Tuesday, September 15, 2009
A talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson that extends for almost an hour and a half has been up since the summer, but someone has uploaded one of the most interesting parts of the discussion where he deals with the question of UFOs. One interesting fact he points out is that astronomers have acclimatized themselves to always looking up, no matter where they are. Leave a building, look up. Going for a walk, look up...because space is their backyard. In spite of this there is actually a lower number of reporting of strange sightings among them per capita, precisely because they actually know what they are looking at.
Don't confuse this with the idea of life on other planets though. It's immensely more likely that there are planets out there with life on them than that a civilization with warp drive has decided to visit us. In fact, given that 1) we are still trying to figure out whether there is life in any other parts of our own Solar System, and 2) there are some 250 billion or so galaxies, each of which has another 300-400 billion stars of its own, most with planets of their own, our working assumption should be that there is life on other planets. The only caveat is that since throughout the history of life on our own planet this has been relatively simple, we should also assume that the types of life we find on other planets will also be of this nature. Some make the mistake of confusing life with civilization, and this is a stretch. Life on a planet could simply be an ocean with a bit of plant life here and there, and nothing else.
Edit: I finally got around to watching the last part of the full video, and it looks like deGrasse Tyson does address this point at the end. It's also the best part of the whole talk so if you've taken a look at that UFO part but don't have time to watch another hour, still make sure to set aside an extra ten minutes or so to watch the last part, which starts here.