Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Are we alone in the Universe?

A big subject - are we alone in the universe in terms of intelligent life?

It seems that there is a great uniformity about the universe. The trillions of stars are all made of the same stuff as our Sun and operate the same way - nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium. Stars throughout the universe are clustered into galaxies similar to our Milky Way. We are rapidly discovering in the last decade that stars often have planets orbiting around them.

Within our own solar system there are signs that liquid water once existed on the surface of Mars. There is evidence that basic life forms are common to develop even in tough conditions. It may be that animal life can develop in many cases also.

The really tough question is how common is it for intelligent life forms like humanity to develop and to survive. There is the famous Fermi paradox which questions that if other intelligent creatures exist then why have they not already contacted us. This is a very fair question given the timescale and sheer size of the universe. Then there is the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) work which has not produced any startling results in decades of scanning the skies for radio transmissions.

So, are we the only intelligent creatures in the universe or at least in our own galaxy? Oceans of analysis and comment has been written on this subject and there are so many parameters and variables at play.

Here are some comments of my own:

1. Intelligent life, even in our own form, may not develop well enough to communicate long distances through space. There could be many civilizations that never get beyond crude farming or maybe the equivalent of our medieval history. The exploitation of electricity and in particular radio transmission is quite a major leap as it is an invisible and somewhat abstract technology to both understand and to exploit. It is this technology that allows us to attempt to put our mark on the universe. It is conceivable that this leap in technology is never made in many reasonably intelligent races in the universe. Hence they can neither consider traveling or communicating in space and therefore are undetectable to us.

2. Let us assume that there is a civilization that reaches our own level of technology. It is a fair comment to make that when a race reaches our 20th century level of technology that the basics exist to accelerate technological progress at a rapid rate. It is reasonable to assume that the spectacular technological progress we have made in the 20th century will continue at a high pace in the 21st century and beyond. What will we be like in say 1000 years from today - which is a mere microsecond in the timescale of the universe? Will we be so advanced that we have figured out how to travel huge distances in space rapidly, casually and economically? Would we be advanced enough to detect and reach other intelligent life forms? So assuming it is possible to exploit technology in a way we don't even understand yet - it brings back the Fermi Paradox. Why haven't other civilizations developed the same way and not already reached us? Here are a few thoughts of my own:

2.1 There is of course the possibility that there are very few or no examples of super-intelligent life in the Universe. This could be deducted if very advanced animal life was very rare (see my comments in 1. above) or a block in advancement takes place though regular extinctions - meteor impacts and other natural disasters or indeed self destruction through WMD wars.

2.2 A rather tantalizing direction in relation to the Fermi Paradox would be to raise the hypothesis that super intelligent life has already contacted us and is maybe here already! Given all the logical deductions emanating from the uniformity, timescale and massive size of the Universe then it is reasonable to put forward a hypothesis that other intelligent life has detected us or has been visiting us . Maybe we are so wrapped up in what we consider our super-efficient 21st century technologies that we haven't even got the sensory capacity to detect what is all around us. We are so busy searching using our visual and radio communications tools and maybe we are as blind as bats. We could be like a person who spends hours looking for his hat - only to discover it is on his head! I'm going to post a separate analysis into my "They're here!" hypothesis as it is a very interesting and completely plausible subject.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

First of all-i would like to clarify regarding incapability of
other terrestials belonging to various other planets in other galaxies. The prime reasons are enumerated below :-
1)Being vast distances constraints in TIME & SPACE factor from their locational point to ours in the map of the universe.

2) Secondly-even if they beamed signals,its not necessary the radio frequency necessarily is the type used on earth (magnetic).It could be some other medium.

3) Thirdly,on the assumption that they do match- do to distance factor,the radio magnetic beam will disperse after a certain distance & will cease to dilute & weaken.

4) No matter how advanced technologically they may be....none can conquer the light years barrier as universe is so vast.

5) we are talking about the flying saucers ....that they are seen here,there & everywhere.were we able to bring it down with a mini missile so far???-that would have solved all the mysteries & made earth technologically leap by million years from transportation point of view & also the mystery of how humans look on other planets would have been solved.

Pls do not ever believe in flying saucers-you will never be able to encounter an alien spacecraft in next billion years.

Also the chances of finding extra terrestial life or contacting will never happen in next billion years also.

if we find micro organism forms of life among our solar system planets-it will not solve the problem,nor will it be a great mystery.
But life certainly exists in the universe & earth is a speck of dust in this vast expanse of universe.But pls note that life on earth too is very very advanced & can be comparable to many other civilizations for your information.
we are no way primitive.

Anonymous said...

