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Thread: "Alien life deemed impossible"

  1. #1
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    "Alien life deemed impossible"


  2. #2
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    Either he is absurd, or the reporting is bad, or both:
    Howard Smith, a senior astrophysicist at Harvard, made the claim that we are alone in the universe after an analysis of the 500 planets discovered so far showed all were hostile to life.
    How many stars in the universe? around 10 to the power 30? So they concluded that life is impossible on 500 planets so far. And?

  3. #3
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    You can get listings of all extrasolar planets discovered here:

    Wiki planet lists

    If you browse through it you will see that in fact almost none of these world were ever candidates for life with the exception of Gliese 581g and that isn't actually confirmed to exist. Kepler is currently doing a search that should throw up Earthlike planets but that won't deliver results of that type for another year or so. Frankly this is just lousy reporting of a dubious analysis.

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    Oh, I just love it when they say "impossible."

    That's usually an ill-advised "gonna eat it" word.

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    Yeah, basing these claim on severely biased planet list is complete failure on many levels.
    1. I said this list is biased. What is means? These planets was discovered with current technology, that allows discovering only certain classes of planets. This in itself precludes discovering viable candidates - very many classess of planets are easier to discover than earth-like planets. Pulsar planets, high-mass short-orbit (hot jupiters), high-mass and/or big-sized in general, list goes on.
    2. Even if this list would be unbiased statistical random sample of 500 planets with typical known amount of data (size, mass, orbit etc) from entire galaxy (we are decades away from having such list, but it should happen in my life), lack of habitable planets would mean that they are just rare. Not "impossible".
    3. Mentioned above hypothetical list would be useless anyway. We do not have any information on atmosphere for most of known planets. This precludes assessing habitability at all. We can explore atmospheric models, but we do not know, how each of these are probable or possible. At most, we can pick planets that need more research (canditates to candiates for habitability).

    Conclusion: this claim is unfounded and baseless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaDeR View Post
    Yeah, basing these claim on severely biased planet list is complete failure on many levels.
    Exactly.

    If an identical Solar System such as ours was just 50 light-years away, what would we see? Two uninhabitable gas giants.

    IMPOSSIBLE.

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    He may be right. Given the complexities of life and the odds, life may be undetectable to us. If we find the majority of planetary systems are Jovian-types terrestrial worlds supporting life may be so rare, that the human race may never know of them.

    I'm 99% sure there's another Earth-like world out there with life forms similar to us; the only problem is it's billions of LY away and it's habitation-peak was five billion years ago. If we could reach that world now, we'd find a Venus-like world and a star that's slowly entering it's red-giant phase.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TDL 76 View Post
    Heh. If you read to the end of the article, Dr. Smith himself contradicts this claim:

    But Dr Smith dismissed the claims, insisting that other extrasolar planets differ starkly from our own and that even if they did support life, it would be impossible for humans to make contact.

    "Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life.

    "Any hope of contact has to be limited to a relatively tiny bubble of space around the Earth, stretching perhaps 1,250 light years out from our planet, where aliens might be able to pick up our signals or send us their own.
    Clearly, he's arguing that life is rare, but is not arguing that ET life is impossible.

    I think I'll post this in the "Read that again" thread.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

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    First impressions count... This man is a good example of a over educated idiot.
    One level above his ability. All that education, wasted. What a disappointment.
    The fact that at the end of his statement he seems to contradict his own resolve...
    Just tells me he got it wrong in the first place.... Why did he not just say...
    ' That with the current ability to detect exo-solar planets we can not yet say we have found a single example of a Earth like planet.'
    Not being able to see one does not equate to there not being any... He has damaged his own creditability...

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    Seriously?
    What drew this conclusion? I personally think life, especially complex life, and and even more so thinky life, will be quite rare, possibly so rare as to make us more alone then a man sitting in a rubber raft in the middle of the Pacific, more lonely then the Apollo CMP on the far side of the moon, but "impossible"?
    Why are we here then?

