War of the World

comic cover
Yesterday I wrote about our fascination with alien technology that began in the 1950s and is still very real. Today I write about another frightening aspect of that alien thread that runs through our culture and society and seems particularly relevant in this current period.

H.G. Wells (born Herbert George Wells in Bromley, England, 1866) is known as one of the fathers of modern science fiction. I loved many of his books including The Invisible Man, The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau. He published dozens of novels, story collections, and books of nonfiction, most of which were not explicitly sci-fi.

I have written before about H.G. Wells and how he was very much interested in history, biology, and socialism. He certainly had a vision for the future of mankind which was optimistic and pessimistic and it found its way into both his fiction and non-fiction.

I don’t know which version of his The War of the Worlds I encountered first – comic book, movie, or novel. I found my comic book version in a box of Classic Illustrated Comics that I loved reading in my youth and that had a great influence on me as a reader and paging through it made me think of the “war of the world” we have been fighting with our own planet the past year.

In almost all the adaptations of Wells’ novel, the aliens are defeated not by our weapons but by what Wells described as “putrefactive bacteria.” His Martians are clearly well advanced in technology but are ignorant of disease. Wells’ narrator theorized that they had eliminated diseases in their world and so were unprepared to deal with germs, bacteria or viruses on Earth.

I clearly remember watching the 1953 film adaptation on television more than once as a kid. The Martians shown resembled the UFO aliens that were being reported throughout the 1950s and 60s.  they were short, brown creatures with two arms and three-fingered hands and had one cyclopean eye.

That movie chose not to have the aliens use humans as a blood supply in order to live. The movie Martians seemed to have no use for humans and just wanted the planet itself and humans were in the way.

For the alien invaders in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film adaptation, they are never called Martians. It wouldn’t make any sense to have superior intelligence coming from what we know to be a red and probably dead planet.  Spielberg chose to have their home, as with his E.T., be some unidentified darker part of the universe.

Following earlier adaptations, these aliens are defeated because their immune systems can’t fight off the multitude of microbes that inhabit the Earth. But it is interesting that the closing narration of Spielberg’s film says that humanity has earned the right to the planet by virtue of naturally coexisting with the rest of its biosphere.

That ending note reminds me of when I actually studied The War of the Worlds in a literature class.  I learned that it can be seen as part of a group of “invasion literature” which appeared at a time when anxiety and insecurity concerning international tensions between European Imperial powers were on the rise. This insecurity would escalate towards the outbreak of the First World War.

Before World War II, the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles of The War of the Worlds took hold of a population that had those same fears. In the American 1950s, fears of an “invasion” by outsiders and nuclear fears led to many books and films, such as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where the invaders looked not like aliens but like us – but they were not us.

Wells was a follower of Thomas Henry Huxley who was a proponent of the theory of natural selection. Mankind versus the Martians is very much survival of the fittest. The Martians’ longer period of evolution gave them superior intelligence.

And the novel also suggests Wells’ beliefs about race as described in Social Darwinism. The Martians are exercising their “rights” as a superior race over humans.  Wells said that the novel was loosely inspired by the news of the genocide subjected to Tasmanian First Nations people by British imperialists.

He says in the first chapter of the book:

“And before we judge them [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished Bison and the Dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?”

His anti-colonialism sounds noble but I have read that taken as a whole Wells’ writing is not so pure with passages of anti-semitism and a fascination for eugenics.

Those Tasmanians he references are the Aboriginal people of the Australian state of Tasmania. For much of the 20th century, they were thought to be an extinct cultural and ethnic group that had been intentionally exterminated by white settlers. Though the elimination of them – “in spite of their human likeness” – was certainly attempted, people of Tasmanian Aboriginal descent still exist on the continent, probably in ni=umbers less than 25,000.

In Wells’ vision, are we the Martians? Are we at war with ourselves, or are some groups trying to eliminate other groups that they see as “alien”? Will we be defeated not by weapons and warfare but by microbes?

H.G. Wells’ questions are still viable and unanswered.

The Navy’s Alien Technology

Image by PhotoVision

I have been reading about UFO sightings, aliens, abductions, and alien technology my entire life. As a kid, it fascinated me. I did, like Fox Mulder, want to believe in all of it. It also frightened me.

