Aliens?

Space has been a little disappointing for the last few decades. Since the moon, everything has turned out kind of barren. Every SETI-related result of the past 30 years has been disheartening — “there was once water on Mars” doesn’t really do it for me. There are two big exceptions. One is Jupiter and Saturn’s moons, which are still cool and could do with more checking out.

The other is the search for other solar systems. Starting in 1995, we’ve been finding craploads of planets around every star we look at. The better we build our telescopes, the more planets we see. It seems more and more likely that a lot of stars have solar systems like ours. And if Mars could’ve had water, and we have water, water probably isn’t uncommon. Things are looking up for life in the universe, even if they’re looking down for our neighborhood.

I think we haven’t made contact with aliens by radio yet because we’re looking in a very limited set of places, not because they’re not there. I think it’s more likely that ET is using tight-beam lasers to communicate between star systems; it’s silly to expect them to dump powerful uncompressed signals toward us on the few frequencies we’re searching at the times we happen to look toward them. I think it’s very likely that there’s a lot of life out there; we’ve barely started searching.

In the next decade or so, we’re gonna get a lot better at seeing other solar systems. We’ll be getting new planet-finding telescopes built — there’s immediate-future stuff like Kepler, and there’s also the possibility of giant optical arrays in orbit or on the moon that can directly image earth-like planets around other stars. The data will start pouring in soon, and space will be exciting once more.

All that said, most applications of the Drake Equation are pretty shoddy. You can’t extrapolate from one damn data point no matter how much you want to. But this isn’t really Dr. Drake’s fault. He’s doing the best he can.

Edit: Regarding today’s comic: Dr. Drake’s first name is Frank, not Francis. He is an astrophysicist, not a 16th-century British Vice-Admiral. Thank you to the several readers who wrote in to correct me — I had always thought Francis Drake was just one long-lived and supremely-accomplished person.

194 thoughts on “Aliens?

  1. It makes no sense at all to believe in the new testament without believing in the old one, Jef.

    Either Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of millenia of Judaic mystical prophecy, or he wasn’t. Without the context of the old covenant, there can’t be the new covenant that Jesus purported to create. Even new “Christian” prophecy – Israel back to the Jews, the reconstruction of the temple, the second coming of the first Messiah – it’s all related to that old testament.

    As far as I can tell, it’s all a bunch of horse puckey; prophecy always IS a bunch of horse puckey.

    But nothing gets me madder than so-called “Christians” who don’t understand their own religion, wouldn’t agree with it if they did, and therefore substitute this lite, lo-calorie pablum version of it that basically boils down to “Be nice and have faith in Me”.

  2. “I have a sneaking suspicion that the same comic could have been made with Bayes as the punchline?”
    Probably not.

  3. Multi-celled organisms lived on earth for a billion years or so. Dinosaurs dominated the earth for about 150 million years. Humanoids (more or less) began to evolve about 1.5 million years ago. Modern man has been around for *maybe* 50,000 years. Radio transmission was discovered/invented about 100 years ago. We’ve been looking for extraterrestrials for maybe 20 years.

    Of COURSE we’re unlikely to detect any life in space using these methods. No two solar systems cooled and developed at precisely the same time. For any system in proximity to ours, we’re almost certain to be out-of-sync by millions of years. And as others have pointed out, even mankind has found better means of exchanging information than radio waves.

    We have a much better chance of winning the lottery, even with the best of the new radio & optic telescopes, than of detecting life on other nearby planets.

  4. It is true that we’re unlikely to stumble upon incidental ET communication. There is always the chance, though, that others are looking for life, as well. It isn’t that unreasonable. If there are civilzations more advanced than us, then they would have much better methods of looking for us. Ideally, they would also assume that possible life could be less advanced, and listen for more primitive communication; here’s to hoping that their communication evoltuion paralleled our own.

    How cool would it be if one day some other planet’s equivalent to our ‘Voyager’ came smashing into Earth? Erm, as long as it was an unpopulated area.

  5. There are is one big assumption that alien life depends on: Evolution has a goal.

    It dosen’t. Evolution is a word which sould be forbidden, because it creates a false picture of itself.

