Skip to main content


And yes that is more than just a rhetorical question ...



    [ Wide Field Imager view of a Milky Way look-alike NGC 6744 -- commons.wikimedia.org]


SETI astronomers tell US Congress:  'possibility of alien life close to 100%'

23 May 2014 -- belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Astronomers in the United States have told the US congress that the search for extraterrestrial life is “plausible and warrants scientific inquiry”[.]

Dan Werthimer and Seth Shostak of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley presented evidence to the House Committee to secure further funding to find alien life in outer space.
[...]

The pair said that although “no evidence exists for the presence of life outside of the Earth”, the sheer abundance of planets -- “roughly one trillion in our Milky Way galaxy; three times more planets than stars” -- suggests that the universe is “teeming with primitive life.”
[...]


Well this is disturbing, as a stark counter point to those smart Science guys, defending the costs of the Search for ETI:


Humans 'not ready' to meet aliens

6 May 2014 -- belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Space psychologist Professor Gabriel de la Torre came to the conclusion after questioning 116 American, Italian and Spanish university students.
[...]

The survey indicated that the students were ill-prepared for the momentous impact contact with ET might have on the human race, said Prof de la Torre.

Most lacked awareness of many aspects of astronomy and their views were coloured by religion.

"This pilot study demonstrates that the knowledge of the general public of a certain education level about the cosmos and our place within it is still poor," said Prof De la Torre, from the University of Cadiz in Spain.
[...]


OK, is there anybody ... out there ... who thinks Star-Trek, should be much more than a 'campy' television series, set in space?



Assuming humanity is smart enough -- not to send us back to the Dark Ages (I know big assumption) -- are we not also smart enough to build the detectors (and transmitter's) that could tune-in on some other planet's version of The Simpsons, or I Love Lucy, some day soon?

Time will tell ...


Looking for signs of life on Kepler 186-F

by Gerry Harp, Director of Center for SETI Research -- May 19, 2014

Consider this post, which firmly states that proto-Earth Kepler 186-f has a 50% chance of harboring technologically equipped intelligent life[.]
[...]

On 18-April-2014, Elisa Quintana and several co-authors made the cover of Science magazine with the discovery of the most Earth-like planet ever observed, anywhere. Impressively named, planet “f” orbits the 186th star in the Kepler catalog. Imaginatively nicknamed, Kepler 186-f is about 500 light years from the sun.
[...]

Simply put, if about 500 years ago, 186-f were transmitting a tuning-fork like radio beacon, then we would have seen it. Provided their transmitter were at least 8x as powerful as the most powerful transmitter on Earth, the Arecibo planetary radar. Considering that ET probably has better technology than humans do (since we are a very young technological civilization), this is far from impossible.
[...]

It is important to note that our SETI measurements do not prove there is no intelligent life on Kepler 186-f. If 186-f has intelligent life, then they might be sending signals weaker than we can detect, or they might be sending signals in the visible (optical) domain, or perhaps not at all in the direction of Earth. Future research may find signals we missed.


Well, it's not just your Father's SETI anymore -- move over radio telescopes, there's a new detector in town ...


Optical SETI

Grant #:  Hunting for Flashes from Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Senior Scientist:  Frank Drake, seti.org

[...]
The SETI Institute, along with scientists from the University of California's Lick Observatory, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Berkeley has coupled the Lick Observatory's 40-inch Nickel Telescope with a new pulse-detection system capable of finding laser beacons from civilizations many light-years distant. Unlike other optical SETI searches, this experiment is largely immune to false alarms, due to a novel approach incorporating 3 light detectors.

"This is perhaps the most sensitive optical SETI search yet undertaken," said Frank Drake, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe.
[...]

The experiment is unique in exploiting three light detectors (photomultipliers) to search for bright pulses that arrive in a short period of time (less than a billionth of a second). Of course, light from the central star will trigger the detectors as well, but seldom will all three photomultipliers be hit by photons within a billionth of a second time frame. The expected number of false alarms for the stars being looked at is about one per year. Other optical SETI experiments use only one or two detectors and have been plagued by false alarms occurring on a daily basis.
[...]

