The Eerie Silence

Apr 15, 2010 by Leslie Mullen
The open cluster NGC 290 contains hundreds of stars and spans 65 light years across. The vastness of the universe, filled with such a multitude of stars, has led many to conclude that life must be elsewhere. Paul Davies’s new book challenges this view. Image credit: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona/E. Olszewski

Why have we not made contact with aliens after so many years searching the depths of space? The Eerie Silence, a new book by SETI researcher Paul Davies, provides a fresh and thoughtful look at this question.

If aliens exist, where are they?

The physicist asked this question 60 years ago, and it has since come to be known as the “Fermi Paradox”. Given how vast the universe is, and the billions of years that has had to spread across the cosmos, why have we not found any evidence of ?

Paul Davies takes a fresh look at this question in his engaging and thoughtful new book, The Eerie Silence.

Davies runs Arizona State University’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and he’s involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). In fact, he is the Chair of the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, which has developed a plan for the day we do find life elsewhere.

In his new book, he provides an overview of various efforts to contact aliens, and he also notes how recent discoveries have led to the widespread belief that life must be common in the universe. Hundreds of planets have been detected orbiting distant stars, and while these planets are more like Jupiter than Earth, that’s mostly due to our detection methods. Less will likely be found by newer telescopes, and the fact that we have already found so many worlds bodes well for the potential number of in the galaxy. In addition, life has been discovered in some of the most extreme environments on Earth, including the deep subsurface where sunlight cannot penetrate. This suggests that life is possible in all sorts of unusual places, including planets we once would have considered inhospitable to life.

Davies asks us to step back from the popular view that life must be common in the universe. Instead, he says we should consider the possibility that life on Earth is a fluke, a completely improbable event - a winning ticket in a lottery with a trillion-trillion-to-one odds:

To a physicist like me, life looks to be a little short of magic: all those dumb molecules conspiring to achieve such clever things! How do they do it? There is no orchestrator, no choreographer directing the performance, no esprit de corps, no collective will, no life force - just mindless atoms pushing and pulling on each other, kicked about by random thermal fluctuations. Yet the end product is an exquisite and highly distinctive form of order. Even chemists, who are familiar with the amazing transformative powers of molecules, find it breathtaking. George Whitesides, Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, writes, “How remarkable is life? The answer is: very. Those of us who deal in networks of chemical reactions know of nothing like it.”

Most of the extrasolar planets found so far are gas giant planets like Jupiter, and are not likely to have life as we know it. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Davies says there is nothing in the laws of chemistry or physics to indicate life is inevitable, or even a cosmic imperative. He notes there is no mathematical regularity to life, revealing some underlying basic law of nature. Instead, “the chemical sequences seem totally haphazard.” And yet, life has its own sense of order, since re-arranging those chemical sequences can upend the whole system.

“So the arrangement is at once both random and highly specific - a peculiar, indeed unique, combination of qualities hard to explain by deterministic physical forces,” he writes.

Biology’s law of evolution may have played a role in life’s origin, since all that’s theoretically needed to get the system going is the replication of information. For life today, that replication occurs with DNA, but for the first life, patterns in a physical structure or even particular arrays of atoms may have been enough. While life’s origin from non-living materials is still a mystery, Davies says that life may be one possible outcome of complex self-organizing systems. Just like ant colonies, the stock market and the internet, life may result from a law of increasing complexity that occurs under certain circumstances.

To find out whether life was a bizarre accident unique to Earth, we need to search for life elsewhere. Davies points out that there has only been one successful mission by any space agency to search for life on another planet: NASA’s Viking mission.

“The media tend to present all Mars exploration as part of the search for life, but this is a sly piece of disinformation,” he writes. “It is true that some Mars exploration - looking for water, for example - bears indirectly on the question of life, but explicitly biological experiments have for thirty years been systematically eliminated by NASA missions.”

Most scientists think the Viking life experiments found no proof of life, although some, including Gilbert Levin, who designed Viking’s Labeled Release experiment, contest this conclusion. Even if we were to unquestionably find life on Mars, Davies notes, this wouldn’t tell us if there was life farther afield, since Earth and Mars swapped material back and forth over the history of the solar system. Meteorites striking Earth sent some of our rocks hurtling into space and on to Mars, and vice versa - and some of those rocks could have contained microbial life. .

To really answer the question, we need to find evidence for life on a far-distant planet. However, Davies says another way to prove that life is more than a freak accident is to find a completely different kind of life on Earth.

The Eerie Silence
The Tree of Life shows the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. The Tree is divided between major cell types: those with a nucleus (eukaryotes) and without a nucleus (prokaryotes: the bacteria and archaea.)

“If life started more than once on Earth, we could be virtually certain that the universe is teeming with it,” Davies writes. “Unless there is something very peculiar about our planet, it is inconceivable that life would have begun twice on one Earth-like planet but hardly ever on the rest.”

All life on Earth can be placed on a diagram called the Tree of Life, which indicates how the various organisms can be traced back to a common ancestor. But a shadow biosphere would be composed of life that would not have a place on the Tree. Davies writes:

If you examine the innards of a microbe, chances are you will find the same stuff - DNA, proteins, ribosomes - as is found in you and me. At least, that has been the experience so far. But microbiologists have only just scratched the surface of the microbial realm. Our world is literally seething with these tiny organisms. Just one cubic centimeter (0.061 cubic inches) of soil might contain millions of different species adding up to billions of microbes in all, and the vast majority haven’t even been classified, let alone analyzed. Nobody knows for sure what they are; for all we know, some of them could be life as we do not know it.

