29 January 2008

Stanton Friedman Interview, Pt. 1: Zeta Reticuli's Travel Incentive

This is an exact transcription of an interview I conducted originally for The Aquinian, official student paper of St. Thomas University, in September 2006. It was recorded to standard cassette. Mr. Friedman is considered by many to be the foremost authority on UFOs. Part 2 will be posted soon!

Stanton Friedman: —"its fleece was white as snow.”
Max Maxwell: Well, I don’t know where to start, really.
SF: What are you trying to do?
MM: I guess—
SF: Two columns, or one column—
MM: Just—a couple, maybe every two weeks it’ll appear, or something like that.
SF: Now, did they give you a word length?
MM: Um… nope. It can’t really be too long. I think it should be—well, columns usually run about seven hundred to nine hundred words or so—
SF: Oh.
MM: —just very short, kindof.
SF: The focus of this—that you sold them on—was what?
MM: Well, I just thought it was interesting, uh—to—
SF: (grandly) “We have a local person who’s a world-wide authority on UFOs!”
MM: —Yeah, that’s what I thought, and, uh, I dunno, maybe—
SF: Actually, I spoke at (spells it out) STU, at (phonetically) STU—
MM: Oh—
SF: —several years ago.
MM: —Did you?
SF: Uh, three times, and at UNB, as well.
MM: I just thought it was interesting because it’s, uh—our school paper does local, uh, just deals with everything local, in Fredericton—
SF: Oh!
MM: —everything to do with the school and stuff, and I thought that it would be interesting. Because a lot of people don’t really know about UFOs and things. I’ve always been interested in them quite a bit and I just thought it would be a neat column to, uh, to read, just kindof—
SF: All right.
MM: Yeah, I dunno if you—yeah, you seem to have thought it was a good idea.
SF: So, what do you wanna know?
MM: Well, I guess a good place to start was—
SF: —at the beginning (laughs).
MM: (laughs) At the beginning. Well, naturally, that’s a great place to start.
SF: (coughs)
MM: I guess a good place to start, before getting into any real details or anything, uh—what is the scientific possibility of life existing elsewhere in the universe?
SF: We can’t really answer that question. We have one sample: here. We know about life on Earth. We don’t what the conditions are on any other planet outside of our Solar System, uh, we don’t know how many have come and gone. All we can do is—in my case at least—I worry about life out there? I don’t worry about it. What impresses me is the enormous amount of evidence indicating that life from out there is coming here—now that, I find exciting!—but I temper that with recognition that we haven’t had a civilization for very long on this planet, thousands of years, if you will.
MM: Right.
SF: The Solar System is, well, four-and-a-half, five billion years old. The galactic neighbourhood, and you know, our galaxy, and the universe goes out thirteen billion light-years. So, our status would seem to be “the newcomer.”
MM: (laughs) Yeah.
SF: Yeah, and especially if we realize that within our local neighbourhood, just thirty-nine light years away, there are two Sun-like stars—now, stars vary much more than people do, different size, age, changes in their energy output, that sort of thing, how close they are to other stars. It’s a huge variation; it’s not like tiles on a bathroom floor.
MM: No, not at all.
SF: Yeah.
MM: So, would that be Reticulum?
SF: Yeah, Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 Reticuli, in the constellation of Reticulum, which you gotta go below the equator to see. Those two stars—and it illustrates how different of a situation you can have—they’re only thirty-nine light-years away, which is just down the street, so I don’t worry about other galaxies, or (trails off). The next big galaxy’s a couple million light-years away, and our galaxy’s a hundred thousand light-years across; who cares?
MM: (laughs) Yeah.SF: (imitating Carl Sagan) “Billions and billions!” —so what, you know?! Uh… Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 (pause) are only an eighth of a light-year apart from each other, they’re both Sun-like—now that’s thirty-five times closer than the Sun is to the next star over!
MM: Right.
SF: And it’s about a hundred times closer to each other than the Sun is to the next Sun-like star, that we might expect to have planets, and life, and all the rest of it, and they are a billion years older than the Sun.
MM: So there’s—
SF: The perspective is altogether different, in other words. In addition, from a planet around either one, looking over at the other, you could directly observe planets, unlike us, who are—right now, at least—depending on the wobble of the orbit of the star. Now, because our techniques are limited—they’re gonna change, twenty years or so when we get a fancy satellite out there—
MM: Yeah.
SF: —but because our techniques are limited pretty much all we can pick up are huge gas giant planets. So if there’s an Earth-like planet around other stars in our neighbourhood, we can’t tell yet. Zeta Reticulans, on the other hand, because they’re so much closer to the other star, would be able to directly observe planets on the other star, and could easily make measurements of the characteristics of the atmosphere, telling whether there’s life or not, hoping there’s some kind of biological life.
MM: Right.
SF: So… there would be a heck of a lot more incentive to develop interstellar travel when you gotta neighbour, when you can see what’s there!
MM: Well, “Why not go talk to them?” (laughs)
SF: Well, or conquer them, or whatever.
MM: Well, whatever, yeah.
SF: Yeah. But the point is, Man seems to have an urge to travel. Another important point here is we just found out how the Sun works in 1937 or so. We thought it was a mass of burning gas—
MM: Well—
SF: —and then, after a lot of good physics in the early part of the century, we suddenly realized, “Hm… looks like it’s nuclear fusion.”
MM: Okay…
SF: Well, only 1937. That’s a not a long time.
MM: Not very long at all, no.
SF: Now, we are using nuclear fusion for, uh, H Bombs—well, among other things, but primarily for, uh, H Bombs—I worked on fusion propulsion systems for deep-space travel forty-five years ago! And what I’m saying is every advanced civilization’s gonna find out how its star works. Major question: where’s the energy coming from? I mean, scientists say, “Solar,” but—but that doesn’t say what produces the energy that—that comes here.
MM: Yeah.
SF: And so, uh, fusion propulsion systems would allow you to kick particles out the back end, and have ten million times as much energy per particle as you can get in a dumb, old chemical reactor. So all I am saying here is if we recognize that here’s a place, a billion years older than ours, where there’s far more incentive for interstellar contact—it could be colonization, it could be migration, it could be, uh, destruction, who knows what? And, either you learn to live in peace with your neighbours—however you define “neighbours,” anyone you can reach—or you get clobbered by that same development of advanced energy capabilities.
MM: Yeah.
SF: So, you can make the case that, uh, if beings are coming here, they didn’t get clobbered, or they wouldn’t be here—the civilization could’ve been destroyed—
MM: Right.
SF: “Zap—goodbye!” (laughs) So I am very much intrigued by all the evidence that indicates (pause) Earth is being visited. Now, because I am a nuclear physicist, I am also concerned with all the foolish arguments that are made against that conclusion.

© 2006, 2008 Andrew Maxwell

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