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Fewer Than 10 ET Civilizations In Our Galaxy? 642

Posted by kdawson
from the black-rectangles dept.
Al writes "The Fermi Paradox focuses on the existence of advanced civilizations elsewhere in the galaxy. If these civilizations are out there — and many analyses suggest the galaxy should be teeming with life — why haven't we seen them? Carlos Cotta and Álvaro Morales from the University of Malaga in Spain investigate another angle by considering the speed at which a sufficiently advanced civilization could colonize the galaxy. Various analyses suggest that using spacecraft that travel at a tenth of the speed of light, the colonization wavefront could take some 50 million years to sweep the galaxy. Others have calculated that it may be closer to 13 billion years, which may explain ET's absence. Cotta and Morales study how automated probes sent ahead of the colonization could explore the galaxy. If these probes left evidence of a visit that lasts for 100 million years, then there can be no more than about 10 civilizations out there."
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Fewer Than 10 ET Civilizations In Our Galaxy?

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  • What if... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:18AM (#28895769)

    Sumary of the article: we pull numbers out of thin air and imagine stuff in consequence. I did a lot of that kind of "what if" as a kid with friends.

  • Why (Score:3, Interesting)

    by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:19AM (#28895793) Homepage
    I wonder why should one consider a colonisation of the whole Galaxy? Isn't it a too damn big territory to defend - explore - colonize? Without talking about the astronomical (ha ha) amount of human (E.T.) resources it would take to launch such an enterprise!
  • by zav42 (584609) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:25AM (#28895853) Homepage
    Nice point in general, but worthless without estimating the chances of finding these probes. A 100 million year old probe would not necessarily be easy to find even if it wants to be found and landed on earth.
  • by (1563557) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:29AM (#28895895)

    That's a great line from the lyrics of a Clutch song, and it's forced me to ask the question: "What would life be like today, if the moment we invented radio/television we started receiving 60yo broadcast transmissions from another planet?"

  • Greed Effect (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Weeksauce (1410753) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:31AM (#28895933)
    Why would thsee ET like civilizations would be any different in their evolutionary development than humans? If this is the case, than many intelligent species will most likely follow the path that we seem to be on. With varying religious factions/greed/war/and depletion of natural resources reaching a point where they kill themselves.

    Maybe there was a civiliation considerably more advanced than us, but whose to say they didn't destroy themselves by electing leaders who entered into wars over natural resources?
  • !Science (Score:2, Interesting)

    Most, no all, of this Fermi Paradox/Drake Equation nonsense is just that. Nonsense. It certainly isn't science, as anyone with a smidgen of education can see by the ten orders of magnitude that the various estimates for the probability of alien life span.

    This study says fewer than 10. Well, I say more than 10,000. And who is to say I'm wrong? I can dress up my estimate with Polar charts, statistical studies and differential equations too if you like. However, none of my investigations will bring me, or anyone else any closer to the truth.

    As time goes by and our promised moon bases fail to materialise, the concept of the Von-Neumann wave is looking increasingly ridiculous. The idea that 1950's technology can propagate a species across a galaxy is supposedly sound in theory(I doubt even that), but shaky in practice. The idea of automated probes is also pretty unlikely considering the snails pace at which AI research has progressed.

    Science fiction is all very well, but it has no place in Science. You don't see scientists talking about fairies, or wizards, or goblins over the course of their work. So why should they talk about aliens and colonization waves, which are no less fantastic?

    This type of fuzzy science seems to have become popular after the 1960/70's, Carl Sagan, and probably one too many LSD trips. I thought things like the Heaven's Gate and Scientology would discredit this unwise intrusion of fantasy into serious scientific work, but studies like this, and the unwillingness of many scientists to leave their sci-fi novels at home have taught me otherwise.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:44AM (#28896121) Homepage
    1. Prime Directive like rule.

    2. War on. Radio silence.

    3. Wrong physics. Outside the bow-shock of a sun, radio works a lot different than we thought.

    4. Cheap FTL communication happens to be just around the corner.

    5. They are life, but not-as-we-know it and don't know about radio. Examples: Dark Matter, Live on a sun, live on a black whole. Note all three of these things are more common (on a mass basis) than planets.