Because scientists must culture microbes in a lab in order to study them, an entirely different form of life would go unnoticed because the tests are custom-made to handle known life forms. Davies says new tests need to be developed to see what might be hidden right in front of our eyes.

Aliens living more than 100 light years away wouldn’t see evidence for radio technology on Earth, such as the Very Large Array in New Mexico. Image credit: VLA, NRAO

Astrobiologists often say that complex life may be rare in the universe, but microbial life is probably abundant. They base this assumption on Earth’s history, because simple life started relatively quickly here, perhaps within 500 million years after Earth’s origin, but multi-cellular life didn’t appear until much later. The first evidence in the fossil record of multi-cellular life dates back to about 2 billion years ago, some 2.5 billion years after the Earth formed. The story of life on Earth is mostly a saga of single cells.

Even if complex life can be found elsewhere, does that mean it will be intelligent? By “intelligent,” we often mean a species that will use science to investigate the universe. Davies again throws cold water on our assumptions, saying the scientific method is a specific outcome of Greek philosophy and medieval European monotheism. Despite this, Davies gamely uses the Drake Equation to estimate there could be 10,000 civilizations in the galaxy capable at this time of communicating by radio waves.

“At this time” is an important element of his estimate, since a barrier to interstellar communications is not only distance but time. Consider aliens living one thousand light years away. Davies points out that if they were able to see Earth in their telescopes, they would not see us as we are today, but as we were in the year 1010 A.D. - long before we invented radio dishes. And because human radio technology is only about 100 years old, it will take another 900 years for our first signals to reach them.

Communication signals on Earth are now mostly sent by optical fibers rather than by radio wavelengths, so Davies says there’s no reason to think advanced aliens would bother with that technology. Instead, he suggests they may use neutrino beams, various wavelength beacons, or a galaxy-wide internet system to communicate. We might even find clues to alien technology closer to home in the form of reproducing nanomachines, or microprobes that latch onto DNA. Davies thinks the SETI search should be expanded to include these, and it also should look for alien ‘footprints’ in space that indicate advanced mining or engineering projects, or waste dump sites.

The Pioneer plaques are onboard the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft, which launched in 1972 and 1973. The pictorial message was designed to provide information for aliens about the origin of the spacecraft, and include a human male figure waving “hello.” Image credit: NASA Ames Research Center

One problem with our past searches, says Davies, is we tend to imbue aliens with human motivations and behavior. He is especially critical of previous attempts to craft messages for aliens. The phonographs on the two Voyager spacecraft, which had greetings in 55 languages, as well as music, bird song, and other sounds from Earth, he calls “a pointless gimmick.”

Davies is equally dismissive of the plaques on the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft, which depicted male and female human figures (with the male’s hand raised in greeting), and our solar system and its location in the galaxy:

This image may be worthless as far as signaling aliens is concerned, but it speaks volumes about humans. A brief message to an unknown alien community should presumably reflect the things that we consider most significant about ourselves. The picture is dominated by human shapes, yet our physical form is probably the least significant thing we can say. It is almost completely irrelevant both scientifically and culturally. To put it bluntly, who gives a damn what we look like? The raised hand part is the height of absurdity; such a culturally specific mannerism would be utterly incomprehensible to another species, especially one that might not have limbs.

Instead, Davies says our messages should be based on mathematics, preferably containing equations that describe our knowledge of the laws of the universe. By talking about what we may have in common with life elsewhere, true communication can take place. Only later should we share more Earth-centric information.

Davies says if we ever do make contact, human society would be changed forever. He thinks religion would be especially hard-hit. But he also acknowledges that itself has been described as a religion, since it is driven by faith rather than proof. Even if the hunt for aliens comes up empty after a million years of searching, he says that would not be absolute proof that they don’t exist.

As a scientist, Davies says he wouldn't be surprised if life on Earth turns out to be entirely unique. This lonely outlook makes him uneasy, but he also notes this would be a golden silence, because life on Earth would be even more precious if we really are alone.

Still, the fact that we don’t know and may never have the answer about alien life is reason enough to keep searching, says Davies. By stretching our minds to try to envision all the possibilities in our search for aliens, not only may we one day find what we seek, but in the process we also will learn about many other deep and enduring mysteries of the cosmos.

Explore further: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

Source: Astrobio.net, by Leslie Mullen

4.8 /5 (36 votes)

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Birger
1.7 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2010
There is probably plenty of stromatolites and bacterial biofilms on the planets out there, but if the most complex life on most worlds is lichen, you should not expect SETI to pick up alien signals in the near future...
There *is* intelligent life in space, and we are it!
Arkaleus
2.5 / 5 (8) Apr 15, 2010
The simplified explanation is that we are not looking for the correct signs. At this stage in galactic evolution we will find evidence of extrasolar intelligent life after we have realized the inevitable behaviors of level 1 / level 2 civilizations and seek after what we know must be present as a result of the nature of these civilizations.

We would expect such civilizations to generally venerate life producing processes and would probably have cataloged life sustaining worlds throughout our galaxy. From this awareness a species would develop gardening and husbandry behaviors and if enduring enough would be evident in their work in encouraging ever higher forms of intelligent life to develop.

