancement of our society. This book will serve as a foundation in which to then make predictions about our universe. There is so much left to explore.




On The Fermi Paradox Solution 1: They Left Evidence Solution 2: The Zoo Scenario Solution 3: They Exist Among Us Solution 4: They Haven’t Reached Us Solution 5: Our Search Strategy is Wrong Solution 6: They Have No Desire to Communicate Alternate Life Forms Portrayed in Film Conclusion


On The Fermi Paradox

During a lunch break, Enrico Fermi and his colleagues were conversing about the potential for intelligent life that could populate the Galaxy. They thought it was reasonable to assume that there is life existing somewhere out in the expansiveness of the universe. While Fermi entertained this thought, he realized that any civilization with a modest amount of rocket technology and any amount of imperial incentive would colonize the Galaxy instantaneously. If the universe is so big, shouldn’t space be teeming with spaceships? Even if there are alien civilizations in other galaxies, it is nearly impossible for us to ever know about them. Everything outside of our local group in the universe is constantly expanding away from us. With our current technology, it would take us billions of years to reach the nearest galaxy, traveling through some of the most remote parts of the universe. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, consists of up to 400 billion stars, equivalent to 10,000 stars for every grain of sand on every beach on the planet. There are about 20 billion sun-like stars in the Milky Way, and estimates suggest about


a fifth of them have an Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone. If only 0.1% of those planets were fostering life, that means that there would be one million planets with life in the Milky Way alone. Fermi realized that extraterrestrial life would have had more than enough time to make their presence known to us. But there has been no indication of this in our observable universe. This prompted Fermi to ask the question that served as the basis for the paradox: “where is everybody?�


People have claimed to see UFOs and aliens for centuries, but none of these sightings have been proven to be legitimate. It is possible that these sightings are merely airplanes, birds, or balloons floating in the sky. But is it possible that they are spacecrafts but we have no way of proving it?


10,000 5%

For every grain of sand on every beach on Earth, there are 10,000 stars in space

The likely percentage of those stars that are similar to our own sun



Solution 1: They Left Evidence

Perhaps there is a chance that alien life visited Earth at some point in the past. In the famous Tunguska explosion of 1908, the largest asteroid impact in recorded history occurred in a remote part of Siberia, Russia. The explosion happened over the Eastern Siberian forest and flattened out an estimated 80 million trees over an area of 830 square miles. Witnesses of the explosion reported seeing a fireball with a bluish light, nearly as bright as the sun, moving across the sky. Preceding the light was a shock wave that broke windows hundred of miles from the site and knocked people off of their feet. Many people agree it was like nothing they had ever seen before. 18

No crater was found at the site of the impact. Recent research indicates that the object was likely a stony asteroid the size of a five-story building that broke apart 15 miles above the ground. The explosion released enough energy to kill wildlife and flatten trees for hundreds of miles away from the impact site. When researchers were finally able to explore the area, they were unable to find any meteorite fragments or a meteorite crater. So, what happened?

There is some speculation that the impact was from an alien nuclear-powered spacecraft that had crashed. This idea has only been taken semi-seriously since there were no traceable signs of radioactivity on site. If a spacecraft ever did crash here, we have not found any evidence to prove it. In the 1970’s, Erich von Daniken became famous for a series of books in which he claimed that extraterrestrial life was responsible for the creation of many enigmatic structure around the world, some of which include the Stonehenge, the lines on the Nazca Plain in Peru, the Easter Island statues, and so on. However, there is no solid evidence that proves this to be the case.



A martian meteorite that fell to Earth in the Stone Age is believed by some to be proof of alien life. The meteorite contains tiny carbon-rich balls and tunnels. These markings resemble the marks that living organisms leave when when they eat through rocks.

More potentia evidence of m organisms tha have been pre cosmic matter


al microat might esent in r.