    6. Powerful, rich, major religion/government objects to radio and shuns those that use it, trades freely with those that avoid it.

    7. Radio is deadly poison to one of the major alien species.

    8. Most races are born telepathic.

    9. Radio turns out to to cause global warming. (OK, this one is a bit silly.)

    10. Industrial processes moved off world act as a radio scrambler/jammer. Races still use radio within their world, but their signals are jammed by the intereference from say the cheap production of anti-matter scramble the signals.

  • by craagz (965952) on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:53AM (#28896239) Homepage Journal
    It is possible that the probes lying at the bottom of the ocean were not designed to get wet because the host planet does not have water at all. Now these probes might be short circuited or something of that kind.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * < minus bsd> on Friday July 31, 2009 @10:55AM (#28896269) Journal

    All this is assuming that we would know immediately if there were a 50-100 million year old alien probe in our solar system's backyard.

    Yes. There could be half a bajillion alien probes in the Kuiper belt, transmitting the latest antics of the Earthlings right to GalaxyTV, and we'd have no idea.

    I disagree. I shall propose what will be known as The eldavojohn Paradox which states that: If extraterrestrial life were watching our TV, surely Fox and the WB would have been attacked by now ... or at least a very harshly worded intergalactic message would have been delivered to the Fox executives about their nonsensical canceling of shows like Firefly and Futurama while promoting unadulterated drivel.

    You see, my assertion that extraterrestrials would enjoy the same television as I is just as utterly inept as assuming that their primary goal is establishing contact with other extraterrestrials. Who knows? Maybe they're too busy jumping between parallel universes to waste time talking to the Corky from Life Goes On of the Milky Way Galaxy? (that being us)

    Maybe they showed up and watched World War I and II and said, "Wow, that is some heavy shit. We'll ... we'll just come back later when you're not busy, ok?"

    Isn't the Maybe Game fun? It's like I'm a sci-fi writer with me as my own audience.

  • Orion's Arm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rashdot (845549) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:01AM (#28896371)

    Visit Orion's Arm for an idea what populating the galaxy might be like. []

  • by bashibazouk (582054) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:05AM (#28896425) Journal

    To add to that:

    If you took a completely alien language, encrypted it. Compressed the hell out of it, then applied 10,000 to a million years of technological advancement to the sending of it, would we even be able to notice it from background noise? Even if radio was still used to send it?

  • by QuickBible (1143641) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:07AM (#28896459) Homepage

    Rational minds should prevail. We shouldn't assume that all life started when our life started. The universe is infinite. Infinite in time and space. ET may be out there, but it could be 5 billion years from now. Mathematically, I think our equations are bounded by infinity and thus we will never know. Just like man will never know when the horn will sound, when the earth will end, or even begin again. We should devote a cursory study to ET but for all practical purposes, we are letting the carriage draw the horse. We need to play in our own backyard and work towards space travel and space colonization. What a way for scientists and theologists alike to take in their own unique belief system and both share in the awe and wonder of it all. I assert that no matter what your belief system, the end result is awe and wonder when it comes to creation. The end result is the same, though the steady state starting position differs.

  • agreed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FreeUser (11483) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:10AM (#28896521)

    It's always seemed to me that the major hole in the Fermi paradox is the assumption that technologically advanced alien civilizations would be emitting signals we would recognize.

    Absolutely right!

    I've argued this for years...given exponential progress, the period of time an alien civilization would even be recognizable yet detectable at a distance can probably be measured in decades, centuries at the outside. It's possible to imagine all kinds of Ascendance Scenarios where a species transcends its biological (and perhaps physical) form altogether, whether it's becoming digital life living in the Virtual, transcendent life encoding itself into the basic fabric of space-time (and thereby perhaps doing an end run around the "death by entropy/expansions/big crunch" apacolypse...or not, if that space-time is smacked by the incoming brane of another universe on a collision course, but I digress...), or--arguably most likely--some form we'd have as much difficulty imagining as the victorians would our notion of digital life.

