What We Still Don't Know Documentary

Part 1 - Are we alone?

Hear the word ‘alien’ and what might spring to mind is something approaching HG Wells’ vision of a warlike Martian invader from War of the Worlds. His fantastical dreams of dumpy aliens sporting octopod tentacles and camouflage coloured skin have long been inclined to place the topic of alien life well beyond the realm of intelligent discourse and into the world of weird and wacky belief.

But no longer. In this documentary film - Are We Alone?, Martin Rees puts paid to the flights of fantasy and takes us on a journey of unsettling consequence.

Seth Shostak is one of SETI’s (Institute for the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) leading investigators. He is utterly convinced that there is someone out there. The most compelling evidence is simply in the vast scales of space. There are 10,000 billion billion stars visible from Earth’s telescopes alone, and a conservative estimate places orbiting planets around one in ten of them. Would it not then be very strange if Earth were the only planet out of so many boggling billions to have been a cradle for life?

Peter Ward is a paleontologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. He’s an expert biologist and not given to inventing weird alien creatures. But even he has to admit that life elsewhere is more than likely: ‘When you think there are 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and there are billions of galaxies, we now think that virtually every star has a planet, more than one planet, you’re going to have abodes for life almost everywhere. It’s ridiculous to think it happened on this planet and this planet alone. Life is definitely out there.’

Part 2 - Why are we here?

Philosophers and theologians have long debated our purpose in the universe. We have always assumed that there is some higher purpose for humanity, but the universe it seems may have other ideas.

In Why Are We Here? Martin Rees explains how scientists have had to revise long-held beliefs about the very nature of the universe, and in the process re-evaluate our place here. To do this, Rees presents some of the most fundamental questions about the universe and our own origins: What was the beginning? What is the nature of life? What is the future of the cosmos and the nature of reality?

The answers may not be what you expect. Empty space is not so empty after all. Most of the universe is made up not of atoms, as previously thought, but of a mysterious and elusive substance called ‘dark matter’. Without it the universe simply would not exist.

But working against dark matter is an even more mysterious force that threatens to tear the universe apart – ‘dark energy’.

Part 3 - Are we real?

All life on Earth is nothing more than an elaborate facade created by super-intelligent beings. Humans now exist in a computerized version of the world – a simulation that keeps us happy, while our powers are drained by our creators for use as fuel in their campaign for dominance in the ‘real’ world. This is the premise of the cult sci-fi thriller The Matrix.

‘The simulation hypothesis, that we are currently living in a computer simulation, should be understood literally, it’s not just in a metaphorical sense whereby one could view the universe as a simulation, but literally we would be living in a simulation created by some advanced civilization in a computer they built in their universe. And everything we see and our brains themselves would just be parts of this simulation.’ Oxford University philosopher Dr Nick Bostrom echoes the thoughts of sci-fi writers and scientists alike. The simulation hypothesis is not sci-fi, it’s serious academic thought.

In Are We Real? Martin Rees navigates the extraordinary territory between science fact and science fiction. He reveals the logical steps that have led cosmologists and philosophers to the shocking conclusion that The Matrix scenario cannot be safely relegated to our storybooks. Whether it’s true or not, and it might be, here is a story that is altogether more serious and more deeply disturbing than any sci-fi fantasy could ever be.

Cosmologist Professor Max Tegmark from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology warns us that ‘We humans have undergone a series of demotions, a series of blows to our ego.’ Prepare yourself for another.

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