Despite many denials by government agencies, rumors that we have been visited by aliens and that we have captured aliens and their advanced technology persist.

The Pentagon had said that it disbanded a covert program to investigate unidentified flying objects, but it seems that it still exists.

Recent stories have reported that the program was renamed and put into the Office of Naval Intelligence. Of course,  Pentagon officials will not discuss the program but it appeared last summer in a Senate committee report outlining spending on the nation’s intelligence agencies for the coming year.

That report said the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force was “to standardize the collection and reporting” on sightings of unexplained aerial vehicles, and was to report at least some of its findings to the public within 180 days after passage of the intelligence authorization act.

Drawing from U.S. patent US20190295733A1.jpg
Drawing from Pais’s patent application for a “plasma compression fusion device” Public Domain, Link

It also surfaced that there were some U.S. Navy patents that sound like “alien technology.” The patents were authored by inventor Dr. Salvatore Pais and refer to the “Pais effect.”

These latest stories don’t come from fringe science websites but from The New York Times and Forbes.  The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was thought to have ended in 2012 but it continues under its new name under the auspices of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence.

Back in 2017, the Times first reported on a secret project to study unidentified aerial phenomena. That was the time when some puzzling videos taken by Navy fighter pilots over the Pacific came to light and seemed to show unidentified objects ahead of the jets. Those objects maneuvered in ways unlike existing aircraft.

It would make sense for the military to want to know about any new aircraft technology. I would have guessed that this would be the purview of the Air Force (or the new Space Force?) but it falls under the Navy.

The Navy’s unusual patents seem to focus on energy production. Plus, the Times stories talk about “retrieved materials… not made on this Earth.” Those materials make me think of the many stories and “unexplained mystery” programs I’ve seen over the years about “retrieved materials” found at a crash site in Roswell, New Mexico. Does the government have an alien spacecraft in Area 51 or some other location?

Roswell Daily Record, Public Domain, Link

These patents include terms that excite people who have been claiming for a half-century that the government is hiding what it knows about UFOs. Technologies such as a “high temperature superconductor,” a “high frequency gravitational wave generator,” a force field-like “electromagnetic field generator,” a “plasma compression fusion device,” and a hybrid aerospace/underwater craft featuring an “inertial mass reduction device” certainly sound like alien technology.

Just to put some more juice into the public fascination with UFOs, let’s add that President Trump told his son Don Jr. in an interview that he knew “very interesting” things about Roswell and when asked if he would declassify any information on Roswell, he replied, “I’ll have to think about that one.” I guess he decided not to declassify.


Before We Destroyed Earth, We Destroyed Venus

hot planet Venus

I try to avoid conspiracy theories and fringe science, but every once and a while a story catches my attention and I read on past the crazy headline. Such was the case with a story that says “Humans Could Be From Venus: A theory about the destructive nature of humanity”

Even if your only knowledge of Venus comes from an elementary school science class, you would know that the planet is not for humans. These days we hear about Mars expeditions, not ones to Venus.

The atmospheric pressure on Venus is high enough to crush humans. The air is a toxic mix of sulfur and carbon dioxide. The temperatures on the surface is hundreds of degrees. So why would anyone think that human life might have been there at one time?

It is actually connected to the idea (and supported with money by people like billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk) of a future for the human race off this planet on Mars or beyond. Might the human race have done this move before?

NASA, in looking at our own climate data and worst-case scenarios for the future of Earth, has pondered whether Venus might have once been habitable and that its ecosystem was destroyed. Those scenarios about Earth’s future has a planet more like Venus.

The standard theory on Venus is that natural planetary causes or an event from space created the planet we know. Is it at all possible that humans or some form of ancient human ancestor millions of years ago destroyed the planet? It’s the greenhouse effect unchecked. More CO2 goes into the air and heat gets trapped, temperatures rise which causes more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere and that loop eventually destroys all life.

I doubt that is what happened. This is where the speculation gets pretty crazy in a way that is good for science-fiction plots but not for science non-fiction. Where is the evidence for this Venus theory? I don’t see any – but others do.

