The implications of cosmic silence

August 11, 2017 by Bob Whitby
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The universe is incomprehensibly vast, with billions of other planets circling billions of other stars. The potential for intelligent life to exist somewhere out there should be enormous.

So, where is everybody?

That's the Fermi paradox in a nutshell. Daniel Whitmire, a retired astrophysicist who teaches mathematics at the University of Arkansas, once thought the cosmic silence indicated we as a lagged far behind.

"I taught astronomy for 37 years," said Whitmire. "I used to tell my students that by statistics, we have to be the dumbest guys in the galaxy. After all we have only been technological for about 100 years while other civilizations could be more technologically advanced than us by millions or billions of years."

Recently, however, he's changed his mind. By applying a statistical concept called the principle of mediocrity – the idea that in the absence of any evidence to the contrary we should consider ourselves typical, rather than atypical – Whitmire has concluded that instead of lagging behind, our species may be average. That's not good news.

In a paper published Aug. 3 in the International Journal of Astrobiology, Whitmire argues that if we are typical, it follows that species such as ours go extinct soon after attaining technological knowledge. (The paper is also available on Whitmire's website.)

The argument is based on two observations: We are the first technological species to evolve on Earth, and we are early in our technological development. (He defines "technological" as a biological species that has developed electronic devices and can significantly alter the planet.)

The first observation seems obvious, but as Whitmire notes in his paper, researchers believe the Earth should be habitable for animal life at least a billion years into the future. Based on how long it took proto-primates to evolve into a technological species, that leaves enough time for it to happen again up to 23 times. On that time scale, there could have been others before us, but there's nothing in the geologic record to indicate we weren't the first. "We'd leave a heck of a fingerprint if we disappeared overnight," Whitmire noted.

By Whitmire's definition we became "technological" after the industrial revolution and the invention of radio, or roughly 100 years ago. According to the principle of mediocrity, a bell curve of the ages of all extant technological civilizations in the universe would put us in the middle 95 percent. In other words, technological civilizations that last millions of years, or longer, would be highly atypical. Since we are first, other typical technological civilizations should also be first. The principle of mediocrity allows no second acts. The implication is that once species become technological, they flame out and take the biosphere with them.

Whitmire argues that the principle holds for two standard deviations, or in this case about 200 years. But because the distribution of ages on a bell curve skews older (there is no absolute upper limit, but the age can't be less than zero), he doubles that figure and comes up with 500 years, give or take. The assumption of a bell-shaped curve is not absolutely necessary. Other assumptions give roughly similar results.

There's always the possibility that we are atypical and our species' lifespan will fall somewhere in the outlying 5 percent of the bell curve. If that's the case, we're back to the nugget of wisdom Whitmire taught his astronomy students for more than three decades.

"If we're not typical then my initial observation would be correct," he said. "We would be the dumbest guys in the galaxy by the numbers."

Explore further: Starring Intelligent Aliens

More information: Daniel P. Whitmire. Implication of our technological species being first and early, International Journal of Astrobiology (2017). DOI: 10.1017/S1473550417000271

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dogbert
4 / 5 (3) Aug 11, 2017
We tend to think that because there many stars with many planets, life must have appeared on many worlds and intelligent life can be expected to be abundant. But there is no reason to make such assumptions. We have found life in only this solar system and only on this world. A single insurance provides no basis for probability projection.

It certainly could be that there are many worlds with intelligent species and they may all destroy themselves after becoming technological. Our there could be many civilizations millions of years old and we are dumb as a rock in comparison.

It could also be that life is rare or even a unique development and we will never find it anywhere else.

Speculation is fun, but the lack of data supporting life elsewhere is not encouraging.
Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2017
Maybe the religionists are correct and life only exists here, cause it says so, in their holy book. No crazier than supposing Tabby's Star is a sign of ET builders.
Korvic
5 / 5 (4) Aug 11, 2017
@dogbert that lack of data, is due to lack of our technology to find proof, much different than having access to all regions of the universe and the tech, and then not finding anything. Speculation does encourage our desire to create tech that will find life.
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (5) Aug 11, 2017
but there's nothing in the geologic record to indicate we weren't the first.

Thinking about an advanced species that evolved before us and then left...wouldn't they erase all their traces in order not to 'contaminate' any second civilization that develops? Or wouldn't they have 'intelligent buildings' that can maintain themselves and would realize that they are no longer needed and then deconstruct of their own?

As for 'where is everyone': IMO the Fermi paradox seems to have major flaws: It posits that spacefaring intelligences (i.e. intelligences that can directly interact with each other) don't interact with each other. It posits that they don't comunicate and maybe come to an agreement to leave primitives alone.
And furthermore it fails to take into account that *contact* -as opposed to simply observation- with primitives is of absolutely no interest or value to such intelligences.
katesisco
3 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2017
Well, looking at our history, the SF writers got it right. Magnificent bloom followed by rapid decay. Since we have yet to come to grips with the magnetic forces at our doorstep, one might suppose that evolved life is magnetic plasma.
eachus
2 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2017
We have left signs that will be visible for billions of years. (Space missions in solar orbits or to the outer planets and Apollo debris on the moon--six decent stages plus all the cameras and other surplus weight the astronauts tossed under them, like very nice cameras.) Is it probable that we would have noticed such relics from an earlier spacefaring race on earth? Sure. We are finally getting to the point where archaeologists and others are exploring underwater ruins that extend human civilization back into the last Ice Age. Finding ruins on the moon (or for that matter Mars) would be much easier. We have photographed both in detail from orbit. Of course, something could be covered by the ice caps.