Solution 2: The Zoo Scenario

Jason Ball proposed the idea of the zoo scenario in 1973 as a means to resolve the Fermi Paradox. In his theory, Ball argues that extraterrestrial life is ubiquitous, meaning that some technological civilizations will become stagnant or face destruction, while others will advance their technology overtime. The most technologically advanced civilizations have the potential to control the universe, and the less advanced civilizations will be destroyed, tamed, or assimilated.


The question Ball proposes is, how will highly developed civilizations choose to exercise their power? Humankind exerts control over the natural world, where we preserve certain areas of wilderness in order for various species to continue to develop without our disturbance. Just as we have our own natural reserves on Earth, Ball argues that Earth is natural reserve for certain advanced extraterrestrial life. The reason that there is no interaction between us and the extraterrestrials is that they do not want to be found, and they have the technological freedom to remain hidden from us. The zoo scenario suggests we are being observed. The zoo scenario has been attacked and refuted


An idea largely discussed is whether extraterrestrial life, or our “zookeepers� will reveal themselves when we are on the verge of space flight. This idea has been explored in movie and film and poses a very real question for our real life. It is possible that the extraterrestrials need prompting or a reason in order to make themselves known to us, perhaps if they feel threatened by our technology advancement.

How will highly developed civilizations choose to exercise their power?

on several grounds. One major drawback is that the theory itself leads nowhere and is untestable. It is difficult to think of a way to legitimize Ball’s claim if his argument is simply that the extraterrestrials do not want to be seen. A strong hypothesis is one that generates observations that can either confirm or falsify it, and in doing so generate a new hypothesis. Ball’s argument puts us in a position where, no matter how hard we look, no matter how thoroughly we attempt to search, we will never be able to see the extraterrestrials. It is deeply unsatisfying. Another criticism is that this theory is anthropocentric, meaning that it regards humankind as the central or most important element of existence, especially as opposed to God or animals. We must ask the question, why would extraterrestrials be so interested in a species like us? What makes us so special? The zoo scenario also fails to explain why Earth was not colonized long ago.


Additionally, the zoo scenario does not take into account that it only takes one single extraterrestrial life form to break the shield and go out of hiding. It only takes one alien to poke

its fingers through the bars for us to see it here on Earth. Lastly, it suffers a common blind spot that most other solutions to the Fermi Paradox are prone to as well: it supposes that all extraterrestrial life at all times behave in the same way with regard to us.



Solution 3: They Exist Among Us

Life, as we know it, is fairly easy to spot: it grows, eats, excretes, and reproduces. However, Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut and a chemist at Imperial College London, recently stated that alien life forms that are impossible to spot may be living among us. Life itself is increasingly difficult to define and has had scientists and philosophers in debate for millennia. Because of this, there are hundreds of definitions of what life encompasses. This lack of a specific definition is a major problem when it comes to searching for life in space. When scientists are looking at something that doesn’t fit our expectation of what life is, they are overlooking a crucial opportunity to understand how life may take different forms. When we think about aliens, we usually picture a humanoid creature, but the intelligent life we are searching for may not be humanoid at all. Sharman says she believes that aliens exist and “there’s no two ways about it.” She discusses that it is entirely possible that they’re here right now and we simply cannot see them. This life is in a “shadow biosphere,” a space where life exists with different biochemistry in which we do not have the proper technology


to observe. We currently have the ability to sequence the DNA of unculturable strains of microbes, but this only detects life as we know it: life that contains DNA. Even if we do find such a biosphere, it is unclear whether we should call it alien. This depends on if we mean “of extraterrestrial origin” or simply “unfamiliar.” Our physical condition presents limitations and as technology advances, we slowly overcome these barriers. Even though we are unable to detect potential “invisible” life right now, it is entirely possible that this will be obsolete in the future. Maybe the air that surrounds us is teeming with life. Maybe the water we drink is full of conscious beings. Maybe all of these secrets will be revealed in the near future.


What is an alien?


noun. a being from another world, sometimes specifically an extraterrestrial

noun. foreigner

How would our understanding of life changed if we were able to detect alternate life forms living among us? Would we classify them as alien? Would they be a species related to other animals that already exist on earth?


