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Thread: Episode 24:The Fermi Paradox: Where Are All the Aliens?

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by spent View Post
    "LIFE IS EXTREMELY RARE BUT COMMON"
    Ow. My brain.

  2. #32
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    Why have a Universe full of galaxies but with no life in them.

    I found this episode to be quite interesting. I've had the same discussions with my husband and found myself frustrated with many of the professionals in the field. I find it really hard to believe that Earth is the only planet in the Universe with intelligent life, it just doesn't make too much sense to me. Why have a Universe full of galaxies but with no life in them.

    Whose to say that other life forms are just like us? I feel that it would be a one in a billion chance that they would. Different atmospheres bring on different development. They may not breath oxygen, it may kill them, so why would they want to come to a planet that they would be so vulnerable in. Maybe there are aliens out there watching us right now, seeing how we behave towards our own people might be keeping them from showing themselves. Maybe they just haven't reached our planet yet, and maybe we are all on the same wave length and just can't reach other planets in our own systems yet through human space travel. Heck, we haven't even put one person on Mars yet.

    Why would there be only us?

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wonderwmn999 View Post
    Whose to say that other life forms are just like us? I feel that it would be a one in a billion chance that they would.
    Please demonstrate evidence for this figure.

    For all we know, oxygen might be one of the only requirements for macro-scale organisms. Can a living organism get anything out of nitrogen, or sulfur? I dunno. maybe. But as it is, we simply do not know.

    If I'm agnostic on anything, it's on the existance of life. No matter how likely it may seem, you can't just label a figure on it and say, "this is a figure for how likely other lifeforms are and are not!" and not expect someone to roll their eyes and go, "How do you know?"

  4. #34
    Not directly related, but I really liked what Michael Shermer said in his book, "Why Darwin Matters", regarding intelligent life. It wasn't necessarily about whether or not there is or isn't intelligent life in the universe, but the rates of technological advancement (compared to ours in the past 50 years) of an intelligent species in relation to evolution and some people's concept of "god".

    If an intelligent species evolved eons ago, how far technically advanced would they be if they advanced at the rate we have over the past 50 years? What if they evolved at the same time our species has? It'll be millenia before we hear from them if they use the same radio waves we do.

    It was an interesting read and I'm not covering it nearly as well as Shermer did.

    Why Darwin Matters p.40 "Shermer's Last Law: ID, ET, and God"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
    No matter how likely it may seem, you can't just label a figure on it and say, "this is a figure for how likely other lifeforms are and are not!" and not expect someone to roll their eyes and go, "How do you know?"

    I don't feel I labeled a figure, again it is the way I feel about the subject. I never said it was definetly that way. I roll my eyes when people say that intelligent life can only breath certain elements, can only look a certain way, can only live a certain way. To me that is labeling what intelligent life is.

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    Plants evolved as well, and they don't just "breath" carbon dioxide. They breath Oxygen as well. They just expell more oxygen than they take in. Go to a good horticultural site, and you'll find that plants change their breathing habits according to seasons and times of day.

    They don't just "make" oxygen for us from CO2.

    I've always wondered though... which came first after bacteria. Plants or Animals? And do we share DNA or only RNA with plants?

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    Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Revealing our own biases?

    Hello, my name is Nathan Carlson, and I am a history/ anthropology graduate student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

    I have an avid interest in cosmology and amateur astronomy, as well as issues relating to my own field of expertise, the cultures and history of the indigenous peoples of North America. In the course of my studies, I enrolled in a history of Astronomy course, and wrote a paper on the search for Extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). Using some of the material from my own academic background, discovered some interesting facts pertaining to the search for life on other worlds, and how that search reveals some of our own anthropocentric and technocentric biases. Having listened to the podcast on 'Fermi's Paradox', I thought I would reiterate some of the points I raised in that paper that are of particular relevance to the show:

