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The Case for a Galactic Defense System

LAST JUNE, THE LONG AWAITED SEQUEL INDEPENDENCE Day: Resurgence opened in theaters around the world. Although not as commercially successful as its blockbuster predecessor, the film at least elaborated in greater detail on alien motivations for conquering Earth. As explained in the story, the alien mothership sought to harvest the heat of the Earth’s core, which in the process would destroy the planet’s magnetic field, thus obliterating all of its inhabitants. Such a scenario is highly improbable because there would be more feasible methods for alien civilizations to extract comparatively greater amounts of energy, including harnessing the heat of stars, which are estimated to number 400 billion in the Milky Way Galaxy alone.1 Moreover, it does not seem plausible that an advanced alien civilization capable of traversing interstellar distances would be interested in extracting the relatively crude energy sources or harvesting resources to be found on Earth when such commodities could be obtained in much greater quantities closer to the home planet. From the perspective of an advanced alien civilization, plundering the Earth for its resources would be neither practical nor desirable. Be that as it may, there would be good reasons for interstellar colonization, primarily for defensive, rather than offensive purposes. To ensure its longterm survival, a civilization would need to keep apprised of what is happening outside of its star system, for there are a number of perils that lurk in the Galaxy. Thus, the construction of a Galactic Defense System is advisable.

Illustration by Ástor Alexander

Perils in the Galaxy

The most serious threats that we face in the Galaxy are not hostile aliens as depicted in science fiction films, but naturally occurring astronomical phenomena. Concomitant with the discovery of new celestial bodies, astronomers have come to understand the perilous nature of the cosmos. These discoveries correlate with recent findings in the field of geology. Periodic mass extinctions as indicated in the Earth’s fossil record suggest a galactic culprit may be responsible. The physicists Richard Muller and Robert Rohde, for example, found a distinct 62-million-year cycle in the pattern of marine extinctions.2 Perhaps as our solar system passes through the Milky Way’s spiral arm, the Earth is subjected to a number of exogenous forces stemming from that part of the Galaxy.3

Astronomical events have the potential to wipe out life over broad swaths of space. To give one example, when a large star explodes in a supernova the radiation produced within 30 light years of a habitable planet would probably destroy all of its surface life.4 In July of 2016 it was reported that an exploding star might have triggered a minor mass extinction 2.59 million years ago, around the start of the Pleistocene, when hominins began to flourish in Africa.5 Thankfully, our Sun is located in the suburbs, far from the galactic center where most supernovae occur. Astronomers have not detected any large stars with the potential to become supernovae in the vicinity of our solar system.6 But other habitable planets may host advanced alien civilizations that are not so fortunate, in which case they would have a great incentive to monitor potential supernovae.

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About Skeptic

DECEPTION IN CANCER TREATMENT SPECIAL ISSUE: The Cancer-care Industry’s Marketing is Among the Most Deceptive on the Consumer Landscape. SPECIAL SECTION: Classic Skepticism: The Amityville Hoax at 40; Alien Sulls: Do the Mysterious Rhodope Skull and Adygea Skulls Belong to Aliens?; The Real Meaning Behind the Nazca Geoglyphs; Clown Panics: Sightings of Mysterious Clowns Rattle Nerves ARTICLES: The Case for a Galactic Defense System; Is “Spirituality” so Broadly Defined that Testing for it is Meaningless?; Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?; Luck and Regression to the Mean: One of the Most Fundamental Sources of Error in Human Judgment; Political Obfuscation: Thinking Critically about Public Discourse. COLUMNS: The SkepDoc: Anti-Aging Claims: The Fountain of Youth is Still Only a Legend, by Harriet Hall, M.D.; The Gadfly: Can Working Memory Be Trained to Work Better? by Carol Tavris REVIEWS: “Three books about the Salem Witch Trials and their legacy: The Witches: Salem, by Stacy Schiff; In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692, by Mary Beth Norton; America Bewitched: America Bewitched: The Story of Witchcraft After Salem, by Owen Davies JUNIOR SKEPTIC: Mammoth Mysteries! Part Two, by Daniel Loxton