A multi-million year old galactic species would probably not communicate by material transmission, but by telepathy or other non-temporal architecture. We will only encounter the constructs of galactic organization when our awareness becomes sufficiently mature to "see" it.
winthrom
3.8 / 5 (4) Apr 15, 2010
The "inevitability of life elsewhere in the Universe" is based on the assumption that earth-like planets exist throughout the universe and earth-like chemistry leads to life. Statistically, this seems a valid theory. The arguments that earth is new as a radio using species and the distances between possible earth-like planets is huge are valid also. Another argument (not mentioned here) is that the period from earth's formation to our current state of civilization is 4.5 billion years. Using this development time as a yardstick, one should calculate possible "civilized" life to be on exo-planets at, or over, 4.5 billion years old. This yardstick is artificial, but it is the only one we have. Lastly, we currently currently cannot exceed the speed of light for communications or travel, and this may be an ultimate rule. Whatever civilized life we look for should be within a few 10,000s of light years away and around star solar systems at least 4.5 billion years old.
Arkaleus
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 15, 2010
To help liberate the minds of humans and develop the awareness necessary to integrate with (or inherit the remains of) existing galactic civilization(s), we must begin with the acknowledgment that it is possible to have a galactic civilization ourselves. That is the sign of passage that will unbind our species and allow us to ascend to L1 and begin dreaming of L2.

The key to unlocking the denying minds of men is to rejoice in the simple math of a 1 G expansion into the galaxy. Within a single human lifespan, a 1 G capable vehicle will allow humans to reach any point within our galaxy. The geometric expansion of human colonization at 1 G is humbling and startling.
El_Nose
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2010
@arkaleus

1 G expansion??? vehicle??

I agree with you to to the telepahy thing. why?? After being around for so long they communicate with telepathy??? I just doubt it... In my humble opinion they probably communicate locally, in the same room, either using a material means or have augmented themselves with technology to communicate in a way that is outside of our understanding that we might call it telepathy but it is just technology. kinda like a guy from 1010 AD would look around and call technology of today magic. Even this seems unlikely if they developed and art of cutural significance around communication -- such as our singing and oration.

And interstellar communication is either by some unknown faster than light method or it doesn;t exist at all because the distances are too great and interference to great to even bother with using the electromagnetic spectrum.

@ winthrom

-- the drake equation has nothing to do with an earthlike planets - just life
otto1923
5 / 5 (7) Apr 15, 2010
Well, heres a load:
"By "intelligent," we often mean a species that will use science to investigate the universe. Davies again throws cold water on our assumptions, saying the scientific method is a specific outcome of Greek philosophy and medieval European monotheism."

-The scientific method is only a reiteration of how all organisms explore and adapt; they move (postulate), they respond (experiment), they adapt (record). The use of the scientific method marks a structured return to instinctive behavior that Euro monotheism INTERRUPTED for 100s of years for ruinous albeit essential sociopolitical ends.

Necessary or not, religions job is done and its residue only impedes further progress.

The possibility that we have not made contact (if we have it does not follow that us little people would know about it) would tell us how important it is to keep this strain alive. This means spreading it far and wide as quickly as possible.
otto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2010
-Luckily the uniqueness and rarity of life and of intelligence in its highest form was realized long ago by enlightened Leaders, who took upon themselves the Mission of preserving the best this world had produced despite its inevitable course toward ruin. They began to consolidate the planet by spreading Order in the midst of chaos, by accepting that war was unavoidable and therefore had to be managed like any human endeavor. The people were thus divided according to Plan, and set against one another to produce predictable and beneficial results.

Their Task is almost complete. We stand on the verge of a new Great Exodus, a Diaspora which will lift us to the stars.

Thanks Guys.
deatopmg
1.9 / 5 (7) Apr 15, 2010
If, IF the vehicles reported and photographed by so many people for so many years (100's?, 1000's?) are intelligently controlled, then there must be other ways of manipulating mass, length, and time that we are not yet aware of. (IF true, could the 10 dimensions of the complete Dirac equation be a clue?) Therefore, it is very unlikely that any civilization will use electromagnetic energy for communication for more than a tiny percentage of it's existence, making any detection of intelligent EM by SETI even less likely.
I did read, years ago, that SETI did detect purposeful communication from somewhere nearby in space but these signals were quickly jammed from somewhere on earth. Probably just another internet hearsay, BS story.
Remember, this hypothesis is based on a big IF.
toejam
3 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2010
Davies makes the same mistake most human social groups and indiviuals make, for god, country and family and all that bull, egocentric to the core. To presume humans are so special after only 6k years of civilization and much less time of scientific evolution is tanamount to a child thinking he or she can rule the world with a rattle. Shear lunacy. Intelligent life is more likely the rule rather than the exception. Our inability to realize this is a hallmark of our limited capabilities. Only 15 years ago it was heresy to believe planets orbited other stars. Search on.
winthrom
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2010
@El Nose. You can use the drake equation to estimate "life", however only intelligent life should be expected to be able communicate with us. I think that intelligent life (civilized) would be wise to observe the Star Trek concept of "Primary Directive" and not reveal themselves to immature, self-destructive, cultures such as we are now. Since "... we currently cannot exceed the speed of light for communications or travel, and this may be an ultimate rule... " is our current reality, communication is essentially moot.
fourthrocker
4.3 / 5 (7) Apr 15, 2010
To me, the idea that life here is unique makes no sense. In a universe as big as this there is no such thing as unique conditions. We should instead assume life is common and intelligent life fragile. We should take the silence as a warning to be much more careful, MUCH more careful. Unfortunately stupidity is pandemic and if we don't survive you can be sure that stupidity will be the root cause. Do you hear that evolution and climate change skeptics, religious fanatics and the rest of your type? If we survive it will be despite you, not because of you, and we will be damn lucky if we do.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.9 / 5 (11) Apr 15, 2010
To me the entire concept of "life" is false.