    This galaxy alone could be teaming with life. If a civilization progresses from the industrial revolution to transcendence in, say, 400 Earth years on average (and from their first radio broadcast to transcendence in, say, 200 years), there could be many thousands of cultures out there right now, and over the course of the past 13 or so billion years, many millions in this galaxy alone, and none of them would ever be detectable by us during this phase of our existence. Indeed, few if any would ever meet one another during this phase of their existence ... perhaps as you surmise they might meet in a common post-transcendent medium, or perhaps not (there may be many more options for transcending this universe than there are species to transcend, making it very unlikely that any two civilizations would ever meet or recognize each other at any point during their evolution). Who knows? What we do know is there are plenty of ways for civilizations to thrive, and be commonplace, without them ever being able to detect, much less encounter, one another.

  • by kalidasa (577403) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:45AM (#28897035) Journal
    1 and 2 are both well known hypotheses. 3 is very unlikely, since we pick up radio emissions from natural sources all the time. 4 is very unlikely, but possible. 5 well known hypothesis 6 interesting! 7 very, very unlikely, given the natural sources we know about 8 what transmission medium does the telepathy use? Is it EM based? Is the range infinite so you don't have to use EM for long distance comm? 9 Yes, it's a bit silly. Radio isn't all that powerful. 10 Yeah, heard that one before once or twice, but not a well-known one. Good job! 11 well known hypothesis : all we can find at this point is beacons, and nobody is using them 12 well known hypothesis : optical works better, but of course is highly directional, and we're not on line of sight
  • Re:ever since moo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:55AM (#28897153)

    The logic of the story is faulty. To assume that capable civilizations would desire space travel is foolish in itself. Next if we do use the assumption that advanced critters would want to explore there is a second problem in assuming that they would not be unusually covert in those explorations. The next huge assumption is that craft or devices sent out to explore would be recognizable as such by humans.
                  My own perfectly irrational assumptions include the notion that we are probably surrounded be endless civilizations and many are probably so far advanced that we would look as if we were retarded cavemen to them. How else could we explain the George W. Bush presidency?

  • by careysub (976506) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:58AM (#28897225)

    It's always seemed to me that the major hole in the Fermi paradox is the assumption that technologically advanced alien civilizations would be emitting signals we would recognize.

    In common with authors the wrote the cited paper, and most commentators on the subject (and virtually everyone who claims to have a "resolution" for the Fermi Paradox), the above comment fails to understand the essence of the Fermi Paradox -- what actually makes it profoundly paradoxical.

    The Fermi Paradox does not assume that "technologically advanced alien civilizations" (in general) "would be emitting signals we would recognize". The paradox lies in the fact that the Universe is a very big, and very old place and as far as we can tell none of them do (if they ever existed at all).

    Are you proposing that there is some sort of the universal law of nature that decrees no civilization anywhere in the Universe will make detectable and recognizable signals of any kind, intentionally or unintentionally? After all it only takes one single ancient civilization anywhere to take a course of development that creates a detectable signal for any reason to overturn the Fermi Paradox.

    Attempting to dismiss it by claiming that civilizations exist, but that no civilization ever makes human-detectable signals, begs the question (in one of the original and correct senses of the term): it attempts refutation by assuming an unsupported premise (in this case two of them) : 1) that they do exist, but and an arbitrary special universal law holds that prevents any from being detected.

  • Not laughable.

    there are over 70 sextillion stars. If the chance are 1 in a trillion we would ahve a galaxy teaming with intelligent life; however, That's over the period of 13 billion years.
    All evidence point to species becmoing ectinct sooner or later. so what are the odds of an intellegent species surviving to a point where they can send out probes?
    Even if a civilization created a probe that is trying to be fouind, it would still be very, very, very hard to detect, assuming it gets close enough to be detected.

    We've only been able to look for radio technology for less then 100 years, and only beena ctivly looking for non-terrestrial radio signals for about 30.

    Imagine looking for your keys. This would be like the first nanosecond of your search. What are the odds you would find them that fast, even knowing they exist in your house?

  • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Friday July 31, 2009 @12:08PM (#28897371) Homepage
    That's one of the major plot threads in Robert Rankin's novel, Armageddon: The Musical. The entire purpose of the Earth is to provide TV entertainment for an alien civilization who has been manipulating humans into doing things to please their viewers and have decided to end the series with a huge apocalypse.
  • New Reason Why (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mindbrane (1548037) on Friday July 31, 2009 @12:16PM (#28897439) Journal
    For awhile I've believed any world people capable of distant space travel and other colonization would need as a prerequisite world peace, world order and one rule of law. First the marshaling of resources necessary would require near world wide cooperation and second, as is presently our case, prior to a world government, states knowledgeable enough to even consider such far ranging travel would most likely put their resources toward weaponizing near space as a response deterrent to their presumed enemies. Second the best and the brightest necessary to such an undertaking aren't going to be on hand in any one nation or coalition and will be the best and the brightest we as a species can muster. Large inter tribal structures are capable of bonding factious tribes and when such inter tribal structures offer benefits they can act as a deterrent to conflict. Inter planetary, let alone inter stellar travel are such magnanimous undertakings and can drive world peace and world law. It may be that any world that has achieved space travel technology able to colonize distant planets have in place laws that would make it highly problematic for them to contact waring tribes such as ourselves. Who would they contact? Would their choice of a tribe to contact cause conflict?
  • by wilder_card (774631) on Friday July 31, 2009 @12:17PM (#28897459)
    The only civilizations still surviving in our galaxy are extraordinarily powerful and consider humanity beneath notice. Which is a Good Thing, because when they notice you, it does not go well. Really, Miskatonic University is the only institution doing useful work in this area. Unfortunately they have trouble keeping research staff on.
  • It is possible that the probes lying at the bottom of the ocean were not designed to get wet because the host planet does not have water at all. Now these probes might be short circuited or something of that kind.

    Expanding on this, what if they were looking for a planet like Mars or (harder to detect) Venus? Maybe the probe arived billions of years ago and saw three planets in adjacent orbits with water. Who's to say it would have picked the correct planet?

    As for detection, a single object sitting under the dense atmosphere of Venus for 100 million years doesn't exactly pop out at us.

  • by schmiddy (599730) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:17PM (#28898383) Homepage Journal

    once you get somewhere, all your technology goes away eventually, unless you transport a population large enough to build the most complex part on a ship (for us a microprocessor)

    The only absolutely vital thing to transport is information (since it can't easily be reconstructed from scratch). And hard drives are small these days. There's absolutely no fundamental reason why the technology to build, say, a chip fab needs to take up a lot of room. It's certainly conceivable that you could send a few nanobots which are capable of constructing other nanobots from scrap material on the destination planet, and that these nanobots would be collectively capable of building your chip fab, or anything else you might need.

  • by loafula (1080631) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:18PM (#28898419)
    I know you were joking here, but evolution only seems random from the outside looking in. In any given environment, life will evolve to take advantage of the available natural resources in the most efficient manner possible. Granted, the environment differs greatly from planet to planet, but I think we can agree that any planet hosting life as we know it will have some remarkable similarities to earth. Life will evolve in the best way to take advantage of that environment- two eyes to see in 3D, bipedal for mobility, upper limbs to manipulate things physically, brains to control it all, a mouth at the top and an ass at the bottom because gravity only knows down, some sense of smell to detect fuel(food), ears (or something similar) to detect predators, and some form of genitalia to reproduce.
    I often wonder if we are Earth's end-of-the-line inhabitant. Animals evolve to adapt to their environments. Us humans adapt the environment to suit us. Have we stopped evolving? It's a dangerous situation if we have, because then we become a non-changing environment for all the creepy-crawlies we are host to. Bacteria will rule the world in 100 million years! /rant
  • Re:Mind the gap! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:20PM (#28898465)

    For space travel to matter in the solution of this problem, we have to build a fleet of ships capable of offloading 210,000 people - a new space fleet every day, year after year - forever.

    No we don't.