    What we call ‘Evolution’ is nothing but a series of errors in genetic code which get passed on to the next generation. For better or for worse. When a species ‘Evolves’ those errors have accumulated to the point that they affect the majority of the species.

    Look at us- who does the most breeding? Who’s genetic code get’s passed on the most? Not the acidemics. Look at your average university student- no children, but can name several classmates who didn’t go to any higher education and are pregnant.

    Perhaps we are on the peak of devolopment for a species- that moment just before a species breeds inteligence out of itself. Where the concentious are careful and introspective about birth controll, and the impulsive and stupid ignore it.

  6. Come on! Evolution is a “theory” that was developed by a theologian named Charles in the days when they thought that cells were made of some structureless mud called protoplasm; and to this day it has no meaningful scientific evidence despite its academic acceptance and popularity.

    You get it? He was a theologian!! And named like the son of Queen Elizabeth!

    Until we find some agent in the Universe that can oppose the enthropy laws and create higher order from chaos (and no, freemasons don’t count); I personally find it more probable that the Universe and life are a product of Intellgient Design.

    Yes that’s right; this whole Universe can’t just be the product of chance events that are mathematically remote. So maybe this Designer may have entertained the idea of life on more planets than ours.

    If He’s crazy enough to contemplate the idea of making an existent universe, then maybe he made aliens.

    With regard to the comic about the Drake Equation I have to fully agree with the humor! The formula is a clearly a product of speculation, not of any meaningful observation.

    All the plantes we’re discovering outside our solar system are Exo-planets, meaning they are mainly masses of gas like Jupiter and Saturn.

    For this reason I find myself biased towards the idea that life on other planets is either inexistent, not carbon based or not so well developed.

    Regarding the subject of chance of Earth-like life and ET Intelligence I’d recommend searching video.google.com for a 1hr movie called ‘Priviledged Planet’. It has some interesting points to consider.

  7. Atlan, you are implying that university students just don’t have children. Your average student doesn’t have children because most people don’t have children at that age. Most students will go on to have children.

    You also assume that intelligence is completely determined by genetics. I know lots of people who have stupid parents but are very intelligent.

    Even if there is a high correlation with genetics and intelligence, evolution occurs fastest in small, isolated groups with short life spans. Evolution is occuring incredibly slowly, if at all in humans now. Even if we are breeding ourselves into stupidity, it probably won’t occur for millions of years – by which time we will have realised this and done something about it, or died out.

    Personally I believe that most people have the capacity for high intelligence (and genetics has very little to do with it) and that it is our limited teaching methods and our concept of intelligence that holds us back.

    “Perhaps we are on the peak of devolopment for a species” If you are referring to a genetic peak, I doubt this. Evolution may have stopped for humans, but we will almost certainly start altering our genes in the future to reduce disease and illness, probably to improve physical and mental capacity and possibly for cosmetic reasons.

  8. Ok, Mark, there really is overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution, and its really quite a fantasic idea.

    I’m not disputing a creator made the universe, but if he did then he almost certainly implemented evolution as part of it.

    Although Darwin lived in a time of limited biological understanding, he actually didn’t describe how evolution might work – he literally had no idea. He simply observed creatures around him and came up with a theory.

    Its a theory that can help us understand how lots of biological processes work, the fact the we have (allegedly) evolved from the same genetic material as other creatures allows us to find cures for diseases using other animals with similar genes. Just like theories of gravity, mechanics and aerodynamics allow us to build aeroplanes that fly.

    The theory of intelligent design might be the real one, but it doesn’t help us accomplish anything, and for that I consider it less valuable.

  9. “No, the theorem states that a spherical shell creates no net gravitational field within it. The sun’s own gravity would still act on the sphere and keep it in equilibrium – although I’m not sure of the stability.”

    Uh, no, it wouldn’t. This is elementary celestial mechanics. No matter where you position an object within a hollow rigid sphere, its net gravitational pull in all directions cancel out on the sphere. If the star is closer to one arbitrary side, it will, by virtue of proximity, exert a stronger pull on that side. However, now there’s more of the sphere on the other side, which although further away, has greater mass. Newton proved that it always cancels to zero. Anything in the sphere is free-floating relative to the sphere. There is no equilibrium to be had.