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    TDL 76, it is a wonderful feeling to bring meat to the fire for the tribe. Good luck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by astromark View Post
    First impressions count... This man is a good example of a over educated idiot.
    Are you referring to Dr. Smith or the author of the article?

    One level above his ability. All that education, wasted. What a disappointment.
    The fact that at the end of his statement he seems to contradict his own resolve...
    Dr. Smith's quoted statements at the end of the article contradict what the author of the article claims. I don't see any evidence that Smith contradicted himself. Rather, it seems pretty clear that the author of the article just got it wrong.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    Seriously?
    What drew this conclusion?
    It looks like it is the author of the article and whoever came up with the article title. The claims about what Dr. Smith (the subject of the article) said don't agree with his quoted statements.

    I personally think life, especially complex life, and and even more so thinky life, will be quite rare, possibly so rare as to make us more alone then a man sitting in a rubber raft in the middle of the Pacific, more lonely then the Apollo CMP on the far side of the moon, but "impossible"?
    That sounds pretty much like Dr. Smith's claim. Again, here is, from the article, a quote of what Dr. Smith actually said:

    "Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life.

    "Any hope of contact has to be limited to a relatively tiny bubble of space around the Earth, stretching perhaps 1,250 light years out from our planet, where aliens might be able to pick up our signals or send us their own. "

    "But communicating would still take decades or centuries."
    According to the quote, he's saying that life is rare. He's not saying that ET life is impossible. He also appears to be saying that contact with intelligent ET life is unlikely, but doesn't seem to be saying it's impossible. Either he made contradictory statements that weren't quoted in the article, or the author misunderstood what he was saying (which seems far more likely to me).

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

    The Leif Ericson Cruiser

  14. #14
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    Damn journalists. Nice guys most of the time, but this is blatant lying in the title. There is an infinite distance between rare and impossible.

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    Then, YES. 'Van Rijn. ' I will direct my assault onto that reporting Mr Smiths paper... TDL 76. He has mislead us. With appropriate respect to Mr Smith... Whom it would seem. I agree with.

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    The article succeeded in its purpose. You read it didn't you? Since the title of the article bears little resemblance to its content I think we can safely assume that the editor of the paper is the one responsible for changing it from "Hope for finding life fades" to its present title to suck a few more readers in.

    What I find annoying is the lack of critical review of the article by pretty much everyone who read it. Honestly, does everyone take everything they read in a paper at face value these day? Even science articles? Apparently so judging by the comments on the Telegraph site and some here.

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    I for one believe that we will discover proof of past life on Mars when we send a space mission there. I also believe that life exists billions of times over in the Universe. It's all speculation of course, but when you break down the sheer size of the Universe, the possibility of life elsewhere seems perfectly rational.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhole View Post
    It's all speculation of course, but when you break down the sheer size of the Universe, the possibility of life elsewhere seems perfectly rational.
    Well, as so far Copernican principle holds. Only one exception that I know is Fermi Paradox. Otherwise, this principle is in agreement with our current knowledge about universe. Some people try to play "God in gaps"-like argument on bleeding edge in research, where knowledge is fuzzy and some thing maybe, possibly, could be contradictory against Copernican Principle.

