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Guess Fermi made too many incorrect assumptions.

Life need "metals" these form from supernova, so the first lot of stars in the early universe would not be compatible, likely wipes out say the first 5 billion years.

Why 1% why not 0.00001% or less of stars/plkanets having life?

Why does life = what we call intelligence? Dinosaurs existed for many millions of years more then we have and at last time they didn't build civilisations and reach the moon, Mars or elsewhere. Well so far no evidence.

Another presumption that is made is that there are lots of other civilisations other then ours and before ours. What if we are the first to crawl out of the slime, become multi celular and build a technological civilisation? Someone has to be the first, and if the first there is nothing out there to populate the galaxy/universe until then.

Read Rare Earth, we may not live on a typical planet and so what we are on may be a much less probable lump of rock then we realise. There are likely to be 20 conditions for life to get going and develop. So if each condition is say 1 in 10 that means that mathematically we need to be in a galaxy about 1000,000,000 times bigger to bump into the next life bearing planet. Looking up and saying lots of stars = lots of life is too simplistic. Lots of stars just raises the probability of more life, but does not guarantee it.

To a greater extent The Fermi Paradox sort of proves we are on our own. His presumption is that life is "common" and so we would have met some by now. As we have not then the conclusion would appear to be that life is not common and actually very uncommon.

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The mathematical equasion for predicting life is all well and good, and I do believe it has a certain amount of merit.... Out of every 100,000,000 stars/planets, the chances of some form of life developing are pretty good... But, you can't treat Biology as a maths problem!

On this planet alone there are trillions of different species of "life"... From the birds in the sky, the fish (and other things) in the oceans, to everything that walks or crawls on land... and yet, there are only a handful of species that have developed some form of higher intelligence/self awareness. Dolphins for example are highly intelligent animals, but they're never going to learn how to lay bricks and build a house... nor do they need to.... If there was a planet out there full of dolphin-like creatures, would you call them an intelligent species? or not because they're not technologically advanced? If you're only looking for technologically advanced species, then the probability goes down further...

We are told the universe is 13.8 billion years old... our solar system is 4.5 billion years old.... That's nearly a third of the entire universe's age! And that's how long it's taken US to get to this level of advancement.... Not forgetting the first 500 million years where the earth just sat there mostly as a blazing inferno not even producing the primordial slime that we all evolved from.... So really, When you look up at the night sky and try and do the maths... first you've got to discount any stars that are less than say 4 billion years old, as an advanced species of life simply won't have had the time to develop around them... Those numbers just keep dropping!!!

All in all, I do believe that there are other forms of life out there.... advanced and more likely not-so advanced... Why haven't they visited yet? Well, in 4.5 billion years, we've only managed to set foot on our closest companion, the moon... Why would they have done better? We haven't reached mars yet as a manned mission, let alone got out of our solar system... In fact 100 years ago even reaching the moon was the stuff of fantasy!... Might as well say the last 100 years has been a big boom for our advancement as a species, and when you think about it... We are very lucky to have had that Boom... times changed very slowly for a few thousand years before... If there's another 100,000,000 species of human-like aliens out there... who's to say they're not still living in "The Dark Ages"?... They might just need that Boom!

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Of course there is the other side of the argument too... the aliens are there but we lack the means to see or contact them.. 

im reminded of that indigenous tribe that was discovered a year or two ago in the amazon rain forest, waving their spears at the plane while the photographer took pictures of them... that tribe has been there evolving as long as we have and may never have known the rest of us exist, they would think of our modern society as alien as we'd consider visitors from another world... so, maths aside, it may just be a point of perspective?

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The best way to look for Aliens is by using a gigantic microscope, any contact would either be via nano sized spacecraft with tiny intelligent artificial life forms on board or messages transmitted in the quantum world.

Alan

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Touched on in other similar topics, but for me the term 'intelligence' is misused and inappropriate when we mean technologically developed.  It could be argued that there are many intelligent species on Earth other than humans; would intelligent cetaceans develop (or indeed need to develop) technology of any kind, let alone spacefaring technology/ability?

