As opposed to what most atheists, fundamentalists, and Neil deGrasse Tyson believe, the ability to understand reality is limited. I have always found it absurd to claim that the human brain is capable of understanding everything. This Venn diagram shows my opinion, that humans are limited and reality is not owned by human thought or imagination. Randall Munroe might appreciate this.
We could assume aliens are so different we will never understand them. But let's say for the sake of argument that they are more like us than we think. Let's say they are motivated by the same three goals we all have:
It's unlikely aliens want to have sex with us. And if they can fly here in powerful spaceships it's unlikely they want to dominate us (although they may take us all for slaves).
But money, now there's a key idea. Let's assume they want the same thing we want, a lot of money. No they don't want our paper, and they don't want our coins.
What they want is our gold. Few people understand how rare gold is in this universe. There is a lot of gold here on Earth, and probably a lot more in the asteroids. Gold is very rare and it's quite possible the aliens are coming here to take our gold.
If we are ever invaded by aliens there are 3 primary motivations which probably apply to them just as well as to humans.
3rd Power: They want to dominate/enslave/exterminate us
2nd Sex: They want to have sex with us
1st Money: No they don't want our money. But they do want our gold. Few people outside of the astrophysics community understand just how rare gold really is in this universe. We are gold rich relative to just about every other location in the universe.
So if aliens invade and it's not clear what they want, they probably want our gold.
The Fermi Paradox is the most profound measurement in the history of Darwinism. If intelligent life is so easily produced by evolution then why do we see zero evidence of alien intelligence?
Intelligent species never build self-replicating exploration craft. They never build galactic scale artifacts. They never exhibit visible advanced technology. They never build berserkers. They never develop FTL spacecraft. They never reveal any evidence of their existence. They never remain corporeal long enough to be detected. They never survive their nuclear age.
99% isn't good enough, the universe is too large. If 99% of species don't survive their nuclear age then 1% do and we should see some of those 1%. That's what so many proponents do not understand. 13 billion years is a very long time for the 1% to populate the Milky Way with robots or spaceships or colonies.
Even my preferred explanation uses never: There never has been a 2nd intelligent species.
Here's an answer to the FP which does not need the word never. Intelligent life is rare, and it did not evolve in any galaxy until about 1 million years ago. In this case no species has had time to send out exploration craft far enough for humans to see them. There might be 10 or even 1000 intelligent technological species in the Milky Way. But if they are all young species then we won't know about them for millennia. I can't explain why intelligence only arose recently, but neither can I explain the Fermi Paradox.
Interesting idea on the Fermi Paradox, super advanced aliens may be essentially invisible because we simply cannot see any of their work or homes or activities. Paul Hughes explains this in a well written article named "Exotic Civilizations".
Note: This paper has disappeared once from the internet. If this link goes away let me know and I'll try to find it again.
Robert Bradbury the person who introduced us to Matrioshka Brains has passed away. Here's an eloquent memorium from George Dvorsky. I wonder if we will ever learn that there are billions of Matrioshka Brains in the Milky Way, most of them far from the galactic center. We currently call them dark matter.
If I had my choice of where to live in the Milky Way I would want to be as far as possible from the monster black hole at its center.
Richard Hoover of NASA claims to have found alien microbes inside of a meteorite (right side, left side is a real terrestrial bacterium).
I predict 2 types of responses: pathological rejection and people who equate this with sentient space faring beings.
Frankly I think panspermia is the only theory of evolution which makes much sense. Integrate evolution over 10 billion planets and 10 billion years and you get believable statistics.
One of the reasons life survives on Earth is that we have a big brother protecting us from sterilizing events (asteroid bombardment). Jupiter has been a powerful sink for asteroids that would have killed us all. To find alien life in another system we should focus on those systems which have a large planet well outside the habitable zone as seen here. Exoplanets.org has a list of known exoplanets, and it is sortable by the semi-major axis. Click on that column to sort the exoplanets by their distance from the primary.
Jupiter is about 5 astronomical units (AU) from our G-type star. Here are the first 4 likely candidates.
590 light years away near Pavo is HD 190984 , an F8 star with a big planet at 6 AU.
40 ly away is 55 Cancer, a G8 star with a big one at 5.9 AU.
At 85 ly in Libra, HD 134987 is a G8 star with a planet 0.8 Jupiter masses at 5.8 AU.
49ly away mu-Ara is a G3 star with a planet twice the mass of Jupiter at 5.3 AU.