As for applying statistics, the right kind of statistics to use is non-parametric statistics in particular order statistics. I won't go into details, but they say that the probability that another species reached our level in this galaxy is near zero.

Osiris1
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 11, 2017
Maybe our neighbors have better communication technology. Maybe a cousin to Star Trek's 'subspace radio' actually exists. In ships traveling through to void to and from trading partners among other stars. WE, our Chinese humans to be more precise, are developing quantum communication devices that do not rely on space or time or the kind of power we know about. Their signals are instantaneous back and forth that could give a rat's arze about 'c', 'd', 'e', or 'f' whatever. That sticks a large middle finger to the eye of those who assume out of ignorance that radio is the only way to go. If we are gonna talk to our neighbors, maybe we 'oughta do our talking in a way that is does not take eons for our message to get there. Hey, apes in zoos talk too, but nobody but anthropologists like Dr Leakey listen to them. In that way, those aliens within 100 LY + 0r - probably consider us semi-intelligent primitives prone to self destruction so send only exobiolists to study us.
Steelwolf
not rated yet Aug 11, 2017
It may well turn out that radio signals, such as ours, denotes a level of communications technology of such a low range, by the ET scale, as to equal what Jungle Drum or Smoke Signal communication level is in Our tech-based world.
rrwillsj
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2017
Everybody, including the writers and editors of this article have been carefully avoiding the answer to the Paradox.

Every bit and bite and byte of our technological development has been propelled by military necessity. Out of our intransigent violence comes "progress".

And, there is no reason to think that every other evolving biology is not compelled by natural selection. There is no reason to believe that any sentient species will not make exactly the same errors of bad judgement for which we are infamous.

As Necessity is the Mother of Invention... So Desperation is the Evil Step-Mother of Atrocity!

However, I also opinionate that this Universe is too early in it's existence for life and especially the development of intelligent life, to be very common. Perhaps in another hundred billion years or so? Maybe, by then?
tpb
3 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2017
We aren't deliberately transmitting anything detectable at any significant distance.
It is all buried in the noise floor.
We are really only listening, not deliberately transmitting.
What if no one else is transmitting anything, and only listening ?
Listening is cheap.
I can't imagine any of our governments or private groups that would be willing to fund multiple directional high power transmitters for thousands of years. I'm talking gigawatt's of power.
If we aren't doing it, why would we expect that anyone else is.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2017
Thinking about an advanced species that evolved before us and then left...wouldn't they erase all their traces in order not to 'contaminate' any second civilization that develops?
nice for a science fiction story, but not feasible for a civilisation that progresses through technology

you can mask a signal, and you can use common noise to create signals with chaotic patterns, but how would they have destroyed all their transmitted signals?

it's hard to believe that they would progress fast enough to the utilisation of the EM for signaling, but never go through any process of transmission to test... especially before moving on to something superior that doesn't require as much noise or ...whatever...

removal of physical evidence like buildings might be possible, but then again, scope and spread come into play, along with other potential arguments (like prior search and or expansion)
IronhorseA
not rated yet Aug 11, 2017
"The principle of mediocrity allows no second acts. The implication is that once species become technological, they flame out and take the biosphere with them."

But what statistics is this based on. Although the Dark Ages might provide a guideline, its not the same as a measured 'flame out' when it comes to quality statistics. Anything else is simply guessing.
eachus
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2017
We aren't deliberately transmitting anything detectable at any significant distance.
It is all buried in the noise floor.


Most of the high-energy focused transmissions we were making are gone now, but there are a few left, and at frequencies where even the cosmic background is low.

I personally don't believe that Alcubierre warp drives will make faster-than-light (FTL) travel possible. I do believe however, that a near light speed version is just a lot of engineering away. If other species are limited to similar speeds, sending (uncreatured) probes out to find radio bubbles around other civilizations would be a practical technique for SETI. Otherwise the first race to develop interstellar travel gets to inhabit as many planets in the galaxy as they want in about 60,000 years. I just hope it is us, since the alternative is wiping ourselves out. (It is also possible that two or more species that don't like the same planets will agree to share a galaxy.)
tblakely1357
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2017
So far current planetary discoveries makes a stable, hospitable planet capable of hosting life, much less intelligent life, an increasingly rare phenomena.
eachus
not rated yet Aug 11, 2017
But what statistics is this based on. Although the Dark Ages might provide a guideline, its not the same as a measured 'flame out' when it comes to quality statistics. Anything else is simply guessing.


There have been many catastrophic extinctions in the history of Earth. It may be that the collision which formed the moon may have wiped out early life on Earth. If it did, it is the only extinction which succeeded in doing that. (The eruption of the Siberian Traps came close.) I think that by the time the human race is capable of that level of violence, we will have spread to other planets. Nuclear war wiping out civilization? Remotely possible. Wiping out the human race? Very unlikely. All life on Earth? A joke. Nanotechnology resulting in gray goo? Think of plants as green goo, and humans as pink goo to get the right perspective. There are physical limits on any form of "goo," and given those limits, we haven't beaten all plants into submission yet.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2017
sending (uncreatured) probes out to find radio bubbles around other civilizations would be a practical technique for SETI.


..or an early species may have just seeded every star system with a monitoring probe and allows all spacefaring races to hook up with their network...which eliminates the need for each species to do their own exploring. As I noted earlier: if species stumble accross each other out there they'll likely try to talk with one another.

