Peel off your tin-foil hat like a Hershey’s Kiss, because Bill Nye has a reality check for the alien conspiracists out there. Roswell? Area 51? Vincent D'Onofrio as the roach alien in MIB? Bill Nye shoos them away, deeming each as unrealistic as the next.
Nye has some experience when it comes to classified information – not much, he admits, but a little. He once had security clearance while working as an engineer on secret government planes, and although he did not visit Area 51 himself, colleagues with one level higher security clearance than him did go, and what did they find there? Planes. Lots of people, lots of planes, and zero trace of alien life.
The origin of alien conspiracies go back to 1947, when something mysterious fell out of the sky and crashed at a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. It spurred curiosity and panic; claims emerged that the unknown object was an extraterrestrial spaceship. The government eased people’s minds by revealing that it was nothing but a standard weather balloon that had crashed – and of course, that was a filthy lie. The intrigue was quieted until the late 1970s, when UFO enthusiasts rediscovered the story and images and amped up the interest once again, developing conspiracy theories about alien crash landings. There was no closure until the 1990s, when the US military published reports disclosing what really happened in Roswell: it was an experimental US government spy balloon that had crashed, part of Project Mogul, an attempt to listen out for Soviet murmurs of nuclear testing.
It has been thoroughly investigated and officially debunked, but seeing as the government lied once, the heat on the theory has never really died in the hearts of passionate conspiracy theorists.
But Nye does not believe the government is concealing aliens from us for an even simpler reason: as we can see from the daily political scandals in the media, it is so hard for the government to keep anything a secret.
But he’s not quick to dismiss alien life, and is excited at the prospect of traces being discovered in the next 50 or 100 years, under the icy layers of Mars, or on Jupiter’s intriguing moon Europa. whether that’s a sizeable organism or a mere cell, or fossil.
So there's no reason to narrow your eyes at the government when you ponder alien life. Then again, it’s possible Bill Nye’s body was commandeered by the government using alien technology for the duration of this interview. Or maybe Nye is an alien. And he hangs out with Tupac and Elvis drinking green slime mojitos in a secret ET spa club way out in desert Nevada.
Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.
Question: Hey Bill. So there are many videos online claiming to be extraterrestrial sightings. It just seems that the government is aware of extraterrestrials yet they reject the idea. Possibly they’re hiding the truth from us in fear of the knowledge greatly changing our daily lives. Do you believe these aliens exist and if so would you tell us?
Bill Nye: No I don’t believe the aliens exist coming to visit you and the government knows about it and hasn’t told you. No. Start with that. Two more things. First of all the whole alien thing really got revved up in 1947. There was a project called Sky Hook and the U.S. Government had these very cool super high altitude balloons and they were going to have a constellation of them or an armada of these balloons off the East Coast of the former Soviet Union with microphones tuned to listen for nuclear weapons tests. This was going to be big fun. And so they were testing the balloon in New Mexico and it was complicated and the winds blew the thing around and it crashed and it was impractical. The idea was kind of cool but it was a cold war idea that just didn’t work. Now this project was secret so yes, government people showed up. The U.S. Army swept up all the debris from the crash and took it away because it was secret.
And they also experimented with parachuting dummies from very high altitudes in the same area. And this has led to all these fabulous myths about aliens and the government knows stuff you don’t. Now I look like nobody and I am but I had an engineering job, several of them over the years, and during one of them I had security clearance. And I worked on a secret airplane for a little while and I never went myself but I worked with several guys, they were all men, who went to Area 51 to Groom Lake which is an Air Force base in Nevada where we fly around these secret airplanes. And it’s a real place. And these guys went there and when I was doing it it was called level five security clearance. I only had level four. I never went to Groom Lake. But the big thing they wouldn’t talk about was how fast these planes could go. That was a big secret. But anyway these are people that worked on the F117, a stealth fighter. If you ever go to the Air Force Museum in Ohio you can see the Have Blue secret planes, very cool.
As a kid I always asked myself why don’t they paint spy planes light blue to blend in with the blue sky. Well sometimes they do. Anyway you can see one of those there. So it’s a complete myth that the government knows. Just think how hard it is for the government to keep anything secret. With all due the government kind of sucks at keeping secrets. So they couldn’t possibly keep the secret with 10,000 people in on it. So let’s just set that aside. But with that said you may very well be alive when we discover life or evidence of life rather on Mars. This would literally be alien life. If we find it, if we find some ancient microbes still alive in some icy layer under the Martian sand it would change the world. It would change the way everybody thinks about being a living thing. Do these things on Mars if they exist do they have DNA or did they have DNA if they have been fossilized? Or are they a whole other completely different type of life that we’ve never thought of. Did life start on Mars? Mars got hit with an impactor and you and I are a descendent of Martians? That is amazing. It’s not crazy. It’s extraordinary but it’s not crazy. Then furthermore you may be alive when we send mission to the moon of Jupiter called Europa which has at least twice as much seawater as the earth. When you have seawater for 4.5 billion years is there something alive on Europa? Whoa like dude, that’s out there. It would change the world. It would utterly change the world. This would be real alien life discovered with tax dollars by people who are intellectually curious who decide to devote some of our intellect and treasure to exploring our nearby planetary worlds.
And that’s the real stuff that I encourage you to support and follow. And for that of course I encourage you to join the Planetary Society. Think about that. You don’t have to, I’m just suggesting because we really do advocate for the real exploration of nearby worlds really looking for alien life. Also the James Webb space telescope is going to launch in 2018 and it may have the capability – it is hoped that it will have the capability of exploring atmospheres of extraordinarily distant planets by having sunlight from those stars that those planets orbit pass through the atmospheres. If we detect water vapor and methane it may mean some day that we’ve detected evidence of life on another world. Do, do, do, do – do, do, do, do. It’s all the real stuff is what I’m saying, the real exploration for alien life is more exciting than speculating about a nominally secret Air Force base in Nevada. Carry on.