    We need robots, breeding tanks, freeze-dried embryos. Put a few thousand of 'em (along with DNA samples of a few thousand other humans) on a spaceship, and let the ship take care of the rest.

    The goal isn't to offload Earth's population at some linear rate.

    The goal is to spawn self-replicating colonies. If the ship travels at 10% of the speed of light (500 years to find a habitable planet within 50 light-years), but the ship can be made cheaply enough (suppose by the year 2200 we can do it for the GDP equivalent of an aircraft carrier and its support fleet), you just fire off a ship in a random direction every 10 years.

    The ship finds a suitable world, sets up shop, and the colonists spend the next 1500 years bootstrapping themselves from a Serenity-like Wild West settlements into million-person planetary civilizations capable of building their own seedships. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Some colonies fail. Big deal. Sometimes you'll spread at 0.01c (500 years travel time, 4500 years of playing Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri). Sometimes you'll get lucky - (A ship that lasts for 4500 years and travels 450 light-years - and the lucky colonists reboot after only 1000 turns of gameplay :). Net effect is a wave of colonization spreading out at around 2-3% of c.

    The colonies are largely independent of each other; it's unlikely that they're all going to annihilate each other, or simultaneously annihilate themselves. The galaxy's 100,000 light-years wide, or about 300,000 light-years in circumference. The whole thing should be colonized within 10 million years. At less than half a percent of c, we're still talking about a hundred million years.

    That's an eyeblink, astronomically speaking. If it was going to have happened, it should already have happened. The universe has been around for 13.6 billion years. Life's been feasible for around 10 billion of those years, after the first wave of hydrogen/helium stars went supernova and gave the universe enough heavy elements to form planets and to do interesting chemistry. Our little rock has been around for around 4.5 billion years, and inhabited for 3.6 billion years of that time. It's hardly a stretch to think that something else started 0.1 billion years ahead of us. (or got started later, but skipped the billion-odd years of time that our biosphere spent dicking around with unicellular life in the precambrian era.)

    We're talking about 0.1 billion years to colonize the galaxy. Trivial for an advanced technological civilization. Assuming we're not the first, it should have happened by now. The fact that it hasn't happened is an indication that we're the first. (And as a corollary, that however common life may be in the universe, intelligent life must be mind-bogglingly, astonishingly rare. We've only been sentient for a million years, and smelting metal for a few thousand. An eyeblink of an eyeblink of an eyeblink.)

  • Spotting the probes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by freedomseven (967354) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:38PM (#28898727)
    WE have forty year old tech that can take sensor reading to the edge of the solar system. It is just silly to think that a civilization with interstellar travel technology would not have equally impressive sensor tech. Our puny sensors can see interstellar distances. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that a sensor platform in deep space, created by an interstellar civilization would be orders of magnitude more sophisticated. So, If your sensors can read a newspaper on earth from a light year away, you really don't have to go all the way to earth to determine if it is interesting enough to send a "manned" mission. Therefore, if you only have to come within a light year of a planet to determine whether or not it is interesting and your version 1.0 probe is .10 LS capable then by sending out 1,000 probes, you can survey the entire galaxy in less than 1 million years assuming that you have no further advances in technology and your exploration goals do not change.
  • by thedonger (1317951) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:39PM (#28898743)

    I meant random in the sense that a higher being wasn't planning our existence.

    Evolution is so slow I doubt we have the patience or longevity to observe it. In addition to "changing out environment to suit us," we also seek to prevent change from happening to our environment. I'm sure there are millions of people out there who would go to great lengths to ensure the survival of all extant species. Ironically, their logic is that man is changing things and endangering those species, yet not allowing them to become extinct is at odds with our changes. Of course, they'll argue that our changes are not natural, which is impossible. We occurred naturally, therefore whatever we do is part of nature, for better or worse.

    Perhaps we have reached a dead end for physical evolution, and given no other changes we'll outgrow this planet long before we figure out how and where to move off of it. But I suspect social evolution will intervene before that happens. Logan's Run, Soylent Green, 1984, Brave New World...Pick your future.

    In closing, I leave you with the words of the great prophets Fishbone: "Give a monkey a brain and he'll swear he's the center of the universe."