    If you actually do the calculations, you will see. A Dyson sphere is unstable, will drift relative to the star, and is impossible to keep centered. Even a physics undergraduate should have a clear enough understanding of Newton to figure this out.

  10. The theory of intelligent design might be the real one,

    I doubt it, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a reaction to the then accepted theory of “natural theology” (which got relabelled “intelligent design” by people wiht more money than scientific cojones), which is why he spends a large part of Origin debunking things like the watchmaker hypothesis and why it took him a couple of decades for him to gather enough evidence for him to be happy in the theory’s correctness. Evolutioin replaced ID as the “accepted theory”, and I somehow doubt ID’s gonna suddenly turn out to have been correct all along.

    Here on earth, we are living on the freaking cold end of the possible temperature spectrum. What’s to say that there are not other forms of ‘life’ that have adapted to live in higher heat ranges?

    Actually according to Asimov (who was a skilled biochemist remember) the only chemical basis for life that would require hotter temperatures than our own is pretty much a molten sulfur/carbon based one.

    On the flip side however liquid ammonia, methane or even hydrogen all offer chemical enviroments where life might emerge but which we aren’t really looking at because it’s “ouside the habital zone” for the terracentric conception of life due to the low low temperatures (or high pressures) required for each.

    And that’s just life forms with a carbon based chemical structure.

    Blood Levitz? posing miss? recaptcha is very goth today

  11. = basically stick a power producing chemical reaction in that doesn’t actually destroy the area it occurred in and you’ll likely get something that can use it eventually =

    Chernobyl (dunno if it’s spelled right) has produced fungus that feds off radioactivity. I think life is possible as long as chemical reactions can take place and enough time is given.

  12. “There are is one big assumption that alien life depends on: Evolution has a goal.
    It dosen’t. Evolution is a word which sould be forbidden, because it creates a false picture of itself.”
    Actually, evolve means to unroll. Nothing about a goal.
    Plus, we evolved intelligence, didn’t we? Intelligence is a survival trait, not perhaps the best one, but who’s to say alien ecologies, once strength, speed, size are taken up, won’t develop intelligent species?

    “Yes that’s right; this whole Universe can’t just be the product of chance events that are mathematically remote. So maybe this Designer may have entertained the idea of life on more planets than ours.”
    Anthropic principle. If the Universe couldn’t support life, we wouldn’t be around to see it. Plus, probabilities are useless unless you don’t know whether an event happens, which obviously we do, because the Universe is here. Your argument is like flipping ten coins, getting HTTHTHHTHH, and saying “That outcome has a probability of 1/1024. It couldn’t have happened on its own, so something made it happen that way.”

    “With regard to the comic about the Drake Equation I have to fully agree with the humor! The formula is a clearly a product of speculation, not of any meaningful observation.”
    The equation wasn’t designed to be accurate. How could it be? We’ve observed exactly one intelligent species on one life-sustaining planet around one star in one galaxy. Obviously it’s speculative. It’s a way of separating at the factors so one can examine them and perhaps estimate. No point in claiming it’s anything more.

    “Uh, no, it wouldn’t. This is elementary celestial mechanics. No matter where you position an object within a hollow rigid sphere, its net gravitational pull in all directions cancel out on the sphere.”
    Sorry, my mistake. Hm, by Newton’s third law, if the shell exerts no force on the Sun, the Sun can exert no force on the shell… correct?

  13. Regarding Cesium’s observations on the Drake equation….

    *”The equation wasn?t designed to be accurate. How could it be? We?ve observed exactly one intelligent species on one life-sustaining planet around one star in one galaxy.”*

    There is one set of observations that we have access to that might get around the fact that we’re limited to a single planet – palaeontology.

    We have a sketchy record that goes back more than 3,500,000,000 years. We only have one life-sustaining planet to observe, but on that planet, life appeared as soon as there were rocks capable of recording traces of life. It seems to have sprung up instantly (in a geological sense).

    This could still be a single observation sitting at the bottom end of a bell curve, but i find it pretty impressive somehow.

