The State Of The Universe

Wil Wheaton and I got excited and made this “Fighting Time Lords” shirt for you! No, really. Specifically FOR YOU.

Gallifrey University Fighting Time Lords Shirt - Doctor Who parody, geeky tees, funny t-shirts,  nerdy shirts

[Sorry, non-Doctor Who fans. This one doesn’t make any sense to you.]

The Whitehouse’s official stance on aliens, UFO’s and the like is that we haven’t yet made contact, and no information regarding extraterrestrials has been concealed by the government from the public. But, isn’t that EXACTLY what they would say if they WERE covering something up? And if The Silence are involved, do they even know they are covering it up? If Fox Moulder voted for Obama, would it be “Change I WANT TO BELIEVE in?” Further more, do astronauts have sex in space? How does that even work? So many mysteries.

When I was a kid, I was both facinated and terrified by the idea of aliens visiting Earth. The early 90’s saw a strange surge in alien related media. Perhaps The X-Files started it, or perhaps the interest in UFO’s paved the way for the show. Either way, there were TV specials, movies and books coming out left and right that all seemed to say the same thing: We are not alone, and the truth is being kept from us. I soaked up every bit of info I could (which was hard pre-Internet) and felt that I had an above average working knowledge of “the truth.” I knew all about the inconsistencies of the reports surrounding Roswell, the military personell that had come forward only to be discredited, the similarities in abduction stories and the “greys.” I just accepted that this was the secret truth and eventually it would all come out. I could understand, even at 11 years old, why the government would lie about these events, but I never even questioned the “abductees” themselves. Why would anyone lie about such a thing? I also wanted us to get as close to a Star Trek reality as possible in my lifetime, and aliens jump starting our technology and society seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling.

I realize now how I let my youthful naivety and enthusiasm for sci-fi get out of hand. I firmly believe there are other lifeforms in the universe, those we would recognize as life and those we would not, but I doubt they are monitoring us or conducting experiments on us. A life-sustaining world might be such a rarity in the universe, and the distances between them so great, that even given millions of intelligent species two of them would just never cross paths. Life may also be abundant in the universe, but just not all at the same time. Perhaps species are born and die in the relative blink of an eye and hardly ever coexist. I hope that’s not the case. How lonely if it is.

COMMENTERS: Were you, as I, fascinated by aliens as a kid? Are you now? Any defining moments that lead you to believe one way or another? One thing that sticks out for me was the TV movie version of “Communion.” There was a scene where a little boy runs to a lake, a woman chases him, then sees a spaceship floating over the lake and when the boy turns around he has the face of a grey. THAT. SHIT. SCARED. ME. TO. DEATH. The images was burned into my brain and haunted me for years. It was especially horrifying because I believed it was 100% true and was probably going to happen to me eventually. So far it hasn’t… or has it? [No, probably not.]

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  1. You know, I'm not really surprised the White House denied any knowledge. I'm sure if the statement was reverse and they came out about dealings with alien life-forms, just think of the total sh*t-storm that would erupt, not just in the US, but worldwide, and that would be on top of the crap going down with the Occupy protests.
    Plus, the tin-foil hatters believe that those with the true knowledge about any dealings have a security ranking higher than even the President, who go far above the White House… typical conspiracy theory stuff and stories.

    There is alien life out there, there's no doubt of that and even at levels that make us look on a technological level equal to plankton. But, would such life forms want to deal with us? I don't think so. It'd be like us trying to talk with very angry red ants.
    Heck, Stephen Hawking theorised that our first actual encounter with alien intelligence may not be a pleasant one, and I'm tending to think that we humans could may well even be the instigators.
    But, do aliens pop by and take a poke around? I'm sure they do, in a form of morbid curiosity. But, I doubt that they need to make dealings with world leaders, when they clearly have the ability and technology to take what they want and depart, way before anyone can react.
    I'll stop, as I'm starting to blather on.