The dictionary definition of “alien� is “a person owing allegience to a country other than that in which he lives; foreigner, any being or thing foreign to the environment in which it now exists, or a being from another world, sometimes specifically an extraterrestrial. If they already exist among us, would they not be considered alien? Are they just, human?


Solution 4: Our Search Strategy is Wrong

x x x x x x x x

The universe as we know it is vast and never ending. Even if extraterrestrial life is sending us a signal, where do we point our telescopes? Are we even able to see them with telescopes? It would be a tragedy if we pointed our attention to one planet, when a civilization on another is trying to catch our attention. Two strategies can be employed here: a targeted search and a wide-sky survey. A targeted search focuses only on individual nearby stars. This strategy uses technology with great sensitivity to catch signals deliberately beamed toward us or one that passes our way. A wide-sky survey scans large areas of the celestial sphere and has a lower range of sensitivity. The first modern SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) activity, known as Drake’s Project Ozma, was a targeted search and focused on two stars: Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. Astronomers have thus learned much about stars with the potential to possess habitable planets. The current thinking is that these stars are likely to have a stable luminosity over long periods of time, it is likely to have a chemical makeup that allows Earth-like planets to form, and it’s going to possess a zone in which water is


able to exist in liquid form. These factors have helped to refine the search and concentrate on stars that are more likely to have the potential to harbor life. Some scientists suggest that there are ways to further refine the list of targets. To do so, we should put ourselves in the aliens’ “shoes�. If we assume that the technologically advanced aliens carefully decide where to send their signals, then it follows that we need to only concentrate on stars that have a reasonable chance of having detected Earth. Perhaps targeted searches are the wrong way to approach extraterrestrial life. If we restrict our searches based on our understanding of habitability, we could be missing out on a plethora of opportunities. Have we not heard from extraterrestrials because our search is too narrow? Not necessarily. There have been plenty of searches, both targeted and wide sky, and even more are being planned.


What would we say if we made contact?



If we made contact with other life forms, what would we say first? Would we interrogate them? Ask them where they live, how they were able to advance their technology, if they’ve made contact with anyone else, or how they communicate amongst each other? Would we ask them to help us solve our own problems on Earth? Would we ask for their support in stopping global warming and hatred among our own people?


Solution 5: They Have No Desire To Communicate

It may be possible that alien life hasn’t the desire to communicate with us at all. Some scientists have speculated that the spirit of curiosity prevalent in our humanity may not be present in intelligent extraterrestrials. Perhaps these extraterrestrials simply have no interest in exploring the galaxy or making contact with us. One could argue that the extraterrestrials lacking curiosity and desire to explore the galaxy and understand how it works would never develop the technology to communicate in the first place, and that any intelligent life form is innately curious. It is possible that they are acting cautiously and choose to keep quiet because they are afraid to reveal their location and technology. They may believe that we are aggressive and communicating with us would cause harm. Obviously, we have no way of knowing if this is the case, but perhaps caution is a general trait that is shared among advanced intelligences. A more common argument is that extraterrestrials would be so far beyond us intellectually that they would be indifferent to our existence. They would have no interest in communicating with us because we simply have


nothing to offer them. Because of this, superintelligent life may refrain from communicating with us in order to stop us from developing an inferiority complex; they are waiting until we can bring something worthwhile to the table. The reasons extraterrestrial life may not want to make contact with us are infinite. Perhaps they have nothing to gain, intellectually and spiritually, from communicating with us. Perhaps there is a time delay in communication that makes it impossible to receive their signals. Perhaps, given our lack of developed technology, they just cannot be reached at all.



