Monday, July 14, 2008

Weekend TV

This weekend I was flipping through TV channels, when I stumbled across a show in progress that was discussing the interaction of the mineral magnetite in meteors with Earth's magnetic field and the aurora. I thought that this seemed like a pretty complicated subject to be discussing on TV, but I've seen more complicated things. And I'd missed the start of the show, so I didn't really know what the show was about. Then, in a span of a few seconds, the truth about the show was revealed.

The narrator summed things up roughly as follows: "Dr. X, a plasma physics researcher, has shown that meteors and the Earth's magnetic field may be responsible for the enhanced levels of magnetite." Then the video changed from a pretty movie of the aurora (northern lights) to an animation of a cow floating off the ground up into the air. "But Ms. Y still claims that aliens are abducting the cows."

My brain did a mental flip-flop, and I started laughing really hard. Once I calmed down (and changed the channel), I did some Google "research" and pieced things together. Evidently, cattle are often found dead on the range, and some UFO believers researched a few of these and found what were supposedly enhanced levels of magnetite on the ground in the area. So, I guess the plasma researcher was explaining how you can get magnetite on the ground. I don't need an expert to tell me how to get a dead cow; I can think of many reasons that do not involve aliens.

I hate to be a killjoy and skeptical about this, but I will state unequivocally that aliens are not abducting cattle. Or humans. Or any other creature. Natural explanations for the poor cows' deaths not only exist, but seem much more likely than aliens travelling hundreds of light years for an opportunity to kill cows.

Honestly, I'd like to think that there are intelligent aliens out there. And I'd even welcome a visit, as long as they are more like E.T. than Predator. But a desire to believe aliens exist is no substitute for hard, cold evidence.

What evidence should we require? The only kind that science accepts -- iron-clad. For intelligent life, this could be as dramatic as the appearance of aliens in a public setting or as subtle as detection of communications. But dead cows on the range don't meet that level of proof. Sorry.

Editing Note in the interest of full disclosure: A few hours after posting this article, I realized that my original title had nothing to do with the post (the article went in a totally different direction than I expected), and could be construed as demeaning, even though it wasn't meant to be. So I changed it to the title above before any complaints came in.

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