    I do not think it will hold. We curently have transition in major and very important field of knowledge - exoplanets - from rather unknown to become more known, researched and characterized. And guess what, Copernican Principle holds. Planets are common, planets with size like our too take significant chunk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhole View Post
    I for one believe that we will discover proof of past life on Mars when we send a space mission there. I also believe that life exists billions of times over in the Universe. It's all speculation of course, but when you break down the sheer size of the Universe, the possibility of life elsewhere seems perfectly rational.
    I'm certain there's life on Mars too, but it's Earth-like life that contaminated the surface billions of years ago. True the Universe is vast, but it's not a certainty that alien-life exists out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Githyanki View Post
    it's not a certainty that alien-life exists out there.
    I don't believe we can say that with a straight face anymore. The only thing the OPs article has proven is that our infant planet hunting technology has only been able to find massive gas giants or super earths for understandable reasons. Even so, I believe that at least a couple of near Earth sized planets have been discovered, some orbiting in the green zone.
    Honestly, we can't run from the fact that is punching us in the face. The universe has life outside of Earth. Whether or not that life is abundant remains a question to be answered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhole View Post
    I for one believe that we will discover proof of past life on Mars when we send a space mission there
    WE already have sent space missions there. Infact, 4 fantastic landers and three rovers to date.

    Quote Originally Posted by Infinitenight2093 View Post
    The universe has life outside of Earth.
    You can't say that. You can claim that given our best knowledge is seems likely. You can claim it's very likely indeed. But you can NOT claim it as a fact, because quite simply... we don't know.

    The one and only correct answer to the question 'Is there life elsewhere in the universe?' is 'We don't know'

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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    The one and only correct answer to the question 'Is there life elsewhere in the universe?' is 'We don't know'
    Is there a perfect number greater than the largest currently known perfect number?

    The proper answer is "We don't know" but the answer that is punching us in the face is "of course there is"

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    Yes, I agree that this answer is most probable in light of current knowledge, especially after last Kepler batch. Universe does something never, once or many, many times. And I am not sure about "once" (this would require very finely-tuned chance exactly on edge).

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaDeR View Post
    Yes, I agree that this answer is most probable in light of current knowledge, especially after last Kepler batch. Universe does something never, once or many, many times. And I am not sure about "once" (this would require very finely-tuned chance exactly on edge).
    Yes, one can argue that seeing something occur only once is evidence of insufficient data.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaDeR View Post
    <snip> Only one exception that I know is Fermi Paradox. <snip>
    The Fermi "Paradox" is ridiculous. I don't know why anyone should consider it a valid argument for anything, except for that even smart people can make daft suggestions.

    If I stand in the middle of a bushland and don't see any other people does that mean I'm the only person on the planet? Or does it just mean that I can't currently see anyone?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spoons View Post
    The Fermi "Paradox" is ridiculous. I don't know why anyone should consider it a valid argument for anything, except for that even smart people can make daft suggestions.

    If I stand in the middle of a bushland and don't see any other people does that mean I'm the only person on the planet? Or does it just mean that I can't currently see anyone?
    I agree. There are a lot of loopholes and implicit assumptions in the paradox that render it little more than a thought experiment and not actually evidence for a particular proposition.

    Yet it is still a fascinating topic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by baric View Post
    Yet it is still a fascinating topic.
    I agree, which is not surprising since you already said you agree with what I said, so my agreement was always likely.

    And yes, it certainly is fascinating. In no way would I want to stifle any discussion of such a topic - it's one area where idle speculation is still usually fairly gripping.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spoons View Post
    I agree, which is not surprising since you already said you agree with what I said, so my agreement was always likely.

    And yes, it certainly is fascinating. In no way would I want to stifle any discussion of such a topic - it's one area where idle speculation is still usually fairly gripping.
    In fairness, though, I could probably list 10 topics on this board that I consider fascinating! haha

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    Sounds like some sort of fascinating challenge. That's one. Go on... 9 more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spoons View Post
    Sounds like some sort of fascinating challenge. That's one. Go on... 9 more.
    ok, literally.. off the top of my head

    Fermi Paradox
    Life on Titan / Alien Biochemistries
    "What is a Planet"
    Planetary Migration (Kepler-11, wow!)
    Atmospheric composition of exoplanets
    Mantle dynamics of super-Earths
    Stellar nucleosynthesis
    EOS of neutron stars


    That's 8... with a little thought, I could definitely list more. But you put me on the spot!

    When these topics are discussed on BAUT, I tend to show up in the thread at some point.

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