Thursday, 26 November 2009

Going round in circles

A bizarre story in the Telegraph left me suspecting some sort of hoax. A senior space scientist associated with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, we are told, claims to be in touch with extraterrestrials. Lachezar Filipov announced the other day that "aliens are currently all around us, and are watching us all the time". They were not hostile, though they did have concerns about what human beings were doing to the environment (little Green men, I suppose), and hoped to establish communication with us "through the power of thought". In the meantime, Filipov and his colleagues are analysing crop circles, which he believes contain messages from the aliens.

An earlier source for the story, the Sofia Echo, adds some further details. It states that that Filipov - deputy director of the Space Research Institute - "claimed that some alien species were present" (at the press conference?) and had answered more than 30 questions put forward by the scientists. As to the extraterrestrials' message, "They say that global warming is attributed mainly to infrastructural engineering. Additionally, they are very skeptical of our use of cosmetics, and artificial insemination because this is 'unnatural.'" There's also a convenient explanation as to why other scientists haven't discovered their existence:

Filipov reckons that it will be impossible to try and track extraterrestrial life with our current radar equipment, or through the usage of radio telescopes. Apparently, the aliens were "categorical" that any future means of contact between us and them would be conducted through mental power and telepathy.

So has Filipov - a genuine astrophysicist with a fairly impressive CV - been contacted by extraterrestrials? Not exactly. The background to the story doesn't appear in any of the press or newswire coverage, but isn't hard to track down. Filipov's name appears along with several other Bulgarian scientists (presumably the members of his team) on a website called Our Planet, the avowed aim of which is to provide a communication tool between "the science" and the aliens supposedly responsible for creating crop circles. It also demonstrates the still powerful overlap between committed environmentalism and woo-woo.

The site appears to be the brainchild of Mariana Vezneva, a Bulgarian writer described as "an expert in the cosmic language of symbols and allegories called Cenzar" and "a truly remarkable person with powers to unlock the secrets of the crop circles formations." She is "not a medium", we are told, but rather "a supersensory explorer who has been trained in the cosmic language of symbols for more than 20 years." Her "incredible discoveries" include (in addition to her crop circles breakthrough) "the code of symbols in the Cyrillic alphabet; the enigma of the natural numbers (1-10)". One of her aims in embarking on this project with Filipov is "to strengthen the links between the science and the invisible world by using this extraordinary communication tool for tackling the global earth crisis."

There's a lengthy report of a meeting held on 1st June of this year at which the scientists reported the results of their experiment. It explains the mysterious process by which the alien intelligence behind the crop circles answered the scientists' queries. First, the scientists posed their questions, which were put up on the website. Here are some typical examples:

Are we to expect a contact with extraterrestrial intelligence as part of the SETI projects in the nearest future?

What is the symbolic meaning of the Sphinx of Giza and is the Sphinx older than the pyramids?

The energy sources will be exhausted in the future, the global warming will lead to draught and war for water and food supply. How we can manage the energy crises? (this is one of Filipov's own questions)

Is the human species a product of the evolution process or it has been transported to Earth from another planet?

Then everyone sat back and waited for the crop circles to form spontaneously (because, of course, they cannot possibly be man-made) in southern England. The formations were then interpreted by Mariana using her "telepathic skills". "The communication with crop circles intelligence was described as 'mental pictogram dialogue'." The picture shown above represents the extraterrestrials' answer to Filipov's question, for example. Not all the scientists' questions received a satisfactory answer: of the 16 posed, only 8 have been resolved. Perhaps the aliens didn't consider the unanswered questions interesting enough.

Nevertheless, the experiment was declared a success - at least as an important first stage in human-circlemaker dialogue:

It has been acknowledged that a unique dialogue between scientists and the creating force behind the crop circles has been successfully established. An agreement has been reached as below:

A. More efforts need to be put in making the experiment and the unique communication tool with crop circles intelligence popular to a wider audience and authorities;
B. It was suggested for a scientific center for crop circles communication to be established;
C. A second meeting to be organized for those unable to attend the present one on which to be discussed a detailed plan for actions.

The meeting was closed in uplifting spirit and rallying thoughts.

It's nice to know that the spirit of unfettered scientific inquiry is alive and well in eastern Europe.