If the Pentagon Is Hiding Aliens from Us, the Zoo Hypothesis May Explain Why
An MIT astronomer famously explained why aliens haven't contacted us yet.
Recent revelations that the Pentagon had an actual alien-hunting division have rocked conspiracy theorists everywhere, adding fuel to the long-held beliefs of many that the government is hiding the truth from us. Luis Elizondo, the military intel official who headed the now-defunct “Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program,” which ran from 2009 until 2012, was so convinced by what he saw that he continued his search for E.T. until this day. He now has a UFO-research startup and alerted CNN that there’s “compelling evidence” we are not alone.
While Elizondo’s evidence may be based on being privy to a number of unexplained encounters with flying objects, the aliens haven’t made their presence very clear. If the universe contains at least two trillion galaxies full of billions of stars like our sun, shouldn’t there be other complex life forms out there by now? It would only make sense. So “where is everybody?” as the Nobel laureate physicist Enrico Fermi famously asked about the absence of evidence and the high probability of alien existence.
Professor Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), known for achieving the first controlled nuclear reaction, lecturing on the optical characteristics of neutrons at the Domegani Institute in Milan. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
There are certainly many speculations about the possibility of aliens and their potential motives. It could be that there’s been no contact because they are too far away, and we need for our technologies to catch up before we meet up. They could look like something else entirely so we can’t even perceive them yet. Or maybe we underestimate the uniqueness and preciousness of humanity and we really are alone. But an idea formulated in the 70s takes a different swing at this compelling issue.
The Zoo Hypothesis, proposed by the MIT radio astronomer John A. Ball in 1973, says that aliens may be avoiding contact with us on purpose, so as not to interfere with our evolution and the development of our societies. The human civilization could be essentially living in a “zoo” or a space wildlife sanctuary, where others populating the cosmos dare not go. By staying clear of us, they avoid interplanetary contamination.
Perhaps the aliens are waiting for us to reach a certain technological or moral point before they will talk to us. Or they may be simply trying to protect us and themselves. You’ve seen “Independence Day” - there may be a similar movie made thousands of light years away about us.
Luis Elizondo, former head of “Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, Credit: CNN.
This idea of the zoo hypothesis presumes that aliens would want to have some relatively benevolent system of belief - perhaps a universally-accepted law about how to treat lower-level cosmic inhabitants. One explanation could be that a higher intelligence would not want to limit the diversity of paths in the universe by somehow interfering with other beings.
The hypothesis makes the most sense in a crowded universe, if there are many civilizations which set up rules by which they govern their coexistence. Of course, if there are many extraterrestrial players, it is also doubtful that one of them wouldn’t have somehow contacted us, even if by accident. Maybe that’s what the Earth’s alien hunters are picking up on - random, unsanctioned interactions.
Of course, if we put our tinfoil hats on, it also stands to reason that if there is some kind of Universe-wide law of non-interference with other species, someone at the Pentagon could be in on it.
For a more in-depth explanation of the zoo hypothesis, check out John A. Ball's paper "Extraterrestrial Intelligence:Where is Everybody?"
And here's what theoretical physicist Brian Greene thinks about the Fermi Paradox and the existence of intelligent life beyond Earth:
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
The number of people with dementia is expected to triple by 2060.
The images and our best computer models don't agree.
A trio of intriguing galaxy clusters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNDA0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTkzNzUyOH0.0IRzkzvKsmPEHV-v1dqM1JIPhgE2W-UHx0COuB0qQnA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d69be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d2664d9174369e0a06540cb3a3a9079" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The three galaxy clusters imaged for the study
Mapping dark matter<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d904b585c806752f261e1215014691a6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fO0jO_a9uLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The assumption has been that the greater the lensing effect, the higher the concentration of dark matter.</p><p>As scientists analyzed the clusters' large-scale lensing — the massive arc and elongation visual effects produced by dark matter — they noticed areas of smaller-scale lensing within that larger distortion. The scientists interpret these as concentrations of dark matter within individual galaxies inside the clusters.</p><p>The researchers used spectrographic data from the VLT to determine the mass of these smaller lenses. <a href="https://www.oas.inaf.it/en/user/pietro.bergamini/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pietro Bergamini</a> of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy explains, "The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter." The leader of the spectrographic aspect of the study was <a href="http://docente.unife.it/docenti-en/piero.rosati1/curriculum?set_language=en" target="_blank">Piero Rosati</a> of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy who recalls, "the data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy. We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances." </p><p>This work allowed the team to develop a thoroughly calibrated, high-resolution map of dark matter concentrations throughout the three clusters.</p>
But the models say...<p>However, when the researchers compared their map to the concentrations of dark matter computer models predicted for galaxies bearing the same general characteristics, something was <em>way</em> off. Some small-scale areas of the map had 10 times the amount of lensing — and presumably 10 times the amount of dark matter — than the model predicted.</p><p>"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand," notes one team member, <a href="https://nena12276.wixsite.com/elenarasia" target="_blank">Elena Rasia</a> of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy. Another, <a href="http://adlibitum.oats.inaf.it/borgani/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stefano Borgani</a> of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy, adds that "with advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analyzed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before."</p><p>"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study," Meneghetti says, "and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter." <a href="https://physics.yale.edu/people/priyamvada-natarajan" target="_blank">Priyamvada Natarajan</a> of Yale University in Connecticut agrees: "There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models."</p><p>Given that any theory in science lasts only until a better one comes along, Natarajan views the discrepancy as an opportunity, saying, "this could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."</p><p>At this point, it's unclear exactly what the conflict signifies. Do these smaller areas have unexpectedly high concentrations of dark matter? Or can dark matter, under certain currently unknown conditions, produce a tenfold increase in lensing beyond what we've been expecting, breaking the assumption that more lensing means more dark matter?</p><p>Obviously, the scientific community has barely begun to understand this mystery.</p>
Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.