The Fermi paradox acts as if that wouldn't happen and that all spacefaring species act as if none of the others existed. I find this an untenable premise.

but how would they have destroyed all their transmitted signals

Same way we are doing: The first ones were too weak to be noticeable -even by theoretically ideal amplifiiers- beyond a 2 light year radius. All current ones are directed where intended and do not create any wasted noise that can be picked up.
snoosebaum
not rated yet Aug 11, 2017
matter is predisposed to produce ' us ' , at the very least matter that can examine itself . That is at least something wonderful .

Ok, but we end with the rise of marxist social justice warriors
jamespinkney71
not rated yet Aug 11, 2017
What are You looking. For you can't find how.you Get. Here. From. Space. you can't even solve. The. problem you. Get. Here on earth
Vidyaguy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2017
Of course, it is possible to write another short story based upon the decrease below reproductive replacement rate that is already a fact in the US, Japan, and much of the EU. Because, with highly-advanced technology comes the realization that reproduction is not really important vs self-satisfaction. And, with technology and emphasis on self, alternative means of satisfying the pleasure principle become available and marketable. Perhaps the psychological template needed to claim territory and reproductive rights, fight wars, gloriously breed, and climb to dizzying technological heights is simply orthogonal to the societal stasis that is approached with guaranteed incomes, genetic remastering, and zero-growth population. Is it possible that, without challenge, we (and other civilizations elsewhere, climbing the same evolutionary ladder) simply and willingly become pleasurably extinct?
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 11, 2017
@AAP
Same way we are doing: The first ones were too weak to be noticeable -even by theoretically ideal amplifiiers- beyond a 2 light year radius. All current ones are directed where intended and do not create any wasted noise that can be picked up
but that is being smart with focused transmissions to insure the best possible result - that is a big difference from "erase all their traces"

offered IMHO only, and coming from the perspective of dealing with forensics, i don't see them being able to erase all their traces, especially from a technological civilisation that has taken the time to invest in trace evidence and it's meaning

they can make it hard to find, but they can't erase it

in point of fact, the very act of trying to erase it will leave evidence that can be traced, especially if it requires any kind of Type II or greater power availability
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2017
but that is being smart with focused transmissions to insure the best possible result - that is a big difference from "erase all their traces"

Well, as noted: 2 years after they stop transmitting by radio no one will ever be able to find out. Those kinds of traces will erase themselves. If we posit good scanning abilities (e.g. being able to scan the top 100 meters of soil to, say, half a centimeter resolution then they can easily identify any potential traces of 'inert' stuff they would leave behind and remove them. I don't find such capabilities totally implausible.

in point of fact, the very act of trying to erase it will leave evidence that can be traced,

How so? We're dealing with that can potentially dissociate matter at atomic levels. An atom of hydrogen or carbon that once belonged to a structure doesn't look much diferent from one that is part of dirt. I find atomic scale printing/dissociation is also not that implausible as future tech goes.
philstacy9
1 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2017
"potential for intelligent life"
There is also the potential for stupid life. Stupid life is the vast majority of humanity which, organized by political or religious ideologies, produces static stupid cultures like those currently erasing western civilization on earth. The bottom of alien bell curves may spend resources for religion, music, dance moves and sports rather than science.
nrauhauser
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
I suggest Charles Stross as the best science fiction writer to offer some plausible futures in this area. Instead of star ships, "star wisps" - tiny probes driven to enormous velocities by ground based systems, able to reach significant ratios of c carrying AIs that explore for us.

There are problems with the physics but I don't think we're getting out of our gravity well, let alone the solar system, with the bodies we have now.
BradJensen
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
The questions that we should be asking are, how far away could we detect our own civilization at its present technological state. In other words, if we were on a star 25 light years from Earth, could we tell that there is a technological civilization on Earth?

I'm not sure if we could, and that is right next door. There could be thousands of advanced civilizations in our galaxy alone, and we have no way at present to detect any of them.

In the next hundred thousand years, we could send thousands of robot probes with digitally encoded dna to every starsystem that has a free oxygen planet in a habitable zone, and implant human societies on them. Of course, many of them could have their own intelligent species on them.

While the probe was waiting for the civilization to develop on one planet, it could clone itself a thousand times and send out more probes in every direction.

It might take 50 million years to fill up the galaxy with probes.

BradJensen
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
We are located way out on a spiral arm of our galaxy, where stars are few and far between. Everyone is busy farming the rich bottom lands of the galactic core.
ChemRam
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
DAMN, if this guy's second assertion is correct that once a civilization becomes technological it could take the whole biosphere down with them, then it seems like the earth is in for a ride as our species pollutes like no other. Humans are rapidly disrupting the earth's energy state that it is very likely that some major disaster will happen anytime between now and the end of the century that might end up wiping life from the earth for good.
abreauj
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
The principle of mediocrity is a useful guideline, but it's not a natural law.

The earliest stars in the universe had no heavy elements, and their solar systems presumably could not have contained any earth-like planets. The heavier elements had to be cooked up in enormous stars and then spewed out when those stars became supernovas. and it must have taken a lot of time and an enormous number of supernovas for the density of those heavy elements to increase to the point where earth-like planets could become common.

We know for sure that when our solar system formed, almost 5 billion years ago when the universe was about 9 billion years old, the density was high enough to form earth-like planets. Given that, it's entirely possible that our galaxy is teeming with intelligent creatures with technological civilizations, but we just happen to be the first such civilization advanced enough to have developed radio. At least, the first within the distance we can currently observe.
ThomasQuinn
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
Is it really so unreasonable to assume that, within a reasonable range our solar system, say, 100-200 light years or so, we are an early bloomer?