"One great advantage of optical SETI is that there's no terrestrial interference," comments Drake. "It's an exciting new field."
[...]


Yes he is THAT Frank Drake ... the author of the The Drake Equation ...

            N = (R*)(fp)(ne)(fl)(fi)(fc)(L)

N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.


Original estimates of N back in 1961 said "there were probably between 1000 and 100,000,000 civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy."



     [ Milky Way -- ngm.nationalgeographic.com ]


Space.com has an article which focuses on getting very accurate estimates on the Drake Equation variables, using the latest Scientific discoveries:


Drake Equation:  Estimating the Odds of Finding E.T.

by Elizabeth Howell, Space.com Contributor --  March 26, 2014

[...]
Estimating the total number of planets in the universe is difficult, but one statistical study suggests that in the Milky Way, each star has an average of 1.6 planets -- yielding 160 billion alien planets in our home galaxy. [...]

As of March 2014, more than 1,700 exoplanets have been confirmed. The vast bulk of them were due to an observatory called the Kepler Space Telescope, which scrutinized a single spot in the Cygnus constellation between 2009 and 2013. [...]

As of March 2014, the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog identified 20 confirmed planets that could be suitable for life, and 69 planets (yet to be confirmed) that could also be suitable.  The project is a part of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.
[...]


This site goes a bit more out on a limb -- using some helpful graphics -- the author rates each variable from 3 different points of view: Optimistic, Pessimistic, Compromise ... and then goes on to give an updated estimate of N, for each of those interpretive tiers:


Drake Equation Estimates

by Matt Baker, usefulcharts.com -- Updated 8 Jan 2013

[...]

Number of alien civilizations =

Optimistic:  billions

Pessimistic:  none

Compromise:  3,500*

           *this would put the nearest civilization about 100 light years away and make it very unlikely that we will ever hear from them


Perhaps, the original host of the Cosmos series, has the best take on the Drake Equation ever -- as stoic as it may be ...
[Carl] Sagan believed that the Drake equation, on substitution of reasonable estimates, suggested that a large number of extraterrestrial civilizations would form, but that the lack of evidence of such civilizations highlighted by the Fermi paradox suggests technological civilizations tend to self-destruct. This stimulated his interest in identifying and publicizing ways that humanity could destroy itself, with the hope of avoiding such a cataclysm and eventually becoming a spacefaring species. [...]



As I asked in this post's title:  Is there Anybody ... Out There?

Well, if the Fermi paradox is prognostically and universally accurate, as well as Sagan's worse fears about intelligent life -- then the odds of us ever finding out ... just got decidedly more dismal.

But however, on the positive side, IF there is intelligent life ... 'Out There' ... and they have managed to survive the classic growing pains of civilization -- perhaps they'll also have a few "helpful pointers" they could lend us ... to get over those Carl Sagan "rough spots," in our challenging roads ahead?




    [ Drake Equation Tutorial -- astrodigital.org]


That second to the last "variable" (L) -- is a real doozy!

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Just read the Foundation series again. (6+ / 0-)

    So good.  So good.

    When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

    by genethefiend on Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:40:02 PM PDT

  •  or conversely (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, msdobie


    Is there anybody, In There?



    Sooner or later were going to have to: Trade in those Carbon Footprints ...

    by jamess on Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:40:19 PM PDT

  •  Any extraterrestrial civilization... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, jayden, Neuroptimalian, G2geek

    ...that has advanced to faster-than-light space travel, will avoid this planet like the plague. There are probably space buoys out in the Oort Cloud to warn off anyone about Earth.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:47:29 PM PDT

  •  It is numerically impossible for there NOT to (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Sneelock, Cassandra Waites, G2geek

    be other life out there.

    •  that's what (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Horace Boothroyd III, G2geek

      those Science guys say ...

      the odds of astronomically large for Life

      thriving ... out and about.