    1. When we speculate on the nature of ETI, we must be very careful not to impose our tacit cultural biases on what we assume other intelligences in the universe must be like. Most prevalent are our own beliefs that ETI would have an imperative to colonize other worlds, and also that ETI's would be bound to develop complex technologies like here on Earth. These assumptions are foremost anthropocentric (human centered) and second, technocentric. If we consider the course of human history, we discern that only for a brief period of our human existence have we possessed complex technology and the motivation to colonize the Earth globally, and even outer space. 500 years ago, most of the human cultures on earth were living in tribal societies with neither complex technologies or imperatives to colonize other lands. To assume that our modern Western civilization is somehow an evolutionary pinnacle to human existence is a highly biased proposition. Western civilization is not solely representative of the human species, and neither is technology, science, or colonization. There is, for example, no relationship between intelligence and technology that has been established. What we assume to be the case for humanity is usually representative for western civilization. Not all humans are interested in building radio telescopes and spaceships, developing science and techniques for discovering ETI, and colonizing outer space, much less our planet. We have to ask whether Tibetans or Apaches would have developed complex, scientific societies given enough time. So we have to be very careful when we speculate on what ETIs might be like, when our assumptions ARE NOT EVEN REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE, MUCH LESS SOCIETIES ON OTHER WORLDS! Non scientific human cultures, although not as sophisticated or complex as scientific cultures (and here we must determine what we mean by sophisticated) are not any less intellgent. Western civilization and the scientific method attained ascendancy on earth by a series of historical flukes, and by a form of colonization that was not so nice to the rest of the non- technological human societies; to assume that this process was natural or inevitable is very biased and not supported by any historical, sociological, or biological evidence. Thus when we speak of ETIs we must be careful not to assume that they are like people in Western societies.

    2. A corrolary of this fact is my second point: When we search for Extraterrestrial civilizations we are really searching for a species LIKE US. This fact has been revealed throughout history time and time again, from Aristotle, to Johannes Kepler's speculations about agrarian civilizations building walled ditches on the moon that would account for the circular craters found there. Perhaps the most poignant example is Percival Lowell's ideas about the little green martians of Mars building irrigation canals to sustain a global agrarian civilization. When he was looking through his telescope, he was imposing his ideas about what he thought ETIs must be like onto his observations. Thus, what was ultimately an optical illusion in his telescope became a vast and wildly speculative theory about civilized creatures on Mars with advanced technology that were modifying their environment (like we do on Earth) to support their culture and civilization. The notion that Martians were as opportunistic and warlike as some human societies led, of course, to the widespread panic following Orson Welle's radio broadcast about Martians invading earth to conquer and dominate humans.
    More recently, Frank Drake and the researchers of SETI have turned radio telescopes to the stars in the hopes of finding a society there that is using radio broadcasters to send us a signal. Isnt it strangely coincidental that we are looking for a race with almost identical technology to our own? We assume logically that aliens must be using radio frequencies because it makes sense to use them on earth. Are we really just looking for a human face amongst the stars? Was Frank Drake's radio messages beamed into interstellar space representative of all human societies?

    I am not trying to bash SETI, Astronomy, or Science in general. We simply must be careful not to be biased when we speculate about these concepts. How universal is the scientific method? Aren't we being short sighted when we assume that aliens are using similar technologies to us when not even all human societies use them? The universe is an incredibly vast place, and we would do well to assume that there are a vast amount of possibilities about what ETIs might be like. Perhaps we should broaden our horizons and do more than listen for extraterrestrial 'television broadcasts': is that all we can imagine about ETIs? Are they sitting on their couches, munching on McDonald's fries and watching TV while their broadcast signals leech off into interstellar space for us to listen to? Perhaps ETIs are like Dolphins, or like Australian aborigines: intelligent, but knowing well to leave things alone. Or maybe they use some form of communication that we cannot even comprehend, or think in a way that is beyond our understanding. I for one love astronomy, and like to think that some ETIs do too, without the need to colonize, dissect and dominate the universe. Hopefully in the 21st century, we can learn to take care of our own planet without setting our sights on ruining another one, and maybe, just maybe, we can open our minds to the possibility that ETIs, if they are out there (and I think they are), might not do as we do. Fermi's paradox is not a paradox: we just have to start thinking beyond our own self centered sphere and think about why we have not contacted ETIs or why they have not contacted us. Not every human is driving to explore and conquer the universe, or apprise others to our existence and whereabouts; perhaps ETI's are not either. Maybe this is the reason for the 'great silence' in outer space. If we do find other life, I am supposing that we are hoping it will be like us: to whom we are capable of expressing our loneliness for living in a universe incredibly cold and dark, terrifying and beautiful, and vast beyond human comprehension and human intelligence.

