This week's news that Russian scientists expect humanity to encounter alien civilisations within the next two decades came at an opportune moment. It seems that nothing short of financial and economic wizards from another planet are capable of sorting out the mess the eurozone now finds itself in.
Astronomers are among the few people on earth capable of grasping the sort of figures politicians are now juggling with. Apparently, the universe has 100 billion galaxies. That's 22 billion galaxies more than the Portuguese bailout - and each galaxy contains hundreds of millions of stars.
The figures make it almost certain that aliens are out there, says Andrei Finkelstein, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Applied Astronomy Institute. Speaking at an international forum dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life, he said we are likely to come into contact with aliens who resemble humans, with two arms, two legs and a head. Unfortunately, he did not speculate on the size of their brain or their business acumen. It seems that when it comes to money matters, however, they could not be less adept than ourselves.
The financial and economic crisis engulfing not just us PIGS, but the whole of Europe, has our politicians in a spin. It also seems to have rendered some of the analysts and commentators dizzy too.
During the street violence in Athens this week, the venerable Wall Street Journal, which has two million readers daily, came out with a headline that read:: “Better Save Some of That Tear Gas for Portugal, Spain, Italy”.
The opening paragraph of the article was similarly flippant: “We’re all mesmerized — though apparently not the least bit bothered — today by the images of rioting in Greece as politicians there struggle to hammer out austerity plans that will get the country its next bit of methadone, er, bailout money.”
Here's the underlying worry, though. If Finkelstein is right, things could get a lot worse than even the Wall Street Journal is suggesting. The British cosmologist Steven Hawking, who agrees with Finkelstein that there are probably intelligent aliens out there, believes that contact with them could be devastating for humanity.
In a TV documentary series last year, Hawking suggested that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on. He could almost have been talking about bankers and politicians when he said: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they (aliens) might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
Who knows? The Mayan calendar doomsayers who predict the world will come to an end on 12th December next year may be right. In which case, perhaps we in Portugal shouldn't contemplate rioting and risking tear gas, or even waste our time getting into a tizz about more austerity measures. Que será será.