Let say..
That we are the aliens with billions of years of evolutions.We manage to detect a litte blue planet somewhere in the universe with life on it...Just like Many other with different kind of life on it.

But , those creature on that little blue planet are kind of dumb ..only a few terrestrial years ago , they finnaly reached their natural satellite

Would you come here?And say hello?
That would be like trying to speak with a rock..Its not realy interesting and you dont gain anything by doing so.

Plus , why do we think we know-it-all?You said that 1000 years represent a micro second in the universe.But yet ,not even 400 years ago we though the earth was plate.

If we are alone.Than its just a big waste of time and space.
Than you can change subject and make a topic .. of why do we live? What's the purpose of living?To play rent , have baby and die?I dont think..Our goal is actualy to evoluates and communicate someday with other existing life.Maybe they know more about it.Of why we live

John of Dublin said...

I understand your point. But I do think that no matter how advanced a civilisation becomes they would still take some interest in communicating with other life, even if a lot lower in intelligence. If we in the 21st century found a race somewhere which was slightly more advanced than baboons we would definitely still study them.

Why we live is interesting of course, as you mentioned. One thing which keeps us all going is striving for advancement in knowledge and thought. If there are other advanced civilisations out there then you could imagine that they think this way also - otherwise they wouldn't have even arrived at being "advanced". And remember that advancement tends to naturally evolve to give groups a competitive edge in survival.

But you last point is interesting. Perhaps at a very high level of development and security intelligent beings do begin to think differently about why they live.

Anonymous said...

Dear All,

Al the comments & discussions on this page are very interesting & the very fact that each of you are very creative in debating the subject to whatever extent your grey matter could stretch you all.

Many of you have debated either on this web site or elsewhere that :


The answer to this is :-

We are also intelligent beings who have even sent unmanned spaceships right upto mars & also a space ship which will virtually our solar system after a few decades???
Then why were we not able to contact INTELLIGENT LIFE ELSEWHERE....What is the reason.

Well,the reason is as follows :-

1) One requires specialized type of spacecrafts & space suits to cross over our solar system to another galaxy.Einstein rightly said that time & space is not what it seems to be.

The kind of abv requirements is unavailable on earth(spacecrafts/suits for a cross over)

2)To locate another life bearing planet in the map of our universe needs extremely sensitive & powerful telescopes capable of bifurcating every mass from a cluster.

3) If an alien were to view our solar system from light years -earth will not be detected nor will they be able to find out that life exists in our solar system.

4) Inter stellar travel is extremely costly & specialized-its not a joke????? also it takes light years to reach another planet
even assuming that there is life certainly on a planet "x" just to cross our own solar system galaxy which is about 100,000 light years in length,the astronauts would be dead as such longivity is not blessed on humans by god.

5) Assuming that we can travel at speed of light-it is not necessary that the radio magnetic radio communication is popular on other planets.They may be used to a different medium.

6) Lastly the stories of FLYING SAUCERS is all crap-had they really existed...they would have dropped evidences from their planets & also the map of where their planet is in the universe from earth location.Also they would have landed at any cost & tried to communicate as they would be aware that they will not be killed or end as captives.

7) Next time pls ask why we were not able to contact instead of questioning the aliens 'cos we are also aliens to them.Then why did you not contact them till this moment?????

8) tHERE MAY BE ATLEAST 1,00,000 INTELLIGENT CIVILIZATIONS BY NOW-Even if you filter out the bacterial stage civilizations-that leaves atleast 38k+ civilizations.
Best regards

Anonymous said...

Dear Readers,

Most recently-i've read articles on a far away 38+ light years away planet called ZETA RETICULI which has binary star system (meaning 2 suns).

I agree that scientists have spotted the abv with powerful telescops & may have added to the existing map of the universal sky modifying the records.

However-when i read about 12 earthlings travelling to the abv planet etc-it beat my commonsense to the point of no return & am still wondering as to how sensible people can write such articles mentioning inhabitants travelling from 38 light years to earth on a exchange programme.

While i certainly agree that there is life in the universe-pls take it from me that we earthlings will never be able to meet them even in next billion years to the power of a billion years.

Abv is all crap that they visited etc. Even at speed of light it would take them 39 years.

After reading that article, i am beginning to hate the topic of :


No point in any researches as i feel that its a waste of time & even in a billion years,if we are able to track a civilization in outer space,we would be really great.

Instead-we should invent a powerful telescope that can see 39 light years object clearly to one feet distance.

rgds/prasad lbv

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr John,

There is no uniformity in the universe barring the fact that hydrogen/helium are in abundance everywhere.

Had there been uniformity/symmetrical hypothesis-then our nearest neighbour MOON should have had LIFE like that on earth....but it has not happened...isn't it?????

best regards/prasad lbv