    Nathan Carlson

  8. #38
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    "laws" of physics

    This is my first post. This episode was great and one of the arguments for the existence of aliens in the face of our inability to detect them rang true. We seem to assume that our interpretation of physics is the definitive one. Perhaps it is just one of the infinite interpretations and we operate on a scale, timeline or frequency different from other life forms.

    It is a very interesting and thought-provoking topic.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by WINDIGO View Post
    Hello, my name is Nathan Carlson, and I am a history/ anthropology graduate student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
    1. I think number 1 goes back to our definition of life. Life on Earth is defined by evolution as shaped by natural selection. Life eventually colonized the entire planet because of natural selection. I think our desire to colonize space is part of our evolution. We seek unexploited environments where we can consume the resources. So, we're assuming that life on other planets would have gone through a similar process of natural selection. Evolution has shown that it can find several paths to the same outcome, for example flight: bats, insects, birds, etc.

    So, I think that if life arises through a process of evolution through natural selection, it will be, by nature, expansionistic - not necessarily malicious, but it will still see open spaces. But I think a better way to look at it is to see it as a scale. Some societies will be expansionistic while others aren't. So, why haven't we discovered the ones that do want to expand? It cuts the sample size down by 50%, or maybe 99%, but it still should leave millions and
    millions of expanding societies left.

    As long as you consider any of these traits on a scale, you're just narrowing your sample size. But even narrowed down, the sample size is still massive. So... where are they?

    2. Advanced societies don't need to be like us for us to be able to detect them. Black holes aren't like us, but we can detect them. As long as they're releasing radiation of some variety, we should be able to detect it - assuming we understand the physics of the Universe properly. Whether they're like us or unlike us doesn't really matter. We just need to detect them.

    Finding another civilization would be a tremendous accomplishment, as it would give us an understanding that life is common across the Universe. Even if we can never comprehend them, it's still good to know they're out there. It takes the pressure off us to colonize the Universe.

  10. #40
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    It takes the pressure off us to colonize the Universe.

    boy, would I feel relieved with this responsability taken from my shoulders...

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    Colonizing the galaxy! Are you kidding?

    Pamela and Frazer! Your show is great. Thank you! But frankly, why are you so prone to wild speculation on this particular matter? To me it seems that the obvious question is: How could we even imagine any civilization, however developed, to colonize the galaxy? We have spent 100 years proving Einstein to be right. If the question is: "Why aren't they here?" the most evident answer should be: "There is far too much space between us". It would take the pride of humanity, New Horizons, something like 45 000 years to reach alpha Cen which probably doesn't have planets anyway. Would it not be fair (and more scientific if a bit dull) to at least speculate that the speed limit cannot be overcome and that a few more million years of technology development may not necessarily make it possible to reach even "supernova speed"? And that, if such speeds proved to be possible, colonization would still always mean sending us or other beings to live in space for several generations before reaching an uncertain goal from which they could not give any feedback to the descendants of their origin. What kind of species would want that?

    True, science fiction is more fun if Einstein is wrong but why throw away the knowledge that we have? The fact that the aliens are not here is just another evidence to prove that the old man was right: They are not here because, if they exist, we are for ever separated by an unimaginable abyss of spacetime.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anton View Post
    But frankly, why are you so prone to wild speculation on this particular matter?
    Because I'm a human being and love to consider all the possibilities of this amazing puzzle. Everything associated with this topic is wild speculation.

  13. #43
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    By all means - speculate!

    Quote Originally Posted by Fraser View Post
    Because I'm a human being and love to consider all the possibilities of this amazing puzzle. Everything associated with this topic is wild speculation.
    I agree! It's the perfect subject for speculation and we should do it. It's intriguing, exciting and great fun. My point is this: In ADDITION to wild speculation, there is ALSO an obvious answer to the question "Why aren't they here?" that is based on sound, non-speculative science, making it far more probable than any other answer. A facts-based program could say that. It might send a few of us into deep depression but so be it.

    But why should I argue with my favourite people on the net?