Following this Venus line of speculation leads us to ask how and why did humanity make a quite sudden evolutionary appearance on Earth relatively few thousands of years ago? The whole primate to primitive humans to fully homo sapiens has had scientists theorizing for centuries. Having us land here from Venus is an easy (too easy) explanation.

And then we get to all the ideas about things like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids and agriculture which all arrive at roughly 3000BCE. The theory that has produced lots of books and movies has been that aliens visited Earth and helped humans leap into the future. But what if those “aliens” were us come from Venus?

Venus dayside
A more habitable looking Venus dayside in false color via PLANET-C Project Team/ EuroPlanet

Venus now is completely uninhabitable. It has a cloud cover so thick as to prevent us from getting a closer look at even the surface. That ambiguity allows the Venus-was-our-home theorists to wonder if under the clouds and surface there might be the remnants of an old civilization. We start out on one planet, flourish for a few thousand years, and eventually ruin the place and then move on to the next one.

It makes for an interesting story. It’s a cautionary tale about what we are doing – and maybe have already done before – to a planet’s environment.

I just wonder why those Venusians who were advanced enough to make it to Earth ended up being so primitive when they got here that they needed to start over. Didn’t they bring any of their advanced tools and records? And why did they look so primitive?

I think I’m seeing more credibility in the old aliens-helped-us theory from the 1950s. If that one is true, they should be arriving again pretty soon to move us off Earth to the next place.

Read the original article that started me thinking about all this at medium.com and read about a new study about the idea of human colonization on Mars.

When Are Those Aliens Going To Visit Earth?

alien encounter

There are many theories that try to explain why we haven’t made contact with aliens. Theorists range from those who believe it is because there are no other intelligent beings anywhere in the universe, to those who believe that they have made contact already.

In just the observable universe, there are approximately 10 billion galaxies, and each has around 100 billion stars that can act like our own Sun. Astronomer Frank Drake came up with the Drake Equation which estimates that there should be around 20 alien civilizations close enough to Earth to have been detected.

I listened to Stephen Hawking’s book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, this past week. He believed that there was certainly life elsewhere in the universe, but whether or not it was intelligent depends on your definition of intelligent. He also believed that if intelligent (or more-intelligent-than-us) beings came to Earth, the results might be terrible for us.

He points to our own history of similar encounters here on our planet, such as Columbus opening the New World to aliens from the Old World.

The search for extra-terrestrial life-ou-there fascinates us.  We have written many stories and made many films about the possibilities. Very serious science is done with lots of money being spent on equipment that listens and sends signals into the depths of the universe. But, so far, deep space has not answered.

Some people have called Hawking’s way of thinking about this the Dark Forest Theory. I still vividly recall an old Twilight Zone episode titled “To Serve Man”  that I saw as a kid that I suppose introduced this darker view of aliens to me.

The episode’s opening narration (by creator Rod Serling) is: “Respectfully submitted for your perusal – a Kanamit. Height: a little over nine feet. Weight: in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds. Origin: unknown. Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment, we’re going to ask you to shake hands, figuratively, with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone.”

In the episode, the Kanamit comes to Earth in peace and has a book that contains advanced information meant “to serve man.” It needs to be translated into English and our codebreakers are working on it. He wants people of Earth to journey to his planet, which is described as a paradise. He offers world leaders access to his planet’s advanced technology. We can have an atomic electrical generator that can provide very cheap energy, fertilizers to end famine, and a force field that could be used to prevent international warfare.

One man from Earth is selected to go on their spaceship, and just as he is leaving, we have cracked enough of the Kanamit language to realize that “to serve man” is not a book of technology wonders but it is a cookbook.

This “dark” view of alien contact is not the only view.

The Fermi Paradox, named after physicist Enrico Fermi, it was an early theory to ask “If there are billions of stars in billions of galaxies, then why haven’t we seen aliens?’ People – scientists and ordinary folks – have said that it is reasonable to believe that there is alien life on other planets but they don’t have the technology to reach us yet.

Maybe they simply don’t want to visit us. They might view us as crude and don’t need what resources our planet offers.