Solution 6: We Are Alone

Right now, we have no tangible evidence that suggests there is life that exists outside of our planet. The universe appears to be empty and dead. It is possible that we may be completely alone, floating on a ball in the middle of space. Scary, right? If we let our life die out on Earth, life altogether may cease to exist. If this is the case, is it our moral obligation to venture to the stars and become the first civilization to colonize other planets and spread our life? 48

Perhaps we are at the forefront of life. Maybe we are the first civilization to exist, but not necessarily the only one. It is possible that our efforts right now are leading up to the discovery of more sun-like stars in our galaxy and finding planets that orbit them that could potentially harbor life. If this is the case, perhaps we are fighting the battle against preserving our existence. Will we be able to explore the stars and the possibility of life on a new planet? Or will we destroy ourselves before we are able to make that breakthrough? Will climate change, racial hatred, and nuclear warfare be our demise? Is it possible to look outside of ourselves and overcome these conflicts? The universe is too

beautiful not to be experienced by someone, and maybe it is our duty as the first civilization to make sure that there is life to enjoy it.


Are we morally obligated to explore the universe?



Are we morally obligated to search the universe for other life forms? If we find that we are the only intelligent civilization to exist, are we responsible for colonizing other planets in order to assure that there will be life that continues to exist at all?


Alternate Life Forms Portrayed in Film

In The Arrival, a new language is created to communicate with the extraterrestrial life.


Intelligent life has populated movies for decades and materializes itself in diverse ways. Some portrayals of alternate life are subtle and nuanced, reflecting our civilization more than anything. Others are literal and reptilian, suggesting that aliens are green, slimy, and animal-like. Although the breadth of these films is vast, each attempts to define a being we have only ever speculated about. The possibilities are endless. In the film Another Earth, director Mike Cahill and leading actress Brit Marling speculate what it would be like to encounter an alternate version of ourselves. The movie revolves around the discovery and communication with, as the title suggests, another Earth. The main character, Roda, battles with the guilt of crashing into and killing a mother and son while drunk driving. She becomes obsessed with the idea of the existence of another version of herself, and imagines that version is her ideal self, the one that didn’t kill the mother and son, and the version that is living the life she was meant to live. Alternate life, in this case, is a parallel life to our own. It is one consciousness split into two



bodies. It is a mere reflection of us. Perhaps all we have is our own consciousness and that is the only thing that is real. The film revolves around ideas of forgiveness and our yearning for deep connection. The idea that someone exists out there that shares our experiences so deeply and intimately fulfills this innate human desire to be understood and not alone. The film Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan, explores how human civilization navigates an era when Earth is increasingly becoming inhabitable. Cooper, the main character, is recruited to pilot a spacecraft holding thousands of human embryos to colonize a habitable planet. The film takes on a subject infinitely larger than ourselves. It proposes that the answers to our sufferings are above us, and that nothing, absolutely nothing, is out of our reach. The movie aims to be deeply rooted in science to suggest just this. Even our wildest ideas and solutions really aren’t that absurd. Space is breathtakingly beautiful. It is vast and intimidating, but incredibly magnificent and ethereal. Some movies portray space as an empty nothingness void, but Interstellar paints

it in such a way that it transforms into a marvel. In the beloved film E.T The Extra-Terrestrial, themes of love and friendship appear at the forefront. The concept of Steven Spielgberg’s film was based on the imaginary friend he created after his parents’ divorce. Elliott, the boy who finds and befriends E.T, selflessly takes care of him and loves him, despite the plethora of differences between them. E.T is grey and wrinkly with long fingers and evidently is otherworldly. However, that makes no difference to Elliott, who connects with him on a very deep and personal level. The film is an enchanting adventure with Elliott and E.T. Their connection dismantles our notion of what friendship means and instead offers to suggest that there exists a connection in which your consciousness is aligned with another. Elliott and E.T both feel each other’s happiness and pain and even show the physical symptoms of these emotions. They understand each other at the most fundamental level. The portrayal of intelligent life in movies is a way to ask bigger questions about ourselves, our needs, and our capabilities, both as a civilization but also as individuals. They challenge us


to believe in something much bigger than ourselves, to look beyond to possibilities that bend time and space and make us question what is truly within our reach. To be afraid of or look away from these questions is simply a disservice to ourselves. At the very core, these questions ask us to examine ourselves, as our thoughts and ideas about life are just as expansive as space itself.


“Maybe it means something more-something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact or higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive... Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it.”