I mean, the further away they are, the harder it would be to detect other intelligent civilizations (and for them to detect us). Detecting them in other galaxies seems extremely unlikely, and even within our galaxy, a few hundred light years away is an extreme distance to make observations of something as comparatively small as a planetary civilization.

For a (far) more advanced civilization to detect us would require them to pick up hints of our existence. I don't think we've been giving those off in a way that could be detected from really long distances, if you weren't looking in exactly the right place at the right time and *knowing* what you were looking for, for more than a few decades, maybe a century max.

I think we're just thinking in time-frames that are too small. We've just arrived and just started looking.
sirdumpalot
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
Thing is if civilizations stop being biological at some point, then it only takes one advanced electronic whatnot lifeform to spread itself to every planet in the galaxy even at 1% light speed. I just think if there is any super advanced stuff, we are like North Sentinel Island - don't touch the fuckers cause they throw spears. The more a species knows, the more equanimity it will gain about things too, so will be less likely to reach out.
thingumbobesquire
Aug 12, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Gigel
5 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2017
Maybe the religionists are correct and life only exists here, cause it says so, in their holy book.

I don't think it says so.
Gigel
5 / 5 (3) Aug 12, 2017
Every bit and bite and byte of our technological development has been propelled by military necessity. Out of our intransigent violence comes "progress".

I don't think it is so, even nearly so. Agriculture was developed in time for completely different reasons. Art, culture, writing, architecture, the industrial revolution, general relativity theory etc. etc. have very little or nothing military at their roots.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
"So, where is everybody?"

-The answer is obvious. At some point all techno civilizations collapse into machines with no desire and no need to be communicating with biolife.
then it only takes one advanced electronic whatnot lifeform to spread itself to every planet in the galaxy even at 1% light speed
Yeah and why would they ever want to do that? First off singularities are probably dotted throughout the galaxy and spreading would impinge on their neighbors.

Singularities wouldn't need to evolve through competition. They wouldn't need to reproduce. And they would be concerned with consuming as little as possible to enable them to survive as long as possible.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
That's 'collapse into machine singularities'.

Is anyone else having lag problems with this page?
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
In other words, if we were on a star 25 light years from Earth, could we tell that there is a technological civilization on Earth?

Not by radio emisions. There are interesting ideas for looking for changes in atmospheric composition that are likely associated with life. We're not quite there, yet, but that seems promising (at least for detecting civilizations that are in the 'globally polluting' phase...which is necessarily a rather short one, because it either ends with the civ wising up or destroying itself in short order.)

In the next hundred thousand years, we could send thousands of robot probes with digitally encoded dna to every starsystem that has a free oxygen planet in a habitable zone

And why should we do that? Makes no sense to me.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
We are a technological civilization for a very short time and developing rapidly. That necessarily makes us very atypical currently. If there is life out there, then it is either not intelligent or vastly more intelligent and capable than us.

Now imagine a galaxy filled with several very advanced civilizations (compared to us). How would they communicate? First thing to realize is that their signal detection / observation abilities would be extremely sensitive. Think an interferometer spanning an entire star system, or something like that. That is the default receiver they will build a transmitter/beacon for. Not for us.

Also, any such civilization has probably catalogued every planet in the galaxy long ago. I dont think the Earth is a secret, at the very least they know we are a habitable planet with life due to oxygen. You cannot hide that.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
How would they communicate?

Firtsly by means of something that does not waste one erg of energy on anything but the intended purpose. I.e. having a message read by the recipient..which in turn means it will be completely undetectable and indecipherable by anyone but the recipient.

hink an interferometer spanning an entire star system

The above would lead me to the conclusion that the recipient mechanism would be very, very small (maybe a single atom). A megastructure speaks of extremely wasteful transmission and low techological development (think about how transmitters and antennae on Earth have grown ever better AND smaller at the same time)

at the very least they know we are a habitable planet with life due to oxygen.

Oxygen isn't a necessity for life. But I agree - you cannot hide the Earth. At the same time: why would want to? To such an advanced species we're totally uninteresting (save as a bird may be to birdwatchers).
Gigel
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
Maybe they got out of time. They may be living in an eternal present, appearing as frozen in a past moment of time, in reality living more fully than us.

Or maybe they just went into the past, deciding that the Universe immediately after the Big Bang is the perfect place to live in. Maybe there are billions of civilizations, all of them living at the same time, just before the inflationary period.
Eikka
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
Is it possible that, without challenge, we (and other civilizations elsewhere, climbing the same evolutionary ladder) simply and willingly become pleasurably extinct?


Possibly, but "willingly" depends on your definition, as there will be variation in the species and always some who wish to keep reproducing.

Then it comes down to philosophy - you need to have a specific death wish to wipe your own species out like that - destroying all the dissidents first and then yourself - because there's no fundamental moral as to why you shouldn't let the others live as they please since you're going to crawl up into some virtual pleasure cave and dissapear - what do you care what they do afterwards?

Likewise, what do you care if other species find your remnants after you've already ascended to the stars? Why is it important that they're not "contaminated"? That brings up some strange assumptions about the psychology and motivations of the species.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017

Firtsly by means of something that does not waste one erg of energy on anything but the intended purpose. I.e. having a message read by the recipient..which in turn means it will be completely undetectable and indecipherable by anyone but the recipient.


