the universe seems to be one big roll of the dice but we can reduce the odds...
I think there were some paper in Arxiv stating that extraterrestrial contact is going to be unlikely even if the universe are teeming with life. We rarely include the probability of insane member of a species taking control over a WMD when we do the Drake Equation.
More seriously, due to the rarity of intelligent life (as observed from the age of our civs versus the age of earth), I think if there are other intelligent lifeforms out there, they would be hundreds millions years more advanced than we are.
If this is right, then war and diplomacy between extraterrestrial intelligence is not going to be as interesting as we see in pop-culture. Older civs only need their equivalent of fly swatter to exterminate us.
If we are alone in the universe then we have a responsibility to use it ourselves.
"God" knows how much life could evolve from us. There also could be a lonely microbe under some rock somewhere that we missed.
It's possible that we'll meet ETIs at the same level of technology as us... but I admit it's not very likely. It should be recalled that Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story that demonstrated how superior technology caused a captain to lose a battle... but that was just entertainment about two sides who weren't that different anyway.Originally Posted by orinetz
As has been mentioned, if we ARE the only life forms existing in the Universe, then it's an awful waste of space indeed. I think of alien life as a fact myself; it's just something we haven't seen yet, but should believe in. To me, just looking at the sky on a clear night and seeing all that gloriousness alone is obviously some indication that "someone else" is out there watching us from their own night sky.
As far as space travel goes, I don't think we have any right to travel to the stars until we've actively explored our own Solar System. And I mean us ourselves, not just our robots. We still have Mars, Europa, Enceladus, Titan, Triton, etc. Those can't just be left behind without further exploration. Until then, we can start to seriously think of interstellar travel. You can't start counting from number 2, can you?
That being said, I'm all equally fascinated with the concepts of other life and space travel. That's like the greatest thing man has ever processed through his brain.
Wasn't it Arthur C. Clarke who said something like, "Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."?
I have to agree with that opinion.
By this "reasoning" we should not have gone to the moon before we had finished exploring the ocean.
You can't start counting from number 2, but that doesn't mean you've got to visit the strangers at 1 Kensington Street before you can visit your friends at 2 Kensington Street.
If we are alone it will present much more difficult question and expect the nutters to be out in force. We'd either get our act together in the view that we were VERY special phenomenom, or we'd freak out and splinter with all kinds of horrible cults led by bearded homocidal maniacs. Yikes! :-)
But i concur with the thought that we should properly explore and fully utilise our own solar system before we start looking at star travel. That experience will serve us well for any later potential star travel.
I dont think its the same rationale as that for not having explored all our oceans but having gone to the moon.
Star travel distances involved are on a totally exponential scale to that of solar system distances. Considering warp drives are looking more unrealistic according to new quantum research, i reckon we might have to get use to the idea that our solar system represents a cycle limit for human exploration over the next thousands years.
Given enough technological evolution we might find human and robotic solar system exploration (and perhaps colonisation) relatively simple in the not too distant future. It will require huge engineering projects to create truly safe intra-system space vehicles, but its feasible at least.
I dont see interstellar travel as feasible at all.
Semantics aside, it really comes down to needs and practicalities. There are parts of the solar system that we probably won't be capable of exploring for a long time, such as the depths of Jupiter's atmosphere. On the other hand, I would very much like to know what the "typical" arrangement of solar systems is. (I appreciate there probably isn't a "typical" arrangement at all, but, what with these insanely large gas giants insanely close to their suns, I do find myself wondering if we are very atypical.) Whether we'll be able to get out there and find out, or whether we'll be forever restricted to our own backyard, remains to be seen.
Anyhow, I don't see why we would want to explore the gas giants themselves when we have much more interesting stuff orbiting them - their moons. I'd love to see more detailed pictures of, for instance, Titan's surface, Ganymede, or Triton.
As for the typical arrangement thing, you said it yourself. There is hardly any typical arrangement when it comes to star systems, or at least that's what we know for a fact now.