If you break all indisputably "living" organisms down to their ultimate basic interactions, we're simply a self continuing chemical reaction with incredible amounts of complexity. The fundamental difference between something "alive" and something "dead" is nothing more than how resistant to change it is over human timescales.

Well remove the last subjective piece of the puzzle (human timeframes) and what do you get? A entire system of interaction based on energy trading through chemistry.

Life, is not so special when you peel the layers of subjective reasoning away. In some respects the only requirement for life is free energy. Perhaps that's the truth of it. The Universe is alive, and we're simply an organelle comparitively.
pauljpease
2 / 5 (4) Apr 15, 2010
It's likely that some day, if we survive long enough, we'll spread life to other planets in the galaxy. We'd probably start by sending microbes. Then in thousands or millions of years, when we get there, the planets will be able to support us (since we depend on a functioning biosphere). If that's what we're likely to do, then doesn't it stand to reason that any previous intelligent life would have been likely to do that? And if so, doesn't it also stand to reason that life on Earth might have started that way? Perhaps aliens spread nucleic acids around, some got on Earth and started growing our biosphere. Only, the aliens took too long to get here themselves, and we managed to evolve first. Reminds me of the story of genesis. There's a part where god (who refers to himself as "we", like he's actually a group of beings) seems really disappointed that humans are on Earth and so similar to god himself. He decides to leave us alone and make our own way. Wonder if there's any truth to that
Nartoon
1 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2010
Just because we can detect large Jovian type planets out there they still have a problem in that most are extremely close to their sun, meaning their solar system is totally different than ours.
J-n
4 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2010
Well, with the amount of planets that arent Jovian type.. and are much smaller, and the at least 1 or 2 that are in the "habbitable" region from their star, and with water... Differing solar system or not... There are planets like ours out there.
SmartK8
4 / 5 (4) Apr 15, 2010
Maybe we are the first to evolve. Lots of time to build those space travel conduits, and send the 3D blueprints around. But first, to build some nonsense ruins to keep them guessing, when they evolve enough. Future seems like a lot of fun to me. I'd definitely make some wings of light, to perform some "holy" apparition. We'd definitely have to send some non-piloted saucer-like craft, to appear to only people, who won't be believed later. Maybe also some cool animatronics. Nice, they'd never see it coming. One can dream.
venturi
3.3 / 5 (6) Apr 15, 2010
I think that Mr Davis is not the brightest star in the universe. Same for the SETI project.
WHY?
If you transmit in ANALOG then you must have an ANALOG receiver to receive the signal.
Same for UHF and VHF and MicroWave etc etc
If people from other planets are smart enough to travel here through the vastness of space in relatively short periods of time, they would CERTAINLY NOT be using our dynosaaur like communication frequencies.
The FACT that NO one actually gets this simple concept astounds me.
At least he got his name in print.

Think about this
The universe is approx 14 billion years old
Our sun approx is 4.5 billion years old
It took us approx 400 million years to get to where we are today biologically
When we send space craft to other planets, we "seed" these planets with bacteria
So
IF just 1 planet evolved just 1 billion years ahead of us, think of the advancements they would have achieved by this stage.
Perhaps our planet was seeded? (joking)
David Venturi
Question
1 / 5 (2) Apr 15, 2010
The article point about intelligent(?) life being like winning a trillion to trillion lotto ticket is probably about the way it is. The chances are there is probably only one form of intelligent life in a galaxy the size of ours at any given period of time. Maybe we should be listening to ourselves?
taisha99
4.5 / 5 (4) Apr 16, 2010
I think some perspective is required. For instance, much has been made of the facts that the earth is the right distance from the right size sun, has a molten iron core to provide a protective magnetic field and a moon that stabilises earths spin.
But, we happen to be here because of those circumstances and so are able to enquire as to why.
Timescale - Universe 13-5 + billion years old - life 3 billion at best. How far might we progress in 20000 yrs let alone a million ? Other life may have progressed way beyond human life and have dissappeared (Local sun expires etc). Also, our radio waves travelling 100 light years would take 200 yrs to receive a response. And .. if any alien life studies us (hence very advanced) I'm surely they would catagorise us a 'dangerous hooligans' (or alien equivalent) and stay well clear
lengould100
2 / 5 (2) Apr 16, 2010
I've seen somewhere that stages of civilization can be catagorized according to their rate of energy use. Initially, human civilization used the energy available from individual hunters (1 humanpower). Next came smaller then larger groups of humans, burning of wood, burning of fossil wood and animal matter, fission of small amounts of atoms (today).

It is likely that more advanced life can be identified by their energy exploitation level, the most advanced having reached the stage of exploiting all the energy available from the infall onto a supermassive black hole. What we should be searching for is unusually dark (eg. non-energy-emitting) stars, black holes, or perhaps even entire galaxies.

Is our noticing the existence of as-yet unexplainable "dark matter" a clue?
dirk_bruere
not rated yet Apr 16, 2010
Simulation Argument
http://www.simula...ent.com/
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (1) Apr 16, 2010
What we should be searching for is unusually dark (eg. non-energy-emitting) stars, black holes, or perhaps even entire galaxies.

If it isn't emitting energy we'll never see it.