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    there is ALSO an obvious answer to the question "Why aren't they here?" that is based on sound, non-speculative science, making it far more probable than any other answer
    please give me that answer, Anton!
    (at least a link)

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    Quote Originally Posted by WINDIGO View Post
    1. When we speculate on the nature of ETI, we must be very careful not to impose our tacit cultural biases on what we assume other intelligences in the universe must be like. Most prevalent are our own beliefs that ETI would have an imperative to colonize other worlds, and also that ETI's would be bound to develop complex technologies like here on Earth.
    Fermi's Paradox does not require all, or even most ET's to "have an imperative to colonize other worlds" and to "develop complex technologies". All it takes is ONE civilization at some time in the last billion year to have both qualities, and the galaxy would have been populated by now. If you assume that civilizations are common, than their absence requires that NONE were ever much like ourselves. Which I find far less likely than the alternative explanation -- which is that civilizations are extremely rare. In which case, of course, there is no paradox.

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    civilisations are extremely rare!

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    Quote Originally Posted by satori View Post
    please give me that answer, Anton!
    (at least a link)
    Reading my input March 11 on this forum may give a hint. I believe that growing up with Star Trek and Star Wars may easily bring us to think that technology, given enough time, will always overcome any obstacle. Knowing also how often people have been dead wrong about the future by being limited by the “scientific” thinking of their time, we don’t want to make the same mistake. In my eyes, this should not prevent us from using the knowledge we have today, however limited, and say this:
    • It is quite possible that the speed of light is and will remain the upper speed limit of the universe.
    • It is quite possible that travelling into a black hole or a worm hole in order to reach other points in spacetime will just prove to be a more violent way of killing yourself than driving straight into the sun, irrespective of your level of technology.
    • If mass increases towards infinity when approaching the speed of light and when the speeds that we observe in the universe today (like matter travelling outward from a supernova) are closer to 10% than 100% of the speed of light, it would be very fair to say that colonizing would mean living in space for hundreds of years just to reach a suitable planet.


    I certainly may be wrong, but in my opinion the facts-based, non-speculative answer being far more probable than any other answer, taking into consideration what we know up to date, would be: “They are not here because, if they exist, they are much too far away.”

    After saying this we can speculate as much as we want and have great fun doing so. The problem is that if you say what I just said, you will often stir up a reaction that is similar to what you might have encountered if you had dared to suggest to Percival Lowell that channels on Mars were optical illusions. It kind of takes the excitement away and who wants to be a bore?

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    Okay, how about this? It's scientifically feasible for us to send robotic spacecraft to other stars. A robot could be sent at huge velocities, but even if it takes 10,000 years, it doesn't matter. We almost have the science to do that now. We'll also have the technology soon to make self-replicating robots. Send a robot factory to our nearest star and give it instrructions to build more robot explorers and robot factories. With robots zipping around at only 10% the speed of light, it would only take a million years or so to completely explore the galaxy, sending robots to each and every star.

    So, where are all the robots? Once again, it would only take one intelligent civilization in the Milky Way to get the ball rolling. Not using any kind of super exotic technologies.

    I'm really not worried about what reactions I stir up, I enjoy the speculation.

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    Star Trek psuedo-technology isn't that far off any more.

    Our comunicators are already more advanced than theirs on the show, and we actually have a real ion drive ship. Things aren't totally out of the realm of possibility. We are just too impatient. We want to see results while we're here, not to leave it for someone else hundreds or thousands of years from now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fraser View Post
    Okay, how about this.....................(my cut).............................................. ......................... sending robots to each and every star.

    So, where are all the robots? Once again, it would only take one intelligent civilization in the Milky Way to get the ball rolling. Not using any kind of super exotic technologies.

    I'm really not worried about what reactions I stir up, I enjoy the speculation.

    no wild speculations on my part

    cicilisations spring up exeeeeeeeeedingly seldom

    the univ/(cut)........this galaxy is all our's























    (much space for.........."us" then)

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    Quote Originally Posted by EvilEye View Post
    Our comunicators are already more advanced than theirs on the show...
    I must have missed the part in ST where they beamed down all the cell phone towers.
    The facts, gentlemen, and nothing but the facts, for careful eyes are narrowly watching. Isaac Asimov

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    Quote Originally Posted by R.A.F. View Post
    I must have missed the part in ST where they beamed down all the cell phone towers.

