Astronomy

Aliens Aren't Visiting Us All the Time Because They're Making Other Stops, Said Carl Sagan

Alien conspiracy theories come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Roswell, anyone? How about the Dulce alien base? Good ol' UFO sightings, however, are the classic accounts of contact. Carl Sagan wasn't fooled by any of it, and a 1966 interview with the cult-status astronomer will show you why.

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Unidentified Flying Optical Illusion

According to a 2015 Ipsos poll, 45 percent of Americans believe extraterrestrials have visited Earth. In the U.S. alone, there are thousands of reports of UFO sightings every year. If true, that would look like about 10 UFO sightings every single day just in the U.S. That's a whole lot of flying saucers swirling overhead at any given point.

In the 1966 Walter Cronkite documentary "UFO: Friend, Foe, or Fantasy," Carl Sagan delivers quite the memorable spiel on the matter. He doesn't necessarily say it's impossible that these sightings are legit, but just how unlikely it is that they are. When it comes to all the different possible pit stops across the cosmos, it'd be seriously anthropocentric to think that Earth is the universe's most popular destination. Thinking that so many aliens are heading our way would be akin to expecting every tourist on Earth to flock to the same barbecue joint in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

"If you believe, as the flying saucer cultists would have us believe, that the majority of the saucer reports are due to visitations, then you have a very strange situation. That means several spaceships are coming to the Earth over interstellar distances every day," Sagan explains. "I think it's much more reasonable if you want to speculate on the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence that there are very rare visits from extraterrestrials to the Earth. There's no evidence for this, I just say that's not implausible. But to have several visits a day, I think, is strained credulity."

Listen to a 32-year-old, gum-chewing Sagan at the 51:55 mark in the video below.

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So You're Saying There's A Chance

"There's not a single verified or checked-out report which is at all connectable with the possibility of extraterrestrial life," Sagan said. Although that sure seems like a take-down of all the alien-hunters and UFO-believers, it is "quite the contrary," he said. In the interview above (which you should scroll back up and watch if you haven't yet), Sagan notes the vast number of stars and potential planetary systems that may surround them. Translation: Don't write off aliens just yet, ya'll. That's a whole bunch of planets with a whole bunch of opportunities for life to spring up.

That's the foundation of the Fermi paradox, after all — the question that asks why we haven't found aliens yet when there is so much overwhelming evidence that they've got to exist out there. While we shouldn't jump the gun by crying ALIENS! at any maybe-UFO sighting, it's not exactly something that would be ruled out.

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