DUNE Detector…

The ore pass at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota. (Courtesy of Sanford Underground Research Facility, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.)

Topics: Applied Physics, Modern Physics, Particle Physics, Theoretical Physics

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) will be the world’s largest cryogenic particle detector. Its aim is to study the most elusive of particles: neutrinos. Teams from around the world are developing and constructing detector components that they will ship to the Sanford Underground Research Facility, commonly called Sanford Lab, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There the detector components will be lowered more than a kilometer underground through a narrow shaft to the caverns, where they will be assembled and operated while being sheltered from the cosmic rays that constantly rain down on Earth’s surface.

For at least two decades, the detector will be exposed to the highest-intensity neutrino beam on the planet. The beam will be generated 1300 km away by a megawatt-class proton accelerator and beamline under development at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois. A smaller detector just downstream of the beamline will measure the neutrinos at the start of their journey, thereby enabling the experiment’s precision and scientific reach.

Building a ship in a bottle for neutrino science, Anne Heavey, FERMILAB, Physics Today

4D Beetles…

Beetling along: Under the influence of moisture, the color of the 3D-printed beetle changes from green to red, and back again to red. (Courtesy: Bart van Overbeeke)

Topics: 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, Biomimetics

Researchers in the Netherlands have produced models of a beetle that changes color and a scallop shell that opens and closes in response to changing humidity in the surrounding air. Inspired by iridescent structures in nature, Jeroen Sol and colleagues at the Eindhoven University of Technology showed that they could integrate a specialized liquid crystal into standard 3D-printing techniques, creating “4D printed” devices that react to their changing environments.

Over millions of years, many organisms have evolved micro-scale structures in their anatomies that allow them to change their vibrant iridescent colors in response to stimuli. Recently, researchers have developed inks that change color in the same way and have begun to experiment with incorporating them into 3D-printed structures.

This technology has been dubbed 4D printing, where the fourth dimension represents reversible, time-varying changes to the structures after printing. One widely used technique in 4D printing is to deposit ink directly onto 3D printed structures. This approach can accommodate many types of material, as well as a versatile range of printing temperatures, speeds, and path designs.

4D-printed material responds to environmental stimuli, Sam Jarman, Physics World

Counting in Counties…

Credit: Amanda Montañez; Source: “Political Environment and Mortality Rates in the United States, 2001-19: Population-Based Cross-Sectional Analysis,” by Haider J. Warraich et al., in BMJ, Vol. 377. Published online June 7, 2022

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism, Politics

Reality literally bites.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the link between politics and health became glaringly obvious. Democrat-leaning “blue” states were more likely to enact mask requirements and vaccine and social distancing mandates. Republican-leaning “red” states were much more resistant to health measures. The consequences of those differences emerged by the end of 2020 when rates of hospitalization and death from COVID rose in conservative counties and dropped in liberal ones. That divergence continued through 2021 when vaccines became widely available. And although the highly transmissible Omicron variant narrowed the gap in infection rates, hospitalization and death rates, which are dramatically reduced by vaccines, remain higher in Republican-leaning parts of the country.

But COVID is only the latest chapter in the story of politics and health. “COVID has really magnified what had already been brewing in American society, which was that, based on where you lived, your risk of death was much different,” says Haider J. Warraich, a physician and researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In a study published in June in The BMJ, Warraich and his colleagues showed that over the two decades prior to the pandemic, there was a growing gap in mortality rates for residents of Republican and Democratic counties across the U.S. In 2001, the study’s starting point, the risk of death among red and blue counties (as defined by the results of presidential elections) was similar. Overall, the U.S. mortality rate has decreased in the nearly two decades since then (albeit not as much as in most other high-income countries). But the improvement for those living in Republican counties by 2019 was half that of those in Democratic counties—11 percent lower versus 22 percent lower.

