February 16, 2020

Life in the Cosmos?

Timothy Birdnow

Warner Todd Houston asked this question of Fakebook:

Question of the day: Why have we seen no indication of life outside planet earth?

My answer is that there probably isn't any. What do you say?

I replied:

That is known as the Fermi Paradox. Enrico Fermi pointed out that aliens would be at all levels of development and so we should find some evidence of their existence. We don't, which means they either do not exist, or they are so far away we cannot find any evidence of them, or they never developed machine technology like we have.

Of course, a star is  not visible to us. What is visible to us is light from the past. A star 400 light years away may have gone nova for all we know. We are seeing it  as it was four hundred years ago. So if there is intelligent life on such a star WE would give no indication of our presence since we hadn't yet developed technology they could see. It would work the same for them.

And as nine of of ten stars are red dwarfs, it means few stars likely to produce life as we know it are hanging around within easy reach. Red dwarf stars are generally flare suns, meaning they emit huge coronal mass ejections. The radiation would sterilize life as we know it. And the strong solar wind (any planets with liquid water would have to be in a close, tidally locked orbit) would sheer the atmosphere clean off such a world.

So the best bet are orange and yellow and white stars, and there just aren't that many close to us.

Personally, I believe there aren't any other intelligent life forms, and if there are they are a long way away. We have a completely unique situation on Earth. We have no "hot Jupiter" as so many extrasolar systems do (and that keeps the sun from flaring a lot.) We have Jupiter and Saturn tidally locked in the outer system, which influences the formation of the inner planets and holds the space debris down to a minimum. Jupiter likely sent a lot of crap our way early on, mainly water, which has made Earth a wet, ocean world. We are not a Super Earth. We have a satellite that is the size of a planet, and it may well have stripped away some of our atmosphere preventing us from becoming like Venus.

So it may be we are alone. And even if we are not, travel near the speed of light would be extraordinarily dangerous; imagine getting hit by space ice at 90% of C!  There appears to be a lot of crap out there. It's part of "dark matter".

So either some sort of really weird ftl drive would have to be invented (and there is no actual theory of such) or spacefarers would have to go slow and sleep through the voyage. You wouldn't do that unless you absolutely HAD to.

Another point; aliens may be blind, in which case they would not even be aware of the stars. Intelligent bats would have a problem with astronomy, for instance. And what of intelligent sea life? Without fire it would be hard to construct a technological civilization, no matter how smart a squid may be. We may be the lucky winners with eyes and oxygenated atmospheres.

And it should be pointed out our ability to sense time could be very different, perhaps to the point where we do not even recognize each-other as living beings. I read a frog is not even aware of most other creatures in the lilly pond; it recognizes flies and other food, but little else. It could be we are frogs in a big pond full of aliens.

My money is on us being alone, or near enough, at least in this part of the Cosmos.


Someone said "the math says there is" to which I responded:

The Drake Equations suggest so, but I've always felt they were self-serving and presumptive. They assume there is nothing unique about Earth and that life naturally happens in the right conditions. But we've never been able to create life in a lab, even though we've been trying. Not to say the equations are wrong, just some of the assumptions. We don't even know if physical laws are the same everywhere in the Universe.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 07:44 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 738 words, total size 4 kb.

1 You can use math to prove anything you want it to prove. You can prove that square is round. You can prove totally opposite propositions. You can prove that life exists and that it does not. The math in either case will be entirely correct.

That's why economists stay in business. They dream up some idiotic monetary theory, and then use math to prove it.

Posted by: Bill H at February 16, 2020 09:22 AM (vMiSr)

2 Amen Bill. That's why Mark Twain said "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at February 16, 2020 11:50 AM (nufk1)

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