    ((Also, Mark wrote: “All the plantes we?re discovering outside our solar system are [...] mainly masses of gas like Jupiter and Saturn.” May I just point out that we’re only discovering those types of planets because those are the only types of planets we *can* discover. If we find a technique for finding Earth-sized planets around Sun-like stars (rather than pulsars), then i’m sure we’ll find squillions of them.))

  14. “This could still be a single observation sitting at the bottom end of a bell curve, but i find it pretty impressive somehow.”

    …just to clarify why it ought to be impressive when it’s still a sample size of 1 – it’s the only observation that gets around the anthropic principle.

  15. “May I just point out that we’re only discovering those types of planets because those are the only types of planets we *can* discover.”
    Right — they’re at the edge of becoming stars, so they’re the ones we can see, or infer from their gravity, most readily.

  16. In the search for life in the universe I have come the conclusion that we should just start seeding planets with bacteria. Then there would be life on other planets. Seriously, I find myself wanting to build a rocket and just plant life forms on other planets. If no one ever finds out about my rocket then many peoples dreams will have come true.

    Don’t know why we feel we have to keep the universe pristine anyways. We should experiment. For science!

    (really I just want to own a dinosaur ranch on mars)

  17. I think it’s more likely that they intentionally avoid talking to us.

    Seriously, humanity is dangerously intelligent *and* barbaric at the same time. In the last 70 years, we’ve built (and used) a bomb which renders thousands of square miles uninhabitable; a quick perusal of the airwaves reveals that we hate each other on the basis of skin color, geographic location, choice universally omnipotent yet conspicuously absent deities, where we place our naughty bits, etc.

    If I were smarter than us, I’d stay the hell away from us. Who knows what the presence of a super-intelligent, technically superior being would do to those who crave power on this planet? What would it do to people who’ve been waiting for the return of Jesus Christ (et al)?

  18. I tend to disagree with the idea that humans, as intelligent + violent beings, are some kind of horrible aberration (like in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy where we nearly destroy the planet and the Oankali step in to basically keep us as pets).

    Competition drives innovation, and it’s hard to imagine a perfectly peaceful civilization being motivated to go anywhere very fast. Like the ancient Taoist ideal of the village where everyone’s so content, they don’t even want to hike over the hill into the next village.

    Re: Jesus Christ and aliens – has anyone else read Ray Bradbury’s cantata “Christus Apollo”? As a Christian, biologist, and SF fan, I find the ideas in it really appealing.

  19. I think we will just be driven to explore, no matter how peaceful and content we are. But of course I can’t speak for other species.

    “In the search for life in the universe I have come the conclusion that we should just start seeding planets with bacteria. Then there would be life on other planets. Seriously, I find myself wanting to build a rocket and just plant life forms on other planets. If no one ever finds out about my rocket then many peoples dreams will have come true.”
    And then they’ll say, “Hey, wait. This is E. coli. What’s it doing on Epsilon Eridani?”

  20. Excellent cartoon – I’m going to use it in a talk someday :)

    Imaging Extrasolar Planets – it *is* possible to image a massive extrasolar planet around a nearby star. The diffraction limit of most ground based telescopes with an adaptive optics could split a 10 Jupiter mass planet in orbit around a nearby (less than 10 parsec distant) star, if the system is young enough.

    The planet will look like a dot of light and you won’t resolve the surface, but you CAN see it.

    And as for the Dyson sphere – if the inside of the sphere is even slightly reflective, anyone on the inside surface of the sphere will see a neat optical effect as the star drifts out from the center – a ‘ghost sun’ image will appear at the other focus of the inside of the sphere, as the geometry will approximate the twin foci of an ellipsoid.

    In fact, that’s your solution there. Have lots of mirrors that are shiny on one side and that cover a tunnel that passes out through to the outside of the sphere. If the star drifts towards your side, cover the tunnels with mirrors and photon pressure pushes you back into position.

    Heck, make a Dyson ellipsoid and stick the star at one focus – presto! Two stars for the flux of one ;-)

    Thanks for the comics!