People in Republican Counties Have Higher Death Rates Than Those in Democratic Counties, Lydia Denworth, Scientific American

Perils of Privilege…

Pence Secret Service detail feared for their lives during Capitol riot, Martin Pengelly, The Guardian

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Dark Humor, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

Steven Bannon’s “medieval,” take-no-prisoners defense rested yesterday. The three-shirt Troglodyte didn’t take the stand in his defense on advice from counsel. He said more outside the courtroom than he did inside. Today is closing arguments.

The January 6th Committee ended “season 1” yesterday as well, promising more hearings in September, just in time to keep the subject fresh in voters’ minds before the midterms. I hope my Fraternity Brother, Bennie Thompson, heals soon from his Covid infection.

The 45th occupant of the Oval Office looked small yesterday. The hearings didn’t drop so many bombshells, in my opinion. It presented a so-called “white” privileged man that could not, and cannot, admit he lost the 2020 election. He is using that narcissism in the “Big Lie” that infects so much of our politics now. It presented that a man who can’t admit after six bankruptcies he sucks at business, a con artist who steals money through fake real estate schools, border wall scams, and teasing his cult following that he’s going to run again for president (any day now), is simply a spoiled, entitled brat. It’s no wonder he and Bannon found each other. I’m not a right-wing podcaster with millions of listeners, many of whom he scammed with a “build the wall” boondoggle. Three-shirts, Senator Hawley, who had an impressive sprinting form on January 6th, and Baby Huey are all so-called “white” privileged men who know how to manipulate their enraged constituents, who they enraged.

They’re enraged because someone told them they are “white,” that God is “white,” and that “white” is blessed, exalted, and privileged. All other colors fall below the apogee of the American hierarchy and caste system.

They’re enraged by critical race theory, which is not taught in K-12, but what they fear is accurate history that doesn’t show so-called “white” privileged men in a good light.

They’re enraged because Rush Limbaugh told them to be enraged about “Feminazis” and anyone who didn’t look like so-called “white” privileged men like him.

They’re enraged because it’s better for those who scam and steal money from 99% of the population to keep them engaged with the Reich-Wing media complex that keeps them angry at the “other.” It’s the “others” who took the jobs their fathers used to privilege their way to lifetime employment, pensions, and retirement. It couldn’t possibly be the so-called “white” privileged multimillionaire and billionaire class, the gods that they actually worship. It can’t be them: they look like (other, poorer so-called “white” men). But those same so-called “white” privileged men were in the boardrooms deciding to send those jobs overseas for profits. They don’t live with you, and they don’t care about you.

Their rage causes them not to invest in books or education, but in arsenals. Their rage merges lethality with hoarding disorder, the stress of no longer being the center of the citizenry, and Norman Rockwell-type images depicting diversity, driving some stark raving mad. Every human, despite shades of Melanin, can only fire one gun type once. There is no credible animal that is hunted by AR15s, Sig Sauers, or Kalashnikovs. The only animal that they have hunted are those they consider fellow human beings, and “others.”

This rage caused (I believe) the Secret Service to delete text messages from January 5th and 6th, and no other days, even after Congress asked for them. Did the Secret Service follow their Comms Plan? Preserving records and evidence is the first duty of law enforcement. If law enforcement isn’t upholding the law, there is no “rule of law.”

Despite the incredible pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope, I am struck by two things:

If we were to read the spectrograph of some distant exoplanet’s atmosphere, we might see something resembling ourselves. The distance between us is prohibitive, we’re not likely to see this world in a human lifetime. Because they’re so far, arrival will be after conditions would have evolved, or dissolved over millennia.

If there have ever been other intelligent beings in the universe, they may have died off: a victim of their own misplaced hierarchical privilege and abject stupidity inhibiting spacefaring.

This rage will be the necrosis of the species.


Animation by Erik English

Topics: Civilization, Climate Change, Environment, Global Warming

Humans can survive up to 108.14 F, or 42.3 C before our brains and constitutions (bodies) start turning to mush. As a species, we’re going to have to decide if enriching a handful of global oligarchs is more important than survival. Wealth cannot be measured on a dysfunctional planet.

