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UFOs reappear

In the letter

Unidentified flying objects or UFOs seem to follow the same cycle as 17-year-old cicadas: everything is silent and buried for a long time, and then there is a buzzing swarm of things Getting airtime on TV , social media, and even in the United States Senate.

The current surge in interest is likely to culminate with an upcoming Pentagon report, which is believed to contain even more of the same kind of hard-to-interpret cockpit videos and pilot statements about unknown aerial phenomena that have been gathered over the years. We will see a multitude of 'expert witnesses' and opinion leaders explain how impossible these phenomena are, leading to the inevitable assumption that these sightings are out of this world, that the aliens are here and always circling the heavens of the earth just beyond simple identification.

For the vast majority of scientists, especially astronomers and astrobiologists, who are actually systematically looking for life in the cosmos, none of this is particularly interesting. If there weren't a century or more of science fiction stories and films predisposing us to the idea of ​​extraterrestrial visits, all of these inexplicable phenomena would appear as strange effects in the optics of moving cameras, tracking cameras, the Earth's atmosphere, and humans visual reactions and psychology are considered. Nobody would call an astrobiologist to ask if there are any aliens in our skies.

Indeed, perhaps the most damning evidence that UFOs Not Alien technology consists in the fact that its properties - such as its extraordinary apparent speeds and motions - would disregard all known laws of physics and aviation. In science this is a leap of ridiculous proportions. Time and again we have found that each new level of our understanding of nature is largely compatible with the previous one, only more complete and accurate.

We could imagine that a cosmic species would have new tricks that we don't know about, but that is different than succumbing to the stories of magic and superstitions that have haunted us for thousands and thousands of years. The universe Makes have basic shortcuts that bright minds can unlock, but there's no evidence that they really do.

But all that energy wasted tormenting yourself over UFOs could still be useful. Our exploration of nature, here on earth and out in the universe, is not always easy to control or replicate. The cosmos is full of phenomena that appear and disappear sporadically, or that have only been observed once during human scientific investigation and become uncomfortable prototypes - from exploding stars to comets.

Integrating this type of uncontrolled, unexpected data into our reality models is a major challenge. With that in mind, UFOs are ripe for being used as a test bed for techniques that could collect data at any time and place without the complication of human observers. Global coverage by satellites or aerial monitors, along with the sleepless talents of machine learning, could tell us not only about UFOs, but many other aspects of the world that are otherwise difficult to keep track of: from fleeting atmospheric disturbances to geophysical events . Approaching this as a scientific conundrum and ignoring the noise of talking heads and conspiracy theorists could be both interesting and useful.

Caleb Sharp is director of the multidisciplinary Columbia Astrobiology Center. His research interests include the study of exoplanets, exomons, and the nature of suitable environments.

This column is editorially independent of Colombia News .

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