    Cheers,

    Matt

  21. first of all forgive me if someone has already said this, i’ve only read a quarter of the posts…

    even if advanced civilizations have discovered FTL communication, im sure they would still use radio for everyday stuff. If they are as curious as we are and are actively searching for us they will send out radio signals hoping to find less advanced civilizations.

    people tend to think that if intelligent life has created FTL travel we would have already been visited by them, but think about it this way, how long did it take after the boat was invented for us to go to every single island on earth? i ‘m pretty sure that even with FTL drive the chances of aliens bumping into us looking for habitable plants are rare.

    If there isn’t a way to travel faster than light, that doesn’t mean that there are no galactic civilizations. taking 100 years to reach a destination doesn’t mean that its unreachable, so as long as chryo-genetic freezing is possible, there will be intersolar travel. at the very worst there will be city sized Ark-ships, which will bring the descendants of the travelers to the destination, which would really only be practical if the goal was colonization

  22. Ben, radio waves ARE light waves, just a different frequency. It’s all electromagnetic radiation that travels at the same speed. The longer the wavelength the less interference there is, making radio our best bet. (anything from gamma rays to most ultraviolet gets absorbed by our atmosphere) We’ve detected many radio sources all over the universe (they’re called quasars), but they don’t come from planets, they come from super-massive black holes that are ripping apart other stars and producing light in the process. Just wanted to let you know, but I agree with you on Jupiter’s moons being our first discovery of life.

    On a separate note: A lot of people don’t realize that when we look to the sky we are looking to the past. When you see a star 10 light years away, you see it as it was 10 years ago. When we look at other galaxies we don’t see them as they are today. On the reverse side, if intelligent life forms were searching for us and they lived a thousand light years away they would see Earth as it was a thousand years ago. Now imagine a few million light years, they would have probably moved on already and quit on us.

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  24. if aliens communicate interstellar-ly using lasers or optical devices, what is the possibility that the message they receive are either corrupted or sniffed..

    oh, and human technology must still suck since it cannot track any other alien signals other than EM waves and light thingies..

  25. “Know thou that every fixed star hath its own planets, and every planet its own creatures, whose number no man can compute.”
    (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, LXXXII, p. 162-163)

  26. First of all forgive any spelling mistake since english is not my native language :)

    Randall, I definitely agree with you, and I know how these last decades have been very very frustrating in the search of alien life forms. But the answer might be that we are not looking in the correct places.

    Of course, technology improvements in the last years have allowed us to discover a lot more stuff, and soon we will be able to scan the surfaces of those extra solar planets. But, the problem is WHAT we are searching for.

    For instance, the life as we know it is based on carbon, and requires water to developing, and that is what scientists have been searching for in every other planet or solar system they discover, but… have you ever considered that not because our living forms are based on those elements all living forms have to be based on them?

    What about possibly existing life forms based in other elements who don’t require water to live, but other elements such as mercury or nitrogen? Do other living forms have to have a solid body? How about intelligent ethereal entities that might inhabit other planets? These are things that scientists are not considering because they are so focused on searching for water and conditions similar to earth.

    Space is so vast, we don’t know what more we can find out there, we don’t even know if God decided to create intelligent life on every inhabited planet to be radically different one from another in order to make it practically impossible to find each other? Do you know what would happen if we stablished constant contact with a radically different life form?

    Musulmans and Christians can’t get their minds together fighting during milleniums to see who has it right, I strongly believe that if there are intelligent living forms in other planets they should also have had their prophets, and savior, and their own knowledge of God, are we really prepared for that? or do you think humans will try to impose their religion beliefs to them?

    Human race still has to evolve to a degree where we all can be prepared to deal with this kind of situations. If we can’t put ourselves together within the same race, what if we had to treat with alien life forms?

    Fortunately this change is already starting to happen…

  27. I would like to point out that (IMO) war has been, for us, the greatest platform for technological advancement; we wouldn’t have nuclear reactors without the quest for the A-bomb.

    granted we probably would have discovered it anyways but methinks the fossil fuels industry would attempt to supress it, like it is with electric and fuel cell-driven cars; they’re making hybrids, thus keeping oil in the loop.

    personally I think ford made a mistake when he invented the car, we’d all be better off with trains, planes, trolleys, bikes, and the good old bipedal locomitive system known as walking; we’d probablly have less obesity too, but then again, you never know.