The hierarchy describes how to class a civilization by it's energy use, it also postulates that a type 1 (which even humans cannot be classed as) will only be able to detect type 1 and below, type 2 will detect type 2 and below, etc..
Tachyon8491
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 16, 2010
The first challenge SETI faces is spatiotemporal synchrony between at least two technologically developed civilisations. Bur it certainly does not end there. The fact is that SETI is a useless and redundant quest to find signals indicative of technoculturally evolved alien species - these would never communicate (except locally within their own solar systems in an early phase of their technology) in the electromagnetic spectrum. Consider that all the radio / TV data we have ever sent as a species forms a "Dynamic Data Sphere, DDS" which stretches no more than around a hundred lightyear radius - plus the fact that anything within that sphere could not expect an answer in a period up to a hundred years = a fraction of intergalactic distances (e.g. the Andromeda Galaxy at 2MLY, our nearest galactic neighbour.) Fact is that any alien civilisation that knows its business will communicate, not in a subluminal, locality-restricted Emag spectrum but in a non-local, superluminal mode.
Tachyon8491
2.7 / 5 (11) Apr 16, 2010
Further, the fact that alien technology of a very high order exists, only nail-biting fanatics can still deny - just study only one radar-visual case: the Brentwater / Lakenheath case, if you need some convincing. Also, research by Hoyle, Wickramasinghe and NASA modified U2 high-atmospheric research, supported by spectrographic analysis of molecular radio signatures proves the existence of more than a hundred heavy molecular aspecies in protostellar envelopes; e.g. the Orion proplyds. These also contain glycine, the simplest amino-acid. Then add to this organic inclusions found in uncontaminated Type II carbonaeous chondrites, study radiophilic bacteria such as strep. radiophilus and you have a pretty good picture that LIFE does emerge spontaneously on a cosmic, universal scale. Mitrodorus of Chios asked: "Do you think that in an entire field of millet, only one seed would grow?" Then Giordano Bruno, burnt at the stake for his beliefs, wrote on "The Many Worlds..."
chaman
5 / 5 (1) Apr 16, 2010
In-depth article by the man himself:

The Eerie Silence, by Paul Davies, Mar 2, 2010

http://physicswor...th/41816
Wasabi
5 / 5 (3) Apr 16, 2010
I've always enjoyed the quote: "The surest sign that intelligent life exists in The Universe is that none of it has tried to contact us yet."
scidog
4 / 5 (2) Apr 16, 2010
we have just started looking with some very basic methods.that we have not found anything is more about instant gratification than anything else.
Au-Pu
1 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2010
I liked the posts of winthrom (his first), fourthrocker, skeptic heretic, tachyon8491, (four ahead of this) and of course the wisdom of wasabi.
Life is quite possibly a by-product of self organisation and "inteligence" a further by product.
Cellular structure may also be a by product of this same self organising process. So that all life wherever we may find it may have more in common at a cellular level than it has differences. The outer form of life may vary greatly being governed by its originating conditions.
The idea that life may be seeded might prove to be the only way to spread life throughout the universe.
Whilst we do not have to embrace the idea that we are the product of such seeding we are not in a position to prove we are not.
We need to be less absolute about all things.
I do feel however that in our present state of social and intellectual evolution we are not fit to move beyond our present sphere.
CaptBarbados
not rated yet Apr 17, 2010
We look for "life" all the while witnessing the incredible panorama of stellar flow and evolution spread across the entire universe. I'm not sure we're yet worthy of the rating "intelligent". We may be the flea on the elephant's ass, at best.

CWFlink
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
Realize that most recent advances in communications technology effectively makes the signal look more and more like noise... repetition in a signal is wasted bandwidth, filtered out by compression technologies. Add to that security via encryption and they signal looks even more like noise. Now rather than multiplexing the bandwidth by assigning "frequences" to "carriers", instead code multiplex many signals... time domain rather than frequency domain... etc.

The evolution of "intelligent" communications technology will quickly lead any alien species to using technologies esentially indistinguishable from noise... we cannot recognize it as communications.

So SETI is only able to recognize as a "signal" EM radiation encoded with techniques that only existed well less than 100 years in societies like our own. A distant star would appear to go "dark" in SETI's eyes after a brief flicker of recognizeable "crude" broadcasts.

SETI's search is futile.
BetterByDesign
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
The Society for Scientific Exploration has a video
from Paul Hellyer, the former Canadian Defense Minister:
http://www.scient...ure.html
IcePowder
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
An observational perspective of a few decades of looking for ETs while expecting results is inane. Human's are at long last on the verge of realizing the immensity of their own ignorance and the "Death of Socrates" syndrome looms large...

Then again there is a probability that the implications of this statement might be true.
That's not only eerie but is downright creepy...
SmartK8
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
It's also possible, that they either have some kind of anthropocentric principle, which keeps them from embracing the possibility of other life. Or they've lost hope. The space is very large. Maybe they were listening and exploring their neighbourhood for too long, and they didn't detected or found anything, so they just stopped looking, and are focusing on more important immediate problems. Or maybe they have different conditions for rating civilizations, and we're still considered zero (as in termites building their nests). The last one could be too tough for us to swallow. But we actually don't know, how advanced we're in (their) absolute numbers.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2010
Earthlings,We have been observing you for a long time, but your tribal-based bickerings forced us to avoid contact. Who will drop in, say hello and make friends with people that are fighting each other? If we do, we have to take sides. If we intervene, that will be imposing our judgments on you. Some of our "Ferengi-type" races commented that re-tooling for obsolete weapons for tribal conflicts-regarding your level of maturity-and for such a small market-is not profitable. Even if they did, the have-nots will quickly escalate the conflicts to planetary scale to equalize the disadvantage, thus destroying the nascent market. Furthermore, they see that you are not utilizing the resources of the planet efficiently nor wisely; even if they transfer technologies to the most technologically advanced faction to make it possible, the total quantity is insufficient to warrant trade. And they have to face issues of factions bickering/negotiations/fighting for a piece of action for years again.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2010
So, Earthlings, get your house in order. We won't talk again until you have one unified voice. We hope we will meet in person in 1,000 of your years. Hopefully, you will grow up by then. Otherwise Earth will just be a footnote in some third-rate xeno-archeologists who have nothing else to publish in the Galactic Archeology Journal. Sorry to say, by then the resources left on the planet probably worth f**k all to bother.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2010
To me the entire concept of "life" is false.