  • Re:agreed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Graymalkin (13732) on Friday July 31, 2009 @01:58PM (#28899025)

    Your argument is silly. Buses pick you up from bus stops, not from your house. If you want to get on a bus you have to go to a bus stop. An intelligent civilization on a planet a thousand light years from Earth that has astronomers is going to look up and see a similar sky. Even if their eyes only work well in the infrared they can still build detectors (just like we do) that cover the entire EM spectrum. When they build their telescopes they will find the same things we have. Their radio telescopes will pick up synchrotron radiation, pulsars, AGNs, and the CMB. Their optical telescopes will see the same stars and they'll deduce similar if not the same cosmological and physical theories. An important thing they'll find are the hydrogen and hydroxyl lines in the microwave band. These lines are in the middle of a relatively quiet portion of the radio spectrum. These are both radio emission bus stops.

    Any alien radio astronomers will be looking at the same frequencies that our radio astronomers do since they're both looking at all the same phenomena. If they decide to announce their presence to the rest of the galaxy their best bet will be to do so on a frequency other radio astronomers are likely to be looking at. You might catch a bus randomly passing by but your best bet is to wait at a bus stop since you can be reasonably sure a bus will eventually stop there. Interstellar messages don't have to be fully understood or translated to be important either. Simply receiving a coherent signal from another intelligent civilization would provide a wealth of information. For one it says "there's someone out there" and that signal is going to come from a specific place. Other types of telescopes can be trained on that location to try to learn all you could about that civilization or at least the environment they live in. The light coming from the planet traveled at the same speed as their radio signal so atmospheric spectra would be contemporaneous with the sending of the signal. Aliens detecting the Arecibo message would be able to look at Earth and see what it was like in 1974 when the message was sent. Knowing there's a civilization there they could keep telescopes trained on Earth to learn more about us even if they didn't fully understand the content of the Arecibo message.

    It also does not matter in the slightest if there exist civilizations with esoteric means of communication. If they exist and want to talk to less advanced civilizations they'll communicate via the lowest common denominator of radio or optical transmissions. If they only want to communication via their esoteric means then they obviously only want to talk to equally advanced civilizations and we don't have a lot to offer them (at least they don't think we do). We don't really need to worry about such civilizations, we only need to concern ourselves with the ones stopping at the same bus stop as us. This is also why we tend to look for Earth-like planets when talking about extraterrestrial life. Yes some odd creatures with completely alien chemistries might exist but if we wouldn't recognize them then there is no reason to look for them right now. We can instead look for the creatures with chemistries we do understand fairly well and would recognize instantly. Also in the hunt for Earth-like planets we're not throwing away knowledge of all the non-Earth-like planets. If we find some life form in an asteroid or on the Moon with a chemistry completely unlike ours we can dig through our exoplanet archive and look for markers of such lifeforms on planets we found that were like the home of the life form we found. Just because life forms might exist that are unlike us or civilizations might exist that don't communicate like we do is no reason to assume that all life is unlike ours and all civilizations don't communicate like we do.

  • Re:Why (Score:3, Interesting)

    by khellendros1984 (792761) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:09PM (#28899191) Journal
    Entropy can be counteracted by work, right? So as long as the machine can gather energy to do work, it should be theoretically able to repair itself. It's not like there's something mechanically special about organic organisms that couldn't be replicated in an artificial mechanism, and we've managed to bootstrap ourselves up to the current level of technology pretty well. So why couldn't a sufficiently advanced self-replicating, self-repairing, self-improving machine do the same thing? I'm going to guess that we can develop something like that before the century's out.
  • Re:Probes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by morgauxo (974071) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:38PM (#28899687)
    We haven't even found all the NEOs yet! How can we expect to know there aren't any probes somewhere in this very large haystack of a solar system.
  • We Are In Quarantine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by johnos (109351) on Friday July 31, 2009 @03:55PM (#28900973)
    Fermi's Paradox came up in a dream once. The explanation, according to the dream, is that Earth is in quarantine. The powers that be in the Galaxy put a communications blocking bubble around the solar system of all new technological civilizations for 10,000 or 15,000 years. The point of the exercise is that new civilizations are like teenagers, dangerous and unaware of their power to wreak havoc. This is especially true of newcomers that discover inter stellar travel while not yet having complete control over their atomics. So they just wall us off until we either 1) destroy ourselves, or 2) grow out of our galactic adolescence.