    =========================

    And I wouldn’t stress out too much about the failure of SETI since we’ve only been at it for, what, like two or three decades. If you think of the fact that we’ve only just started to look in geological/celestial terms and the fact that we’re looking way into the past; IMO, we should send out fusion-powered probes as soon as we can.

    Dunno, we’ll prolly just run across a sentient species when we starts settling other systems, hopefully after we’ve accepted Sentient AI as equals and matured as a species; and dealing away with this troublesome religious tribalism of ours.

  28. The problem about contracting deadly diseases is silly. The only reason we get very sick from certain pathogenic organisms is because they’ve evolved to invade our bodies and evade our immune systems. Saying that when totally different aliens invade we’ll all die out is like saying that we really need to be careful around Elm trees because we just might catch Dutch Elm Disease. Life that evolved on another planet is probably far more different than we are from animals on our own planet, and we do not catch most diseases that afflict animals here.

    And alien species that are similar enough to us would probably have pathogens that are also similar enough so that our immune system can fight them effectively.

    Killer diseases that wipe out humanity are far more likely to spring up somewhere on our own planet, or escape from government labs than that come here from another galaxy.

  29. Consider that:
    - A few decades ago we were unable to send such signals to space.
    - Even if a low percentage of civilizations live long enough to spread through space enough to survive their growing pains (wars, global disease an the like) the average communicating civilization that’s out there should be much older and advanced than us.
    This implies that if there’s any significantly more advanced technology that allows for long distance communication than radio or laser, it will have been discovered by most aliens.
    We could imagine what would be the communications mechanism an alien civilization would be using: any technology that’s “simple” enough to be discovered by most civilization within a few hundred years of achieving basic radio technology, but that offers significant advantages over other simpler alternatives, and that can be accessed without previous interchange.
    One such possibility would be instantaneous transmission of data through some sort of particle entanglement that doesn’t require the particles to be joined first. If such thing is possible, the first thing we should do is setting a receptor to some universally obvious parameters (such as those based on univeral non unit specific constants, such as hydrogen mass and the like) and wait for a connection. If such a communication mechanism is possible, I’m pretty sure there are lots of signals waiting for us there.

  30. If life out there is intelligent, who’s to say they’ve discovered decent interstellar communication? Sure, a hyper-advanced alien species would be awesome, but I’d guess that if there was other sentient life out there, it’s probably on par with us, us in a millennium or two (I doubt there’ll be interstellar communication on a decent level by then, even), or not up to us yet.

    At least, given no other information, we may as well consider it more likely that whatever we find will be of a nonsentient animal level or below. Seriously, how many planets (see Mars) had/have conditions for life, had/have life, and then dried up?

    Re: God and aliens, I hear an explanation for Cain’s wife is that he married a close relative (Adam and Eve had a crapload of children, and Cain went off and married the descendant of an older brother and sister or whatever). Also, no one says God _does_ want more than humans to be the intelligent life in the universe. No one knows.

    Denying alien existence is denying a crapton of probability factors like how many planets have formed, etc. and all the stuff the Drake equation tries to include. Denying God is writing a zillion really sketchy things off as coincidence. To me, the latter is no sillier than the former by any means.

  31. Denying alien existence is denying a crapton of probability factors like how many planets have formed, etc. and all the stuff the Drake equation tries to include. Denying God is writing a zillion really sketchy things off as coincidence.

    Or to combine the two – saying that aliens are not in fact responsible for all things that are even slightly difficult (let alone miraculous!) is akin to implying that amerindigens could construct complex patterns which they then scaled up into religious precession or could in fact construct huge things made of stone using some basic engineering and a shit load of man power – just like how the celts weren’t able to do that either.

    Denying that such things are possible without the intervention of a benign anthropomorphic extraterrestrial intelligence with anti-gravity and the ability to redefine the basic laws fo the universe so as to ensure that a book written by some non-aliens in our puny classical period would turn out to be totally, literally, true is crazy talk!!!!!

    Bah to Occam’s Razor sir, bah! Do you really expect me to believe that it was just a coincidence that I didn’t fall over in the shower this morning and give my self a severe concussion? Do you really expect me to believe that when I inserted the key into the ignoition and turned it, that it was not the fault of some higher power that the car started (eventually)?