The paradox of diminishing returns would dictate that this would not be the case, as the attempt to such perfectly efficient transmission would itself cost a whole bunch of resources and time (!) to achieve. Such means may also be efficient at the cost of being highly ineffective, such as having unusably low data rates, so that a compromize must be made to get anything done.

It's like a heat engine. You get efficiency or power, not both at the same time. Approaching the perfect heat engine has the compromize of smaller and smaller energy transfer, such that it eventually becomes totally useless, so any practical heat engine can never be ideally efficient.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
Compare with ion/plasma rockets: you get very low specific fuel consumption but you also get very low specific thrust, so it takes forever to accelerate a spacecraft to reasonable speeds. If you want to get there faster, or move bigger masses, you have to sacrifice efficiency.

Likewise, a hypothetical spacefaring civilization doesn't have an infinity of time on their hands - something needs to happen within the lifespan of this universe: they need to work relatively quickly to have managed to build their massive infrastructures and communication/transportation networks that span the stars. If it takes 5 billion years to evolve into an intelligence, and then a few thousand years to figure out space flight, they're in a heck of a hurry.

To build all that they must be moving astronomical amounts of mass and energy. The faster they do it, the less efficiently they're doing it, and the more energy should be spilling over to be detected.

So where is it?
rrwillsj
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
Okey-dokey Captain Whizbang, let's (imagine?)(wish?)(fantasize?) that there are other worlds out thereabouts, inhabited by anything we might consider sentient and intelligent.

Ipso problematico that in such an improbability would mean habitable worlds even vaguely similar to Earth, would be as common as dirt. In such a comic-book cosmos, why would any intelligent species waste their time contacting or visiting us?

In such a fantasy universe, the only ones specifically seeking us out, would be just as stupid as Homo Sapiens. Just as arrogant in their superiority over 'primitive' species. Just as entitled to affluenza and self-destructive as we are.

And I doubt they would be any less incompetent than Humans to not have destroyed their own biosphere and murdered thir own species.

I'm calling the next hundred years, The Matricide.
Eikka
not rated yet Aug 12, 2017
A megastructure speaks of extremely wasteful transmission and low techological development (think about how transmitters and antennae on Earth have grown ever better AND smaller at the same time)


That statement is in abject ignorance of a lot of the physics that goes into radio transmissions.

The antennae aren't "better", the operating frequencies have gone up so the same half or quarter wavelenght antenna is proportionally smaller. The transmission speeds have gone up thanks to a denser network of transmitters that provide more powerful signals to smaller areas, and better signal processing, which costs more energy.

From 2G to 4G the energy consumption of cellular radios has gone up nearly 50%, and every time there's a generation upgrade, a concern is raised that the backup power availability at the network side is diminished because the infrastructure uses more power.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
Ipso problematico that in such an improbability would mean habitable worlds even vaguely similar to Earth, would be as common as dirt. In such a comic-book cosmos, why would any intelligent species waste their time contacting or visiting us?
@rrwillsj
that one's easy: we have dark chocolate AND duct tape
Victorious D
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
It may well turn out that radio signals, such as ours, denotes a level of communications technology of such a low range, by the ET scale, as to equal what Jungle Drum or Smoke Signal communication level is in Our tech-based world.


This is where my mind drifts to immediately. Our technologies are all incipient; even among what we consider advanced our understanding is in its infancy. Our considerations mean nothing on a galactic, universal scale. Our measuring sticks are probably useless.

I like to imagine just like we've developed the Internet, there are higher networks of communication beyond our grasp.
ThomasQuinn
5 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2017
Ipso problematico that in such an improbability would mean habitable worlds even vaguely similar to Earth, would be as common as dirt. In such a comic-book cosmos, why would any intelligent species waste their time contacting or visiting us?
@rrwillsj
that one's easy: we have dark chocolate AND duct tape


Isn't that the premise of Scientology? Aliens came here, duct-taped their enemies and threw them into volcanoes from DC-10s, stole all our chocolate and left?
manfredparticleboard
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
I can't help bring up the elephant in the room, the overwhelming number of sightings and footage of controlled objects that defy our current technology are not a collective work of hoaxes and delusions. The admissions and accounts of high level professionals and officials as well as joe public across the globe make it fairly hard to be anything other than what it looks like. Highly advanced civillisations do come here and actively avoid our interaction.

There has to be some bad data in the set but it's gone on too long with too many witnesses and too many sham explanations in the face of astounding evidence. I remained skeptical for as long as I could on this one, I find it harder and harder to continue to play the alternative explanations exist option.

rrwillsj
5 / 5 (2) Aug 13, 2017
uhhnn, mfpb if repetition of stories is what you consider defining proof? Please do not volunteer for jury duty.

I f I understand your contention correctly? You are claiming that there has to be BEM-LGM visitors based solely on comic-books and fairy-tales to provide excuses for hungover malingers arriving to work late...Again!

Cursed anal-probe happy aliens!
Gigel
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
Compare with ion/plasma rockets: you get very low specific fuel consumption but you also get very low specific thrust, so it takes forever to accelerate a spacecraft to reasonable speeds. If you want to get there faster, or move bigger masses, you have to sacrifice efficiency.

Or just use generators with humongous power. A 1 TW electrical generator can power an engine with high efficiency and moderately high thrust.

Also, it may not be efficient to use inertial propulsion. Maybe some form of hypothetical wormhole / Alcubierre drive or something else we may have no idea of may be better for space travel.
Gigel
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
Highly advanced civillisations do come here and actively avoid our interaction.