    The dream went on to explain why we see UFOs that don't communicate with us. They are outlaws breaking the quarantine. Humans, said the dream, have unique language abilities unknown elsewhere in the galaxy. A single human could write more and better code than teams of hundreds in the next-best software civilization. So the UFOs are from some of the shadier civilizations out there and they come to kidnap code slaves. They have to stay stealthy or they will get caught.

    This was a real dream I had about 10 years ago. And yes, I was asleep at the time. The story is obviously full of holes, it was only a dream after all, but intriguing.
  • techy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Merovign (557032) on Friday July 31, 2009 @04:04PM (#28901153)

    I know I'm just being techy, but you can't actually STUDY something until you have at least one example of it.

    A lot of cosmological science and just about all exobiological science is completely made-up, maybe I'm just tired of "science news" that is 100% fictional.

    Frankly, we have nearly zero knowledge of life in the rest of the universe - it's okay to speculate, just call it speculation.

  • by blurker (1007141) on Friday July 31, 2009 @04:33PM (#28901711) Homepage
    Call it the blurker hypothesis. Think about it. The universe is maybe 14b years old. Our own planet is about 4b years old. For Earth to form, there had to be a giant dust cloud full of iron and other heavy elements, which can only have come from novae/supernovae. So at least one generation of stars had to form, burn out, explode, cool to ash, and then reform into new gravity wells to form this solar system. Since this one is about 4b years old, and can be expected to make it another 4b or so, then that leaves a tidy 10b years for a previous star cloud to seed our local region of space. Seems like just enough time. So we haven't seen other intelligent life yet because we are among the first ones to emerge from the ash...
  • 1: God-like* alien intelligence is all around us and they're enjoying the show --or completely disinterested.
    2: FTL or even near light speed travel is impossible and we're limited to contact with close neighbors.
    3: We're the first technological species in the neighborhood (maybe life and/or intelligence is just incredibly unlikely).

    *They would have tech perhaps millions of years ahead of us

  • is that the number of planets that can host life forms is so low in number, that some sort of Terraforming technology would have to be made to make the Mars and Venus type planets more like Earth.

    Right now we cannot even control the pollution on Earth that is making Earth less hospitable to current lifeforms.

    If there is more advanced life in the universe, they'd have to find a solution to their own pollution as well as invent Terraforming technology. If they don't, eventually they will go extinct.

    There is also a good chance that Earth is the most advanced life forms in our galaxy and if other life exists, it hasn't even invented radio devices yet so we can detect them, or they are too far away that radio waves from their planet has not reached Earth yet.

    There is also another possibility that maybe life on other planets skipped radio if they are advanced enough and use some other way to communicate that we cannot detect, or they use radio and use an encryption that makes it look like natural random signals to less advanced life forms.

  • Paradoxically. . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Friday July 31, 2009 @11:13PM (#28905469)

    I don't think that Fermi's Paradox is all that paradoxical either. I just think he was closed-minded, unimaginative and perhaps a tad (or a whole lot) conceited. (Sorry, Fermi.) --But I still think you're making a rather large assumption.

    We crossed oceans without first getting comfortable in our dangerous, leaky, rat-infested sail boats. Planets have wonderful, big, open spaces, wind and rain and snow, natural sunlight, natural fauna and geographic features which appear according to chaotic systems we don't have to think about or organize; they just happen! How awesome is that? I think living on a space platform, even a really nice one, would be a rather horrible way to exist by comparison.

    I also happen to think that contact was made a long time ago, we are the cattle raised by those who plan to colonize and that all our major religions are direct works of population manipulation.

    But then, I'm about as far from Fermi as Fermi is from me. Exactly that far, actually.

    I just don't see any paradox.


You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.