    Actually I recant that last part, I just realised that engineers really do worship a religion that holds themselves up as an omniscient higher power in the universe, Quickly! Throw a pay dispute at them and run the other way before they try to take over the world.

    Slang Jealous

  32. The only reason we get very sick from certain pathogenic organisms is because they’ve evolved to invade our bodies and evade our immune systems

    Actually this is a common isunderstanding of how and why diseases kill people.

    Basically, the reason why the flu kills people is because it unfortunately somehow make the immune system goes “holy crap! Achtung! Achtung!” and basically has a huge overreaction that produces the symptoms that, in their worst cases, leads to the sufferer drowning in their own bodily fluids.

    Meanwhile the flu just reproduces a bit but generally hasn’t done anything particularly harmful, even though you can;t breath right and you have a top fly encased in the dried on snot that covers your top lip. in fact if the immune system didn’t react at all to the virus we’d never realise it was there until it managed to turn one of our more vital organs into a huge glob of flu virus (whcih is what happens to AIDS sufferers).

    Alien bugs might lead to a similar thing – though probably more along the lines of septic shock or something. SPACE! STIs would be a really bad thing to get, with the Kirks and Daxs of hte future (I tried to think of one female star trek character who was even close to being as huge a slut as Kirk was and failed quite heavily) suffering everything from toxic shock syndrome to a huge pus filled foreskin, and when kirk and picard talk about the “final front ear”, well it’s their own damn fault and they should have worn protection as far as I’m concerned.

    Then you’ve got to contend with the way space micro-flora would probably be highly carcinogenic as well, so if your immune response to them doesn’t kill you, then they may still give you miners lung because when you took that big first whiff of an alien planet some of the little things got caught in your lungs.

  33. “Human race still has to evolve to a degree where we all can be prepared to deal with this kind of situations. If we can’t put ourselves together within the same race, what if we had to treat with alien life forms?”
    Well, I suppose the thing is that we’re looking for civilizations of at least our level of advancement, so they’re unlikely to look to us as gods or prophets. More likely to completely annihilate us, but that’s another story.

    “Basically, the reason why the flu kills people is because it unfortunately somehow make the immune system goes “holy crap! Achtung! Achtung!” and basically has a huge overreaction that produces the symptoms that, in their worst cases, leads to the sufferer drowning in their own bodily fluids.”
    This is true for, like, the common cold. Fever, runny nose, etc. are all immune/human responses. But they don’t kill you. Usually. There are certainly pathogens that have evolved specifically to hijack human cells. These kinds, if found on alien planets, probably wouldn’t harm us. So you’re right, we’d face the greatest danger from poisons, immune response, carcinogens, allergies… that kind of stuff, rather than things trying to attack us. Like nanomachines. Also alien raptors, can’t forget those.

  34. it takes a certain amount of time for life to develop on a planet. on earth, we’ve been particularly quick at this.

    apparently, the time it would take normally for life to develop to a more advanced level, from the generation of a new solar system, is more than the life of most stars.

    i’m sure this doesn’t make sense. however, if you’re interested, look up the “anthropic principle”, specifically on applications towards extra-terrestrial life. there are some neat amthematical formulas there, too.

  35. How do you know that? Have you observed other life in development? The mediocrity principle (IIRC) states that we aren’t special in any way. So in the absence of further evidence, we aren’t at the fast end of evolution.

  36. I’m not sure if this has already been mentioned as I skimmed the last half. I was watching some universe documentary which was going on about the stars and their nuclear reactions creating the heavier elements required for life. Everyone says the universe has been around for 13 billion years and it would be silly that we were the first instance of life anywhere, but what I’ve been wondering is for how long has the universe had the heavier elements required for life? I’m no biographist* so I don’t know if life can get away with only the most basic elements, nor am I a cosmopolitan* so I don’t know if these nuclear reactions in stars and explosions happened early enough for this to be a redundant comment. I’m simply curious as I’m yet to get into higher schooling (just out of high school).