If you break all indisputably "living" organisms down to their ultimate basic interactions, we're simply a self continuing chemical reaction with incredible amounts of complexity. The fundamental difference between something "alive" and something "dead" is nothing more than how resistant to change it is over human timescales.

Well remove the last subjective piece of the puzzle (human timeframes) and what do you get? A entire system of interaction based on energy trading through chemistry.

Life, is not so special when you peel the layers of subjective reasoning away. In some respects the only requirement for life is free energy. Perhaps that's the truth of it. The Universe is alive, and we're simply an organelle comparitively.
That's not true. Life is more than mere chemical reactions. The proof is in the way life manipulates and changes its environment - changes which could not occur, without the presence of life.
fuzz54
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2010
Life is the solution to very high order differential equations. Once a lower life form emerges from chaos with the ability to mutate it makes complete sense to me that it would mutate towards the minima and maxima of the laws presented by the physical world. There really is nowhere else to go when a lifeform has to evolve towards a solution to spread its DNA. Failure just gives more time for surrounding organisms to get to a locally optimum genetic code.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
"Earthlings, we have contacted your Leaders long ago and shared with them exactly how to pacify their rauchous, undomesticated masses and gradually create order out of the chaos they found themselves hopelessly immersed in. The formula is simple: accept that conflict is inevitable. Divide the people up and set them against one another in an orderly and controlled fashion. Through constructive and beneficial warfare all true war is eliminated. Managed wars provide ways of attracting and eliminating all the uncontrollable individuals from society; this is the definition of domestication. As humans learned to domesticate animals, we have taught them to domesticate themselves..." etc.

Seriously, would our Leaders really need aliens to teach them the obvious? Study history with this in mind and you will see the Process which prepares us to take our place among the stars. There are never 'sides' in any conflict anymore; there is always only One Side...
droid001
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
If we do not find any life in Mars, then Paul Davies right. We are alone, or at least life incredible rare.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
If intelligent or potentially intelligent life exists,it is at one of two levels: much older and more advanced than us,or still evolving towards intelligence.The odds of any two cultures being at the same technological level must be astronomical.
The bottom line is that if advanced civilizations are out there,they know we are here,and have placed earth on a quarantine list,if only to prevent a collapse of our culture if they were to acknowledge their existence.For proof,look what happened to the indigenous cultures when Europeans arrived in North America.
otto1923
2 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2010
@Newbeak
So what makes you think you and I would know if we had been contacted? There are lots of major things going on on this planet which have been kept very effectively secret for decades if not centuries. A discrete, intelligent probe that knew better than to land on the white house lawn, is all that would be needed to announce their presence. Heck, a transmission at the proper time to the proper people would do it. They would be far better at analyzing our cultures and properly contacting us than we would be with them. I believe that if they're out there, then contact has already been made and the proper Agencies are benefiting from it. Much like precolumbian meso-American cultures were contacted by Phoenicians and Egyptians who were wise enough to keep their mutual existance secret, and so protect each other from disease and incursion. And to restrict trade of destabilizing drugs and precious metals to priests and rulers.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
You do know that cocaine and tobacco chemicals have been found in the tissues of Egyptian mummies, yes? Most likely places like macchu picchu were built as refuges for a priesthood who knew all about the coming invasions.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2010
Otto1923: I am not saying we have been contacted.I only suggested they know we are here,and have no interest in interacting directly with us.Would you attempt to make contact with the inhabitants of a termite mound? If what I am suggesting is true,we are too primitive and violent to communicate with,and are being quarantined until we reach a more peaceful and enlightened stage of development.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (4) Apr 19, 2010
Would you attempt to make contact with the inhabitants of a termite mound?

If I found them on Mars, hell yes I would.
otto1923
1 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2010
If what I am suggesting is true,we are too primitive and violent to communicate with,and are being quarantined until we reach a more peaceful and enlightened stage of development
More humanity denigration... Not so much offensive as boring. So 20th century. Time for a new paradigm...

What I am suggesting is that our violence as it exists today is constructive, and wholly intended to raise us from a primitive state to a state of technological and sociological competence. Violence is absolutely inevitable on an overcrowded world and our biology, coupled with our life-saving technologies, has made it so. A detailed study of the violence in the modern world with this in mind leads one to believe that it is designed, engineered, managed, to improve the human condition. The rewards of planned wars and revolutions are almost unimaginable; one must only imagine that Leaders on both sides of a conflict are actually serving one Authority in order to realize this.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
States are constructed, borders set, political philosophies exploited, Leaders installed, economies arranged, in order to effectively manage the conflict which would inevitably happen had this not been done.

The difference is that this conflict is controlled and all that is truly vital is preserved. Populations are managed and their quality is improved which has always been the natural result of competition. Resources are exploited and essential new technologies are developed out of dire necessity. The human store of knowledge, the most precious and irreplaceable thing we posess, is preserved and added to, while in the ancient past it had been destroyed time and again.

We always emerge from these conflicts stronger and more capable of protecting ourselves in a dangerous universe. This alone is compelling evidence that this Process exists.
Arkaleus
1 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Otto1923:

Only an alien system of ethics that puts no value on individual life would ever consider violence to be "constructive." Sounds like you've been taking civics from old fashioned human carnivores rather than stellar progenitors.