Well the gas giants are pretty major locations. (They probably count as roughly equivalent to the unexplored oceans at the time of the moon landings.)Originally Posted by Fiery Phoenix
But I'd certainly love to see the moons closer up. Seeing under the ice on Europa is obviously high up on the wish-list, but the others will undoubtedly be fascinating too.
Well we know it seems to be the case for gas giants but what about terrestrial worlds? Are Earths commonplace? Or do most worlds end up as either airless rocks or Venusian hellholes? Or are they all completely and utterly different? I'd love to know...Originally Posted by Fiery Phoenix
In conclusion, for all we know, we're the only living species in the Universe. If that's true, then I think it deepens the importance of us spreading and building colonies throughout space. Because that would be the only way to ensure our existence for more and more years. Otherwise, the Universe would be lifeless, and a lifeless universe would mean tremendous waste. So it would be our job to further extend into the cosmos.
You are using loaded/emotional/moralistic language again. Why would it be "our job" - which you seem to be using in the sense of "our duty"? One could make an equally compelling argument that we should not contaminate the natural wonder of the universe.Originally Posted by Fiery Phoenix
If there is no other life in the universe (and if we could be sure of that - which I am certain we could not) then there would be no obligation either way.
I don't know if you realise it, but your statements of what we "should" do are very arbitrary. Reading your posts, it seems we must explore the solar system, in person mind, not just robotic probes... but we don't have to worry about the gas giants coz they're boring. Whereas the Kepler Space Telescope will tell us all we need to know about other systems.
As I see it, we'll gain the knowledge we want, can afford, and can justify. If we meet other life forms, then we should be respectful to them, but until then, there is nothing that we should or should not do with regard to the universe.
Seeding life on other, barren, worlds is a desire some of us have, not a duty the whole of humanity has. There are plenty of people who believe their duty is to prepare mankind for the coming apocalypse (pick which cult and apocalypse you prefer).
But it's a desire (spreading life, not preparing for the apocalypse) that could result in some strange and beautifull things, and the attempt could teach us a lot.
I'm stunned you'd pick the surface of Ganymede over the multilayered clouds and mysteries of Jupiter itself, but thats my personal preference.:surprisedOriginally Posted by fiery phoenix
In my own personal opinion, I think we really do need to explore the Solar System. But in reality, we don't have to, but curiosity is human nature, after all.
As for me preferring the gas giants' moons over their host planets, I'm saying that because I'm pretty sure they're more interesting from a scientific point of view, at least those in our Solar System. Gas giants in general are gorgeous, though!
On a side note, I'm going for a two-night trip to the country with a small bunch of students and professors from the astronomy department in my school to observe the skies tomorrow. Should be fun.
If Earth really is the only place where life exists, we'd probably have a very hard time spreading it. The more I read about astrobiology subjects the more I feel that life is started over and over in many places. If it fails to hold everywhere but here, we can't come up with anything sustainable to do so; the universe has already found that out for us.
I personally think the chance of Earth being the only place to have life is extremely small for that exact same reason.
ETA: What I mentioned above are space goals, which have to take a back seat to whatever needs to be done here on the Earth to ensure that everyone has a decent life: food, water, decent shelter, education, jobs, etc. My hope is that maybe space exploration can be accomplished in conjunction with what needs to be done down here.
Last edited by Tucson_Tim; 2009-Apr-17 at 04:12 PM.
Cheesy action flicks like Independence Day aside, if an advanced, interstellar species visited Earth, the way I see it, there are three basic possibilities:
1. They observe us but remain hidden, following some kind of rule like the "prime directive" in Star Trek. For us, there is essentially no difference between this and not having the aliens around at all.
2. They make contact and are peaceful and want to share knowledge. A species that advanced would be able to help us easily solve many of the problems that plague our society. This would irreversibly alter our view of ourselves and our place in the cosmos and change the course of world history forever.
3. They are an aggressive, warlike species, bent on conquest, and don't have anything even remotely resembling our sense of ethics and compassion. If they wanted to kill us all and take over the Earth, or even destroy the Earth, there really isn't anything we could do about it. A species that is thousands or even millions of years ahead of us could crush us like we would destroy an ant colony. Chances are we wouldn't even see it coming...one day, we would all just be GONE.
