Whee are the aliens?

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Warped9, Aug 25, 2013.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    SF author Robert Sawyer was recently asked a question about this: "What's your opinion of Fermi Paradox?"

    Sawyer's reply: "Enrico Fermi raised a very valid point: if the universe should be teeming with life, then where are all the aliens? My fear is that terrorism ultimately destroys all civilizations: that is, as more and more destructive power ends up in the hands of individuals, someone eventually does enough damage to destroy each civilization."


    Being friends with Sawyer I chimed in with:

    "Why haven't we encountered aliens or at least evidence of them? Depending on who you ask maybe we already have. :lol: More seriously I wonder if whether we're facing a variation of the rare Earth theory. Life might indeed be common in terms of simple or non complex life like on the microbial level or such. And there might be worlds teaming with complex life on the animal level like Earth of the past before the rise of human intelligence and human civilization. The rarity mightn't be in life or even a measure of intelligence, but in intelligence giving rise to advanced technological civilizations. It could happen, but given the rarity and average distance between star systems with advanced civilizations the odds could really go up in terms of them noticing us, coming here or us noticing their presence either nearby or from a distance. Anyone looking in our direction from beyond 100-200 light years distant might likely never notice a sign of us being here, given we've been technologically "visible" or "noisy" for barely a century. Also beyond a few light years our star system probably doesn't look all that exceptional. From our position we might not see evidence of alien civilizations if they are distant enough and if they haven't been technologically "visible" much longer than we have. Another point---and this may be speculative (hell, it's all speculative)---perhaps a truly advanced civilization no longer uses the same forms of readily recognizable communications that we're so familiar with. Imagine ancient man who couldn't envision the possibility or existence of something like the internet, radio, a telephone or the telegraph."


    Thoughts anyone on where is ET?
     
  2. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I always found the Fermi paradox too non-paradoxical.

    If the closest aliens are in Andromeda, we can't pick out their radio signals, and we might never be able to. Yet it would still mean there are an insane number of alien civilizations in the universe, counting in hundreds of billions. So even if the universe is teeming with life, they could still be so far away that we would never be able to talk to them.

    Furthermore, radio signals disappear with an inverse square law, we probably can't pick our own radio signals at any reasonable distance, so we won't be able to pick aliens even in our own backyard. And if we happen to be in the biggest dump in the galaxy, there won't be aliens in our backyard to begin with. And directed signals are gaining popularity, so even we ourselves are getting more radio silent by the day.

    Also, wasn't the paradox partially based on the premise that the aliens would being colonizing the galaxy, and thus spread everywhere in a couple of millions of years? If so, the existence of other aliens in our galaxy might have prevented us from evolving (if they colonized our planet), thus we might only exist because they were not present elsewhere in our galaxy.

    And lastly, if the aliens are close enough for us to pick their radio signals, we already have. That's already too many captured signals for the period that we've been listening.
     
  3. RoJoHen

    RoJoHen Awesome Premium Member

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    Even if the universe is full of life, the universe is still fucking huge, and too many things have to go right in order for us to encounter any life that might be out there. It's not really a paradox at all.
     
  4. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Whee [sic] are the aliens?

    So, yesterday it was nuclear Armageddon that was the ultimate crisis, but today it's terrorism? I can't help but be amused by Sawyer's reply.

    Now that we've survived the Cold War, the foremost security crisis that shaped our worldview yesterday, we've moved on to suppose that the real danger to species generally is the foremost security crisis shaping our worldview today?!? Please. Paranoid shortsighted rubbish. But trendy, very trendy.

    Asteroids are demonstrably just as dangerous to the survival of our civilization as terrorism is, if not more so. Just ask the dinosaurs.

    Frankly, living is a dangerous business, and thinking and acting intelligently is hard. If extinctions of intelligent species are common, why does it have to predominately be from only one cause?

    One could pick any of the man-made threats we face today and reasonably suppose that somewhere there could be alien species succumbing to those problems: economic collapse, genocide, terrorism, militarization, pollution, and so on.

    That's not to mention the potential for both terrestrial and extraterrestrial natural disasters. Plague, asteroids, and radiation are only some of the possibilities.

    Let's not forget alien invasion, which if it happened would tend to be much more one-sided than is generally depicted in popular science fiction. Perhaps there is an alien race with FTL going around and snuffing out all the species that announce their presence with radio waves, as if they are pulling weeds out of their garden.

    Or, maybe we're just among the first. Why should we expect aliens to have already done what we just accomplished within the last one hundred years?
     
  5. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Viruses and bacteria trump nukes, asteroids, let alone terrorism.

    Unless you're talking viral terrorism.
     
  6. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    I think I covered that, with "plague". One of the ancient modes of Armageddon. Biblical, really. ;)
     
  7. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    We discussed this quite a bit on the ancient alien thread. There is also a book with over 100 reasons why we haven't encountered aliens yet.

    http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=179554

    My most likely scenerio: Aliens are using Starseeds, self-replicating robots that are cheap and efficient...virus-like, and may well have settled decent portions of the Galaxy, but even though advanced, tiny robot probes are almost impossible to detect(we can barely find asteroids that pose a danger to us).

    http://io9.com/it-s-easier-for-aliens-to-visit-us-than-previously-thou-909418813

    I also lean towards the idea that any alien species advanced enough for star travel will likely not be malevolent, though they may well have practices that would endanger us, but they may indifferent to such problems.

