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Travelling to the stars or a bit closer to home

Steve Kidd’s column to the Free Press
Shooting stars are not an uncommon sight in B.C. skies, but they’re not UFOs. (Illustration courtesy OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay)

The truth is out there … it’s just not as fun.

With a fireball spotted streaking through the skies over Southern B.C., it’s probably inevitable there is also going to be a UFO sighting.

Listening to a story about a UFO sighting in the wake of the light show, I was reminded of a friend who once asked me why, since I was into “science fiction and all that stuff” I didn’t believe in UFOs.

My answer was that while I thought it was pretty likely other races exist — don’t worry, I’m not going to get into a discussion of the Drake equation — the chances of them visiting Earth was equally as unlikely.

Sci-fi makes light of the enormous distances between stars. Earth’s nearest neighbours are about 4.5 light years away. That means that it would take any prospective visitors 4.5 years, travelling at the speed of light, to get here. Even at Star Trek speeds, doing the trip at Warp 6 would take nine months.

I’m pretty sure that anybody making that trip would want to make more of their visit than flashing people driving down lonely desert highways or abducting some poor schmuck and threatening him with overly personal insertable internal inspection probes.

It really comes down to critical thinking and common sense. And it sometimes amazes me how people who exhibit both qualities in abundance can lose all of it when it comes to the many, many conspiracy theories and hoaxes the world wide web has helped foster.

Like the idea that man never really landed on the moon. Do you really think the number of people needed to pull off a hoax that large would all be able to keep a secret that big?

Likewise, chemtrails. The theory is that contrails, the white lines of condensed water vapour jets leave in the sky, are actually a toxic substance deliberately sprayed on an unsuspecting community by a mysterious government program, in hopes of sterilizing or killing us in hopes of reducing the surplus population.

Leaving aside the lack of science behind this proposition, contrails are not a new phenomenon. I remember watching them form in the sky when I was a child — that’s a long time ago, and they were around a long time before that.

But the common sense point here is that if our governments wanted to kill us off, they have a lot more efficient methods than an exaggerated crop dusting program. Poisoning the water supply, for example, or adding arsenic to those little envelopes of sugar coffee drinkers are addicted to.

Crystal structures on the moon, alien abductions, government conspiracy theories, magical ancient civilizations, these are all great plots for stories, but let’s keep the science fiction separate from science fact.

Steve Kidd is a journalist with a lifetime subscription to the Skeptical Inquirer.

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