No, they don't - and they are not what they seem. They just avoid revealing themselves, that's all. Those things play a game of "see me - I'm not here" with us. They don't avoid us, on the contrary they used to jump in front of us quite a lot. But they just leave the question mark there.

That is precisely what they want to do: pick our interest and hide away before we have a chance to understand what they are.

If you ask me, those "alien" sightings and abductions are some of the best proofs we have that demons are real. Call it far fetched, inappropriate for a science site or what else you'd think of it, but I say clearly: we'd better stay away from those monsters. They smell evil. Not smart, just plain evil.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
@manfred
There has to be some bad data in the set but it's gone on too long with too many witnesses and too many sham explanations in the face of astounding evidence. I remained skeptical for as long as I could on this one, I find it harder and harder to continue to play the alternative explanations exist option
i hate to be the bearer of bad news but that is the exact reason (and very specific excuse, rationale or whatever you want to call it) for the proliferation of religion, pseudoscience, conspiracy theorists and worse on this planet

so long as one can provide a plausible interpretation of events that they can convince others of, while pointing to a history of others who believe, then many people consider this "evidence"

this is in no way representative of "astounding evidence", however

astounding evidence would be any object that is made from a material that can be physically tested and proven to not be of earth origin

none exists at all to date
grondilu
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
Isn't that the good old doomsday argument?
dougp50
5 / 5 (1) Aug 13, 2017
One explanation might be, that intelligence already exist out there, but we do not realize it, simply because we can only define it in human terms and cannot think in any other way.
baudrunner
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
I think the reason that we assume that we must be the only intelligent life in the universe is that we of Earth are a species of independent thinkers who have overcome the oppression of totalitarian rule and the suppression of the means wherewith to express our individuality and freedoms the way we want. Human nature being what it is, it is most likely that most human species of intelligent life out there are ruled by autocracy, despotism, or at best oligarchy, with barely existing social systems. Ignorance is probably rife in this Universe - no knowledge of science allowed to be perpetuated except under tight control and then only by savants; everyone else just servile and innocent - power only to the few. That kind of thing might be prevalent. Knowledge is dangerous. Maybe we of Earth are rare indeed. We are what we are because we ROCK!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2017
who have overcome the oppression of totalitarian rule

Really? We have? I'm not aware of any country that has (I'm aware of several where the people THINK they have...but none where this is in any way demonstrable. The state - in whatever guise - still reigns supremen everywhere. And the power groups behind it are also still the same)

Ignorance is probably rife in this Universe - no knowledge of science allowed to be perpetuated except under tight control

Unless they have some serious insta-travel-to-anywhere-in-the-universe i find such control not workable. On Earth there's really no place you can go to evade a regime. In space? You can just keep going until you escape it's reach.
manfredparticleboard
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
cap'n et al....I know, I have held the exact demand for years myself, hard evidence rules, that's why I can the chemtrail nuts, no mass spec no chem. That's easily scrutinised; just like A-10 flares don't stay in formation and blot out the stars in between them and have the same description of that behaviour witnessed by thousands. That's easily scrutinised. as well. But since the 20 year anniversary of the Phoenix event is getting closer without satisfactory explanation you have to ask what else was it? Absence of evidence does not always mean evidence of absence.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
But since the 20 year anniversary of the Phoenix event is getting closer without satisfactory explanation you have to ask what else was it?
@manfred
1- remember what the "U" stands for in UFO?
:)
2- were you able to rule out collective delusions?
(from what i can see, this is a no regarding Phoenix)

collective delusions - it's quite powerful, and though episodes typically affect small, tightly knit groups in enclosed settings, when you have the means to propel information quickly around a large area disseminating a popular notion or belief like the UFO sighting (using mass media) then it can spread

there are reams of work out there, but for the moment, this might help as it's an interesting read that seems applicable to my point: http://journals.s....501-513
manfredparticleboard
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
The thing is with the mass delusion hypothesis is that if you are capable of belief in something then you are capable of believing anything, and you have to ask where are the other delusions? I mean, you don't have outbreaks of dragon sightings, or Elvis reincarnations or flying bowls of spaghetti witnessed by thousands either. Why this delusion and why so persistent across continents. I've seen footage on an old camcorder tape format that the first account holders gave me to watch, they aren't seeking publicity and actively refrain from wanting their footage to go public. They didn't own video editing software and wouldn't have known how to use it anyway. A distant light with an odd looking intensity and colour hovers 50kms away ( judging by the shot across a bay) and moves at incredible speeds and directions. That is 'U' alright! But it's the same phenomena....not any phenomena which begins to rule out delusion.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
The thing is with the mass delusion hypothesis is that if you are capable of belief in something then you are capable of believing anything, and you have to ask where are the other delusions?
@manfred
not exactly
for starters, in the abstract i linked it stated
The DSM–IV definition of delusion is argued to be unsatisfactory because it does not explain the mechanism for delusion formation and maintenance
this is important

but piggybacking on that: all mass hysteria starts with a mass delusion, however the hysteria includes symptoms of bodily complaint sans organic cause or origin (a goode article on this: http://pascalfroi...oode.pdf - pun intended)

so why mass delusion?
there is a mass event of unknown veracity spread and exacerbated by news and authorities in a small location with people claiming events still unanswered

that is the very definition of a mass delusion, eh?