The emerging system of human oligarchy is NOT the result of progenitor ethics or star-culture wisdom. It's a animal system of carnage designed by animals to harvest local life for their own material purposes. Luciferian ethics like the one you espouse are from such animals.

Galactic progenitor ethics would promote evolution and proliferation, not enslavement and consumption. Their ways are peace, not violence. Liberty and intelligence is the fruit of peace and wisdom. The product of violence is slavery and terror, and it sounds like you've never really tasted it, Otto1923.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
I like how the article begins with SETI's search for extraterrestrial radio signals then veers off into speculations about the possibility of life elsewhere and the very nature of that life, including the philosophical implications et al. I think that SETI researchers are arrogant, for they assume that we should be able to detect intelligent radio signals from planets around other stars. Heck, we can't even detect radio signals from NASA probes, once they enter the Oort cloud.

First we should prove to ourselves that the relatively weak radio signals transmitted from extra stellar probes can even be detected by Earth bound receiving stations by dedicating a mission to send one out into the Oort cloud for just that purpose. The little specks of light that we see as stars originate from extremely energetic sources. What makes anyone think that we could detect a four watt radio signal from even the nearest neighbor star? Egads, we are naive.
otto1923
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Only an alien system of ethics that puts no value on individual life would ever consider violence to be "constructive."
If violence is INEVITABLE and absolutely unavoidable then the only humane thing to do would be to try to control it so as not to lose what is truly VITAL, as has so often happened in the past. Your xian pseudoethics have blinded you to reality. Those who take it upon themselves to do this value humanity above all, and know just how important it is to keep it from self-destructing.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
Galactic progenitor ethics would promote evolution and proliferation, not enslavement and consumption. Their ways are peace, not violence. Liberty and intelligence is the fruit of peace and wisdom. The product of violence is slavery and terror, and it sounds like you've never really tasted it, Otto1923.

Quite idealistic and entirely inaccurate.

Simply look at what we do. We don't saddle life for it to thrive, we saddle it so that we may attach tools for exploitation and utilization to our own self beneficial ends. A "Galatic Progentitor" may have seeded this planet so that it could mine the carbon from the Earth. Our electrical generation does that quite well, and it is literally programmed into us to exploit whatever resources we can for self benefit.

Perhaps our God is another being, and perhaps he made us in his image to perform his bidding. If such intelligence exists, stating that intelligence must be benevolent and loving is idiocy of the highest order.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
Their ways are peace, not violence. Liberty and intelligence is the fruit of peace and wisdom.
You have the impression that life on this planet is somehow normal and natural. I say Humanity has existed in dire crisis mode ever since the advent of agriculture and before.

Every advance in technology threatens civilization by allowing populations to grow faster and surge farther above that threshold of instability. Technological advance is essential. Consumption drives it. But humanity is inextricably locked in cycles of growth, decay, collapse, and rebirth; and the only way to ensure that there is net GAIN in this equation, and that entropy is overcome, is to Plan it, Direct it, Manage it, and see that it turns out the way you want it to. There is simply no other way, and no other convincing way of explaining the world as it exists today.

You are the one who claims humans are nothing but animals. I believe there are a Few who have managed to rise above this.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
We don't saddle life for it to thrive, we saddle it so that we may attach tools for exploitation and utilization to our own self beneficial ends.
Obviously, our self-benefit is the continued healthy functioning of our environment.
Perhaps our God is another being
Careful sh, humans can serve quite well as their own Saviors. Perhaps inventing gods is one way of facilitating this.
norwegian
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
The energy consumed sending something between the stars at high speed, would lead one to think that whatever is sent, would have very little mass. Once arriving at its destination, it would most likely have the ability to replicate. Sending a Pioneer is a waste of effort, compared to spraying trillions of spores into the galaxy. Why communicate when you can populate? Also, communicating can be counter productive, when others are trying to seed habitable worlds. Maybe the silence implies we're just unique in our stupidity...
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
otto 1923:

"What I am suggesting is that our violence as it exists today is constructive, and wholly intended to raise us from a primitive state to a state of technological and sociological competence".
Up until WWII,that way of thinking had a great deal of validity.After WWII,wars between nuclear armed states will result in wiping out most of the technological progress to date. Think I am exaggerating? In a full scale nuke exchange,most of the world's tech expertise would be lost,along with most records.
Part of the loss would be due to the lack of medical care,with hospitals and doctors largely obliterated,leaving millions of badly injured seeking help from overwhelmed surviving health care workers.Modern civilization as we know it would collapse,leaving only isolated pockets of people struggling with basic survival.
otto1923
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
wars between nuclear armed states will result in wiping out most of the technological progress to date.
Hasnt happened yet has it? The cold war was a sham. There never was a threat of nuclear war. The most powerful triad in history assured that. But the supposed threat enabled the expenditure of untold trillions to produce 5000 tons of the most valuable and useful materials a species at our stage of development can possess. Fissionables will enable the colonization of the inner system, and allow for quick action now in the event of unforeseen calamity.

