No, Anonymous, NASA is not about to announce contact with “intelligent alien life”
A group claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous claims that NASA is on the verge of announcing that we’ve discovered “intelligent alien life”. What evidence do they have of that? A bunch of publicly available NASA statements, stitched together with a synthesised voiceover and spooky ambient background noise. It’s not that there’s no smoking gun here: there’s not even a leaking water pistol.
This probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given the group twice threatened to wreck Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions, and last time I checked, the former reality TV star was occupying the White House. But let’s hear them out: what exactly is the evidence that NASA is about to announce aliens?
Well, here’s the video if you can face listening to 12-and-a-half minutes of very little, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
The video starts with enough promise to excite every alien hunter. “There are many who claim that, unofficially, mankind has already made contact with aliens, and not just little micro-organism floating around inside a massive alien ocean, but advanced spacefaring civilisations,” the video begins. That feels like we’re ready for a big reveal. Some hacked NASA correspondences, maybe?
Well, first of all, as The Daily Mail first noted with commendable scepticism, the video seems to just be reading out three articles from conspiracy theory website Ancient-Code.com. It does so without accreditation, but you can read the first here if you really must.
(Side note: Ancient-Code has since reported on the Anonymous video as if it weren’t just reading out their baseless own articles. The snake has eaten its own tail, and will be digesting it shortly.)
But second, even if it wasn’t, what follows is a selection of publicly available statements from NASA, NASA employees, former astronauts and alien hunters. Yes, it’s true (and widely reported) that NASA has found 4,034 planet candidates, and it’s also true that 49 of these look similar-ish to Earth. That is to say that they’re in the Goldilocks Zone of their host star – close enough for liquid water to flow without freezing, but far enough away not to completely burn off. Nobody is trying to hide that they might hold life, although they’re too damned far away to know for sure.
But Anonymous’ argument hinges on the testimony of NASA’s science mission directorate Thomas Zurbuchen at a government hearing from April, where he said: “Taking into account all of the different activities and missions that are specifically searching for evidence of alien life, we are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented, discoveries in history.”
That sound pretty promising out of context. In context? Less so. Skip to 39 minutes to hear Zurbuchen’s testimony.
Indeed, later in the same testimony, things are considerably more caveated: “The TRAPPIST-1 system is just 39 light years away and its discovery tells us that there is plenty of planet-making material in our little corner of the solar system, indicating that finding Earth-like planets may actually be closer to us than we originally thought. Future study of this planetary system could reveal conditions suitable for life.”
This shouldn’t need spelling out, but “conditions suitable for life” is not even in the same logical postcode as “intelligent alien life.” If and when we do find alien life – and I should add that the chances are pretty high in the long run – it’s likely to be microbial in nature, at least until our technology improves to study further afield. And if you think microbes are intelligent, you have a very different definition of intelligence to me.
The remaining ten tedious minutes continue in much the same way, and yet at the time of writing, 857,722 people have watched them. So what happens when NASA doesn’t announce alien life in the next few months? Well, the beauty of conspiracy theories is that no evidence is as good as evidence. When NASA fails to announce alien life, it’s easy for alien hunters to insist that Anonymous was right all along, and it’s all a giant cover-up.
In other words, the Anonymous video is an (undeniably successful) cry for attention that can’t lose. They’ve already got plenty of non-critical write-ups of this nonsense, not to mention plenty of cash from the ad-heavy video, because people love this kind of thing. For everyone with their critical faculties in tact, though, consider the hacking group’s greatest hits to have finished around three years ago.
…but of course, I’ll revise that assessment if NASA does go and announce advanced alien life in the next two months. But I’ll eat your tin-foil hat if they do.
Image by JD Hancock used under Creative Commons