Nobody in Ashish Agashe’s seven-story apartment building in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai, had air conditioning 20 years ago. Today, his apartment is one of only two of the 28 units without it.

“Once you make peace with sweating,” says Agashe, “it is easy to survive this weather.” He decided against air conditioning because it gives him a “faux feel,” and he doesn’t believe his income should determine his lifestyle choices. Later, he was “chuffed” to learn that his choice is better for the planet.

Unlike Agashe, many Indians are adopting air conditioning to deal with more frequent and more intense heat waves. Earlier this year, temperatures in parts of India and Pakistan surpassed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

At age 37, Agashe hopes temperatures do not rise high enough in his lifetime to require air conditioning in Mumbai, a humid and densely populated city on India’s west coast that today rarely sees temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). But even if the climate stopped changing, he worries that the heat produced by all the air conditioners in his building, which spills in through his open window, may force him to install air conditioning, too.

The cold crunch: How to cool people without overheating the planet, Dawn Stover, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Soap-Like Properties…

1 Soap, shampoo, and worm-like micelles Soaps and shampoos are made from amphiphilic molecules with water-loving (red) and water-hating (blue) parts that arrange themselves to form long tubes known as “worm-like micelles”. Entanglements between the tubes give these materials their pleasant, sticky feel. b The micelles can, however, disentangle themselves, just as entangled long-chain polymer molecules can slide apart too. In polymers, this process can be modeled by imagining the molecule sliding, like a snake, out of an imaginary tube formed by the surrounding spatial constraints. c Worm-like micelles can also morph their architecture by performing reconnections (left), breakages (down), and fusions (right). These operations occur randomly along the backbone, are in thermal equilibrium, and are reversible. (Courtesy: Davide Michieletto)

Topics: Biology, Biotechnology, DNA, Molecules

DNA molecules are not fixed objects – they are constantly getting broken up and glued back together to adopt new shapes. Davide Michieletto explains how this process can be harnessed to create a new generation of “topologically active” materials.

Call me naive, but until a few years ago I had never realized you can actually buy DNA. As a physicist, I’d been familiar with DNA as the “molecule of life” – something that carries genetic information and allows complex organisms, such as you and me, to be created. But I was surprised to find that biotech firms purify DNA from viruses and will ship concentrated solutions in the post. In fact, you can just go online and order DNA, which is exactly what I did. Only there was another surprise in store.

When the DNA solution arrived at my lab in Edinburgh, it came in a tube with about half a milligram of DNA per centimeter cube of water. Keen to experiment with it, I tried to pipette some of the solutions out, but they didn’t run freely into my plastic tube. Instead, it was all gloopy and resisted the suction of my pipette. I rushed over to a colleague in my lab, eagerly announcing my amazing “discovery”. They just looked at me like I was an idiot. Of course, solutions of DNA are gloopy.

I should have known better. It’s easy to idealize DNA as some kind of magic material, but it’s essentially just a long-chain double-helical polymer consisting of four different types of monomers – the nucleotides A, T, C, and G, which stack together into base pairs. And like all polymers at high concentrations, the DNA chains can get entangled. In fact, they get so tied up that a single human cell can have up to 2 m of DNA crammed into an object just 10 μm in size. Scaled up, it’s like storing 20 km of hair-thin wire in a box no bigger than your mobile phone.

Make or break: building soft materials with DNA, Davide Michieletto is a Royal Society university research fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, UK

Zombie Apocalypse…

A nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Guwahati, India, on 10 April. A new subvariant named BA.2.75 that was first detected in India has surfaced in many other countries. ANUPAM NATH/AP IMAGES

Topics: Biology, COVID-19, DNA, Economics, Environment, Evolution, Existentialism