Brand, played by Anne Hathway in the film Interstellar

Rhoda meets herself for the first time.



An enchanting still from Another Earth. This film proposes ideas of what it means to share a consciousness with another being.



E.T and Steven Spielberg



In Stranger Things, the “Upside-down� is a reflection of a parallel universe; one where life similar to ours exists.



Hundreds of years ago we believed in a geocentric universe, one where all of the planets, including the sun, revolved around us. Today, we know that is the furthest from the truth. In a few hundred more years, what else will become falsified that we were so convinced is true today? Will we finally make contact? Will we realize our approach to communication with life outside our planet was all wrong? Are we just not looking in the right direction? Are there parallel universes to our own? Is there, in fact, nothing out there? Throughout this book, I presented you with ideas to solve the Fermi Paradox, none of which is truer than the other. After reading them, you may come away with more questions than answers, but rightfully so. My intention was not to steer you one way, but to open you to the infinite possibilities that space offers, to show you just how much is undiscovered. We all have to decide what we believe in; that other life exists and is waiting to be discovered, that alternate life is already among us, that we are totally alone, and so on. The choice is yours.


When I was a child, my dad used to tell me stories about a man who was abducted by aliens. Everyone in the spaceship was wearing tall black hats. They had a long conversation, and then they brought him back to Earth. He always told me to look up at the sky. Our bookshelf held many secrets of the universe, and although most of the words didn’t make sense to me at the time, I was enamored with the pictures of a black void, decorated with the sparkle of stars and distant planets. My dad was the first person to really show me the importance of keeping my mind open and to never settling for an easy answer. He ignited an imagination in me that is still very much alive. I do not believe we are alone in this universe. I believe that we have not approached making contact with them in the correct way and there is still a barrier present. I also believe there to be a collective consciousness, that the very biological makeup of all living things is inherently connected. As humans, we understand what it is like to suffer, even if we ourselves aren’t suffering. We know what it is like to feel pain, even if we aren’t injured. I think that this fundamental understanding of the


condition of being alive is present even outside of Earth. We are able to imagine things that don’t appear to exist, and we are able to feel deeply for things that we personally have never experienced before. How? Perhaps space is more connected than we think. If reality is a mere perception of our inner condition, maybe space is just a vaster, more open representation of that. Maybe we haven’t uncovered the secrets of the universe because we still don’t yet know all the secrets of ourselves. I think there is much left to be discovered. It’s out there, waiting for us.



“I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.”

John Glenn, Astronaut


Special thanks: Anderson, Paul. “When the Sky Exploded: Remembering Tunguska.” EarthSky, June 2020, earthsky.org/ space/what-is-the-tunguska-explosion. Armstrong, Stuart, and Anders Sandberg. “Eternity in Six Hours: Intergalactic Spreading of Intelligent Life and Sharpening the Fermi Paradox.” Acta Astronautica, Pergamon, 10 Apr. 2013, www.sciencedirect.com/ science/article/pii/S0094576513001148. “The Growing List of Solutions to the Fermi Paradox with Stephen Webb.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Feb. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8eklCtMbbc. Kurzgesagt. “The Fermi Paradox - Where Are All The Aliens? (1/2).” YouTube, YouTube, 6 May 2015, www. youtube.com/watch?v=sNhhvQGsMEc. Rolfe, Samantha. “Could Invisible Aliens Really Exist among Us? An Astrobiologist Explains.” The Conversation, 10 Jan. 2020, theconversation.com/could-invisible-aliens-really-exist-among-us-an-astrobiologist-explains-129419. Shostak, Seth. “Fermi Paradox.” SETI Institute, 2018, www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/fermi-paradox. Urban, Tim. “The Fermi Paradox.” Wait But Why, 23 Sept. 2019, waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox. html.

VOAvideo. “Encountering Our Alternate Self Is Message of Another Earth Movie.” YouTube, YouTube, 24 July 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgoTLdJvPD8. Webb, Stephen. “Where Is Everybody?” Google Books, Google, 2002, books.google.com/books?hl=en.