    Who needs a tower when you can have a Satellite phone?

    Enterprise = The satellite.

    And they had to open theirs to use them. I don't even have touch mine to answer it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fraser View Post
    With robots zipping around at only 10% the speed of light, it would only take a million years or so to completely explore the galaxy, sending robots to each and every star.
    I’m with you Fraser, all the way!

    It’s even quite realistic. A million years sounds like a conceivable time span. In fact, if our species take on this huge challenge (we might be the only ones to do it if Satori is right) I suggest the first robot remain in our own solar system. A real sturdy design should allow it to fulfil it’s one and only purpose: to relay a message in all directions for at least 1.1 million years, reminding all robots to report back. After all, we do want our descendants some 30 000 generations down the line to benefit from our project so they can get on with their colonization. And that’s where we return to square one. Colonization is not for organics unless they are extremely long-lived, not only as individuals but also as a species. Come to think of it, our home base robot may need our advice on how to express himself the day he will have to relay the sad communiqué about our species… you know, something like: “Don’t worry about us anymore guys, we’re all right, I mean, we’ve run out of luck here but you’re all strong and… you’ve still got each other so… keep it up and never ever forget the origin of your existence, as I’ve always taught you since you were little gadgets: Sol-Terra-Fraser Cain! That will give you all the self-respect you need to carry on because now – the galaxy is all yours!!!”


    And Fraser, of course you don’t have to worry about the reactions you stir up. I’m the bore here, OK?

  24. #54
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    Lightbulb Just too far

    I'm with llarry and Evileye, the distances are just too far. If you think about it, even we "advanced" humans have only been broadcasting (unwittingly) for a little over a hundred years, meaning that our earliest messages from Tesla and Marconi have only gone about a hundred light years out from Earth - not even to the galactic corner store! Sure, there are other intelligent societies out there, anyone who thinks otherwise is just being naive but even if another intelligent (and technology loving) society exists as close to us as 100,000 light years away, for us to detect them they would have to be advanced 100,000 years ahead of us. They would have been at our current level of technological sophistication when we were just losing our overdeveloped brows and jaws! And really, as wonderfully interesting as it would be, would you really want to come across a civilization that was 100,000 years (or more) ahead of us? Scary to say the least.

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    The universe may filled with life.

    And maybe... just maybe... we are seperated beyond detecting each other......


    ............... for a reason.

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    What I meant in the previous post is...

    We can't even get our crap together with our fellow humans here on this planet. What makes us belive we should ever have the right to know about another established society until we can shake hands with ourselves?

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    Sure, but does every single civilization feel the same way? All you need is just one single civilization to feel differently and make contact with us, or send out that galaxy exploring fleet of robots.

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    Maybe they HAVE sent out that fleet of exploring robots.

    Perhaps our problem is that we are so vein that should a robot land right on the whitehouse lawn, we wouldn't ever believe it came from anywhere but here.

    Sure there are people that want to believe, but a robot could be made anywhere. A real alien would even have a hard time convincing anyone that he was from another planet. And if it were extremely different, it would be locked up and become a science experiment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EvilEye View Post
    Maybe they HAVE sent out that fleet of exploring robots.

    Perhaps our problem is that we are so vein that should a robot land right on the whitehouse lawn, we wouldn't ever believe it came from anywhere but here.

    Sure there are people that want to believe, but a robot could be made anywhere. A real alien would even have a hard time convincing anyone that he was from another planet.
    Huh?

    No it wouldn't. It would be quite obvious if we had an alien contact us.

    And if it were extremely different, it would be locked up and become a science experiment.
    Evidence? That would be a bad PR campaign for any political body, to harm an alien being without trying to initiate contact.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
    Huh?

    No it wouldn't. It would be quite obvious if we had an alien contact us.



    Evidence? That would be a bad PR campaign for any political body, to harm an alien being without trying to initiate contact.
    I don't know.

    If I turned on the television and the President was on there telling us that we had been contacted, I'm not sure I would believe it.

    If they land in my yard, then take off again...maybe.

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