      Just check the "extreme" corners of this planet ...


      Sooner or later were going to have to: Trade in those Carbon Footprints ...

      by jamess on Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:52:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Of course there is other intelligent life. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Turn Left, jamess

      But odds are, most advanced civilizations self destruct. The same fate we are approaching. If we could survive for a few million more years, our ancestors might make be able to communicate with someone else. That would be cool. But seems unlikely.

      As far as travelling near or beyond light speed to visit another solar system, I find it hard to believe how many people think that's a realistic possibility. Then again, maybe Relativity will be overturned. Not!

      •  Yes, as much as my sci-fi reading self enjoys the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess, Sneelock, Lenny Flank

        many stories of star-traveling civilizations, the possibility of interstellar travel seems very remote given the actual engineering challenges that would need to be overcome, not to mention that universally-imposed speed limit.

        If our civilization manages to survive global warming, and continues to develop technologically, I think it's possible that eventually we could send unmanned spacecraft to nearby solar systems. The projects would be at least decades long, though, if not centuries.

        A Star Trek-like universe is really just not a practical possibility, though.

        •  yeah but (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sneelock

          there's this "loophole" in the fabric of space-time ...


          FTL -- Transporting itself from the Movies into the Research Lab
          by jamess -- Oct 26, 2013


          those Sci-Fi writers are generally way ahead of their times.


          Sooner or later were going to have to: Trade in those Carbon Footprints ...

          by jamess on Fri May 23, 2014 at 08:35:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sure, but (0+ / 0-)

            Just because a physicist says something is theoretically possible, doesn't make it possible in reality.

            We'd be much more likely to make contact with other civilizations if we concentrated on keeping our own planet healthy. Fantasizing about human travel over light year distances is fun for fiction. But shouldn't shield us from the reality that we're stuck right where we are.

        •  the biggest flaw in the Star Trek/Star Wars (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sneelock

          framework is that of time dilation.  In the movie, Han Solo can jet off in the Millenium Falcon at lightspeed and deliver the plans for the Death Star just in time to thwart the Empire's attack.

          In the real universe, Han Solo would undergo time dilation at light speed, and would arrive at Yavin several thousand years after the Death Star had already reached it and blown it up--and everyone Han Solo had ever known would be a moldering skeleton somewhere watched over by their great-great-great grandchildren.

          In the end, reality always wins.

          by Lenny Flank on Fri May 23, 2014 at 09:00:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If you want a framework to base (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lenny Flank, jamess

            interstellar space travel on, you'll have to ignore Relativity, Lenny.

            It is not the theory you are looking for(hand wave).

            But there are String theory and Supersymmetry. With those, you can do it. And they're getting closer and closer to becoming mainstream science.

  •  A very particular set of circumstances... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, G2geek

    is required for life to begin. That's my suspicion, anyway. The reason why I feel that way is that, here on Earth, there is no evidence for multiple genesis events. All species belong to the same tree of life, a lineage that can be traced through their genetic code. If it were "easy", one would imagine that completely unrelated lineages of life would have started multiple times during Earth's history.

    That said, I think that the odds are basically zero that life doesn't exist elsewhere. It's a very big universe.

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

    by richardak on Thu May 22, 2014 at 09:12:37 PM PDT

    •  Life (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek

      finds a way.


      Sooner or later were going to have to: Trade in those Carbon Footprints ...

      by jamess on Thu May 22, 2014 at 09:20:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  actually that is, possibly, not quite true . . . (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, G2geek, Cassandra Waites
      there is no evidence for multiple genesis events. All species belong to the same tree of life
      There is some biochemical evidence that there indeed may have been more than one source for our original genetic structure, which may have appeared independently and then exchanged genetic material with each other in the process of horizontal gene flow--leading to the Last Common Ancestor of today's life, which would however NOT be the first life form. This is the so-called "Mangrove Tree of Life" hypothesis. (A mangrove has multiple roots that converge into one trunk before ascending into branches.)