Perhaps they visited Earth long ago, before human life, and have not returned.


Earth is a miracle planet that lies on the “Goldilocks Zone” of just the right conditions based on our distance from the Sun. To have life at all similar to life on Earth (which includes but is not limited to human life) you need the right conditions and then life forms. Maybe there are other planets that are not more advanced but less advanced. They are the Earth of 500,000 years ago.

The sweet spot that Earth hits is how plants give off oxygen and take in carbon dioxide and organisms do the opposite. Earth may be the only place in our galaxy where that is true.

We have been listening to about one percent of our galaxy and sending out signals for about 100 years. In a universe estimated to be nearly 14 billion years old, that extends 92 billion light years in diameter, it is reasonable to say that we are being much too impatient.

alien attack

That Dark Forest Theory suggests that there is alien life out there, but it is hostile. That is because all living creatures innately have the drive to survive and reproduce. That is true of humans, birds, bacteria and viruses and so it should be true of aliens.

There is already been much discussion of Earthlings going to other planets (albeit ones without aliens, such as Mars)  because our Earth resources are limited. What if the next habitable planet we find outside our solar system has rich resources and is inhabited by some form of intelligent life? What if their intelligence and technology are less advanced than ours when we make contact? How will we, as the aliens, treat them?

Perhaps, other civilizations are keeping quiet and not making contact as a way to survive.

Astronomer Dominik Riechers at Cornell University believes the reason we have not made contact with life in outer space is that they are hiding from hostile aliens – like us.

Should we make contact if we don’t know what’s out there?

More Reading

Making Contact With Hungry Aliens

Very Large Array New Mexico wikimedia

Did you know that back in 2008 over a six-hour period, we were using high-powered radars in the Arctic Circle to send an advertisement into space for the first time?

The “message” sent was directed towards a solar system in the Ursa Major constellation. It’s close, relatively, being only 42 light years from Earth. Why send it there? Because this solar system contains a habitable zone, sometimes called a “Goldilocks Zone,” and it might have an Earth-like planet. And that means it might have extraterrestrial life. And that means they would get hungry.

So what was that signal/message/advertisement? It was for Doritos tortilla chips.

The signal was sent from a European space station on the Norwegian island of Svalbard. They don’t normally use their array of radars for ads. Their normal work is to study the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Now, what might aliens make of the Doritos message? Actually, they probably can’t decode it no matter how intelligent life is there. It was sent as a video file coded into ones and zeroes. They would be able to interpret the series of regular pulses over several hours as “intelligent,” and not just background noise.

When I watched the ad, known as “Tribe,” I wasn’t sure how I would interpret it as an Earthling, let alone as an alien.

Does Earth have tribes of Dorito chips that can move on their own and have the intelligence to worship and even offer a sacrifice to the god Salsa? And what about the much larger creature (who does not seem much more intelligent) who seems to rule both Salsa and Doritos and who finds the sacrificed chip, eats it and seems “appeased.” Who is in charge here?

If you have a close encounter of the third kind one day with aliens from Ursa Major, be sure to have Doritos and salsa (and I’m going to say also some other dips) ready to offer them.  Hopefully, that will appease the aliens and they won’t decide to dip and then eat you.

The End and Stephen Hawking

Some of Stephen Hawking’s predictions are things that I don’t want to be around to see as they focus on the end of human life on Earth.

For one thing,Hawking was quite fearful of the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). He joined in an open letter with other scientists saying that when AI becomes equal to or exceeds human intelligence, the “robots” were likely to destroy the human race.

But he also feared an old enemy – ourselves. He feared that human aggression in the form of something like a major nuclear war could lead to the extinction of the human race.

And he warned about another enemy – alien life. He was of the belief that if intelligent alien life does exist, it is more likely not to be friendly towards humans. Conquering and colonizing Earth would be their logical plan for Earth.

I had heard these and other theories of Hawking’s in a 2010 documentary, Into the UniverseHis is a rather pessimistic view of the future. The depletion of our natural resources and the warming of the planet until it is as inhospitable as Venus are also possibilities for the end of us in his predictions.

I hope he’s wrong about all of these futures.