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.