2Bcont'd
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 13, 2017
@manfred cont'd
as for the "other delusions" - there don't have to be any
you don't have outbreaks of dragon sightings, or Elvis reincarnations or flying bowls of spaghetti witnessed by thousands either
and if you will note these were all popular at one time, which is a key piece of evidence supporting mass delusions
Why this delusion and why so persistent across continents
that is easily explained: why is technology so similar across continents?
same thing
more to the point: the species has rapidly grown in technological advancement in a very short time, to be sure, so it's playing on the plausibility and the brains need for answers and patterns

but again, i reiterate Dr. Tysons comment: remember what the "U" stands for in UFO
you can't go from "unidentified" to "therefore it must be..." as that is argument from ignorance

this, too, is evidenciary support for mass delusion as well. especially as the proliferation of space and ET movies

2Bcont'd
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 13, 2017
@manfred last
That is 'U' alright! But it's the same phenomena....not any phenomena which begins to rule out delusion
and i will have to disagree that you can rule out delusion simply because it's source and lack of validation
i state lack of validation simply because you made no statement about multiple independent sources

one thing i must also consider when viewing single source video is that it can be a hoax - and this is a serious problem with the UFO followers

one last important point i will add: it's ok to not know
https://www.simon...ngs-out/

http://www.math.u...nman.pdf

most importantly: it is just to probable to be a mass delusion, especially as it's damn near textbook example

has that ever been researched?
at all?

show me where it's ruled out and then we can talk ruling out mass delusion
until then, it fits the definition perfectly
but i also don't know
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Aug 13, 2017
I can't help bring up the elephant in the room, the overwhelming number of sightings and footage of controlled objects that defy our current technology are not a collective work of hoaxes and delusions. The admissions and accounts of high level professionals and officials as well as joe public across the globe make it fairly hard to be anything other than what it looks like. Highly advanced civillisations do come here and actively avoid our interaction.

There has to be some bad data in the set but it's gone on too long with too many witnesses and too many sham explanations in the face of astounding evidence. I remained skeptical for as long as I could on this one, I find it harder and harder to continue to play the alternative explanations exist option.

Key words - "astounding evidence"
Inexplicable would be a better descriptor.
Manfred Particleboard
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
Now, even I agree here that going from inexplicable to definitely 'Aliens!' is an inappropriate use of logic. Stopping at unexplained is probably where most peoples comfort zone begins to thin out and why going out of your way to get more information is left to the more intrepid, or crazy and that's not helping matters. But after watching so much footage and accounts that just can't be credibly dismissed as hoax or delusion, you have to conclude something; this is a phenomena. Now comes the next awkward question; is it natural phenomena? Now glowing balls in the sky have been observed for millenia, rare, but also a phenomena. Ball lightning glows as a white hot incandescent effect, and lasts seconds maybe a minute floating as if on a wind. But the accounts of coloured light, or infrared light lasting minutes or hours and following and maneuvering with respect to aircraft....unlikely to be natural. And so onto the next question...manmade?
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
@manfred
But after watching so much footage and accounts that just can't be credibly dismissed as hoax or delusion, you have to conclude something; this is a phenomena
i disagree here
it's only unexplained
no where does it imply anything other than that, so you can't say it "can't be credibly dismissed as hoax or delusion" just because it hasn't yet been dismissed as either

that would be like saying an unsolved homicide should just be dismissed after 5 years because it hasn't been solved
But the accounts of coloured light, or infrared light lasting minutes or hours and following and maneuvering with respect to aircraft....unlikely to be natural
assumption not with evidence
unlikely based upon what?

you're not likely to get any information or feedback from any classified flights of military hardware of any kind... so you can't rule this out for at least 100yrs (50 is more typical, but you can't assume it will be declassified, either)
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
@manfred cont'd
unlikely to be natural
plus, we are still learning about natural phenomenon, so we can't rule out unknown potential natural at all
And so onto the next question...manmade?
that brings me back to part of my last post: classified military hardware

you can't rule any of this out at all, especially considering the tech advancements we've made in the past 117 years. heck, we went from hot air balloons to sustained flight faster than a 30.06 round in just 60 years

so even if the general public were as well informed as they should be, it's highly unlikely they could spot advanced military hardware and know it for that, especially in any challenging light conditions

.

so -

-it can't be "aliens" or extraterrestrial tech until or unless there is extraordinary evidence
-we can't assume it's not mass delusion until that is verified & validated

therefore it must be either natural, man-made or simply unknown at this time

no other choice is possible
Manfred Particleboard
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
If it is manmade, then how does this technology remain hidden by secret programs for decades? Even some of the most secret programs get eventually exposed or outdated, this technology if it is manmade has remained consistently undercover which is plausible, but again, unlikely. What technology can accelerate mass to the speeds the footage shows, or the change in direction? That is unexplained! And if it were a plasma and there's not really any mass involved how does it emit light of colours that atmospheric plasmas just don't make? More questions. Again stopping at inexplicable is the safe option, but being left with only a few logical avenues to pursue taking any of them will force a conclusion. If it's a manmade guided plasma, then it has some pretty exotic physics attached to it, or if it has mass and can do things like hover, fly and emit light in ways current physics is left to explain then the next round of questions get even more awkward.
Manfred Particleboard
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
I'm left to make another conclusion, what if the explanation of delusion is, a delusion. I mean delusion in the sense of when given a rational explanation the deferral to an alternative is preferred.