This phoney mutual threat also put us in space and gave us a computer-based infrastructure, among many many other vital advancements. Controlled competition. Communism/capitalism. Two sides/one coin. Future gens will be thanking us for our foresight.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
Regardless of war, famine, destruction, overpopulation, or peace and prosperity, technology has proceeded forward at an ever steady rate.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
Regardless of war, famine, destruction, overpopulation, or peace and prosperity, technology has proceeded forward at an ever steady rate.
Only when it has had to. Why try something new when youre belly is full and you can sit around making babies all day? People will only try to find a better way when they are compelled to- from competition with natural or man-made forces. Its called externalized evolution. You know, the thing that ended in the US auto industry in the 60s.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
otto1923:

"The cold war was a sham. There never was a threat of nuclear war".
No threat of nuclear war? Have you been living under some rock? Have you ever heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis? See:http://en.wikiped...e_Crisis
There are other examples you can easily find with a Google search.
The competition you think is required to keep humanity striving can come from the fight against global warming,which promises to be a destabilizing force on a global scale.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2010
Would you attempt to make contact with the inhabitants of a termite mound?

If I found them on Mars, hell yes I would.

So you admit it! It is petrified wood! :)

http://www.physor...913.html
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
@newbeak
The Cuban missile crisis was staged to remind the west of just who the 'enemy' was and what they were capable of. We hadn't tangled with the soviets in any meaningful way since Korea, and the Vietnam war was about to begin in earnest. The US public needed a demonstration of why it needed to support another war on the other side of the planet.

Like I say wars are Planned. This includes preparation, to the extent that both Korea and Vietnam were politically divided (as in the Union and Confederacy) north and south to create adversaries. "Divide the people and set them against one another"- it's in the Book of Enoch. They've had lots of practice with this sort of thing.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2010
Only when it has had to. Why try something new when youre belly is full and you can sit around making babies all day? People will only try to find a better way when they are compelled to- from competition with natural or man-made forces. Its called externalized evolution. You know, the thing that ended in the US auto industry in the 60s.


No, technology always has progressed. It may not follow the same track each time but our technological sophistication follows Moore's Law perfectly. When you don't need more sophisticated image techniques for weaponry, you'll need them for art and entertainment. When you can grow enough food to feed your family, you now want bigger and better leisure items.

Technology always advances, because there is always a reason to advance technology.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
Technology always advances
This appears the case because the human race has been forced into competition due to overpop for so long, and the efforts to advance tech in useful ways began a few millenia ago. Before then, unremittant tribal warfare reigned for a million years with only minor advances in weaponry and tactics, which we could observe until recently in Africa and the availability of Kalashnikovs and cheap machetes.

Tech devt has been far from steady. In places like china where the use of gunpowder was halted, and Europe in the middle ages, and in the ottoman empire just to name a few, it didnt progress. I believe it was intentionally suppressed because the world was being conquered by Design, and true Leaders were in agreement as to how, and when, and why one culture or another needed to be given the upper hand.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
Dangerous tech developed before it's Time or in the hands of the unworthy can be catastrophic militarily, economically, culturally. Development and release has to be strictly controlled to maintain Stability and Progress, just as populations do.
@newbeak
McCarthyism served the same purpose as the CMC for the Korean war. There were absolutely communists in govt, universities, and Hollywood, placed there (or unwitting dupes enticed for the purpose). McCarthys secondary message, now lost in the pall of efforts to discredit him, was the need to support the Korean war. After the first year of that war it faded from the media, and the slaughter began. 2-3 million Asians died, and not one public building was left standing in the north. Dams were bombed and a million more starved. Victory. We didn't hear from them for another 50 years.
http://www.google...;q=stage
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2010
otto1923: You obviously have your own theory of how the world works.I don't buy into a world controlled by the Illuminati or their fellow travellers.I do believe nation's actions are based on their own self-interest,and may not be immediately made public. Governments are run by ordinary people who are quite capable of acts of enormous stupidity,which can result in disaster for the rest of us. My point was,and still is,that by design or otherwise,a major nuclear war would be the last war fought by modern nation states.
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
Enormous stupidity can be of enormous use. Same with greed, pride, fear. The Clue is: these People are benevolent. They're acting out of sheer desperation and an overarching desire to preserve and maintain the Best this world can produce. They're pretty clever too. And they think BIG. They're the Good Guys. Doesn't matter who They are. It matters only what They do and Why.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
otto1923: So you don't believe these benevolent People would allow the outbreak of a thermonuclear war? Dude,it's time they put you back in your padded cell for the night..
otto1923
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
The only way a nuclear war would happen on this planet would be to prevent something worse.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
I rest my case..
Arkaleus
1 / 5 (1) Apr 28, 2010
Otto1923,

No individuals or groups have that kind of control. There are those who are trying to do so have fooled a large number of people that they can. Their attempt to form a hidden system of collusion away from public awareness was not fully successful. They tried to sneak their way into a centralized global authority structure, but clearly their founding members lack any real genius and their successors are even more degenerate.

Their reign promises to be very short, since their authority derives from the temporary illusion of competence. Natural processes and the consequences of the real will destroy their illusions of control because they rely upon deception and force.

Look at the other attempts to build a global empire. All of them failed and caused destruction. The latest iteration of "total control" is just the same philosophy trying to hide from the public. It will fail the same as the others before it.
RobertKLR
1 / 5 (1) May 14, 2010
The search for life elsewhere seems to rely on faith and wishful thinking as much as anything else. Faith based science? ... aka religion.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet May 14, 2010
The search for life elsewhere seems to rely on faith and wishful thinking as much as anything else. Faith based science? ... aka religion.

No, it relies on mathematics and probability.

If life arose here, and there are so many trillions of planets and environments in which life could potentially arise elsewhere, by the law of large numbers the probability that we are alone is less than the probability that we are not alone. Therefore, there is a greater degree of certainty that life exists elsewhere in the Universe than that we're alone.

If you can't follow that, go back to your Bible study.