Statistically speaking these are outstanding targets for hosting alien life. A more detailed analysis may preclude one or more of these due to orbital eccentricity, other planets, or binary star systems. But if spontaneous generation of life is common then at least one of these systems hosts alien life.
Speculation about life on Titan or other cold worlds is misguided because the chemical reaction rates are simply too slow. All chemical reactions have a rate. That rate has an exponential dependence on temperature as described by the Arrhenius equation.
rate = A exp (-Ea/kT)
Ea is the activation energy, k is Boltzmann's constant, T is the temperature, A is the pre-exponential factor
Chemical activation energies are best measured in electron-volts or eV. Typical values are between 1 and 3 eV, usually closer to 2.0. The ground temperature on Titan is around 94 oK or -179 oC.
Thus a chemical reaction on Titan would be roughly 73 orders of magnitude slower than the same reaction on Earth (298 oK). So a reaction which takes a microsecond on Earth would require 10^60 years on Titan. (That's 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 years).
Pre-exponential factors for chemical reactions have a certain value which represents steric effects. They cannot be 60 orders of magnitude larger because molecular geometry is not that pliable.
Traditional chemical reaction based life is impossible on Titan or any other location where the temperature is so far below 298 oK.
The SETI Institute will host Celebrating Science 2010 Family Science Faire Saturday May 22, 2010. From their announcement: At our Celebrating Science 2010 Family Science Faire, you will have the opportunity to meet SETI Institute scientists and discover what the future holds for SETI and astrobiology. Learn about the SETI Institute's pioneering exploration of life, our solar system, and beyond, including the search for signals from other civilizations.
Your opportunity for hands-on science! We will have fun, interactive activities for youth aged 8-15. They will be able to sign up on a first-come, first-serve basis for educational science-based activities. We will also have fun and creative activities for our younger up-and-coming scientists.
Meet the father of SETI and author of the Drake Equation, Dr. Frank Drake. Visit the gift shop for a Drake Equation t-shirt and ask Dr. Drake himself to sign it!
Hear Seth Shostak speak at 2:45 on "Why Your Grandkids Will Live in Space." Dr. Shostak will be available to autograph his latest book, Confessions of an Alien Hunter.
"Peering far beyond our solar system, NASA researchers have detected the basic chemistry for life in a second hot gas planet, advancing astronomers toward the goal of being able to characterize planets where life could exist. The planet is not habitable but it has the same chemistry that, if found around a rocky planet in the future, could indicate the presence of life."
If organic molecules are so prevalent where are all the intelligent space-faring aliens ? The lack of evidence for aliens is strong evidence that we are alone, the random evolution of intelligent life is so rare that we are the only ones in the entire galaxy. Note that this is not the same as saying "the random evolution of life is rare". There probably are bacteria in most solar systems.
The basic argument of an atheist is "If there is a God then prove it, where is the evidence? I can't see him, I've never seen a miracle, there is no evidence of supernatural powers or beings." Replace those words with aliens and you get the exact same argument. Anyone who argues against the existence of God has to give the exact same arguments against the existence of aliens. I'm in the opposite category, despite my faith I say "There are no aliens in this galaxy, prove me wrong." It's unreasonable to say that even one other intelligent species evolved in our galaxy because that requires wild coincidences about why they aren't here. Some of those coincidences say:
1 They evolved at almost exactly the same time as we did (beating the odds of 13 billion to one)
2 they aren't explorers, they just stayed home, and they never sent out robotic exploration ships
3 they killed themselves (war, suicide, plague) before launching robotic exploration machines
4 they all died because of natural events (asteroids, supernovae, plague) before launching robotic exploration machines
5 their robots came and left before we noticed and left no evidence of their visit, and are probably secretly watching us
6 they have a Prime Directive and they won't visit us until x happens .... and maybe never
Many people confuse the evolution of life with the evolution of intelligent life. They say life evolves easily and that life is everywhere in our galaxy, but they are not talking about intelligent life, they are talking about bacteria. The Rare Earth explanation for the Fermi Paradox is not about planets, it's not about atmospheres, and it's not about bacteria. It's about space faring sentient life. I could not care less if there are bacteria in every stellar system in this galaxy. That is boring and has nothing at all to do with the Fermi Paradox.
The evolution of intelligent life is rare, extremely rare. So rare that the rate per galaxy is well below 1.0 per 13 billion years. If FTL is possible then the Fermi Paradox requires that the rate of evolution of intelligent life is about once in 13 billion years per universe. That means we are alone in the entire universe.
