Why is pop culture obsessed with aliens? We find out

  • Poorva Joshi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 06, 2016 15:00 IST
A still from ET the Extra Terrestrial.

Pushkar Vaidya could possibly have the coolest job on earth: he gets to spend a major part of his day pondering over the existence of intelligent alien life. Think Sam Worthington from Avatar (2009), or Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day (1996).

“Though my day starts with research based on the principles of evolutionary biology, by the end of it, I find myself debating the possibility of UFOs flying down to earth,” says Vaidya, who is the founder of Indian Astrobiology Research Centre, a research-based organisation on space matter, in Bandra.

This weekend, Vaidya is set to conduct a workshop at the Hive Community Festival powered by HT48Hours, in Bandra. He will simplify the basics of simulation hypothesis — a theory that states that reality is only a reaction to a stimulus that human beings are unaware of.

Outer space to TV screens

Vaidya’s fascination with the universe began as a child, when he somehow met British author Arthur C Clarke in Sri Lanka. Clarke’s writings, combined with multiple re-runs of TV series the X-Files, created a strong curiosity about outer space in Vaidya. “I am a direct product of The X-Files. Stories that dealt with life in outer space were brilliant,” he recalls.

Be it Georges Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), often considered the first outer-space-related film, to Steven Spielberg’s ET the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and its Bollywood version Koi Mila Gaya (2003),popular culture has long been obsessed with alien life. Vaidya credits this fascination to the fear of the unknown.

“The concept of aliens gives filmmakers a lot of creative freedom to be absolutely bizarre. Besides, aliens in films are always shown as the stimulus for mankind to unite and take a stand for our planet,” says Vaidya. Not surprisingly then films such as Independence Day and Tom Cruise-starrer The Edge of Tomorrow (2014) saw global revolutions taking place to take back control over Earth.

And as far as an alien’s physical attributes are concerned, Vaidya believes the level of absurdity in films cannot be contained. “Though I personally prefer the little green ones, with the squatted torso, lanky arms and bulging eyeballs [like ET], there is nothing that stops film makers from depicting a mouth hidden inside the head of a creature like they did in Aliens (1986),” he says.

Join in

The HIVE Community Festival 18 will be on from May 7 to May 8

Register for all events on bookmyshow.com/events

Pushkar Ganesh Vaidya’s talk on space travel will take place on May 8, 10am onward

The HIVE, Chium Village Road, Bandra (W)

Entry: Rs 1,499

FACT CHECK – Some interesting arstro-biology trivia

1. Over 2,000 extrasolar planets have been discovered till date (beginning from 1988)

2. Wow Signal is an alleged signal from aliens, detected in 1977

3. Drake Equation predicts existence of several alien civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy

4. NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell believed in the existence of UFOs and aliens

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