    I have a feeling that our methods of communication may not attract much attention from space travelers, however, if thorough enough, our artificial signals may be picked up, but it just won't be the prime method they are looking for.

    RAMA
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2013
  8. Gep Malakai

    Gep Malakai Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yup. It's basically somebody noticing that reality does not conform to their pile of assumptions, but instead of revising those assumptions they stand their ground and call it a "paradox." It's dumb.
     
  9. Lego Thrawn

    Lego Thrawn Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Yes, the universe could be overflowing with life. The question is, how much of that life is either life as we know it, intelligent life, or life more complex than bacteria?
     
  10. Lt. Uhura-Brown

    Lt. Uhura-Brown Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    For the same reason the night sky isn't blindingly bright with an infinite number of stars in an infinite Universe.
     
  11. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    And those are stars, some 384 * 10 ^ 26 watts a piece, and you still don't see the majority of them. That's 256 * 10 ^ 13 times the total human energy consumption. Now, imagine the stars were as faint as our radio signals, which a barely a small portion of our energy use and only a part of them are irradiated into space. We might not even know there were stars.
     
  12. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    First, the Fermi Paradox, as well as the Drake equation, is full of shit.

    Any statistical number they give you for the chance of life in the universe is wrong. Why? Because we don't know anything. Therefore we can't make any valid assumption as to how rare life in the galaxy or the universe is. Life on Earth is depending on so many variables. Our orbit around the sun. The fact that we have only a single moon at exactly the right size and rotational velocity. The fact that there is a gas giant out there protecting us from most incoming debris. The magnetic field produced by the iron core of our planet. The idea that we MIGHT be in a habitable zone of the galaxy.

    Who knows, maybe all this is a specific constellation that you can only find ONCE in the entire universe. We cannot say.

    You have a room full of boxes. Billions of billions of boxes. ALL boxes look different from each other. And you opened one single box and it contains a teddy bear. What are the chances that there is another box that contains a teddy bear? You cannot say. It is impossible to know. You don't know why the teddy bear is in that specific box, so you don't know what specifications other boxes need to fulfill.
     
  13. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Yep.
     
  14. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    Yeah, pretty much this. The universe is big. Distance between habitable worlds is likely huge as well. Given the tendency of life to survive in the craziest places on Earth, I have little doubt it exists in some form elsewhere. But intelligent life existing close enough to Earth to encounter it is considerably less probable.
     
  15. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    Why is terrorism such a be all/end all? People can be so horrible to each other and themselves and one only is concerned when a plane gets blown up or whatever. I just think it's selfishness and bothers people because terrorism could put their lives at risk. Screw all those people starving and trying to make it, all those people calling out for help, all those people getting screwed by big corporations and nasty predators, just don't blow up my car.
     
  16. FPAlpha

    FPAlpha Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Today's terrorism is no threat to human existence because WMD's are for the most part difficult to produce and require very specialized equipment to produce (any halfway decent nuclear physics student knows how to put together a nuclear bomb but he will lack essential materials, i.e. weapons grade plutonium for example).

    However the danger is in the knowledge itself so what happens when this red line can be crossed and someone is able to put together a method of mass destruction with readily available equipment? I believe that's what he's talking about.

    Now as to where the aliens are.. on a philosophical standpoint it might be that we are simply not that interesting to begin with. We are volatile, fearful of new things, greedy and vengeful and the simple revelation that there are Aliens might topple our entire worldwide system because of mass panic.

    In the event aliens understand us and have been observing us what do they have to gain by destroying our civilization? They might just leave us alone for a few decades or centuries and then check back if we're still around and how we do and otherwise concentrate on other projects.

    It sounds dumb and overly simplistic, kind of their version of the Prime Directive but it could be that simple. Any alien civilization that's hostile could have easily attacked us by now with little risk.. the few things we have that could do damage to something in orbit might not be nearly enough to take out a dedicated invasion fleet. Heck, them taking out our satellites would already cripple us because we've become so dependent on them.

    So if there was contact or if aliens exist and have discovered us i assume they are either benevolent or simply don't care about us.
     
  17. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, that was completely clear.
     
  18. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    I know. Even arguing that cheap, easy-to-build WMD would sooner or later inevitably fall in the hands of extremist, nefarious individuals or groups, what makes them more dangerous than clumsy medical students entrusted with deadly viruses, nuclear engineers who are drunk on the job, paranoid military officers, or politicians who feel millions of dead are a small price to pay for power and supremacy? I am actually more concerned about all those categories than any terrorist. So far, the number of victims in a nations vs. terrorists death contest is heavily skewed in favour of nations.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2013
  19. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Alien life is rare. And when something is rare, the is no such thing as "not interesting".

    Even if the aliens came from a region of space that is totally crowded with civilizations. We are in a region that is completely empty. That would make us special to aliens no matter what.
     
  20. YellowSubmarine

    YellowSubmarine Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    How do you know that? We've not yet ruled out civilizations around the closest stars, we've got more to go to rule out a dead ancient Martian one and we will probably never completely rule out past visits to the Solar system or leftover alien artefacts on Earth and other bodies (well, if we discover that the area is completely desolate presently and historically, they will kinda rule themselves out).

    We don't know that yet. At least not for sure (though I suspect the same as you).