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October 30, 1938 Orson Welles Made History

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Alien Invasions and War of the Worlds, 80 Years Later

October 30, 1938. Orson Welles made history—as aliens invaded New Jersey.

Or so six million Americans feared that fall evening, huddled around their radios as “The Mercury Theatre on the Air” crackled with breathless accounts of otherworldly enemies.

Confused listeners were captivated by a faux newscast declaring that tentacled, marauding Martians had landed. Worse, the aliens were incinerating the unsuspecting population of Grover’s Mill, New Jersey.

Panicked, some in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada fled their homes. That dark night in 1938, oblivion seemed only one death ray away.

Eighty years later, Orson Welles’ infamously misunderstood “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast is a fun footnote of history….but little green men still slink through the nightmares of some, and spark the imagination of others.

Others like Hakeem Oluseyi, a distinguished research professor at Florida Tech. Oluseyi is an astrophysicist and Space Science Education lead for NASA…he travels the world lecturing on cosmic concerns.

But what does the average person ask Oluseyi about?

“Aliens. No matter where I go and give a talk, three topics—black holes, time travel and life on other planets—dominate the questions. And I think aliens are edging ahead.”

Questions about aliens continue to invade his weightier work for NASA. People are fascinated about who—or what—may live beyond our Spaceship Earth.

“Now we have the ability to detect planets around other stars, and have done so for the last two decades with increasing regularity. We know that the physics of the universe is the same everywhere, so chances are life is most likely ubiquitous.”

But Oluseyi cautions against the notion that E.T. will look like us—or even look like E.T., for that matter.

“If you look at people’s ideas, they don’t deviate very far from pop culture ideas. And that’s one thing we have to be careful of. If there is multicellular life out there, chances are they are going to be very different from anything we’ve ever seen.”

So when will Earth be visited by life from beyond the stars?

“We may have already been. There’s this idea of panspermia. Life has a rule that it lives by—and that is survival of the fittest. And if you think of the universe as an ecosystem, we know that stars and planets are temporary physical entities. They live and they die. So the universe is going to select for life forms that have the ability to leave their planets. Chances are this type of life can be spread…you would think that intelligent life forms are even meant to leave their planet.”

When and if aliens do announce their presence on Earth, Oluseyi doesn’t worry about a movie-plex style intergalactic onslaught.

“I think that the whole idea of an alien species showing up in a ship to attack is completely ridiculous. There is nothing you can get from an invasion that would be worth the cost and the energy of the trip. The more likely scenarios are panspermia or an alien species like us that had to evacuate its home planet.”

Oluseyi flips the fascination of us being visited by aliens. He argues that humankind should be focused on visiting strange new worlds.

“I think that we should continue to search and invent and probe and understand our universe, remembering that if the human race is going to survive indefinitely into the future, we must ultimately leave this planet.”

Terri Wright has held the position of General Manager at WFIT since 1998.