  2. Great comic!

    I was born in Roswell, NM; so I've been pretty well steeped in extraterrestrial lore (and possibly juices). Living there didn't help to cement my belief one way or the other, though. It could have been a prototype aerospace product of our own government that fell from the sky. But it could have been more. I can't really believe that "they" are around us. But it can't be possible that we are the sole speck of intelligence (to say nothing of life) in the universe. Due to my childhood of fortune, there is a heap of alien iconography that sticks with me.

    • Watching specials about my hometown on Unsolved Mysteries (Robert Stack's voice gives me the most terrified half-boner, to this day.)
    • Fire in the Sky….just that.
    • The late 80's television miniseries adaptation of The War of the Worlds. So many horrible things happening to mouths…

    • Honestly? Doctor Who and Star Trek are about the extent of my interest in aliens (with Invader Zim thrown in for good measure). I figure when aliens finally do make themselves known to us, it'll be like First Contact with the Vulcans.

      I actually got into a conversation about how alien probings were explained in the ST universe, and how funny it would be if the Vulcans were the ones doing anal probing.

  3. My favorite Astro-phsyicist Neil Degrasse Tyson has the best explanation of why we have not met any extraterrestrial life. Even if the vast distances of space and the time needed to cross it could be overcome, the alien species that could do that would be so advanced that they would not recognize us as intelligent beings. The example he gives is ants on the side of a highway. Would you go out of your way, to stop and try to communicate with the ants? I mean obviously they are life but do we go up to these ants and ask them to take us to their leader?

    It would be the same with aliens, they would recognize us for the insignificant ants we are and not even bother to stop. Let alone try the absurd and try to communicate with what they must see as very primitive animals.

    • But ants recognize us as life; so, by that analogy, there's no reason to suppose we wouldn't spot all the aliens out there looking down their noses at us. And take it a step further: we interact with ants all the time — studying them, exterminating them, putting them in farms…

      To me, it's crazy to think we're alone in the universe. What are the chances? Far more likely that we haven't been contacted or colonized because interstellar travel is extremely expensive and / or dangerous for any species that evolved on a planet. An advanced civilization probably has a relatively stable population, sustainable energy and food supply, etc., and so finds it easier to remain planetbound.

      That doesn't mean we'll never be contacted, though. My guess is that there's a lively interstellar conversation going on, but we don't hear it because we're still trying to communicate with electromagnetic energy. The aliens probably talk via some method that we can't detect at all — just as ants can't hear us talking because they don't have ears.

      • Just remember that we are only 2% different in DNA from chimpanzee's, makes you wonder what something 2% more evolved than us would be like. They would take our smartest people (Stephen Hawking, for example) and wheel him in front of their people. They would say look at this human he can do physics in his head, and then they all laugh and say their toddlers can do that. Advanced life is just that, advanced. I'm not saying there is nothing out there, on the contrary. We are build out of the most abundant elements in the universe, I think life is everywhere, but advanced life with language and technological capabilities are a rarer thing.

        • We can communicate with many of the higher-order apes via sign language, though, and many of them have proven to be quite intelligent, so 2% difference is really not necessarily that much.


            But DNA difference is not a measure of advancement… only an indication of common ancestry. Unless you go down the panspermia route or the Von Daniken style hypotheses it is unlikely that any hypotheitical advanced alien species would share DNA… highly likely then that, while we might recognise life (in the sense of an evolved entity consisting of relatively self-contained causal feedback loops and demonstrating complex purposeful activity) , cognition and communication may be so utterly alien that communication and understanding could be nigh on impossible, let alone any comparison of advancement. I think that we, as a species, are very narrow as to what we understand life and intelligence evolved independently from our selves might be like.

  4. Well, the galaxy has just been through a culling and we are at the beginning of a new 50,000 year cycle. We might need to wait a couple hundred years before the galaxy rediscovers the Mass Relay network.

  5. Fantastic strip, Joel!

    As a kid I was terrified of aliens. Initially The Silence creeped me out as well, but with the story arc strecthing to eyepatch-ladies and everything to do with River I just couldn't care less about their nasty faces and natty dress sense anymore. It was a whole different ballgame in the 90's though, greys were everywhere and we even had our own ufologist Juhann af Grann popping in every possible media, scaring me shitless. (As well with his appearance as with his stories)

  6. I remember the Communion TV and I distinctly LOLed before such a thing was known about. especially the two fried eggs triggering a flashback. Egg face. Not the scariest image I can think of.

