Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Invisible Aliens Alert!

Apparently the Earth might be full of invisible creatures that we can't see. No, really, I haven't been at one of those Bilderberg-lizard-tinfoilhat websites, it's in a respectable paper! If you can't be bothered to read the link, (but please do) this lady has posited the theory, very seriously, that there may be life on earth made in such a dissimilar way to us that we cannot see or find it. Incidentally, the little drawings are not the creatures. The black rust stuff on the rocks might be. All this is not crank science, there are various teams of scientists looking for it. Anyway, this kind of thing is one of the reasons I like science.

One of the other reasons I like science is that, from the point of view of my admittedly eccentrically wired brain, it is becoming increasingly hard to distinguish scientists from wizards. OK, probably in more of a Terry Pratchett kind of way than Lord of the Rings, but these days scientists do increasingly resemble what, as a kid, I would have described as wizards. Messing around with the fabric of the universe. Conducting strange experiments under mountains. And finding things that even my over-active imagination would find it difficult to create.

I was watching the news the other day and a professor talking about the uneven temperature of the universe cheerfully said 'it's possible that there were two universes tangled together when they were created.' This is the sort of the thing people say in stories. Also, scientists have found a planet made out of diamond, and another so light it would float, if you dropped it in the sea.

When I was a kid, science was much duller. Sometimes it was dull to the point of oppression. People would tell you what was what in a 'gosh you're stupid' kind of way. I distinctly remember an incident in which friends of my parents' were of possession in some horrific 1970s popular science book about evolutionary biology. When I asked about it, they gleefully informed me that it proved how men were always on the prowl for sex, and women were always trying to get a man to stay with them to protect their offspring, because that's what people were programmed to do. (Think I was ten at the time - thanks for that.) I didn't much like this idea, and asked if it had to be like that, or if you could change it. 'Oh no,' I was informed. 'It's science'. At least ten years later, as a sci-fi fan, I quizzed a physics student on whether there might be other planets out beyond our solar system. He assured me, in a 'don't be so stupid, woman' kind of way, that there were absolutely none.

I remember these two incidents because on both occasions I was being told something I didn't want to believe. One, I intrinsically didn't like the ideas involved, and two, they fought in the face of what I, as a thinking observing being, considered to be likely. In the first case I could see that people's behaviour was a lot more complex than that. In the second, I knew that nature tends to replicate patterns. I grew up in the country, and had seen how fern leaves replicated themselves on the windows when it was cold. I'd also seen these patterns in the stream, outside. So it seemed to me very odd that nature would do this planet thing nine times around our sun, and not anywhere else at all.

Of course, we now know that both these assertions were, not to put too fine a point on it, bollocks. Perhaps the reason I remember both incidents is that I wanted possibility to be greater and wilder than the depressing 'facts' that were being paraded as the wisdom of the day.

The reason I now like science is that, several decades on, it has become full of great and wild possibility. This is why I get annoyed when I hear people like Dawkins banging on about 'magical thinking'. What's not magical about invisible lifeforms or diamond planets, or tangled-up universes? Most of the amazing things that have happened in science and technology in the last two decades have been as a result of people using their imagination to say 'what if?' and then positing something utterly implausible. The only people who sneer at imagination are those who don't have any.

I'm holding out for the invisible lifeforms, anyway. I'm hoping some of them might be, at least, y'know, cat-sized, but apparently it's most likely just bacteria. Of course, unless that's what the cats have really been staring at, all the time...

No comments:

Post a Comment