    *(p/t)

  37. Population I stars, which have heavy elements and therefore can have terrestrial planets, are younger than about 10 billion years. Add a few billion for planets to cool down and life to form, and probably 6-7 billion years ago would be the earlier human-like organisms can evolve.

    (After the big bang, it takes several hundred million years for stars and galaxies to form. The first, Population II stars burn out quickly, forming heavy elements that go into the second generation, called Population I. Hey, I didn’t name them.)

  38. Why is it always assumed that life will need the same (or similar) conditions to Earth to evolve? Surely if life starts, it will evolve depending on its environment. It may not need, water or oxygen or the likes. Maybe life has evolved in places we just aren’t considering because no life on our own planet could live there.

    Just a thought,

  39. Well, one of the things is that living organisms need a way to generate energy. Now, I suppose it might be possible that somewhere they have microorganisms with tiny fission plants built into them, but that seems kind of unlikely due to the amount of energy generated from it.

    If you’re going to things like electron transfer, then oxygen is by far one of the best electron acceptors that is also very abundantly available in the universe, so it makes sense that it should be preferably employed in redox reactions. On the other side, again due to its ubiquitous nature, carbon/hydrogen combinations are some of the best stores for energy that we know that are also readily metabolized.

    When you look at other energy sources we’ve discovered, most of those either aren’t practical on a really small scale, or the stuff that’s required for it just doesn’t randomly float around for life to use it much. I suppose it’s also possible that somewhere, there’s life built entirely out of gold atom polymers, but I somehow doubt that there are a lot of places where there’s a similar concentration of gold as we have carbon. And you do need a shit-load of the stuff if you want to really support a biosphere.

  40. And again, this is the only type of life we know can exist, so it’s logically the first one we look for.

  41. “Why is it always assumed that life will need the same (or similar) conditions to Earth to evolve? Surely if life starts, it will evolve depending on its environment. It may not need, water or oxygen or the likes. Maybe life has evolved in places we just aren’t considering because no life on our own planet could live there.”

    And you generally want to be able to interact with the creature in person, so being able to breathe the same atmosphere helps a bunch

    just getting the obvious out there, it’s what I do.

  42. You also have to consider that during the 13.7 billion years that the universe as we know it has existed, there’s only been the last 50 years or so in which we’ve been able to communicate outside of our own planet.

    It’s quite possible that life on other planets haven’t evolved this far. It’s also possible that intelligent life on other planets has already run it’s course.

    Last, if and when we can actually see a planet that is 1000 light years away, we have to hope that their life existed 1000 years ago to find any trace of their existence. Reversely, an intelligent species 1000 light years away, observing us now, would see our Earth as it was around 1000 C.E.

    I like to think that the universe is full of life, finding it and communicating with it is an entirely different challenge.

  43. What happens when life on another planet turns out to be nowhere near as advanced as we are?

    Do we commit mass suicide in disappointment?

  44. “What happens when life on another planet turns out to be nowhere near as advanced as we are?

    Do we commit mass suicide in disappointment?”

    No, we usually kill them all and take over their land :)

  45. It’s quite possible that life on other planets haven’t evolved this far. It’s also possible that intelligent life on other planets has already run it’s course.by the way, i report a red news about a controvercial site, SugarmommaMatch.com it enable rich women to have more chance of finding handsome and charming soul mates.

  46. I just want to say something on the comparison between the belief in aliens and religion. There are billions of stars in this galaxy and there are billions of galaxies in visible space alone and visible space is a fraction of all of space. Even assuming that only 50% of those stars have planets, you still get trillions of chances for life to evolve so any percentage becomes multiplied by the scale. But no matter how you look at it the existence of god is a coin flip and it only happens once. So: 50% of one is less than .05% of one trillion.

    Another word because this resembles the infinite monkey theorem, in real application this (even when dealing with infinity) is too small a possibility to even be considered, but think of it this way: if you say that any set of literature over 200 words is acceptable, in any language, and that you have an error range set so that any synonym of the word is acceptable then your chances become much higher that you will get literature out of random.

    Another thing, using my previous metaphor, currently we are only looking for English and we are all only hoping for something in sophisticated section (except for biologists, they would be happy for trashy erotica, perverts).

    I feel happy with that… for now.

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