  7. Your 3rd paragraph mirrors the thoughts behind Stanislaw Lem's novel "Fiasco". Even if there is intelligence elsewhere, the chances we would recognize it are slim. And the timing – having two societies at the sme level of intelligence at the same time in order to meet across vast distances – is even harder. A dense, fascinating book, if you've never read it.

  8. I think the probability is high that there's other intelligent life in the universe. If you think about the distances involved and the length of a human lifespan and the short time there has been intelligent human life on the planet, it could be just a matter of time until the intelligent alien life shows up but it could easily happen a hundred or a thousand years from now. Because the signals we send out only travel at light speed it could be hundreds or thousands of years before aliens even know we're here.

  9. For someone who hadn't ever watched an episode of Doctor Who until about a year ago, you've certainly caught on quick. I opened this comic and the photo comic and almost fell out of my chair. Fantastic!

  10. Fire in the Sky caused me to stay inside and be afraid of honey for a good portion of my childhood. It didn't help matters that I had a flashback to it just before I went in to get laser corrective surgery.

  11. I was very much mystified and terrified by the thought of extraterrestrials. One of my greatest fears was that when I would walk by a window at night…one of those gray, almond eyed demons would be staring back at me. You know, because higher life forms have nothing better to do than stand outside my parents house and press their faces against the glass. I also had a recurring nightmare about being abducted.

    • Yeah, welcome to HE. You better get on the Who train or you're going to get left behind.
      Hurry! Get on!

  12. Not recognizing extraterrestrial aliens?
    Heck, the states does not recognize terrestrial aliens.
    If it's not made in the good ole USofA and certified as such then it doesn't exist.

  13. I've read at least a couple sci-fi novels (one being Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, the other Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow,, both of which I'd highly recommend [and do recommend basically every chance I get]) that include anecdotes about the awkwardness of sex and romantic entanglements in zero-G. Both include, If I recall correctly (I mislaid my copy of The Sparrow and libraries have this obnoxious habit of expecting you to return the books they give you for free, so I don't have Rama for reference), mentions of both physical and emotional difficulties regarding two people on a cramped spaceship for several months at a time having relations.

    In answer to the original question, yeah, I'm pretty sure the universe is teeming with life, in at least as much variety as what's fount on Earth. Maybe some of it has visited. Maybe none has. Maybe there's one or two sci-fi works that are 100% true, but I doubt we'll ever know.

    I wouldn't be surprised in the least if someone credible came out about a massive alien cover-up from any of the major world governments, but I'm not holding my breath either.

    • In retrospect, Clarke didn't exactly shy away from sex, did he? I think it was in The Hammer of God that one of the (male) characters commented on the unfairness of what Zero-G did to women's breasts.

  14. Love the comic; creepy and excellent tribute to The Silence. One of my favorite movies has always been the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still" I love the subtleness of the story, how Klaatu comes to Earth to bring a warning, basically to say, "watch yourselves." He blends in and the paranoia of the world is so intense because the human race can't tell what an alien will look like. The scariest moment for me is when he is in the elevator with Patricia O'Neal and he reveals to her who he is and all electricity stops around the world for one hour. If he can manage this kind of power, imagine what else he could do? This imagined power is even more frightening than the great moments with his robot, Gort.

  15. Oh sure, given the vastness of the universe I'm certain there is life out there. But are they probing our anuses or shapeshifting into reptilians and getting elected into government? Not so much. I've been interested in all aspects of the paranormal since I was a wee one. My grandparents had a set of those Time Life books on ghosts, aliens, psychic powers, etc. and I spent many summers poring over those.

    I think a major moment for me on my skeptic/believer debate came when I started experiencing sleep paralysis episodes as a teen (it runs in the family, I later discovered). I realized on a visceral level why this was such a plausible explanation for a lot of demonic and alien encounters that people report. This is frightening and very real-feeling shit even if you know what sleep paralysis is. You have hallucinations with up to all five senses involved, and you would swear you are perfectly awake. Imagine how scary it is to someone who has no idea what is going on. That was a major debunking epiphany for me. These people who report things aren't necessarily crazy, they've experienced something that scared the shit out of them.