And of course space is big, really big.. although size/distance is only related to one's ability (technology?) to traverse the same in a reasonable period of time.

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Great to read members questioning the automatic connection of intelligence with technology. The fact that we have developed technology does not prove that all  intelligent species would develop it. It is also worth pointing out that our intelligence has not changed significantly since the industrial and technological revolution began. Are we, who drive in cars, more intelligent than Newton, who travelled by horse and carriage? I'm certainly not! 

And another point: we have the intelligence to produce complex technology but we do not, it seems, have the intelligence to prevent that technology from destroying us. Maybe it won't destroy us but, personally, I think it probably will.

So I'm inclined to doubt the notion that intelligence and technology are joined at the hip.

Olly

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As Bejay mentioned there are lots of intelligent animals on Earth, it probably goes Man > Corvids (crows) > Octopus > Dolphins > Great Apes in terms of problem solving ability but only we have developed technology although all the others use tools and probably have an inherent understanding of maths (in the way the world works for them). It is difficult for me what was the trigger for our technological advance unless it was just the fact that we had a lot of free time.

Alan

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I think life - certainly intelligent life that is capable of interstellar travel and willing to venture into the galaxy -  is hugely more scarce than we think.  I have no evidence (no one does of course) for such a statement but I'd suggest that if life were more common place in the galaxy we would know about it.  And we don't....  So it does not exist, or if it does, the guys are a VERY long way away and have not had the time to reach us.  WHY would they even WANT to perform such travel, even if they do exist?  To what end?  Just because we like to explore does not mean others will. We project our own mindset onto aliens? 

But that is just my opinion, which of course could be nonsense :)

Edited by kirkster501
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I think the Fermi "paradox" can is idle speculation and not much more. It is not a paradox in any recognisable sense of the word, and it is not a scientific hypothesis or problem (we have no evidence to back up many of the assumptions that lie behind it).

What we do know about the observable universe is that abstract "mathematical" models not backed up by evidence and repeated experimentation have a terrible record of being able to predict or explain what goes on in reality. As an example, Hobbes's arguments in favour of the aether were far better constructed and more convincing than Boyle's were for the alternative hypothesis - in the end it was Boyle's air pump, and not Hobbes's argumentation, that triumphed. In the modern day we would never allow a medicine based on a theoretical model (or even on lab analysis using cultured tissue) to be tested directly on humans without a whole bunch of intermediate steps (including animal testing) - the reason for this is that we know, from direct, measured experience that most of the time in vivo the proposed medicine will turn out to be a dud, or as likely to kill as cure. Regardless of what any model tells us, it is only a starting point.

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science does a lovely job on this sort of thing. In fairness to Fermi I don't think he meant this speculation as "science", more as a speculative question that was of interest to him.

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On 06/04/2017 at 12:54, kirkster501 said:

I think life - certainly intelligent life that is capable of interstellar travel and willing to venture into the galaxy -  is hugely more scarce than we think.  I have no evidence (no one does of course) for such a statement but I'd suggest that if life were more common place in the galaxy we would know about it.  And we don't....  So it does not exist, or if it does, the guys are a VERY long way away and have not had the time to reach us.  WHY would they even WANT to perform such travel, even if they do exist?  To what end?  Just because we like to explore does not mean others will. We project our own mindset onto aliens? 

But that is just my opinion, which of course could be nonsense :)

Notwithstanding trying to second guess any alien evolution and civilization, interesting thoughts on having the will to travel, which is different to the want or need to travel?  

Based on our only known model (ie Earth):
Our early ventures into our very nearby space were driven by political/military desire - this may not be a universal trait.  
The (successful) unmanned exploration of our solar system and beyond is (so far) driven by science and curiosity - it remains to be seen if/how this can be progressed further and outwards, not least down to budgetary funding.  
We are now seeing the commercial exploitation of space, also possibly leading to the unmanned and/or manned colonization of our immediate solar system - can this commercial effort be sustained?

Perhaps the biggest driver to interstellar travel may be/is the simple need for survival; this could be to avoid/escape a known natural disaster critically affecting the home planet (including the depletion of sustainable resources of the home planet, or the host sun ending its cycle).  However, the key element may be whether a civilization having the necessary capabilities, and/or time, to act at the necessary moment such a need might arise?

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On 4/6/2017 at 05:54, kirkster501 said:

I think life - certainly intelligent life that is capable of interstellar travel and willing to venture into the galaxy -  is hugely more scarce than we think.  I have no evidence (no one does of course) for such a statement but I'd suggest that if life were more common place in the galaxy we would know about it.  And we don't....  So it does not exist, or if it does, the guys are a VERY long way away and have not had the time to reach us.  WHY would they even WANT to perform such travel, even if they do exist?  To what end?  Just because we like to explore does not mean others will. We project our own mindset onto aliens? 

But that is just my opinion, which of course could be nonsense :)

Vacuum energy already represents 70% of the available energy in the universe. This guarantees that by the time there are enough intelligent species in the universe the only thing we'll ever be able to do is maybe have a short hello, goodbye conversation as the ever increasing expansion of the universe carries them over the universal horizon forever.

I was just watching PBS space/time and there is a new study which shows that there was possible some interaction with matter early on that the universe's expansion has now carried over the visible horizon from our universe. So we are able to detect the slight motion of parts of our universe in it's general direction but it is not interacting with it gravitationally with it now. But this matter was certainly outside the big bang.

So, if we're going to meet aliens, it has to happen soon and since the void we have to cross only gets wider, the role of technology is to keep up with exponentially expanding space/time?

This seems impossible to me.

Even harnessing a neutron star probably woundn't give us the energy required to warp space/time sufficiently to make crossing space/time feasible during later epochs of the universe.

 

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This sort of argument is seen all the time on pseudo science programmes. The rhetoric is more or less "if we assume all the factors required to support our theory to be possible/real then our hypothesis must be true". 

Ergo if you assume interstellar travel is easy and that there are aliens travelling by such means, and they have a way of detecting messages from every source, and can detect those from less than 100 years ago from up to 100,000 light years away, and assuming they are in our galaxy, and that they have such incredible technology to be able to do such things, yet don't wish to make their presence known or are so weak that they are controlled by the leaders of the Earth then they MUST be here already.  Surely?

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I have an Idea. Why don't we wait until they actually get here before we decide whether or not these 
so called Aliens exist?
There must be millions upon millions of documented content and reports of sightings, abductions, and goodness knows what else.
But wait, what is missing. Let's guess, oh yes, it's actual concrete proof. There isn't any.
I used to read Science Fiction, and I was Mesmerised  By the possibility of an Alien Invasion. Then guess what
I grew up. I watched a Movie called  'It Came From Outer Space', and the Idea of Aliens
visiting earth was suddenly deemed Utter nonsense, and I have not changed my mind.
I'll just wait. and wait, and wait. Perhaps they only exist beyond the Grave :eek:.

 

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12 hours ago, Badweather said:

So, if we're going to meet aliens, it has to happen soon and since the void we have to cross only gets wider

Explain please. The distance between us and the stars in our galaxy, taking into account any radial velocity, is the same as it was years ago, and will remain the same in the near future.

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Perhaps when  M31 arrives to give our Galaxy a kiss, in about 4 Billion years, some tangible evidence of other intelligent life forms will present itself.       Of course If the technology then has improved in giant leaps and bounds, humans could possibly be viewing that event from a Galaxy outside the Local Group.  I'm sure they wouldn't.want a ringside seat by staying here ?.

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A couple occupied my teenage daughters bedrooms for a while ...     ... then they grew up.

Regards Andrew

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I always saw the Fermi paradox as a 'back of the envelope' estimate of how long it would take a technological species to populate a galaxy if they set out to do so.  A few million years looks like a reasonable estimate, even at sub-light speeds.  That's blink of an eye in cosmological time scales.  Dinosaurs became extinct 70 million years ago. The Cambrian explosion of complex life was 500 million years ago. The earth formed 4.5 million years ago and the universe is 14 billion years old. So given that there is nothing in the physics that says technological aliens could not be here, or that we could not  detect them elsewhere, Fermi's question "so where are they?" is a reasonable one in my view.

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12 minutes ago, Ouroboros said:

I always saw the Fermi paradox as a 'back of the envelope' estimate of how long it would take a technological species to populate a galaxy if they set out to do so.  A few million years looks like a reasonable estimate, even at sub-light speeds.  That's blink of an eye in cosmological time scales.  Dinosaurs became extinct 70 million years ago. The Cambrian explosion of complex life was 500 million years ago. The earth formed 4.5 million years ago and the universe is 14 billion years old. So given that there is nothing in the physics that says technological aliens could not be here, or that we could not  detect them elsewhere, Fermi's question "so where are they?" is a reasonable one in my view.

Agreed. My problem is never with reasonable questions just assumed answers derived from numerous unknowns masquerading as proof.

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On 4 November 2017 at 15:30, Moonshane said:

Agreed. My problem is never with reasonable questions just assumed answers derived from numerous unknowns masquerading as proof.

Agreed. I would extend that to include reasonable speculation that allows us to develop  reasonable strategies for looking for the sort of evidence that might verify the existence of life including intelligent life elsewhere.  

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On 05/04/2017 at 22:42, ollypenrice said:

Great to read members questioning the automatic connection of intelligence with technology. The fact that we have developed technology does not prove that all  intelligent species would develop it. It is also worth pointing out that our intelligence has not changed significantly since the industrial and technological revolution began. Are we, who drive in cars, more intelligent than Newton, who travelled by horse and carriage? I'm certainly not! 

Agree totally. If intelligence (as in our capacity for creative and abstract thinking, and not our specific application of it) is defined predominantly by our biological hardware then we have to face that there is no real evidence that homo sapiens sapiens has evolved much at all since it emerged, and certainly not in any anatomically significant detail in the past 150,000 years.

While that may seem confusing to us (given that they were essentially the same as us, what did our ancestors actually do for the first 120,000 years or so?) there are still "primitive" hunter gatherer societies (whose members are assuredly as intelligent as us and show every bit as much resourcefulness and inventiveness as we do) that have not developed the kind of durable physical culture (or systems of writing and recording) that we have. And these cultures don't exactly look on us as examplars of advanced intelligence - plenty of anthropological expeditions have recorded societies that, when faced with the "wonders" of modern technology, have responded along the lines of "why on Earth would you want to waste your time doing that?".

For whatever reason, modern humans seem to be an anomaly even in the history of our own species.

 

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On 05/04/2017 at 22:46, Alien 13 said:

It is difficult for me what was the trigger for our technological advance unless it was just the fact that we had a lot of free time.

How far do you want to go back?

Hunger most likely. Throwing rocks at animals to kill them to eat.  ... and that was the day it set us apart from the other animals. (supposedly) Ohhh ahhh :blob9: owhhh ahhh

 

 

 

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My current book 'Other Minds' seems to suggest that an explosion in intelligence may well have been driven by the onset of predation. I often think about predation with regard to intelligence and technology. While they are almost certainly linked in our case, I wonder if there might potentially be non-predatory life forms which, nevertheless, found the need to develop intelligence. Here on earth animals compete with each other and with other species. But what if there weren't other species and co-operation had proved to be the best way forward? That might pave a different path to another kind of intelligence.

(BTW, I had a surprise today when octopus research by a certain Peter Dews at Harvard came up in the book. I knew Peter Dews, very slightly. He was a schoolmate of my father's and visited us once when I was a teenager some fifty years ago. Small world.)

Olly

 

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