In light of the last option you posit, military hardware, how does it get seemingly used in inappropriate ways. Military testing is done with very specific briefs, whatever this technology is, it just shows up and pretty much stays close but never too close to whatever it's interested in. That part of the phenomena is also a constant and not consistent with how the military operate.The military wouldn't involve the public with anything that classified.

I want hard evidence, I really do, before I go and make a fairly irrational claim like this, but the logic leads down some narrow paths and the conclusion is fairly disturbing, enough to force an alternative conclusion... because it is preferred.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
@manfred
this technology if it is manmade has remained consistently undercover which is plausible, but again, unlikely
that is making the assumption that all the technology and images you have seen are the same technology
if you can't identify it, it's unknown or unidentified, period. full stop
you can't even call it technology because you don't know and can't state with any clarity that it's such because there is absolutely no evidence other than what you think you have seen, which may or may not be natural, technological or something else entirely, like filming, lighting or processing errors
What technology can accelerate mass to the speeds the footage shows, or the change in direction? That is unexplained!
unexplained, true
so how can you make an assumption about mass, speed or anything else?
you only see "something" moving... that is absolutely as far as you can state about it, and only if it's on camera for others to validate
2Bcont'd
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
@manfred cont'd
so how can you prove it's not a delusion? or undigested cheese-anchovies pizza?
but being left with only a few logical avenues to pursue taking any of them will force a conclusion
special qualifier again: only a few logical avenues "that you know of at this time"
again, i point to anything from delusion to processing, filming or lighting errors
or if it has mass and can do things like hover, fly and emit light in ways current physics is left to explain then the next round of questions get even more awkward
one biggie that i never hear is: why is there no air displacement
i don't know of anything that can move through a medium without displacing said medium... so that is a big indicator to me that whatever is being seen has either no mass/size/volume or it's mental
(or film error mentioned above)
I mean delusion in the sense of when given a rational explanation the deferral to an alternative is preferred.
please clarify?
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
@manfred cont'd
whatever this technology is, it just shows up and pretty much stays close but never too close to whatever it's interested in
that in itself sounds like operations testing within the scope of military classified material: not to close to be clearly identified, but testing parameters are at least semi-visible to validate through non-biased and non-military source
The military wouldn't involve the public with anything that classified
i disagree: the F-117 is a great example of outing highly classified objects that were tested and also caused a great number of UFO sightings every time it flew
but the logic leads down some narrow paths and the conclusion is fairly disturbing, enough to force an alternative conclusion... because it is preferred
hoped for, maybe
it doesn't have to lead anywhere, though... unless you just can't live with not knowing what it is

and therein lies the problem, really
hence the typical leap to Aliens
Manfred Particleboard
5 / 5 (1) Aug 14, 2017
This is hard to have to expound upon in 1000 characters or less, every point needs qualification and reinforcement. Time consuming; I have resisted bringing these conclusions of mine to a forum such as this for those exact reasons and now Pandoras box is opened. Really this needs a few beers a pizza and an evenings' discourse with the ability to delve into references as required...Everyone of your questions or points of logical refutation are ones I wrestled with and had to argue for and against for ages... I'm still ready to be won over with a dynamite explanation. Ball lightning follows aircraft and flys in formation because of some exotic natural phenomena, I'm open to it but this too needs extraordinary evidence.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 14, 2017
@manfred
I'm still ready to be won over with a dynamite explanation
actually, i think this statement here is where the entire problem lies

take physics:
we have a working theory that explains a lot, but then we consider constituents of matter
one typically never "sees" the proton, neutron or electron, so it's a matter of measurement using methodical practical experiments repeatedly
then you throw the counter-intuitive-ness of QM into the mix, and sh*t goes sideways

but if you continue with the basics using the scientific principle, eventually you build a sh*tload of data to prove the point thru experimentation and validation

so it all comes back to patience, the scientific method and the willingness to not follow the logic to any path until it's provable with evidence that can be validated

this is how we went from riding horses to flying faster than sound in a mere 60 years!
a single lifetime even then

we learn more from mistakes than from successes
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 14, 2017
@manfred cont'd
Really this needs a few beers a pizza and an evenings' discourse with the ability to delve into references as required
hell yeah!
i'm so there!

but i doubt this will be resolved so easily, to tell the truth

one thing i have learned by investigation is: patience
patience is on your side because it allows you to press when needed (experiment, test hypothesis, etc) and then wait for conclusions
then you check the data and follow the evidence to the next step, where you form (or re-form) hypothesis and test again

if you get caught up in the mindset of "i need to make an arrest" (also called "i gotta know...") then you lose patience and you tend to skip past the evidence to a pre-formed conclusion of guilt on the part of [x] which may or may not be true

right now you're at the last step i mentioned: don't get caught up in the mentality of "i gotta know ..."
it's ok not to know, and let someone else take the next step

PEACE
ThomasQuinn
not rated yet Aug 15, 2017
who have overcome the oppression of totalitarian rule

Really? We have? I'm not aware of any country that has (I'm aware of several where the people THINK they have...but none where this is in any way demonstrable. The state - in whatever guise - still reigns supremen everywhere. And the power groups behind it are also still the same)


Totalitarianism means a system whereby the government controls every aspect of life and dissent from the government line is completely repressed. Arguably, North Korea is the only country in the world where that is still true. Even Iran doesn't comply with the definition of totalitarianism. And to say "the power groups behind it are also still the same" and have it be truthful requires you to define those "power groups" in such vague terms as to become meaningless.

FYI, state control and oppression of dissent in the Western world was far worse in the 'enlightened' 18th century than it is today.

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