We don't usually cover straight-up news as such here on the floss, but this particular item was so out there -- and so geeky at the same time -- I just couldn't let it fall through the cracks. For the first time ever, Vatican astronomers have admitted the possibility -- even the probability -- of intelligent life on other planets. Vatican official Father Gabriel Funes, a respected astronomer in his own right, released an article titled, literally, Aliens Are My Brother, detailing various extraterrestrial scenarios as they relate to Christian theology. He compares the potential multiplicity of life forms in the universe to that here on Earth, and goes on to speculate that such alien life forms could even be "free from Original Sin ... [remaining] in full friendship with their creator." (In short, expect to hear lots more conspiracy theories about how Jesus and the angels were aliens in the near future.)
But it's not just the Catholic Church that has aliens on the brain -- also this week, the British government released years' worth of newly-declassified documents pertaining to UFO sightings in British airspace. "The Ministry of Defence does not deny that there are strange things to see in the sky," one internal memo explains, "but it certainly has no evidence that alien spacecraft have landed on this planet." (Suuuure, guys.) You can check out the newly-released records here, the most hilarious bits of which, in our opinion, are the vigorous and exceedingly formal tiffs between various dukes, lords and viscounts in the British House of Lords regarding UFOs, like this one:
Viscount Long: My Lords, if the Noble Earl is suspicious that the Ministry of Defence is covering up in any way, I can assure him ... the sole interest of the MoD in UFO reports is to establish whether they reveal anything of defence interest.
Lord Wynne-Jones: My Lords, does the Answer given mean that since there has been a Conservative Government the UFOs have done a U-turn and departed?
The Earl of Kimberley: My Lords, as my noble friend said that 600 UFOs had been officially reported or acknowledged by the MoD in 1984, may I ask him how many of those sightings still remain unidentified?
Viscount Long: My Lords, we do not have the figures. They disappeared into the unknown before we got them.
Lord Hill-Norton: My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount whether or not it is true that all of the sighting reports received by the MoD before 1962 were destroyed because they were deemed "to be of no interest"? And if it is true, who was it who decided that they were of no interest?"
Viscount Long: My Lords, my reply to the noble and gallant Lord -- I was wondering whether he was going to say the the Royal Navy had many times seen the Loch Ness monster -- is that since 1967 all UFO reports have been preserved.