Ed Rybicki, a virologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, concentrated his article in Scientific American on the viruses dominating the news cycle in the early 2000s: Ebola, Marburg, and HIV. Not comforting, but he said, “HIV, which is thought to have first emerged in humans in the 1930s, is another kind of virus, known as a retrovirus.” Not mentioned, but the H1N1 comes from the 1918 Flu Pandemic, and a friend in Texas lost his girlfriend to it also in the early 2000s. Retro means “a process that reverses the normal flow of information in cells” and relates to a bridge between the first forms of life on this planet. In an e-brief, I wrote my first year at JSNN, an article in Nature: Education posits that viruses are not ‘alive’ because they don’t have metabolic processes, one of the four criteria for life (“organized, metabolism, genetic code, and reproduction”). The last part is important: they cannot reproduce asexually (unicellular division), or sexually with genders, spermatozoa, and an incubation period before birthing a copy. In other words, they aren’t “alive,” but they aren’t dead either. They manage to replicate themselves by invading a host. Usually us.

It DOES mention three possible mechanisms as to origins: The Progressive Hypothesis, i.e., “bits and pieces” of a genome gained the ability to move in and out of cells (retroviruses like HIV given as an example); The Regressive Hypothesis, meaning the viruses evolved from some common ancestor to their current state (reductio ad absurdum), lastly The Virus-First Hypothesis, which puts any anthropocentric notions away and their hypothesis that viruses existed before mortals as “self-replicating units.”

I am as ready for this pandemic to be over as anyone else. However, this read from AAAS didn’t give me hope that a societal “all-clear” will be uttered, or that we’ll overcome our shared arrogance and stupidity:

In the short history of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was the year of the new variants. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta each had a couple of months in the Sun.

But this was the year of Omicron, which swept the globe late in 2021 and has continued to dominate, with subvariants—given more prosaic names such as BA.1, BA.2, and BA.2.12.1—appearing in rapid succession. Two closely related subvariants named BA.4 and BA.5 are now driving infections around the world, but new candidates, including one named BA.2.75, are knocking on the door.

Omicron’s lasting dominance has evolutionary biologists wondering what comes next. Some think it’s a sign that SARS-CoV-2’s initial frenzy of evolution is over and it, like other coronaviruses that have been with humanity much longer, is settling into a pattern of gradual evolution. “I think a good guess is that either BA.2 or BA.5 will spawn additional descendants with more mutations and that one or more of those subvariants will spread and will be the next thing,” says Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

But others believe a new variant different enough from Omicron and all other variants to deserve the next Greek letter designation, Pi, may already be developing, perhaps in a chronically infected patient. And even if Omicron is not replaced, its dominance is no cause for complacency, says Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 at the World Health Organization. “It’s bad enough as it is,” she says. “If we can’t get people to act [without] a new Greek name, that’s a problem.”

As Omicron rages on, scientists have no idea what comes next, Kai Kupferschmidt, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Thanks to Joe Manchin…

Kayakers and other boaters paddled up to Manchin, who famously lives on a houseboat named “Almost Heaven” when he’s in DC. The subtitle should be “for the rest of you, hell.” Source: Washingtonian, Maya Pottiger, 10/14/21

Topics: Civilization, Environment, Existentialism, Global Warming

Four more people died that night. In the morning the sun again rose like the blazing furnace of heat it was, blasting the rooftop and its sad cargo of wrapped bodies. Every rooftop and, looking down at the town, every sidewalk was now a morgue. The town was a morgue, and it was as hot as ever, maybe hotter. The thermometer now said 42 degrees (107.6 F), humidity 60 percent.

—Kim Stanley Robinson, from The Ministry for the Future

The first chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future takes my breath away. Not just because I can almost feel the heat and humidity dripping off the pages, but because I know that—although the story is fictional—similar scenes are already playing out in real life.

Are cities ready for extreme heat? John Morales, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Factions, Fascism, Dystopia…

Thoughtco.com: Banana Republic definition

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

President George Washington, September 19, 1796, Farewell Address

Brittany Griner was selected by Moscow/Putin because she, like a lot of WNBA players, receives less pay than most men playing the same game in the country of her birth, leading her like other athletes to seek more lucrative exchequer overseas. This sexism has been justified with tropes like “the games aren’t exciting” and “women can’t dunk.” Brittany Griner and a host of other athletes proved that wrong. If she did have cannabis in her vape cartridges as the Russians allege, they already knew it before the illegal war in Ukraine, and conveniently ignored it for their national entertainment. She’s a bargaining chip because she has the temerity to be married to a woman and play basketball overseas in a nation whose dictator is homophobic. She’s a bargaining chip because she is African American, dreadlocked, tattooed, tall, and gay. She is a pawn in a game of real politick.

