What’s that, in the sky? It’s a bird! A plane! No, it’s a U.F.O. BRO! Holy S**T Bro WHAT THE F**K?! Hey everybody and welcome back to another thought piece by me, ya boy, Joe Van! Today we will be going over the topic of aliens! Whether you mean people from another country, an unusual sensation, or intelligent extraterrestrial hominin-like organisms that evolved independently from us yet harbour many similar traits like language, limbs, and social tendencies!; they all fall under the same name. So where to start? Well, with the word of course!
The word alien in English came from an older version of French as the same name, which itself came from the Latin word alienus, meaning ‘belonging to another.’ Believe it or not but that Latin word came from an OLDER Latin word! The word being alius, meaning ‘other,’ though you could have guessed that. For this reason the word was primarily used to describe a foreigner, especially one who was not a naturalized citizen of the country where they were living. For this reason it was, and is, a term used almost exclusively in a derogatory sense. It would be a long time until the name meant what we now associate it with: the martians; but alien as a term is also used to describe a plant or animal species originally introduced from another country and later naturalized. And finally its other use is to describe the sensation of something being unfamiliar, and disturbing or distasteful.
We have, as a species, for a long time feared the world beyond our communities. Strangers, uncharted lands, and radical weather patterns breathed the same fear of the unknown. When sickness struck, we had no idea what was happening, and that was terrifying. It still is in cases like COVID-19. Viruses and diseases are invisible to the naked eye. They attack us in ways that make us feel alien in our own bodies. This feeling of unknowing is the extenuation of dread. We don’t know what’s happening, but it’s something bad and it’s coming for us.
Pivoting from the invisible, there are certain weather patterns that have made clouds look very strange. One such case is the cloud pattern known as: Lenticular clouds.
They are discus clouds that look unlike any normal cloud formation. They almost look like solid objects hovering in the air. Many religious paintings depict sacred objects in the atmosphere. Some are gold, others are silhouettes, but you can begin to see what would later be the hallmark shape we know now as U.F.O.s- though when people say that they don’t mean an unidentified flying object, they mean alien saucers.
The earliest known instances of the word “Martian”, (used as a noun instead of an adjective,) were printed in late 1877. They appeared nearly simultaneously in England and the United States, in magazine articles detailing Asaph Hall’s discovery of the moons of Mars in August of that year. The next event to inspire the use of the noun Martian in print was the International Exposition of Electricity, which was hosted in Paris in the year 1881. During the four months of the exhibition, many people visited to witness such technological marvels as the incandescent light bulb and the telephone. One visitor came away wondering what kind of world such innovations might engender in the next 200 years. Writing anonymously, s/he assembled some speculations in an essay titled “The Year of Grace 2081”, which enjoyed wide circulation. The Martians enter the story late in the narrative. During a rest from international conflict on Earth, humans begin telecommunicating with Martians.
This is when the fiction-fun began. W. S. Lach-Szyrma’s novel Aleriel, or A Voyage to Other Worlds (1883) was previously reputed to be the first published work to apply the word Martian as a noun. The usage is incidental; it occurs when Aleriel, the novel’s protagonist, lands on Mars in a spacecraft called an “ether-car” (an allusion to aether, which was once postulated as a gaseous medium in outer space). Aleriel buries the car in snow “so that it might not be disturbed by any Martian who might come across it.” Fifteen years after Aleriel, H. G. Wells’ landmark novel The War of the Worlds (1898) was published. We all know how that one goes; the Martians invade us as octopus-like organisms in tripods, before succumbing to Earth’s bacteria, wiping them out.
So now let’s jump into the modern mysteries of aliens popularized from Nevada in the 1950’s. The Roswell Incident was an event that brought curious eyes to a now freely available government cover up. For a comprehensive dive into its history, I recommend the Internet Historian’s video, titled: The Roswell Incident. Regardless of the actual truth, that the U.F.O. in question was actually a weather balloon, the masses were alight with conspiracies theories about collusion between little green men and the American government.
Believe you me, there’s nothing more exciting than coming across an attempted cover up and personally following along with a detective to uncover the ‘truth,’ but a lesson we must all understand, is that the truth is almost always whatever the most boring option is. That being said, though, our species has done great work to uncover captivating possibilities regarding the potential for there to be extraterrestrial life in the universe. One possibility comes in the form of a mathematical equation, called: The Drake Equation.
Created in 1961 by Frank Drake, the drake equation helps us formulate the probability of there being intelligent life through all the factors that goes into how we know life comes about. With that in mind, we need not look so far as other star systems to find extraterrestrials. If we’re only looking for life itself and not communicative intelligent life, as recently as 2019, Russian astronauts aboard the ISS found microscopic bacteria on the space station’s solar panels. There are many ways that bacteria could have gotten there, like strong up-currents of wind somehow propelling them out of the atmosphere, or from expelled ice crystals of any moon or other planet in our solar system, or most excitedly from interstellar celestial bodies harbouring ice. The main ingredient for life on Earth is water, so our only assumptions for life elsewhere is the same thing, even if it’s frozen.
Finally the last case of aliens we will dive into is the possibility of (if not intelligent, then at the very least) advanced extraterrestrial life on other bodies in our solar system. I just previously alluded to bacteria being ejected from moons, and the strongest candidates for this kind of habitability are currently icy satellites such as the moons of Jupiter and Saturn: Europa and Enceladus respectively. Although, if life exists in either place, it would probably be confined to subsurface habitats. Either way, that’s our closest bet currently on finding truly alien organisms!
I hope you guys enjoyed my little dive into the subject of aliens. I had a lot of fun researching it, but want to stress that you do your own research. There is a TON of stuff I left out to be explored in this field, so Google away if you’re curious! And as always, thank you for giving me your time, I truly appreciate it. I wish you nothing but love in your life, and ask you to remember, to keep on thinking. Ciao for now.