Prove me wrong with evidence, not conjecture. Don't tell me what "we all know to be true" especially all you atheists, because you won't accept that argument for the existence of God.
Work published in 2008 from Israel claims detection of element #122. If true the implications are stunning. The only possible method of generating element 122 is by artificial nucleosynthesis, a technical feat beyond the capability of modern day humans. While subsequent study may have disproven the theory this opens up a new method of proving the existence of aliens. Even a single atom of element 122 (or higher) would be an artifact proving the existence of alien life...
Or time travel, it's always possible that in the future human will make the element and then send back in time either coincidentally or as an actual component of the time machine.
Regular readers of my blog know that I propose there are no aliens anywhere and never have been. So if element 122 is really discovered I claim it's proof of time travel, not aliens.
Many recent blog posts continue to try to explain the Fermi Paradox. I'll try to explain why these writers just don't get it. http://enfranchisedmind.com/blog/posts/the-fermi-paradox/
Many people still are confused on several points about the Fermi Paradox. Let's start with the name.
The word paradox is used because everyone "knows" it's a "fact" that there are countless intelligent aliens in our galaxy, despite the fact that none of them have made any obvious contact with humans or visits to Earth. The use of the word "paradox" is sloppy pseudoscience. We don't know, in fact pure empiricism suggests we know the opposite. The complete lack of evidence of aliens in our galaxy is overwhelming evidence that we are alone. The phrase "Fermi Paradox" has become so ingrained that it is almost a single word, and it will be difficult to eliminate it. So I'll keep using it even though I'm convinced there is no paradox.
The reason so many people believe in this "fact" is pure and simple. Darwinism has blinded us to objective science. We all "know" Darwinism is true, and we "know" that it's "easy" for intelligent life to evolve. Therefore we cannot possibly be alone. Let's try to be scientists on this topic. Regardless of your opinion on Darwinism, the obvious evidence is that we are alone.
There is no evidence of intelligent alien life anywhere within or without our galaxy. Look around, and specifically look at other galaxies. We have excellent images of roughly 10,000 galaxies. Not one of them shows an artificial construction. Assuming each galaxy is 10 billion years old, that means that not once in 1e14 galaxy-years has an alien race built a galactic superstructure, visible from our galaxy. Not once. How can any scientist look at this evidence and claim anything other than "humans are alone" ?
And let's be clear, the existence of alien bacteria on a rock orbiting Alpha Centauri has nothing to do with this discussion. I could not care less if every star in this galaxy has primordial life, or even highly evolved tool makers. This is only about intelligent, sentient, technologically advanced space-faring civilizations. Bacteria are irrelevant.
Another point of confusion is the difference between "manned" exploration of the galaxy versus robotic exploration. Frequently bloggers cannot distinguish between these. They say that there are not enough aliens to staff the exploration ships, therefore the exploration of the galaxy will be a lot slower than "commonly" accepted. Again they "know" that aliens would probably not send out self-replicating robots to explore the galaxy.
The fact is that even one self-replicating robotic exploration craft would find every solar system in our galaxy in a matter of 100 million years. That means that for the first few billion years of the existence of the Milky Way no sentient race has built automated exploration craft. Or does it?
A statistical analysis of the evolution of humans from self-replicating RNA demonstrates that evolution is wrong. There are too many permutations available which lead to dead ends. Two billion years on a single planet is not enough time for all the dead ends to be explored. The current theory of Darwinism requires that life "randomly" chose a viable path 99% of the time, instead of a dead end. Most mutations don't work, they result in dead babies, or sterility, or severe biochemical imbalances. Yet evolution on Earth has mysteriously chosen a viable living mutant baby most of the time. What an amazing coincidence !
But what if we combine statistics with the Fermi Paradox? Suppose our galaxy has seen the existence of 1-2 intelligent species that built self-replicating robots. And instead of hardware, the primary substance of those self-replicating robots is biological? Suppose that instead of 2 billion years on one planet, evolution has really had 10 billion years on a million planets. Now the statistics make sense, now we no longer need a miracle of statistics to explain our own biology.
So here's the resolution of the Fermi "Paradox". In the Milky Way (a few million planets over the past few billion years) intelligent life evolved once (or maybe 2-3 times). That species built self-replicating biological explorers which seeded the galaxy. We are the result. Humans are either direct products of alien robotic exploration craft, or we are the first and only intelligent species to evolve in the entire universe.