      RNA, for instance, uses a slightly different set of nucleotides than DNA does. And some of the bacteria, particularly the extremophiles, exhibit some unique quirks in their biochemistry that may indicate a separate origin.

      The Mangrove Tree Model may or may not prove to be wrong, but it is the subject of much research.

       

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Fri May 23, 2014 at 05:14:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why would we tell anyone ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, annieli

    where we have been hiding for the last 200,000 years?


    If music be the food of love, then laughter is its queen, and likewise, if behind is in front, then dirt in truth is clean.

    by glb3 on Thu May 22, 2014 at 09:34:17 PM PDT

  •  some people say i'm out there. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess

    some people say i'm in here.

    who-o-o-o-o knows, really ?

    TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes? -- Addington's Perpwalk.

    by greenbird on Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:21:20 PM PDT

  •  11 of the Weirdest Solutions to the Fermi Paradox (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, G2geek
    "There's no shortage of solutions to the Fermi Paradox. The standard ones are fairly well known, and we’re not going to examine them here, but they include the Rare Earth Hypothesis (the suggestion that life is exceptionally rare), the notion that space travel is too difficult, or the distances too vast, the Great Filter Hypothesis (the idea that all sufficiently advanced civilizations destroy themselves before going intergalactic), or that we’re simply not interesting enough.

    1. The Zoo Hypothesis
    2. Self-Imposed Quarantine
    3. The Whack-a-Mole Hypothesis
    4. We’re Made Out of Meat
    5. The Simulation Hypothesis
    6. Radio Silence
    7. All Aliens Are Homebodies
    8. We Can’t Read the Signs
    9. They’re All Hanging Out At the Edge of the Galaxy
    10. Directed Panspermia
    11. The Phase Transition Hypothesis"

    http://io9.com/...

    Dick Cheney 2/14/10: "I was a big supporter of waterboarding"

    by Bob Love on Thu May 22, 2014 at 11:43:36 PM PDT

  •  in most conversations on this topic, people tend (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sneelock, Turn Left, jamess, G2geek

    to conflate two entirely different questions and treat them as if they were a single question:

    1. is there other life in space?

    2. can it contact us?

    Those questions are not the same.

    The chemistry of life makes it enormously likely that it is common in the universe, found anywhere that the physical conditions are suited for it.

    BUT

    Intelligent technological life seems enormously contingent and based on odd quirks in history that may or may not happen elsewhere--it has only happened once in our own life-filled planet--and indeed even in our case it is perhaps proving to be an evolutionary failure, rapidly poisoning itself (and taking most of the biosphere down with it). So it's entirely possible that technological life is enormously rare, perhaps even virtually nonexistent.

    And even if other technological species do exist out there, there still remain all the enormous problems of time and distance which make it astronomically unlikely (literally) that we'll ever even know they are there, much less make contact with them.

    Sorry to disappoint all the flying saucer fans . . .   ;)

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Fri May 23, 2014 at 05:07:05 AM PDT

    •  You have explained the essential problem about (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, Lenny Flank

      as clearly and succinctly as I've ever seen.

    •  Hell (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lenny Flank, Sneelock

      it's unlikely we'll ever "contact" intelligent life

      -- on the other side of this planet.


      But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.


      That is the hallmark of "intelligent life"

      -- attempting things that previous generations said:

      are/were impossible.


      Sooner or later were going to have to: Trade in those Carbon Footprints ...

      by jamess on Fri May 23, 2014 at 08:41:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  though, all it takes is one... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lenny Flank, jamess

      ... technologically capable civilization, that is able to persist to the point where it gains interstellar capability, and over time it would spread out across the galaxy to fill any available vacant habitat.  

      As was the case on Earth, where humans originated in one place and spread out to every available habitat.

      Think of the cosmos as a potential ecosystem, with similar patterns of selection to those that occur on individual planets.  The only difference is that, aside from extremely rare transpermia events, the only interaction between life in different star systems occurs as a result of technology.

      The capacity to go interstellar is the next great Darwinian challenge.  The question for our species is whether we rise to pass the cosmic Darwin test, or whether we fail, like the proverbial dodo bird.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Fri May 23, 2014 at 09:11:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes indeed (0+ / 0-)

        But then it would be enormously more likely that it would be our machines and probes that would precede us (just as they already have in the tiny frog-pond of space we've already explored). So the space aliens, if they are there, would first meet Voyager 347,675--not us.  :)

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Fri May 23, 2014 at 09:25:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes, and the same case is true in reverse. (0+ / 0-)

          If there alien objects pass through our solar system, chances are they're robotic survey probes.

          Anyway, if we get serious about interstellar exploration, we'll also send out robotic survey probes, using whatever advanced propulsion systems (fusion or whatever) we are using at that point.  The purpose is to scope out nearby stars and send back data to enable us to choose which one to use for our first human colony.

          All of this would occur over multi-thousand-year time spans.

          All the more reason to achieve a sustainable society now.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Sun May 25, 2014 at 12:29:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Here's a link to a great post about this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess

    My children are the joy of my life

    by Tom Stokland on Fri May 23, 2014 at 05:09:18 AM PDT

  •  I'm more pessimistic. (5+ / 0-)

    Even if there are, say, a trillion earth like planets on which life has developed.
       Compare the history of earth. It's been around for 4.5 billion years. Humans (at least in primitive form) have existed for about a million years. IOW, for 1/4500 of the planet's history there have been no humans.
       Now that there are humans, we have been using radio for less than 150 years. IOW, for 1/6667 of our existence.
       There is a non-trivial probability that human civilization will collapse or be destroyed in the next century or two.
       There is also the strong possibility that we will eschew large scale space exploration, that communications on earth will use fiberoptics, and that radio waves from satellites will mostly be beamed to earth. So, little or no outgoing radio or laser communication.
       But let's be generous and postulate a radio or laser using civilization with a lifespan of 1000 years.
       Given the lifespan of planets, how likely is it that such a civilization will exist simultaneously with our ability to detect it?

    •  and even if it does . . . (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sneelock, Turn Left, jamess
        Given the lifespan of planets, how likely is it that such a civilization will exist simultaneously with our ability to detect it?
      the universe itself is at least 13 billion light-years across, and our limit of detection is less than, what, maybe a thousand lightyears at best (radio signals decay with distance, so there is an inherent limit to the range at which we can detect even an artificially-amplified radio signal).

      We're like someone in a mine shaft armed only with a candle.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Fri May 23, 2014 at 06:55:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  1000 years of high tech is only the beginning. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sneelock, jamess

      Once a civilization achieves sustainability, it can continue to persist on a given planet until its local star renders it uninhabitable (either by diminishing or increasing in luminosity).

      The ability to learn to live within the finite limits of planetary resources is the first major challenge.  The ability to develop interstellar technologies including transport, habitat, and ability to colonize new planets, is the second.  

      Once a species achieves both, it is virtually assured to continue to exist until the last star in the galaxy blinks out.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Fri May 23, 2014 at 09:14:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So this long lived civilization would (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess

        go around the universe taking over all the inhabitable planets it comes across and using them to suit their own purposes? I don't think we'd be too happy about that if someone did it here on Earth.

        •  there are better ways. (0+ / 0-)

          First, taking over an inhabited planet means you have to fight your way in.  Never underestimate the capability of guerrillas who know their turf better than the foreign invaders do.

          Second, and with conclusive finality, microbes.  There's no way to sterilize a life-bearing planet 100% while retaining the chemical conditions that make it an attractive habitat, so eventually the native microbes come out of hiding and you're toast.

          Much better to terraform planets that have potential but do not yet have life.  Alternately, build planets from scratch, using available space rock, which is plentiful in some areas.  A civilization with interstellar capabilities will also have the technology to do both.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Sun May 25, 2014 at 12:23:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  "I want to believe" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Fri May 23, 2014 at 07:46:18 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site