If you haven’t seen the January 6 Hearings, you can catch up on YouTube. Pundits have been discussing it exhaustively – even Fox couldn’t ignore it anymore. It’s painful to think a subpar reality TV star, failed real estate huckster, serial pathological liar, and murderer of over one million Americans whose great plan during the height of Covid was to “inject bleach” actually once possessed the nuclear codes. As the former member of the Proud Boys and insurrection supporter said yesterday, this could lead to a second uncivil war.

Fascism (noun): 1. often capitalized: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition: 2. a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control Merriam-Webster

Here at home, the repeal of Roe vs. Wade was because of a 50-year project and blatant obfuscation in the confirmation hearings of Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, the oft-used dodge in Latin: Stare decisis (precedent). “Roe is decided precedent.” It was until it wasn’t. The precedent was the right to privacy, which was the basis for the reason Brittany Griner is married to a woman (Obergefell v. Hodges), Clarence Thomas is married to Ginny the insurrectionist (Loving v. Virginia), Contraception, the Fair Housing Act, Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act: it would be a repeal of the Civil Rights era. I guess they’ll go for Brown vs. Board of Education to repeal the 20th Century.

The Handmaid’s Tale is in America. We are Gilead. Our dismal performance during the Alpha variant contributed to the deaths of one-million American citizens, that if we had Universal Healthcare or our dear leader hadn’t lied, recommended hydroxychloroquine, drinking bleach, a significant fraction less would have perished.

Uvalde, Texas showed us that every theory post-Columbine is utterly false. Our taxes outfit police efficiently to be the “good guys with guns,” impressive, camouflaged, looking tough, and utterly incompetent. They “protect and serve” the property of the wealthy, not “we the people.” They are battle-dressed paper tigers, standing by, rubbing hand sanitizer, popping gum as nineteen children and two teachers are transformed into ground meat. If nineteen highly-trained “protect, and serve” officers can’t engage a single shooter, how do any teachers who didn’t sign up for combat take them out?

Christian Sharia was brought to us not by an Ayatollah Khomeini and Mullahs in dark robes in Iran, but by zealots on the former Supreme Court who lied under oath. Ten-year-old rape victims have to go to other states that still have the rights their mothers had for forty-nine years. The Economist put it bluntly: Why nations that fail women fail. Jim Jordan deleted a tweet calling the story a lie, but refuses to hold his insurrectionist president responsible for January 6 (he also is culpable in the crime). The entire Reich Wing media complex tried to make a 10-year-old rape victim (the crime happened when she was nine) an urban myth, a breathtaking display of gaslighting. If Moscow Mitch becomes Senate Majority Leader after November, he vows that the ban on bodily autonomy will become national, and women, without irony, second-class citizens and modern-day slaves.

George Carlin’s tragicomic observation of women becoming broodmares of the state is hauntingly prescient. The 6-3 not-Supreme Court’s Christo-fascist default is whatever their idea of Christianity wants, as in the case of the football coach who prayed in the middle of a field, in the middle of a game. Whether he gained divine intervention towards victory (or whether it mattered), it flies in the face of Matthew 6:5, usually in red letters, so it might have some importance:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners (now, football fields) to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Constitution Center, First Amendment

Legally and liturgically, six out of nine of the former Supreme Court is spitballing. Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson has her work cut out for her.

On the evening of October 31, 2020, Steve Bannon told a group of associates that President Donald Trump had a plan to declare victory on election night—even if he was losing. Trump knew that the slow counting of Democratic-leaning mail-in ballots meant the returns would show early leads for him in key states. His “strategy” was to use this fact to assert that he had won while claiming that the inevitable shifts in vote totals toward Joe Biden must be the result of fraud, Bannon explained.