I prefer the second, I say that the rate of evolution of intelligent life in the Milky Way is about once per 13 billion years. So prove me wrong, with evidence. Real evidence. And don't waste my time talking about what we "know to be true".
Optical SETI offers a much higher chance of finding a real signal because of the simple fact that there are no known natural sources of nanosecond pulses (or shorter). Any 10 nanosecond pulse of light can only be from intelligent life (or of course a shocking new natural phenomenon). Recently a researcher in Australia has detected a pulse. Unfortunately the details of the signal are not available. Thanks to Sentient Developments for pointing out this article.
The details of optical SETI are a lot more complex than radio based SETI. Radio SETI is fairly clear, just listen for a signal which shouldn't be there. But optical SETI requires some understanding of light pulses. For example, every day our own sun puts out flares, which would look like pulses from a few light years away. Supernovae, gamma-ray bursters, novae, and variable stars all put out more light at some point than normal. So what makes an optical pulse natural versus synthetic? The answer is time.
There are no natural phenomena which generate nanosecond light pulses**. A nanosecond pulse means that a burst of photons is detected, and all the photons arrive within a few nanoseconds of each other, then no more arrive until the next burst. In general this means the light was generated with a laser. Lasers are a little easier to understand, all the photons are the same, same color (or wavelength), and same phase. There are continuous lasers which have no pulses, they emit a steady stream of photons.
From a few light years away it is plausible to measure the photon color and determine that a light source is a laser, but unlikely. For example, amateur astronmers know that a planetary nebula emits OIII lines at 501nm. All these photons are the same color but they are absolutely not from a laser. With extremely precise spectrometry it might be possible to determine that a certain set of photons came from a laser. But there would be a lot of arguing.
However, if the laser is pulsed, and the pulse width is less than 100 nanoseconds, then this signal came from a laser built by an intelligent species. It's not even necessary to measure the color of the photons. If they are nanosecond pulses then we are not alone. All that is needed is that the pulse be bright compared with the background. For example, point an 8" telescope at a magnitude 6 star. The telescope collects some number of photons/second, let's say it's a million. So on average about once every microsecond a photon hits the detector. Now suddenly a pulse of 5 photons arrives, all within 10 nanoseconds. Even if that pulse is not repeated it stands out like a beacon, 5 random photons never arrive on top of each other. A 5 photon pulse means we are not alone. This works until the average photon rate is around a 100 million per second, so really bright stars will drown out possible optical signals.
With a photomultiplier tube, boxcar integrator, and a decent oscilliscope we amateur astronomers could build our own optical SETI equipment and discover intelligent life.
** There is of course always the chance that a shocking new natural phenomenon will be discovered which emits nanosecond pulses. If you discover that you might have to settle for a Nobel instead of aliens.
The Fermi Paradox allows for many explanations. One is that the human race encountered aliens in the past, we just don't know about it. This anti-anthropocentric view does not offer an answer to the question "are they still here?" If they came a long time ago then they probably went away bored. If they came recently they probably went away laughing. But perhaps they or their machines are still here, watching and waiting. Can we speculate for what are they waiting, and what would trigger a change in their posture?
They could be waiting for us to all kill each other so they can have the planet, or they could be waiting for us to dig up an artifact on the moon or Mars. They could be waiting for reinforcements, or for Sol to explode. They could be waiting for us to invent something they desperately need, or for us to answer an important question such as "What is the meaning of life?". Perhaps they are waiting for us to arrive at THE question for which they already know the answer (101010).
I believe the answer is much simpler, natural evolution produces one sentient species per galaxy once every 10 billion years. We are alone in the Milky Way and will be for a very long time. In fact we will probably colonize this galaxy so extensively that we prevent the evolution of the 2nd ones.
But it's fun to think aliens are listening to us and laughing at the method used in the USA for choosing leaders.
Fermi's Paradox can be resolved in many ways. My preference is the following: Natural evolution of advanced species is much rarer than most Darwinists would have you believe. It is in fact so rare that the probability of at least one species evolving in any given galaxy is below 1 (perhaps well below 1). Many galaxies never host intelligent life. The number of galaxies which evolve 2 or more is a very small number.
No aliens have contacted us yet because there are no others. We are the first (in the Milky Way). This is not anthropomorphic, rather it is an honest assessement of the probability that random chance will produce intelligence.