  16. Love the comic today, Joel! I sincerely believed when I was a child that I had seen a flying saucer once when I was a child. I was riding in the back seat of my mom's car, and we were on the way to my grandmother's house, when I saw it out the car window. I was all excited about it when we arrived, and gave my family detailed accounts about where I saw it, what it looked like, and drew sketches and everything. I believed I had seen a flying saucer hovering in the air with moving colored lights going around it. My family, knowing I was an imaginative child, indulged me and asked questions, but I'm sure they didn't really believe me, or thought I saw something normal like a water tower or something.

    I don't know if what I saw was really an alien spacecraft, or what it was, but I know I saw something, and "I want to believe" it was of alien origin, but of course I have to doubt that, since nothing has been proven. There have been a few accounts of UFO sighting by credible witnesses (professional pilots, etc.) that have not been able to be debunked. This leads me to the idea that some UFO sightings could be sightings of actual alien spacecraft. I firmly believe that any national government would cover up any evidence of extra-terrestrial visitation of Earth, due to fear of public panic, and there has certainly been stuff that didn't "add up."

    That being said, I am not a "UFO nut, " and without proof-positive, I can't really be sure, although I remain open to, and hopeful of the possibility of sentient extra-terrestrial life. OTOH, I always imagined E.T.s would be friendly and helpful when I was growing up, but given how many mean people live on Earth, I am somewhat less hopeful that we're likely to find friends, even if there is sentient, star-faring life out there. I'm rather afraid any aliens we might meet are more likely to be like the Vogons, or Ridley Scott's aliens, than the Doctor or David Brin's Tymbrimi.

  17. As a kid, I would borrow every book I could on unexplained phenomena, from aliens to Sasquatch to ghosts. I figured if knowledge was power, I'd learn as much as I could about the things that scared the shit out of me. Yeah, that plan backfired big time. I don't fear the unknown now, and I still like to read up on it, but I'm pretty sure it's lead to my love of Who and all things science fiction.

    The scariest part is that the Silence seem to have removed the Presidents pinkies and nobody seems to have noticed!

  18. For all the talk of how there 'Must be aliens' because the 'chances are so high' I don't believe a single scientist has ever knuckled down and actually done any sort of research on the probability of alien life. (Discounting whatever they were very excited about on Mars. That was a thing, right?)

    My personal opinion on it is that they look at the absurdly high numbers they would need to use to even start probability generation on that sort of thing, and look at the fact that suggesting the vastness of the universe indicates the 'odds are tremendously good that alien life exists' is fantastic television for generating research grants, and just tell the TV and Media people what they want to hear.

    The Belief in alien life, in my opinion, is the 'religion' of the new millenium. It involves (so far as I have read) more belief and playing the odds and circumstantial evidence than any hard facts. But BOY do people get mad when I call it a 'faith'. I enjoy the reactions, honestly.

    • Drake, bro.
      Thanks to all the extrasolar planet discoveries these days, we're actually starting to fill in some of the variables to the Drake Equation.

  19. This is brilliant!

    I don't know how I missed this being posted, but I'm so glad I scrolled back for no apparent reason. Joel, you are a genius.

    As for aliens, they've gotta be out there, right? That said, it seems like the odds are really against us. Just a guess: there probably aren't that many highly evolved life-forms/ecosystems out there, of those there are even fewer who would have been able to develop some sort of interstellar travel, then of THOSE there are even fewer who would be likely to stumble into our neck of the woods. There's a whole lot of universe out there, so I can't imagine that Earth is really a hot-spot destination, even if such a civilization did exist. But maybe, right? Maybe!

  20. sadly government whistle blowers on this subject get dead. Big O would be the next public sacrifice if he told the truth about ETs and all the black bag untraceable money projects.

  21. As a kid I think I believed in just about anything, though space and the supernatural were by far the things I loved most (aside from vikings and knights) and really, who isn't interested in magic catgirls from space?

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