That said, I'm not going to worry about it. The chance of an alien species actually visiting our planet is vanishingly small.
Another option would be accidentally wiping us out by performing some sort of abstract or arbitrary action in our solar system, without bothering to check if we were here first. It would be a kind of great, cosmic "oops."
Then there's also a bizarre thought I've entertained occasionally, where contact with us would be lethal to the entirety of terrestrial life. They simply haven't found a way around the problem, or are so exotic/strange that neither one of us could notice each other within a proverbial "arm's reach." This means that no matter how much which one of us believes our presence to be unequivocally "obvious," we might as well not even exist in the first place to the other.
(I know that comes across as weird, but I consider it a sort of "cosmic futilitarianist" point of view.)
But, onto the most important point: Yes, I agree that Independence Day was a terrible movie.
Last edited by Jason_Roberts; 2009-Apr-18 at 09:23 AM.
The other two points are a bit limited; there are many other possibilities. They might have absolutely no interest in meeting other life forms (having come to Earth for some other reason), they might wish to "help" us by culling major parts of our population, they might have an imperative to populate every inhabitable world (and have no concern for the native population). They might also be a mass of contradictions, like wot humans is - they can travel between the stars, but they still believe in astrology, for instance.
Basically an armada of humanoid aliens in enormous ships spontaneously show up one day. They immediately start a militaristic and systematic campaign to destroy human civilization for no real reason.
It's mostly generic alien invasion stuff that's been done to death countless times before.
I see it less a movie and more of an action themed CGI demo reel.
I would like to think that an advanced alien civilisation might value us for the complexity of our minds, although not necessarily the sophistication. Our civilisation is almost certainly the most complex that has arisen on this planet, and our brains are among the largest in the animal kingdom. Even if an advanced alien civilisation is vastly more advanced than we, they may find such complexity intriguing, just as we might find a particularly interesting mineral pleasing.
If they do find us interesting, they follow a number of strategies. They could preserve us as we are, preventing us from progressing into an advanced civilisation ourselves; it may be that all advanced civilisations resemble one another and lose any idiosyncratic qualities which they once had. This could be the 'village green preservation society' scenario.
* Or they could allow us to develop into an advanced civilisation by ourselves, without any contact; this might be especially interesting if it is not the case that advanced civilisations grow to resemble each other, but instead each grow into unique and different societies. A new species could develop an entirely new way of looking at the universe, and be particularly valuable for that reason. One might call this the 'New Twist' scenario. In such a scenario we might expect to have no contact at all, at least not until we have developed to an arbitrary level of civilisation.
* They might chose to accelerate our development into an advanced civilisation, by a number of methods; direct contact, indirect contact, or even in a simulation (we might already be in an alien simulation, perhaps running at a higher speed than the real universe, accelerated to find out how we might develop in the real universe). A 'Jump-Start' scenario.
* Or they might come and cherry-pick aspects of our mental complexity, selecting perhaps our art, or our film and television (some of which might be unique in the galaxy), our tribal or religious cultures or even our dreams. Any or all of these might be novel enough to be valuable in an advanced society mostly consisting of mental processing. They might modify and distort our society to create more opportunities for this sort of unique mental activity (oh; Futurama covered this option, some years back, in the When Aliens Attack episode; the Omicronians would no doubt have eventually turned Earth into a society dedicated to producing the television programmes they liked). The 'Single Female Lawyer' scenario.
Interesting ideas, eburacum45, but I'm less optimistic about our ability to relate to another species. Imagine a dolphin appreciating Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Earring.
You might argue that a civilisation, by definition, has a lot in common with another civilisation. But how much of it is due to conscious decision and how much is down to biological imperative? Humans built cities, but so do ants and termites. Beavers build dams. Granted, our brains are bigger, and we have understanding that goes way beyond choice of building material, but that doesn't mean we'd be able to relate in any way to other big-brained city builders.
In science fiction, it is usually possible to relate to aliens simply because the story requires it. There are obvious exceptions, of course - Terry Carr's "Dance of the Changer and the Three", or Stanley Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" - but more often than not, the aliens might as well be family members.