After the revelation that the U.S. Department of Defense spent millions of dollars investigating unidentified flying objects, even the ever-skeptical Dana Scully would be wondering if aliens are already watching us. If the government thinks it's a possibility, then surely it's something worth considering, right? The proverbial men in black, though, are notoriously closemouthed, so they might not give us any concrete answers even if they had them. Enter Nick Pope, the former head of the UK's Ministry of Defense UFO investigations. A journalist himself, he has no qualms about speaking to the press — and boy, does he have things to say.
Pope has become famous in the alien hunting community for working as a UFO investigator for four years in the early '90s. Needless to say, he is a firm believer in the existence of alien life. On Wednesday, British tabloid The Sun spoke to Pope about the mysterious Oumuamua, a cigar-shaped object that recently entered our solar system from elsewhere in the universe. On top of being the first confirmed interstellar object to travel through our system, the odd shape baffled scientists, leading researchers at the Breakthrough Listen project to scan it for radio signals in case it was an alien spacecraft on an exploration mission. (That's actually where the name comes from; according to The Guardian, Oumuamua was chosen because it means "messenger" or "scout" in Hawaiian.)
The scan wound up giving no indication that it was anything other an a weird asteroid, but Pope wasn't so sure that the case was closed. He told the Sun that while Oumuamua didn't show any signs of life yet, it's possible that our attempts to scan the object would "awake the intelligence inside." Basically, he believed it could be a dormant alien probe, waiting to be awoken by the activity of an inhabited planet.
To be fair, he makes a solid case for things not being what they seem. In pop culture, alien spacecrafts are usually depicted as flying saucers darting around the skies. But Pope pointed out that this is based on Earthlings' perceptions of aircraft. Our planet's laws of physics don't apply in the vacuum of space, so spacecraft would be designed entirely differently. He even theorized that extraterrestrial life might repurpose an existing asteroid, turning it into a spaceship without having to build an entirely new structure. If that were true, Oumuamua could be hiding its true purpose: reconnaissance.
I would be remiss if I didn't point out that aliens are not automatically looking to invade Earth. Pope, however, had an answer for that, too. He believed that any alien civilization advanced enough to send probes out to other solar systems must have been developing billions of years before humans started wandering around on two legs.
"This is one reason why humanity probably wouldn't survive an alien invasion," he told the Sun. "Any aliens that find us (as opposed to us finding them) probably have technology way in advance of anything we have."
Excuse me for a moment while I draw up plans for an alien invasion bunker.
In conclusion, regardless of whether Oumuamua in particular is an extraterrestrial probe, Pope believed that aliens may have been keeping an eye on humanity for quite some time.
As you can imagine, he seemed positively giddy to hear that the Pentagon ran a program investigating UFO sightings across the United States. "It's as close as those of us who've looked at this subject from within government will ever go to saying 'yes, this is real,'" he told another British tabloid, Express.
It's up to you to decide how much stock you put in alien life, but one thing is clear: We live in interesting times.