July 14th, 2014

We won’t be solving the Fermi Paradox any time soon

The Fermi Paradox is scary any way you look at it. Are we alone in the universe, and if so, why? And if not, why haven’t we heard a thing?:

Continuing to speculate, if 1% of intelligent life survives long enough to become a potentially galaxy-colonizing Type III Civilization, our calculations above suggest that there should be at least 1,000 Type III Civilizations in our galaxy alone — and given the power of such a civilization, their presence would likely be pretty noticeable. And yet, we see nothing, hear nothing, and we’re visited by no one.

So where is everybody?

Welcome to the Fermi Paradox.

We have no answer to the Fermi Paradox — the best we can do is “possible explanations.” And if you ask ten different scientists what their hunch is about the correct one, you’ll get ten different answers. You know when you hear about humans of the past debating whether the Earth was round or if the sun revolved around the Earth or thinking that lightning happened because of Zeus, and they seem so primitive and in the dark? That’s about where we are with this topic.

It seems to me to be an excellent introductory article dealing with a complex subject. The author, whom I’d never heard of before, also has a blog. Surfing around there, I found this fascinating post on the author’s visit to North Korea.

Yes, you heard me right: North Korea. Read it. Ignore the gratuitous f-words. It’s a good article nonetheless.

74 Responses to “We won’t be solving the Fermi Paradox any time soon”

  1. DM Says:

    The main problem is the use “common sense” mathematics – the reasoning that there are sooo many starts, that even against a super small % there must be something out there.

    That reasoning doesn’t work here because what we are dealing with is not science, it’s Creation, and it won’t hold up to a mathematical model. This is why we also have physicists tying themselves up in knots trying to explain how something was created out of nothing in the big bang.

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Excellent article. The ‘quarantine’ explanation has always resonated best with me. A version of Star Trek’s ‘prime directive’. Given the state of the world, by no means are we ready for contact with a more advanced civilization.

    More recently, I’ve realized the risk we are taking by broadcasting our electromagnetic waves out to the universe, announcing our presence. There’s just as much chance that another race would be unfriendly, as that it would be friendly. If so, we are pathetically vulnerable to attack from high orbit. Just launch some rocks creating ‘kinetic’ strikes upon population centers and military facilities. We know how devastating they can be, that’s what most probably wiped out the dinosaurs.

    But natural asteroid impact is one very good reason why we need to master space flight. We are far too vulnerable to that natural threat.

  3. zipper Says:

    Yeah, its Creation. See Genesis1:1.

  4. LTEC Says:

    On a related issue: Should we expect other planets with life to be Earth-like?

    Mathematicians know that one can conclude absolutely nothing about the variance of an unknown distribution by examining a single sample. We have a single sample of a planet with life, and we have no idea how life starts. So while we can MAYBE hypothesize that on AVERAGE, planets with life are Earth-like, we have no reason whatsoever to believe that most planets with life are Earth-like.

  5. n.n Says:

    The assumption or speculation that there should be other life, that there is a universe teaming with stars, planets, life, etc. is an article of faith. The fact is we don’t even know that anything exists outside of our solar system. We use induction to form assertions about the existence of galaxies and a universe; but, until there is direct observation, and reproduction, this is the stuff of philosophy, not science. Science is a peculiar philosophy necessarily constrained to a limited frame of reference in time and space.

    Oh, well. People will not like this. They like to believe that everything is or will be accessible. They ascribe mystical powers to science and a divine perspective to scientists. They take comfort and revel in their superior faith. Science has taken on an air of “religion”, less its moral character.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    DM and zipper:

    Religion and science can work together, but they are different. The first is a system of faith, the second of evidence, with mathematical and/or experimental proofs (at least, it’s supposed to be).

    In the case of the Fermi Paradox, Creation would solve the Paradox by leaping over it in the scientific sense and answering the question according to the creation myth of whatever religion a person espoused. That would be the answer for believers; for them, there would be no Paradox. But science can never give that particular answer or prove it, because religion is a different order of explanation than science.

    But scientists who believed in the Creation story might still want to explain how it works in the natural world. And if intelligent beings (or even human-like beings) were to be found on other planets, my guess is that many believers would manage to successfully incorporate that news into their religious belief system.

  7. Artfldgr Says:

    I tend to laugh at this…
    as the math would explain it, but why use math?

    it depends not on the equation of the odds of life, it depends on how much time…

    the age of the universe is 13.798±0.037 billion years
    give or take about 37 million years.
    13,798,000,000

    the earth is 4.54 billion years old…

    meteor bombardment and life did not start for over a half billion years years…

    it took 3 billion after that to make bacteria

    for the last 500 million years, fish and proto-amphibians;
    for the last 475 million years, land plants;
    for the last 400 million years, insects and seeds;
    for the last 360 million years, amphibians;
    for the last 300 million years, reptiles;
    for the last 200 million years, mammals;
    for the last 150 million years, birds;
    for the last 130 million years, flowers;
    for the last 60 million years, the primates,
    for the last 20 million years, the family Hominidae (great apes);
    for the last 2.5 million years, the genus Homo (human predecessors);
    for the last 200,000 years, anatomically modern humans.

    out of that 200,000 years..
    we have looked to the stars with a telescope since the 1500s and 1600s..

    we discovered radio and its stuff around 1897 or so…

    so for .0000000008262066966 % of the age of the universe… humans were silent..

    now. what is the number of planets needed with life that reaches radio just to have two line up in time?

    and we have only been searching for life in other places in any meaningful way for less than 50 years..

    10 million civilizations could pass in the wind and never know that each other existed…

    heck… the margin of error is 37 million years..

    and lets make this worse..
    beyond 37,200,000,000 miles, they woudl have to start transmitting about the time the first modern human was born, so that the message would reach us now

    so if you think the development of the universe is similar all over.. the funny thing is that it could be teeming with life… but we wont be able to see any of it for another billion years!!!

    in fact, if we all developed near the same interval after the universe started. anyone farther than 37,200,000 miles wont be heard.

    at least they wont be heard for 200 years.

    the left has no idea of the sizes of things, and the size of the earth, and its size relative to things liek the great wall. (not of china).

    if it takes 2 to 3.5 billion years to evolve life…
    most of the universe is out of our perceptive range for a long long time… (thanks to inflation)

    the universe is about 25 billion light years across.
    that is, traveling at 186, 000 miles a second the universe is as wide as 6 trillion miles times 25,000,000,000 or about 150,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles wide

    the point is kind of silly given the limits of time and distrance… its not a puzzle at all.

  8. Mike Says:

    The only problem with the Fermi Paradox is that it is not a paradox. It’s an observation of a fact – or the non-observation of it if you want.

    It is only a “paradox” to bubble-headed secularists who think that a mathematical calculation in one’s head is real.

    We live in crazy times. The so-called “smartest” people are on the same intellectual level as former shamanists. They are flat out bonkers and pass themselves off as elite intellects.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    Artfldgr:

    I don’t think Fermi was unaware of those things. And he was no slouch in the brains department, either.

    According to Wiki (granted, not the best source, but a quick one):

    Edward Teller further remembers, “I do not believe that much came of this conversation, except perhaps a statement that the distances to the next location of living beings may be very great and that, indeed, as far as our galaxy is concerned, we are living somewhere in the sticks, far removed from the metropolitan area of the galactic center.” Herbert York recollects that Fermi then made a series of rapid calculations using estimated figures. (Fermi was known for his ability to make good estimates from first principles and minimal data, see Fermi problem.) York writes that Enrico Fermi “followed up with a series of calculations on the probability of earthlike planets, the probability of life given an earth, the probability of humans given life, the likely rise and duration of high technology, and so on. He concluded on the basis of such calculations that we ought to have been visited long ago and many times over.”

    There’s also the search for radio emissions.

    Also, from the article I linked to in the post:

    One hypothesis as to how galactic colonization could happen is by creating machinery that can travel to other planets, spend 500 years or so self-replicating using the raw materials on their new planet, and then send two replicas off to do the same thing. Even without traveling anywhere near the speed of light, this process would colonize the whole galaxy in 3.75 million years, a relative blink of an eye when talking in the scale of billions of years…

    Of course, I have no idea how such estimates conform to reality.

  10. Artfldgr Says:

    There’s just as much chance that another race would be unfriendly, as that it would be friendly. If so, we are pathetically vulnerable to attack from high orbit. Just launch some rocks creating ‘kinetic’ strikes upon population centers and military facilities.

    see? silly…
    how do you suppose they travel here to do that?

    lets say you launch a rock from the nearest location you can do so outside our solar system.

    Proxima Centauri is 4.37 light years away

    now… how much energy would you need to launch the rock from an earth sized planet to escepe that planets gravity and still then escape the solar systems gravity.

    Voyager 1, which was lanched in 1977, and has traveled some 12 billion miles. (light from the sun takes about 8 seconds)

    took 37 years to go that far…
    and it was smaller than a VW

    112261123155.2673 – 12.000,000,000 = 100261123155.2673 miles to go…

    we already know that proxima cant hold life..

    in 2014 kepler spotted the closest to earth like planet so far…
    Kepler-186fs – 500 light-years from the Earth

    that is, in a ship traveling at light speed, it would take a half billion years to get here..

    so how would you launch anything of any size and get it going fast enough (and in the right angry birds direction) to even reach the earth?

    now, we have yet to figure out using the oceans to lanch our ships…

    i did a experiment… and i built a water launch assist system. given that the ocean is as deep as 7 miles, and that you could easily build a system that can throw a rocket using water, reducing its fuel a whole lot and increasing its mass carry abilty.

    nasa: Achieving escape velocity is one of the biggest challenges facing space travel. The vehicle requires an enormous amount of fuel to break through Earth’s gravitational pull.

    not one person has figured out the engineering stuff i have… too bad i die before anyone asks!!! (how would you like unlimited suypply of clean water cheap?)

    it takes millions and millions of pounds of fuel to life the shuttle, and the bay and places in the shuttle are small…

    shuttle: 4.5 million pounds
    two solid rocket boosters
    three main engines of the orbiter
    he external fuel tank

    and that does not even get you out of earth orbit!!!

    so how do you suppose some one travels 500 light years to throw rocks at us?

    and the other silly question is WHY?

    if you could travel that far, you could probably make a Dysons sphere..

    Dyson Sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and hence captures most or all of its power output. It was first described by Freeman Dyson. Dyson speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of the long-term survival and escalating energy needs of a technological civilization, and proposed that searching for evidence of the existence of such structures might lead to the detection of advanced intelligent extraterrestrial life. Different types of Dyson spheres correlate with information on the Kardashev scale.

    yes…, we have already envisoned putting a star in a bottle. but given our sun could holld over a million earths inside it… it woudl take a heck of a lot of material to put a shell around it and capture all its energy… (dyson is not all there… )

    if you can build a dysons sphere, why would youw ant to go to earth?

    water? heck, you have planets of raw material between here and 500 light years…

    the ONLY think that is exchangeable or interesting is cultural idfeas and inventsons. the frisbee is more valuable than a ocean of water!!! so is the yo-yo, and so on.

    there is absolutely nothing to care about given what is needed to do anything at even a ‘small’ distance.

    its just silly most of it…
    and the fact that smart scientists spout it shows you how bad our schools are and so forth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    they are not scientists of any real knowlege, they are fear mongers.. who make a living off of ignorance of others.

  11. DM Says:

    I did not mean “Creation” in the biblical sense (I do not believe in Genesis) but the fact that science cannot explain “Creation” in any way, shape or form.

    For example:
    - Science has not created life from non-life. They can only alter things that are already a form of life (starting with DNA or another cell). No one has created life in a lab starting with inert chemicals. If life is so understood by science, why can’t they create it?

    - Science has not explained why the big bang happened, or how existence started from non-existance

    - Science has not been able to reproduce natural evolution. They can show variation in a species naturally (or create species only at the DNA level), but they have not been able to produce a new species naturally

    - Science has not explained consciousness, the one thing on earth that they can actually witness Create on a daily basis.

    And son on.

    I not saying the answer is “religion”, I am saying that science is unable/unwilling to admit that anything involving Creation (I use caps since Creating anything, even a poem, is something we should hold unique) is unable to be explained by science, and instead of saying “We don’t know” or even saying “it is unknowable” they rather try to tear others down for pointing out they don’t have the answers.

    -=

  12. physicsguy Says:

    The best most recent book out on the subject is The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies. You should all read it. Davies is a member of SETI, but the scientist in him is coming to the conclusion the effort may be futile. He does offer some alternative search parameters that should be explored.

    From my own perspective, (and like Davies I have 2 views: my scientist view and my hopeful Star Trek view ;-) ), the evidence supporting the idea of ET biology is the fact that we now know that planets are ubiquitous. That was one undetermined factor in the Drake equation way back when. However, the real question, and the biologists I’ve talked to are very split, is how unique is life. Once that is answered there’s still the question of given life, how unique is intelligence? If evidence of life outside of earth (Mars or Europa) is found then that is one more bit of supporting evidence. But until that happens, or ET contacts us, we have to live with Fermi’s question.

  13. Ymarsakar Says:

    There’s been a couple of theories. Some say aliens are like an ever expanding Islamic Jihad, wiping out intelligent species by bombarding stars or planets.

    There’s also the theory about the Space UN, that has a protectorate status on the solar system, blocking intervention and signals.

    Then there’s the older theory that Humanity is the First Race to have developed space tech, without wiping itself out (yet), and is thus not so much alone as much older or wiser than the rest of the galaxy’s intelligent life.

    The Babylon 5 theory would postulate that all the advanced races achieved transcendence and either left this galaxy for other things, or went into a higher dimension, thus leaving the Milky Way empty, just like rich Democrats have empty vacation houses.

    Then there’s the various Gaia and Intelligent Design theories, that say God or the planet designed life for a challenge or test, which has yet to be completed.

    Then there’s the Matrix theory, that we live in a pocket universe that somebody else is manipulating, sort of like a larger version of the brain in the jar issue. All of our astronomical observations and emissions, are merely fabricated, and the next actual solar system is in another jar or Matrix entirely.

    and given the power of such a civilization, their presence would likely be pretty noticeable. And yet, we see nothing, hear nothing, and we’re visited by no one.

    We did observe a string of supernovas along a certain time period in a certain part of the sky. Why wouldn’t that be the war actions of a Type 3 civilization?

    Type 1, if I am correlating this correctly, can harness the total power of a planet. Type 2, the total power of a solar system. Type 3, the total power of a galaxy. Exponential rise then. The power to move planets around and create Dyson Swarms, would thus be between Type II and Type III.

  14. Ymarsakar Says:

    No one has created life in a lab starting with inert chemicals. If life is so understood by science, why can’t they create it?

    That’s why evolution isn’t a verifiable theory or law, like Newton’s Laws or the Laws of Thermodynamics. Those were theories that had a sufficient level of experiment proof, although later more comprehensive theories replaced them. But it didn’t render them wrong or useless.

    Most people seem to think the Theory of Evolution is like biology or something. Merely cataloging different species and their evolutionary traits, proves only the base surface claims.

    Westerners have gotten lazy, so they normally don’t even use science to prove science any more. They use faith, such as Gaia or Global Warming Faith. It’s good enough for em, they think.

  15. Otiose8 Says:

    This book is an attempt to bring together all the possible answers if not identify the answer:

    http://www.amazon.com/Universe-Teeming-Aliens-WHERE-EVERYBODY/dp/0387955011/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405377274&sr=1-1

  16. Don Carlos Says:

    Fermi made up his “probabilities”, since they cannot be calculated from nothing. Oh, his “probabilities” were just “estimates” and he was allegedly very good at estimating. So he made his sh*t up. Wow and hot damn.
    Leftists all love “science” though most of them don’t understand the scientific method or the null hypothesis. The search for the unfindable, as well-illustrated by artfldgr, is another light into the darkness that is the Leftist mind, their preposterous and pointless search for an absolute answer, like their search for utopia.

  17. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    This planet may be in the backwaters of the galaxy, but it’s less dangerous in this neighborhood than downtown where the radiation will kill you.
    Long before being sucked in to a black hole residing at the center.
    The Privileged Planet: http://youtu.be/ClarWNaCEVM

  18. DNW Says:

    I’m not sure I really follow the argument. Yeah, the numbers of stars, the ratio of stars like ours, etc., etc.

    But what’s the probability that, say, Egyptian civilization if left on its own would have evolved into a science-technology space traveling civilization in say, 3 thousand years from 500 BC?

    And what leads us to assume it?

    Or take China. Let’s suppose the only race on earth was the Chinese. So from say, a cultural development equivalent of about 1000 CE, it is approximately how long before you would expect to see radio broadcasting and space traveling developing out of Chinese civilization?

    Chimpanzees are claimed by some to represent intelligent life. So, imagining that humans never split off from Chimps, what’s the time scale in which you would expect Chimps to inevitably become masters of their solar system? And how does that work exactly?

    What are we playing with here? Statistics on civilizations developing space travel? We have none that are really meaningful. Probabilities? Of what? Water?

    How does all this inevitable development work exactly?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepenski_Vir

  19. J.J. Says:

    I’m no physicist, but I do know that one of the unique things about this Earth and the humans here is that we have been able to learn how to use energy to multiply our efforts at producing food, building shelter, and moving from place to place. What produces the energy? Initially it was wood. Then it was hydro power and wind power. Then coal was discovered and used. Then petroleum and natural gas. Then atomic energy. Then solar energy (sorta.)

    Hydro, wind, and solar are, theoretically, unlimited as long as weather patterns continue as they have. The problem with wind and solar is that, so far, they can’t produce the scale and 24/7 reliability of energy needed to power a modern civilization such as ours. Hydro is a much better renewable energy source, but is site dependent. It cannot be applied everywhere.

    Burning coal, petroleum, natural gas, and uranium/thorium is the best way, at present anyway, to produce the energy necessary to power a modern industrial civilization. But these are all items that are not found in the abundance required to power the Earth’s needs for the next 500 years. Ten years ago we were hearing about “Peak Oil.” The producable oil reserves seemed to have reached an upward limit. We’ve gotten a reprieve from that with the development of horizontal drilling and fracking. When the oil is all gone, there will still be large coal reserves from which petroleum liquids can be produced. Eventually all the coal will be gone too. That leaves nuclear power, but reserves of uranium are much smaller than coal reserves on a relative scale. That leaves thorium, which as I understand it is in much greater reserves than uranium. Still all these sources of energy and useful power could be exhausted in 500-700 years. A blink of the eye in geological time.

    What’s left then is hydro, wind, and solar. Maybe we will have discovered how to store solar and wind energy and to scale them up to the necessary level in the next 100 years. But what if we can’t achieve that?

    700 years from now the Earth could be a planet with a much smaller population of people who live around hydro projects and use small solar and wind projects to provide supplementary heat and electricity. No cars, no airplanes, no farm machinery, only sailing ships, etc. Life goes on somewhat as it did as it did in the 1500s. Higher standards of living because of electricity and advanced knowledge of farming, medicine, etc. It would be a bucolic place with no means to go to space or even care about whether anyone else lived out there.

    If that scenario applied to every planet, then each planet would have a small window of time when it might be looking outward. In a billion years, maybe many planets have developed intelligent life and an industrial ability with technology to look outward, but they would have to do so at nearly the same moment in time.

    Yes, I’m obsessed with energy and the role it plays in our civilization. Not enough people recognize how central it is to it all.

  20. Yancey Ward Says:

    I don’t view it as a paradox in a real sense. I think people are probably greatly over-estimating the probability of life arising at all, and also overestimating the development of life with the innovative skills of humans.

    I will never know the answer, but if one could demonstrate either that Earth is the only planet in the universe with life (as we define it, or that humans are the only species of life in the universe capable of building radio technology, it would not surprise me one iota.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    Leftists all love “science” though most of them don’t understand the scientific method or the null hypothesis.

    What makes DC here think he can tell Fermi what’s what, when DC doesn’t have the degrees of Fermi? Does DC think anyone without a medical degree can tell DC what’s really going on? He doesn’t, does he.

  22. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    So the scientist yells at God “You’re not so special!”,
    and God says, “You’re so great, create life out of dirt.”
    The scientist picks up some dirt, and God says,
    “Make your own dirt.”

  23. Don Carlos Says:

    I ain’t telling anyone anything, Y, least of all you. You take your own “Fermi degrees” or “medical degrees”, whatever you’ve got, and shove ‘em.

  24. T Says:

    And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere out in space . . .

    The Galaxy Song

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buqtdpuZxvk

  25. Beverly Says:

    For those of you who remember hearing this live — and especially for those of you who don’t — this is the uncut Christmas Eve broadcast in 1968 from the crew of Apollo 8, the first humans ever to orbit another heavenly body.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njpWalYduU4

    Chills. Awe.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    Das Capital, see, when you think you’re superior because of your medical knowledge and degrees, Fermi can always pull the Ivy League Authority card on your math ignorance and you can’t do anything about it.

    However, from several years back, Fermi has never pulled that card with me, yet you’ve used it all up on one hand.

    How’s that for pulling the “I told you so” trick?

  27. Matt_SE Says:

    Fermi Paradox Solved:
    Every galactic civilization has survived just long enough to produce their own Obama, then died out.

  28. RickZ Says:

    Otiose8 Says:

    I actually have, and have read, that book, If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens … WHERE IS EVERYBODY?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life. All I can say about that book is ‘math is hard’.
    ——

    Our planet is located at the ass-end of one spiral of the Milky Way Galaxy, itself on the edge of the known universe. In other words, The Boondocks. Why would one visit Podunk, Iowa when one could go to Hawaii? I say the same holds true for aliens. They have much closer and more interesting planets to visit and explore than spending all that time coming to visit us hicks out in the interstellar sticks.

    I thought for the longest time that we are not alone in the Universe, that intelligent life must exist elsewhere. Then Obama was elected, TWICE!, so we don’t even have intelligent life on this planet. How can we expect to find it elsewhere?

    Also, I have a problem with all the supposed alien close encounter stories. Why is it they always happen in sparsely populated, out of the way places with people of less than sterling reputation? Either these interstellar travelers are the best tricksters in the galaxy or the unluckiest explorers in the history of the universe.

  29. Ymarsakar Says:

    The Left is in alliance with foreign aliens from space, to export Republicans, conservatives, political dissidents, and migrant slave workers so that the aliens can experiment on them and use them for cannonfodder in various interstellar wars.

    How’s that for a combination of sci fi and modern politics.

  30. Tonawanda Says:

    Great thread and great posts.

  31. OldTexan Says:

    The Judeo-Christian scriptures go a long way in explaining both creation and man’s ability to always screw things up due to greed, pride, lust, etc. Read the Old Testament as allegorical stories, don’t get hung up on the time line, and it makes as much sense as most anything else.

    Perhaps there is a loving God and perhaps the stories of Jesus do make some sense and like C.S. Lewis explained later in his life perhaps worship of our deity is part of how humans have been designed.

    If we do have a kind and loving God who is our creator he has to have a real sense of humor and maybe there will be an end time when the resources will have been depleted, wisely or un-wisely.

    I have spent portions of my life on both sides of the religious arguments and approaching 70 years old I enjoy going to my church every Sunday and singing and praising the Lord. I also know that to a lot of enlightened people we Christians appear to be simplistic folks who should know better but, we don’t.

  32. Tonawanda Says:

    I ask this in sincerity, knowing there are a number of folks here who can give me good answers.

    It seems that our minds when working most efficiently to understand something depend on logic ultimately.

    It is really not possible for us to understand something outside the framework of logic.

    Logic tells us two things, that nothing moves without being moved, and that an infinite series of progressions is therefore not possible.

    In other words, existence is not possible.

    Yet we exist.

    Does this not mean something is staring us in the face? That human beings cannot and never will understand existence (or even be certain about what constitutes existence), because existence operates on a “logic” unknowable to us?

    This is what makes me wonder at all Grand Explanations, whatever the provenance, however appealing and magnificent in concept.

    Except for the details, have we really advanced beyond the pre-Socratic philosophers, including beyond their disagreements?

    The mind is ever-inquiring, an interesting fact, and ever coming to conclusions, another interesting fact. Like the instinct of self-preservation, the mind and consciousness keep we humans engaged, for whatever reason, literally beyond all reason.

    Things like love and music and beauty seem to give (and do give) meaning to self-preservation and mind and consciousness. I care and we all care.

    Things like the Fermi Paradox are fascinating and, with some constant thought, may yield incidental insights into teleportation and boundless energy (for example), if not the existence of other “life.”

    But teleportation and boundless energy will draw us no nearer than the pre-Socratic philosophers, because it is not for us to know.

  33. physicsguy Says:

    As the article Neo links to points out, the numbers involved describing the universe are staggering. We can’t see the “edge” of the universe, and so far the number of galaxies seem almost limitless. When calculating the number of stars, and then planets in the universe the numbers are so very large… 10^24 or higher. And all this spread out over the observable space of about 12 billion lightyears.

    My more philosophical side when considering a Creator, asks the question: If intelligent life only exists on the earth, why would a Creator make such an expansive universe? For a rational Creator, to have such a large universe for just the amusement of one species sitting in the suburbs of a nothing special galaxy, seems an incredible waste of space, time, and energy.

    So the answer comes down to motivation for a Creator. Does the universe exist for the amusement and stimulation of humans, or is there a larger point? Or, as the more cynical have stated, maybe no point at all?

  34. waitforit Says:

    It is true but so grim.
    I had to invent Him.

  35. Ymarsakar Says:

    Read the Old Testament as allegorical stories, don’t get hung up on the time line, and it makes as much sense as most anything else.

    I take it as more the limit of human imagination, that people back then could only think of it in such terms because they lacked the mental and logickal systems to determine numbers and sense out of the knowledge, if it was truly Divinely Inspired. If God spoke the number 10^10 to you, how could you write that number down when the maximum you could count to was 1000? In the Ancient Era, there was no Indian numerals or the concept of zero. They had to count things manually.

    The fact that modern humans don’t even realize their own limitations or the limitations of their ancestors… shows quite clearly the arrogance of the ignorant. They have neither the credentials nor the brain power to question the historical accuracy of the Bible, if they cannot even consider this simple option via imagination. To take the Bible literally, is what they criticize and scorn, yet that is exactly what they themselves fall guilty to. They cannot think beyond the Beyond. They are limited by words alone, not the Universal Truth beyond words.

    If intelligent life only exists on the earth, why would a Creator make such an expansive universe? For a rational Creator, to have such a large universe for just the amusement of one species sitting in the suburbs of a nothing special galaxy, seems an incredible waste of space, time, and energy.

    Why do scientists use only a limited set of variables to test things with, while utilizing only one control group?

    That’s what creators do at times, set up simulations to test things, and the universe is as good a simulator as any computer. If a few variables are changed, could not a butterfly cause a hurricane across the world?

  36. Ymarsakar Says:

    I think, in general, only a human that understands human motivations can ever parse out a higher entity or divine entity’s motivations. It’s easy to think of God or any higher being as having human emotions, but that’s just a hack or cheat used to relate to something very alien.

    For example, people who couldn’t parse out Hussein O’s motivations are not likely to parse out God’s motivations. They don’t have the brain power, you see.

    And for those that do have the brain power, but choose to self deceive themselves by being Obamacans, well they don’t have the ability to parse out the motivations of higher order entities either. They’re stuck on the box plantation.

    To understand God, it’s easier if a person first understood Humanity. Few, if anyone, understands humanity, however…

  37. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    For a rational Creator, to have such a large universe for just the amusement of one species sitting in the suburbs of a nothing special galaxy, seems an incredible waste of space, time, and energy.

    Maybe it amused Him. A small weekend project, as it were.

    Of course, there is much in the universe that will simply kill all life on a planet, and reset it back to the primordial ooze. A sufficiently large X-ray burst from a nearby star will do quite nicely.

    Or maybe one of these more advanced civilizations had a civil war, and used mass drivers to pulverize the surface of their planets, wiping themselves out in the process?

    One doesn’t actually need a mass driver if one has access to an asteroid belt. Simply send sufficient numbers of rocks into a decaying orbit around a planet, then break out the popcorn and wait for the fireworks.

    It can suck, living at the bottom of a gravity well.

  38. M of Hollywood Says:

    The Triangle response (it sounds Rumsfeldian, but so be it):
    1. We know it’s unknown, so that’s one point of the triangle. Even if a firm reply to Fermi were to come, we could not be sure, for science is never for sure. So this point is for sure.
    2. It’s knowable, we just don’t know it yet.
    3. It’s unknowable.
    So the triangle is Unknown to Knowable to Unknowable.
    The triangle also has a danged curve in it.

    On point #2 gather scientists, hoping for change.
    On point #3 gather believers, happy for songs in Texas.
    On point #1 gather the Fermians and the Unfirmians.
    We are stuck on a triangle trying to comprehend a curved universe with no edges.

    **insert Monty Python here**

    Figuring out comes from deep inside the mind. That makes deep-inside-the-mind the center. The Mind’s predicament is that external measuring rods place the mind on this suburb of a suburban Milky Way. BUT the center is YOU. Every other YOU is also center. It’s not going to be solved by another Newton or a “Firmie” since every consciousness is a fig inside of a new.

    Thanks everyone for making everyone smile.

  39. Don Carlos Says:

    I find it rather presumptuous that our Creator and the act of creation should make sense to us.

  40. eve Says:

    So then: Who created the creator? I have two daughters. One is a college professor scientist/Unitarian and the other a devout Roman Catholic. Discussions can get interesting, but I still ask myself the only two questions that count: If there is a creator (God), who created him/her/it? If there’s not a creator, then in evolution, what force or power created the original laws of physics?

  41. waitforit Says:

    I for one welcome our new insect overlords!

    I’ve always found two things for the existence of God and both of them amount to a reverse engineering process and both also have an explanation in evolutionary biology: 1) I want to approve of myself morally, in other words, I want to be good; 2) I want meaning and purpose. Both of those are best explained, to me, by a Creator who designed me that way by whatever method He used (using He as understood that G-d is not male or female.)

    Following close behind as No. 3, is the angry and adamant pursuit of scientists to disprove the option I find most reasonable.

    I find the quote most revealing in Neo’s linked article the one where the author says he is jealous that some beings, through technology, can live forever. That is part of the quest for meaning.

  42. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “There’s just as much chance that another race would be unfriendly, as that it would be friendly. If so, we are pathetically vulnerable to attack from high orbit. Just launch some rocks creating ‘kinetic’ strikes upon population centers and military facilities.” GB

    “see? silly…
    how do you suppose they travel here to do that?

    lets say you launch a rock from the nearest location you can do so outside our solar system.

    Proxima Centauri is 4.37 light years away”

    What’s ‘silly’ art is your ego preventing you from reading comprehensively. It’s an article of faith that no way will ever be found to travel ‘faster’ than the speed of light. I suggest you google “Alcubierre warp drive” for a physicists speculation on how that might be achieved. NASA and NASA engineer and physicist Harold White thinks highly enough of the theory (the math appears solid) that they created some graphic visuals of what an actual warp starship might look like.

    Had your ego not interfered you would have caught that I had said that rocks could be launched from “high orbit”. Any knowledgeable reader would know that high orbit and kinetic strikes upon earth would refer to high EARTH orbit. No need to launch them from “Alpha Centauri”… what’s silly is your ego leading you to imagine that I actually envisoned such a scenario.

    BTW, commenting upon something out of ignorance is not a sign of intelligence but of ego. But your constant condescending comments regarding other’s intelligence on this blog makes clear your insecurity complex with its compensatory egotistical bombast. Perhaps you have more in common with Obama than you realize?

  43. DNW Says:

    ” LTEC Says:
    July 14th, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    On a related issue: Should we expect other planets with life to be Earth-like?

    Mathematicians know that one can conclude absolutely nothing about the variance of an unknown distribution by examining a single sample. …”

    Upon re-reading this thread, it seems to me that LTEC has stated the first step in the problem. In essence it’s the problem of attempting a deduction from a single premiss.

  44. physicsguy Says:

    “I find it rather presumptuous that our Creator and the act of creation should make sense to us.”

    Then why give us the capacity for reason and the ability to question? The notion expressed by DC is exactly the same idea as was held in the Middle Ages: i.e. the world as created by God cannot be understood and is beyond human comprehension. With the Enlightenment, the idea that perhaps humans could make sense of the world and gain some understanding of how it worked came forth, and modern science followed. As well as the political changes the Enlightenment wrought that eventually led to the American Revolution.

    Can science understand everything? NO. And any scientist who says differently is wrong. What caused the Big Bang? No clue… at present we are stuck at around 10-43sec, before then not a clue. What is the source of moral reasoning? No idea. What is consciousness? Some say a QM effect, but again I doubt that will ever be answered. Scientists who insist on a total exclusion of religious ideas are selling themselves short.

  45. John Says:

    So much wrong to be found here, and only a little time to work through it.

    Artfldgr Says:
    July 14th, 2014 at 4:54 pm
    There’s just as much chance that another race would be unfriendly, as that it would be friendly. If so, we are pathetically vulnerable to attack from high orbit. Just launch some rocks creating ‘kinetic’ strikes upon population centers and military facilities.

    see? silly…
    how do you suppose they travel here to do that?

    lets say you launch a rock from the nearest location you can do so outside our solar system.

    Proxima Centauri is 4.37 light years away

    You don’t need to launch rocks from another star system, in fact you are right that it is implausible to do so. What you ignore though is that there are plenty of rocks right here. Just get to another system, grab some rocks when you arrive and start dropping them at will.

    See: Larry Niven’s ‘Footfall’.

    in 2014 kepler spotted the closest to earth like planet so far…
    Kepler-186fs – 500 light-years from the Earth

    that is, in a ship traveling at light speed, it would take a half billion years to get here..

    A ship travelling at the speed of light would cover 500 light years, in 500 years. Thats the meaning of ‘Light Year’.

    so how do you suppose some one travels 500 light years to throw rocks at us?

    Energy weapons, et al, make for good Sci-Fi, but if you understand mass and velocity at more than a gradeschool level, you understand that in the real universe (and not hollywood), rocks are your most useful weapons to use. When accelerated to high velocities (storing potential energy) the energy released can dwarf nuclear weapons easily.

    Accelerating rocks from a deep gravity well like the surface of the earth can be difficult if you are relying on chemical propulsion, but if you are already in a solar system, free of a planets gravity well you can use small nudges on VERY large rocks to get them to do what you want. (See: Gravity Tractor)

    and the other silly question is WHY?

    Why Not?

    if you could travel that far, you could probably make a Dysons sphere..

    Dyson Sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and hence captures most or all of its power output. It was first described by Freeman Dyson. Dyson speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of the long-term survival and escalating energy needs of a technological civilization, and proposed that searching for evidence of the existence of such structures might lead to the detection of advanced intelligent extraterrestrial life. Different types of Dyson spheres correlate with information on the Kardashev scale.

    yes…, we have already envisoned putting a star in a bottle. but given our sun could holld over a million earths inside it… it woudl take a heck of a lot of material to put a shell around it and capture all its energy… (dyson is not all there… )

    Travelling to another star is cake compared to making a Dyson Sphere. Run your energy calculations on moving an object the size of a WWII battleship to another star, then run energy calculations on building a Dyson sphere (which requires roughly the entire non-solar mass of an entire solar system to construction). Keep in mind you not only have to desconstruct entire planets to get the raw materials, you then have to reassemble them.

    if you can build a dysons sphere, why would youw ant to go to earth?

    Why Not?

    water? heck, you have planets of raw material between here and 500 light years…

    Once again, run the energy requirements of moving a planet Vs moving a ship.

    the ONLY think that is exchangeable or interesting is cultural idfeas and inventsons. the frisbee is more valuable than a ocean of water!!! so is the yo-yo, and so on.

    Faster than light drive is the holy grail of potential inventions. If you have one, you might want to keep others from doing the same, especially if they fit the ‘hostile’ profile. This goes back to the ‘Why go anywhere’ question. If you are looking at a species that is developing a predatory profile, and you are next in line, why not go smash them before they come eat you (or your resources) like locusts?

    there is absolutely nothing to care about given what is needed to do anything at even a ‘small’ distance.

    Ummm, ok, if you say so. I still want to go. Don’t underestimate the power of curiousity.

    its just silly most of it…

    Said most of Europe to Columbus.

    and the fact that smart scientists spout it shows you how bad our schools are and so forth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    they are not scientists of any real knowlege, they are fear mongers.. who make a living off of ignorance of others.

    I think I can come up with a better example of products of our bad schools without looking to hard.

  46. Artfldgr Says:

    NeoNeocon to Artfldgr:
    I don’t think Fermi was unaware of those things. And he was no slouch in the brains department, either.

    some he was, some he wasnt…

    after all, he died in 1954…

    so he missed:
    Sputnik and Explorer 1
    the formation of NASA
    pioneer probes
    luna 1 and luna 2
    Fermi never knew what a quasar was – Maarten Schmidt figured it out years later

    fermi even missed the big bank background radiation… Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson announce the discovery of a weak radio signal coming from all parts of the sky – 1965

    the other luna missions up and past 9
    Surveyor missions
    the ranger series
    all the manned moon shots and appollo missions

    he missed Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish discovery of the pulsar

    The Uhuru satellite, designed to map the sky at X-ray wavelengths – missed by 23 years

    C.T. Bolton’s computer models for solar atmospheres
    Salyut 1

    missed boltons discovery of black holes

    Venera 9 (russian probe on venus)

    Voyager 1 & 2 space probe

    Columbia, the first of NASA’s reusable space shuttles

    The first infrared astronomy satellite, IRAS

    The Magellan probe and Gallileo

    The Cosmic Background Explorer satellite

    The 10 meter Keck telescope on Mauna Kea was not constructed till decades after he died

    Suvi Gezari’s visual proof of a black hole

    SETI

    i think that once again, ignorance and such wins in the halls of conversation… as one would have to know history of science enough to realize that most of what we know today was found out AFTER 1957…

    FErmi believed the same idiocy that Maxim believed.
    maxim believed that a machine gun would make war too horrible to actually have… and fermi thought nuclear weapons would do the same…

    note that when fermi was doing his work, the universe was a lot smaller… the statistical spread of what kind of stars were not known… and the list goes on.

    which is why lots of physicists laugh and think his belief in aliens is silly, in that for such a smart man he did not think of the distances or distributions.

    the Drake equation was invented 5 years AFTER fermi died and they were trying to put a number on the odds.

    The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. The equation was written in 1961 by Frank Drake not for purposes of quantifying the number of civilizations,[1] but intended as a way to stimulate scientific dialogue at the world’s first SETI meeting, in Green Bank, West Virginia.

    i really wish you people would do some research and so forth into things before you start saying – he is smart, andso he knows facts post death…

    sigh

  47. neo-neocon Says:

    eve:

    The Uncaused Cause.

  48. neo-neocon Says:

    Artfldgr:

    And I wish you would stop misinterpreting me.

    Of course I didn’t mean that Fermi knew those things—as in, “things that were discovered after he died.” My point was that he knew general things you were referring to, such as the fact that the distances are extremely great and not surmountable by technology we have.

  49. Artfldgr Says:

    John

    your points trying to refute me are even sillier…

    i will address them ONCE

    You don’t need to launch rocks from another star system, in fact you are right that it is implausible to do so. What you ignore though is that there are plenty of rocks right here. Just get to another system, grab some rocks when you arrive and start dropping them at will.

    yes.. your right.. which is why they halted space exploration on planet earth… or havent you realized they stopped it as anyone with a small ship can take the ultimate high ground…

    but note.. throwing a rock from where you are is EASIER than actually building a ship, and putting pepple on it, and then having food, air, and so on, and going the distance to get here to throw rocks!!!

    ie. your answer posits a harder thing that is more impossible to make my point seem silly… but lets just say its easier to throw rocks a far distance than it is to throw a ship. mankind has thrown rocks long distances for thousands of years before one person flew a glider…

    so your point is inane… its perfectly feasible to send a rock, and have it arrive a billion years after your civilization has died out. its NOT reasonable to have a ship of beings last a billion years to make the trip… then throw rocks…

    Energy weapons, et al, make for good Sci-Fi, but if you understand mass and velocity at more than a gradeschool level, you understand that in the real universe (and not hollywood), rocks are your most useful weapons to use. When accelerated to high velocities (storing potential energy) the energy released can dwarf nuclear weapons easily.

    my major at bronx science when i was 12 years old was Quantum physics. do you want to actually start doing calculations here? your like my socialist friend who is a complete poser…

    conservation of energy would dictate what? that you cant get more out of it than you put in… the larger point is that your not accelerating the object, you cant… your actually changing its vector, and then using the energy it already has…

    go ahead. do your calculations in terms of actually lifting the rocks off the planet, flying away from us, slowing down, stopping them, reversing them, then accelerating… and see what you get.

    Accelerating rocks from a deep gravity well like the surface of the earth can be difficult if you are relying on chemical propulsion, but if you are already in a solar system, free of a planets gravity well you can use small nudges on VERY large rocks to get them to do what you want. (See: Gravity Tractor)

    a Gravity Tractor is movie science fiction dippy
    and as i said above… your just using the energy that is established at the big bang…

    however, you have not computed the velocity necessary to leave a planet, and travel 800 million light years to arrive and nudge a rock – silly

    Why Not?

    because after you travel a few million miles, you might not want to destroy the only place you can land to rechage and potentially live..

    this is like saying… i can kick the window out on a plane in flight… and you say why not… and not realize that if you did, there woudl be no oxygen.

    the point is your dropping the points to make yours… and the point was ANOTHER life form, not another person on earth causing a space war by doing the blowfeld james bond build the space ship… its silly

    if you can travel a million light years, you wont throw rocks
    if you leaev earth to do things, you wont make your home uninabitable without being able to travel a million light years and depose someone else… but again, if you can do that, you can make a lot of nice homes all over in our solar system and have planets of material to use before you ever got near to needing more.

    Travelling to another star is cake compared to making a Dyson Sphere. Run your energy calculations on moving an object the size of a WWII battleship to another star, then run energy calculations on building a Dyson sphere (which requires roughly the entire non-solar mass of an entire solar system to construction). Keep in mind you not only have to desconstruct entire planets to get the raw materials, you then have to reassemble them.

    your reading comprehension and such is not that good, eh?
    you made my point FOR me… ie. if you can travel thqat far, you can build a dysons star… its just a matter of time and so forth, and building a dysons star is easier than traveling that far!!!

    at least your population on the planet will renew as you send people 20 years off to a near star

    ok. lets settle this quick
    what is the mistake in the DRAKE equation?

    the drake equation does not actually care about the real habitabiliuty of areas of our universe.

    that is, we are lucky to live on the outer arm of the galaxy… as the pulsars and such that are more common internally, would sterilze the planet in a single pass if we were closer!!!

    you talk about energy of this, and that, but its a pittance compared to what gets kicked out regularly and that we only survive because we are so far away.

    this would make that the vast majority of stars, even if they seem nice, are not habitable… as it only takes one pass in 100 million years to starilize the place..

    given that the meteor theory of dinosaur death is under seige there are a few people who think that a gamma ray burst 450 million years ago, whiped out most life on earth outside the oceans.

    all this is silly…

  50. Richard Saunders Says:

    physicsguy, I think you’re right — we are an experiment. God wanted to see what the results would be if He created beings with free will.

    So far, the results don’t seem to be going well.

  51. Artfldgr Says:

    I think I can come up with a better example of products of our bad schools without looking to hard.

    yeah. like knowing the difference between to and too

  52. Don Carlos Says:

    physicsguy wrote in part, “humans could make sense of the world and gain some understanding of how it worked…” I would respectfully point out his use of the word “some”, which surely implies some sort of limit to our understanding. That is exactly the point I was attempting to suggest.

    I offer another query: why should we presume the Creator wished us to be able to understand His works, His motives, as well as he? It is pretty clear to me that in many ways our species is stuck on stupid. I do not think that query indicates a medieval mindset, or other negative, either. It is simply a query.

  53. Matt_SE Says:

    More importantly:
    How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Our capacity to know the truth is limited. Deal with it.

  54. J.J. Says:

    Faith = unquestioning belief in something that is beyond rational/scientific proof.

    I have deep faith that there is a God, Jehovah, the Force, or He Who’s Name We Cannot Know. How did I arrive at that faith? Through a transcendental experience. Transcendental = a spiritual experience. It’s personal, not experienced by others. Is it hormonal, chemical, or a sign from above? Who knows.

    I had reached the depths of grief and depression after the death of our son. The psychic pain was deep and tenacious. Until one day a woman visited us who brought a poem. A poem that spoke to my heart as if it had come directly from our son. In a flash of insight I was transported from a place of suffering to one of peace and love. I felt an all encompassing love holding me gently. I recognized the human condition as one of suffering, but not in vain. My heart was uplifted as the love that God has for all of us flooded my being. In that moment I was struck by Grace.

    Paul Tillich describes it well,
    “Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the Savior, or that the Bible contains the truth. To believe that something is, is almost contrary to the meaning of grace.

    Furthermore, grace does not mean simply that we are making progress in our moral self-control, in our fight against special faults, and in our relationships to men and to society. Moral progress may be a fruit of grace; but it is not grace itself, and it can even prevent us from receiving grace.

    Too often there is a graceless acceptance of Christian doctrines and a graceless battle against the structures of evil in our personalities. Such a graceless relation to God may lead us either to arrogance or to despair.

    It would be far better to refuse God and the Christ and the Bible than to accept them without grace. If we accept without grace, we do so in the state of separation, and can only succeed in deepening the separation.

    We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen as long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it.

    Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness.

    It strikes when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged.

    It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility and our lack of direction and composure has become intolerable to us.

    It strikes us when, year after year the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.

    Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.”

    If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of the experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition-nothing but acceptance.”

    What’s that got to do with Fermi’s Paradox. Well, maybe nothing. But it goes a way toward positing a Creator.

  55. M of Hollywood Says:

    J.J.: :)

  56. T Says:

    JJ,

    Truly sorry for your loss. My wife had an experience to yours after the loss of our son.

  57. T Says:

    “similar to yours”

    Sorry.

  58. reticent Says:

    J.J. and T, so sorry for your losses. Finding reconciliation in that must surely be the very essence of grace.

    … Wonderful thread everyone.

  59. Dan Melson Says:

    Best answer to the Fermi Paradox I’ve ever seen was in the novel Toolmaker Koan

    http://www.amazon.com/Toolmaker-Koan-John-McLoughlin/dp/067169779X

    Basically, the premise is that toolmakers contain their own destruction

  60. Artfldgr Says:

    UFO landing site? Meteorite crater? Scientists baffled by gigantic 262ft hole that has appeared at Siberia’s ‘End of The World’

    Enormous crater appears suddenly in part of Russia whose name translates as ‘the end of the world’
    Teams of scientists are rushing east to fathom the cause of this unusual – and rare – geographical occurrence
    One especially outlandish theory talks about a UFO landing as a possible cause of this colossal chasm in the earth

  61. Don Carlos Says:

    What’s going on?
    Yesterday Neo posts on Fermi’s paradox. Today Drudge has a link to a MSM SETI story that includes this effusive bubbly:
    “Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe,” said Matt Mountain, director and Webb telescope scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 201.”

    Golly, gee, just imagine. Our long loneliness may be over!
    And who was James Webb? The second (!) NASA administrator. Another big wow.

  62. J.J. Says:

    T,
    I’m truly sorry for your loss, as well. We are both on the rocky path of parental grief. It gets easier, but as you know, it only ends at the end.

    Thanks for sharing your wife’s experience with me. I don’t encounter many who are willing to share on that level. It helps me to know that others have experienced what I have.

  63. J.J. Says:

    From a review of “Toolmaker Koan”: “Because when a species reaches the tool-making stage, extinction is not far behind. The rate of social evolution is quickly overwhelmed by the speed of technological innovation.”

    Another view that seems plausible. In what I foresee as a decline in the resources that supply energy (Oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, etc.) there is always the possibility of devastating wars to control those resources. Which eventually leads back to a much less densely populated Earth with much less energy to serve the remaining population.

  64. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    We are not alone.
    Any Christian could tell you that.
    What does a Guy have to do to convince you?
    Come back from the dead?

  65. T Says:

    Ed Bonderenka,

    Apparently even that doesn’t cut it anymore.

  66. Beverly Says:

    —But there’s a tree, of many, one,
    A single field which I have looked upon,
    Both of them speak of something that is gone:
    The pansy at my feet
    Doth the same tale repeat:
    Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
    Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

    Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God, who is our home:
    Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
    Shades of the prison-house begin to close
    Upon the growing Boy,
    But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
    He sees it in his joy;
    The Youth, who daily farther from the east
    Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
    And by the vision splendid
    Is on his way attended;
    At length the Man perceives it die away,
    And fade into the light of common day.

    … But for those obstinate questionings
    Of sense and outward things,
    Fallings from us, vanishings;
    Blank misgivings of a Creature
    Moving about in worlds not realized,
    High instincts before which our mortal Nature
    Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
    But for those first affections,
    Those shadowy recollections,
    Which, be they what they may,
    Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
    Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
    Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
    Our noisy years seem moments in the being
    Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
    To perish never:…

    Hence in a season of calm weather
    Though inland far we be,
    Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
    Which brought us hither,
    Can in a moment travel thither,
    And see the children sport upon the shore,
    And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

    …Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
    Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
    Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
    To me the meanest flower that blows can give
    Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

    –William Wordsworth, “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” (1802)

  67. M of Hollywood Says:

    Beverly: thank you for the Wordsworth, so aptly named was he
    to speak of memory
    that calls us forward
    to find the curve of infinity
    and blast those “obstinate questionings”
    in our “noisy years”
    to follow the curve back
    to eternal silence

  68. Ymarsakar Says:

    but note.. throwing a rock from where you are is EASIER than actually building a ship, and putting pepple on it, and then having food, air, and so on, and going the distance to get here to throw rocks!!!

    Dropping bombs on people from automated drones is easier, but without ground forces to confirm who died, the target may still be living. So in order to get guarantees, one must saturate the system, which costs time and money. Whereas if they had an observer in the system, they can see the damage and then stop operations.

    The reality of actually “engineering” things is beyond some people, I presume. What you read off your books, Art, may look good on paper, but somebody always has to do the actual job. And the actual job is different than what they wrote on the paper.

  69. Ymarsakar Says:

    I find it rather presumptuous that our Creator and the act of creation should make sense to us.

    Which is why DC thinks he knows better than the rest of us, where the motor controls of the human brain are located, obviously.

    That’s not being presumptuous of course. That’s just being Damn Crazy.

  70. T Says:

    ” . . . the actual job is different than what they wrote on the paper.”

    As Yogi Berra said: “In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

  71. davisbr Says:

    I think …that some of you didn’t read nearly as much “hard” sci-fi when you were kids as you should have, to be able to participate lucidly even in this kind of water-cooler level discussion LOL. (Yes, of course I’m a sci-fi snob, so I would …i.e., “think that”.)

    …I recommend you start with Niven, Pournelle, and Niven & Pournelle collaborations.

    Specifically Ringworld. And then the Mote in God’s Eye.

    I haven’t posted to my [private] blog in a couple of years – which is mostly online notes to myself about stuff-that-matters-to-me-that-I-might-need-to-refer-to-someday-but-would-probably-be-too-lazy-to-look-up-when-I-needed-it lol – but the first two posts on the site cover SETI stuff (which links to articles that are still current …not much is happening in SETI btw), and warp drives.

    Link to fairwhether.mee.nu for click-through.

    …they’re a basic consolidation of the subject matter, and might help bring some of you up-to-speed.

    (Sorry neo, I don’t ever recall pointing to “me”, because I’m a dull boy, and a seldom blogger, and think self-linking in comments is impolite-bordering-on-outright-rude …but I’m just-this-once breaking protocol.)

    I think we’re going to get the Alcubierre drive (which does NOT break General Relativity, a very big deal …and which is why it makes a “kind of” FTL a possibility) btw. There’s been recent papers – out of Denmark, if I recall correctly (I need to update that post with links) – that suggest the energy required for the warp bubble is MUCH less than Miguel Alcubierre (and others) originally postulated.

    …and that’s certainly my Star Trek half speaking, heh.

    For the creation vs. big bang philosophical/theological arg’s, you should definitely read CS Lewis’s “Miracles” …which is less about “miracles”, and more about a kind of philosophy of a “science of the supernatural” (spoiler alert: he’s for it LOL) …which isn’t theosophy lol.

    (Sorry, but it’s been decades since I last thought much about this …my mind’s been made up for a long time lol …so no snap quizzes!)

    …sorry for coming off all pedantic & snooty. But this was one of those “too much misinfo’” threads.

  72. neo-neocon Says:

    davisbr:

    No need to apologize. Sounds interesting.

  73. Ymarsakar Says:

    Quantum entanglement teleportation gates, tachyon teleportation, sound a lot more convenient.

    Generally, a civilization needs a certain level of refinement and engineering capabilities before they can take advantage of theoretical breakthroughs or mathematical proofs. It takes awhile to figure out how to build things that work, based on scientific experiments.

    It would help to get near room temperature superconductors, since losing energy is a big problem in a civilization that still refuses to use nuclear energy for much of anything.

    Why would a civilization that can use a higher output of energy, not do it? Why would people who can FTL travel to Earth, not do so? Obviously it’s either an external or internal motivation problem.

    However, until humans solve our own “communications” problem concerning, say American life and culture, there’s little hope of the species advancing any time this century.

  74. Bob From Virginia Says:

    Great, something else to worry about.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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