And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." ~ Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159–167
Popular American culture is replete with UFO sightings and conspiracy theories. Now it would appear that the phenomenon has spread to China. Just a week after an unidentified flying object (UFO) shut down the Xiashan Airport in Hangzhou, China, another one was spotted Thursday in the city of Chongqing.
Witnesses said four "lantern-like objects forming a diamond shape" hovered for an hour above a park.
One witness is quoted as saying "I stared at it and it did not move," a resident told The Shanghai Daily. "After hovering for an hour, the thing started to fly higher and finally out of people's sight."
If one were cynical these sightings could be dismissed as an "American Export," or perhaps they chose China because they wanted to participate in the 2010 World Expo? But in all seriousness, check out the video from the first incident to make your own determination.
The usual campaign of dissimulation, misinformation, and farcical speculation continue to surround the events. Speculations range from reports that claim the Chinese government has identified the sourced of the strange object as a military device; others report that the government is still investigating the incident. To date there has been no clear explanation for either incidents.
As a fan of astrophysics, astronomy and the universe, I often ponder the possibility of extraterrestrial life, if not humanoid then at least primitive oceanic life forms. I eagerly await the new mission to Jupiter's icy moons, the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM), which is proposed for a launch in 2020. Who knows what more we will learn? The universe is vast and over the past 50 years our understanding of our solar system has expounded, but in terms of space exploration the human race is still in its infancy.
The object depicted in the video is unquestionably puzzling, but provides yet another opportunity to think about humans and our place in the universe. Stephen Hawking, despite being almost completely paralyzed by ALS, is one of my favorite authors and the world's foremost theoretical physicists who has contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe. If you tire of viewing the video above, I encourage you to read more about the noted physicist and his thoughts on alien life in the UK Times Online.
"To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational," Hawking says in a new Discovery Channel series called Stephen Hawking's Universe. "The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.