“What Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory. Right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner,” Bannon, laughing, told the group, according to audio of the meeting obtained by Mother Jones. “He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.”

“As it sits here today,” Bannon said later in the conversation, describing a scenario in which Trump held an early lead in key swing states, “at 10 or 11 o’clock Trump’s gonna walk in the Oval, tweet out, ‘I’m the winner. Game over. Suck on that.’”

Leaked Audio: Before Election Day, Bannon Said Trump Planned to Falsely Claim Victory, Dan Friedman, Mother Jones

This was not a spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand. The chaos WAS the plan.

The term rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions, and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency. Justice Initiative: Three Principles to Strengthen the Rule of Law

As the evidence of continuous crimes committed by a sociopath mounts, the decision Attorney General Merrick Garland has is to either charge him or not. The “rule of law” was violated on January 6, 2021, and an angry, murderous mob was directed to the Capitol like a weapon wielded by tweet: “it will be wild.” It was a planned wilding, launched on social media, with a lie so big, that Joseph Goebbels would blush. The rule of law was violated when the sociopath called potential witnesses – Cassidy Hutchinson, and one who has yet to appear before the January 6 Committee – to witness tamper and intimidate them into Omerta. If one man is not charged, one man is above the law. If one man is above the law, there functionally IS no law. Just zealots, dictators, and spitballing.

In a second uncivil war, there would be no Appomattox, or reunification afterward. There would be no myths of American exceptionalism, “melting pots,” or “lost causes” to placate uncomfortable histories we don’t want to deal with. We would physically be here, but any pretense of being a functional government would be erased as we devolve into territories, Hatfields and McCoys, red hats and “team normal,” warring tribes, and factions. It would be the dissolution of the United States and a byword for the continued existence of democratic republics worldwide.

In dystopias, there is no rule of law.

Martians and Vulcans…

(Credit: ktsdesign/Shutterstock)

Topics: Astrobiology, Astrophysics, Civilization, Existentialism, Philosophy, Special Relativity

The Cold War was a genesis of angst about the future due to the detonation of the atomic bomb by the Soviet Union in Kazakstan in 1949. After WWII (WWI was originally called, “the war to END all wars,” until the sequel), the existential nervousness is understandable. Extraterrestrials, or musings about them, let humans off the hook if the Earth is rendered dystopic, and uninhabitable (with respect to “War of the Worlds” Martians), and some more advanced species to come to save us from our screw-ups (Star Trek Vulcans). Trek aliens that aren’t that hospitable are the Gorn and Klingons. Neither of which I’d prefer to see on a first contact. However, the vast distance between stars, relativistic speeds, and the drag of mass on even reaching a fraction of the speed of light make that possibility remote.


In September 1961, Barney and Betty Hill were driving late at night in the mountains of New Hampshire when they saw a flying object whizzing in the sky. Barney thought it was a plane until he saw it swiftly switch directions.

According to The Interrupted Journey, the couple nervously continued driving until a spacecraft confronted them. They remembered seeing “humanoid-like” creatures and hearing pinging sounds reverberating off their car trunk. And then, they found themselves 35 miles further along on the highway with almost no memory of what had just transpired. They believed they had been abducted.

Scholars mark 1947 as the start of the UFO fascination. A pilot flying in the Cascade Mountains in Washington state reported seeing disc-shaped objects. In the next decade, aliens were primarily seen as benevolent, intelligent beings who came to Earth to offer advice or warnings.

In 1961, the Hills reported their abduction, and stories about aliens became more sinister. Social scientists, like famed psychologist Carl Jung, analyzed the UFO obsession and found it fit neatly with humans’ long fascination with heavenly ascents. Whereas past societies looked for angels, saints, or Gods to descend from the heavens, modern Americans were looking for “technological angels.”

Starting in the 1960s, aliens were both benign angels and menacing demons, which prompted some religious scholars to see UFO fixation as a modern religious movement.

Our Fascination With Aliens and When it All Started, Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine