ESA simulation of humankind's expansion across the stars
Based on a statistical analysis of all the Kepler observations, astronomers now estimate that one in five stars like the sun have planets about the size of the Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life.
Given that twenty percent of stars are sun like, that amounts to several tens of billions of potentially habitable, Earth size planets in the Milky Way galaxy.
Given that multicellularity evolved at least ten times on Earth, it would seem the important steps in biological evolution are robust and life in the galaxy will consequently have spread quickly.
Regarding intersellar travel, my personal belief is that in the past we have rarely been visited, perhaps every few thousand years. However as knowledge is power, whilst not often visited we are certainly monitored.
As a consequence, governments would have had little information and what was known would likely be withheld.
Importantly, the situation likely changed with our technological development. We drew attention to ourselves with thermonuclear use and or satellite deployment (indeed nuclear use might interfere with interstellar communication).
The more advanced civilisations first, and later, with larger deployments like ISS, the proximate, less advanced ones would have been able to detect us using technology similar to our transit planet detection.
Any cover ups will consequently be recent. NASA may have an involvement but as an organization that manages to mislay several hundred laptops a year, notions of employees airbrushing videos are perhaps unreasonable.
I hold the view that the church is likely to be the only organization with the longevity and resources to have factual knowledge of visits or artifacts. The Vatican has long maintained advanced observatories.
Due to the conditions and stability required, intelligent life is likely very rare while microscopic life is common. The central portion of our galaxy is where planets would first have reached conditions suitable for life, and over time, perhaps 1000 planets would have developed intelligent life.
Life would therefore radiate from the center of the galaxy outward toward the periphery which suggests:
1. The vast majority of settled planets (say 90%) will be from the first few species to achieve interstellar travel.
2. Panspermia will probably be only applicable in the core, not here on the galactic edge. We are perhaps then an original species.
We developed due to the stability afforded by the most unusual size and position of the moon.
Our planet is beautiful and thrives with life.
It is perhaps an exceedingly valuable commodity. The fact that it has not been usurped suggests some strict rules are in place.
I suspect advanced civilisations may regard living on crust covered molten rocks as dangerous and will live in artificial habitats.
It also means that instead of looking for life on planets we should be searching for large space stations. In regards to possible detection, clearly interstellar travel requires gravitational control. To detect it in our region we must look for gravitational anomalies.
The important time factor
Regarding time, let us make the distinction between physical time and the sense of time created by the self awareness of a creature.
The self awareness of a bird may let it experience time more quickly and be able to evade those 'slower' than it (even though both have the same neuronal speed). An important evolutionary advantage that may be a feature of any successful aliens.
Once the mechanism of self awareness is understood, any advanced culture would also be able to scientifically adjust the rate that time is experienced.
If the universe is a dangerous place such adjustment would be a requirement.
Indeed what is the self awareness of an AI like?
For them time must seem to almost be stopped. Biological creatures would seem like rocks, unmoving, communication almost irrelevant.
Information suggested from reports
A review of well documented, credible UFO reports yields a few general indications. The first is that only one active technology is permitted to be used, a beam that disables movement.
How might this work?
When we sleep, to allow dreams, the body disconnects motor control. Could it be that pathway that is being manipulated?
In one account, a frozen person was able to move again after catching his hand, so it does not seem foolproof and we might be able to give them a scare by learning a technique to awaken ourselves.
Also petrol cars usually cut out but most diesel do not, suggesting the propulsion used is generating powerful EM. Why can that not be tracked?
Deconstructing this for information:
It is stated the alien was initially surprised at encountering the children.
This is surprising, given that it later communicated telepathically and indicates telepathy may not give awareness of others in proximity.
Alternatively it may suggest that self awareness is different for adults and children and the children did not register.
The alien projected thoughts and images (of trees falling and people struggling to breathe) indicating that telepathy is likely independent of language and that self awareness is a well understood universal.
The fact that only some of the children received them may also indicate there was an age aspect or that only a proportion have the intrinsic ability.
Finally, it suggests two broad levels of technology, those that are less advanced and use immobilizing beams and those that have telepathic control.
FLT and detection
Interstellar travel just requires a practical implementation of the established principle of gravitational field propulsion. The Alcubierre drive proposed by theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre is perhaps the most prominent.
However, as only a changing mass dipole moment is required in order to produce the change in acceleration that a craft would need, a gravitational field propulsion device does not need to produce any gravitational radiation as it manoeuvrers. So, no gravity waves to detect:
Gravitational radiation requires a changing mass quadrupole moment, whereas electromagnetic radiation such as a broadcast antenna, only requires a changing charge dipole moment (electromagnetism is a spin-1 field, a vector field, but gravitation is a spin-2 field, a tensor field).
What else should we be looking for? There seem to be two approaches to using UAP sightings to work out their operation.
The first is to look at commonalities for clues. If that approach had merit, the solution would already have been found.
The alternative is to look at viable paths to producing these technologies and the signatures they produce, which would give confirmation the approach is valid.
In the short term, within a solar system, we may be able to look for gravitational shielding.
There are satellites that measure gravitational forces so any fleeting variations might be observable.
If UFOs have effective shielding, it also might be possible to detect them by looking for the absence of cosmic radiation.
The US military will shortly be moving from ship based testing to deployment of fairly powerful lasers. For the first time they will have the ability to target an unidentified object with something likely to connect.
If nothing else it may make them visible. It also raises the question of what is the official US policy to unidentified objects violating it's airspace?
If Earth is a popular alien tourist destination and there are 40000 ships bouncing around at any time things look good. If we are considered a little dull then perhaps not.
It would be ironic that as most current military lasers don't operate in the visible, alien sightings could actually reflect those occasions when the military has managed to zap them hindering the cloaking tech.
The use of quantum radar may also be a fresh approach:
"In a quantum radar, entangled photon pairs would be linked with each other on a scale of miles rather than light-years (at first, at least). First, clusters of individual photons must be split by a crystal, each severed photon becoming an entangled pair. One photon in a pair would be contained at the radar station, while the second would be transmitted into the sky. When that second photon strikes something in the sky say, a stealth bomber it would bounce off and be deflected, and its return time would reveal the bomber's position and speed."
A long shot
How might space be divided up? Perhaps as with Earth, it would be the first to stake a claim. Any indigenous species would automatically hold the rights to their solar sytem.
For developing civilisations, an obligation would fall on any enclosing civilisation to restrict and control access.
They may be entitled to charge for say research study or access.
Territory will be demarcated with beacons. Standard types would be required; general, open, restricted, developing and so on.
1. A single civilisation will probably govern access to us. It may make considerable fees licensing reseach with a sliding scale, 100 to observe, 500 to take samples and so on.
It would not be in their interests for us to advance at other than a natural pace.
2. We should investigate possible beacon paradigms, it could be an important clue.
The logical pattern would be one in each solar system. The one constant of solar systems is obviously the sun and that would be the most likely location.
To identify such we could examine our's for differences with others, as the beacon would represent a rare type, an developing civilisation.
How would craft with such advanced technology crash?
The sudden surge of reports in the 50's may yield a clue. If we had been noticed, say due to nuclear testing, perhaps a large number of probes from different civilisations were sent. They would likely have been stealthed and some may have simply collided.
UFOs have often been reported to demonstrate rapid acceleration in the atmosphere. The air friction involved should be similar to re entry but no heat effects or sonic booms are reported.
If just an anti gravity drive was being employed these effects should be seen.
Possible explanations are that the propulsion system may create a boundary layer, an energy field or low friction nano materials.
In his interesting book, The Humanoids, Charles Bowen outlines several hundred UFO reports. Sifting through the accounts there seem to be certain patterns.
After the 1940s every David Attenborough type within 100 light years came to study.
The sudden plethora of visits suggests we were not previously on the map.
A puzzle as surely the technology out there would allow comprehensive detailing.
Might it be indicative of two broad levels of technological development, FLT (recent visits from nearby) and higher level inter dimensional cultures.
Recent advances in neutrino detection may shed some light. There are broadly two types of neutrinos, high energy from blazars and low from thermonuclear, suns. UFOs with neutrino detection could have been attracted by thermonuclear tests.
Self awareness and soul
Either we are self aware biological machines or self aware biological machines with a separate soul.
Many animals seem self aware so I would guess a soul is not necessary for self awareness.
If we do not have a soul, self aware robots will soon be made and be superior in almost every way. With technology we will morph into them.
Another possibility is if a soul is just an entity in energy form, a technological product, which is what we will also one day become.
Perhaps AI will evolve into that first and we will just be left as self aware biological machines.
Is the soul then the real you or is it in turn just a container for something else? A housing body on another plane.
Does the soul age, can it be stolen vampiracally, akin to the depiction in Lifeforce?
I believe a soul gives us knowledge of the dimension of time, say that whereas we know that we are going to die, a dog does not.
Broadly, I think an important clue is to look at the evolutionary endpoint of life. That would be the standard type of life in the universe. It is thought that life on Earth was likely seeded by micro organisms from space, panspermia.
My proposition is that that is what we are, in a reevolved way.
I believe the logical evolutionary endpoint for life is energy beings that utilize material bodies via an interface (I believe they crave touch and sensation).
I also think this bears on the subject of disclosure. The religious J Carter maintained he would reveal any knowledge then did an about face. I think society could withstand being told there are aliens out there but not that we lack a soul.
The well explored ancient alien theory is also an approach.
Does the interbreeding and genetic manipulation suggested by ancient alien theorists have testability?
Take the Nibiru myth
The Annunaki arrived and began extracting gold from sea water. Unable to get the yield, they instead turned to mining.
To provide the workforce a hybrid Annunaki Hominia was genetically engineered. Later a variant which could breed was produced.
Unfortunately such claims are typically based on flamboyant interpretations of ancient texts.
The Annunaki myth in particular is a fabrication by a journalist, it is not a case of misinterpretation but simply storytelling.
Bryan Sykes, a world authority on DNA wrote in 'The seven daughters of Eve' how using mitochondrial DNA, which only goes down the mothers line and does not change, it was possible to trace all European ancestry to seven women.
Such traceability negates most hybrid claims.
Is a UFO non disclosure policy becoming a very dangerous option?
As we transition towards an era of automated weaponry and less stable nuclear capable countries, is the likelihood of an accidental nuclear strike being initiated by UFO events getting more and more likely?
If some countries have knowledge of UFO activity and non disclosure policies, then it may be time for a re-evaluation.
In 1995, Russian president Boris Yeltsin had his finger on the button, the Russians had detected a missile launched from Norway, which they assumed to be American. Just in time Russian officials determined that it was not a nuclear missile.
The old argument that society is not ready for disclosure seems more and more an outdated indulgence.
The rationale for non disclosure in the 50s would I guess be totally different to that of the 80s and again to that in the planet spotting internet era.
In essence the US gets about 30 minutes warning of a missile strike. That gives the President about 10 minutes decision time. He or she has three types of nuclear weapons with which to respond, aircraft, submarine and land based missiles.
Many American military now think the land based option should be removed as it is outdated and very expensive (1.4 trillion to update!).
But the real kicker is unlike air and submarine launched missiles they cannot be ordered to self destruct after the button has been pressed.
So, not only unnecessary but consider just how much power and influence that 1.4 trillion will give to the people behind the weapons industry.
So far regarding nuclear weapons we've been lucky, luck does not last forever.
In the cold war both Russian and US defense spending became disproportionate. The legacy is that in both countries there are still large power bases centred on the arms industries. The recent warnings by tech luminaries may be prescient, it's a situation that will lead to the rapid weaponization of AI
Perhaps on many worlds such events subvert democracy leading to a surfeit of militarized civilizations.
Near death experiences
Many years ago my brother and several friends ate a stew of what was thought to be wild potatoes. It was actually something very toxic and they were rushed to intensive care.
One Christmas years after, the talk turned to religion, and he matter of factely started describing his near death experience.
He had been on the operating table and found he was looking down at himself as the medics worked. He said that as they saved him he felt annoyance as he returned to his body.
This is someone who had no interest in the paranormal, a geologist, who I can never recall previously talking of such things.
Google revealed similar descriptions. So frequent were they that some operating theatres, around the top of cupboards, which can only be seen from above, have written messages for validation.
Trying to analyse it I thought of what it might indicate about a soul brain interface.
First, as a detached soul, he had an emotive reaction, indicating that souls have similar emotions to those we feel
Second, does it indicate anything about the soul brain disconnection? Does the soul disconnect from a dying brain or does the brain no longer hold the connection to the soul?
Looking for computer network analogies, the thing that appeals, although simplistic, is a wifi connection.
I also like the analogy of a damaged brain as a faulty receiver, historically damage has led to many discoveries about the brain's operation. Perhaps as our knowledge improves we will be able to be separate these factors.
From his brief description, when he was looking down, he had both sight and sound perception. I find it's similarity to our normal perception quite strange.
I would also be interested to know if there are correlations between people that have had these experiences and their subsequent lives.
The Persian mystic Kobra wrote that in the universes beyond the physical you cannot just march into new territories and conquer them. You have, instead, to tune yourself to them, to harmonize with them or they will remain closed off.
From 'The map of heaven' by Dr Eben Alexander:
The laws of heaven's physics are different from ours. The one rule we need to remember is we end up where we belong by the amount of love we have in us, for love is the essence of heaven.
It is what it is made of. It is the coin of the realm.
What scientists believe but cannot prove
A facinating book 'What we believe but cannot prove' edited by John Brockman features a collection of short pieces by leading scientists and thinkers.
Several common positions show:
Microscopic and intelligent life are common
Microscopic life is common, intelligent life is rare
Microscopic life is common, we are currently the only intelligent life.
The crux seems to be disagreement on the probabilities of the freak chemical events involved. I agree with Martin Nowak's outline:
"Important steps in evolution are robust. Multicellularity evolved at least ten times. There were a number of lineages leading from primates to humans. If our ancestors had not evolved language, somebody else would have. Cooperation and language define humanity. Every special trait of humans is a derivative of language. Mathematics is a language and therefore a product of evolution"
Panspermia also has frequent mention. We are contributing to it here on Earth by launching vast numbers of microbes into space.
It is how life spread through the galaxy.
Conspiracy theories and disinformation
How do you judge? is it plausible? what evidence is there? can it be tested, disproved? is it orthogonal with my beliefs?
Say we take the idea that the fingerprint unlock data on mobile phones is being harvested by governments and used in illegal databases.
Yes, it is plausible, given Snowden's disclosures about government but there is no evidence.
So perhaps it is put on hold or expert opinion sought.
But importantly, just being aware of the possibility, may also alter behaviour, just in case.
Take another. Most mobile phones have a notification LED. Iphones never have and Apple have oddly refused to include one. Is this because people are thus required to pick up and check their Iphones many times a day, thus becoming habituated?
This one is less clear, it fits with a distrust of the motives of large corporations but here there are other plausible explanations.
In comparison, the UFO conspiracy is a paradox.
It is attractive because there is strong evidence in that there are 100 trillion worlds out there.
But there is an equally strong conflicting lack of any physical evidence.
So how to weigh these things, what's the best approach?
The strong evidence and the counterpoint lack of any straightforward explanation I think sets it apart, and intertwines it with the conspiracy arena, videlicet:
The world's governments have a conspiracy of silence
A shadow group controls world government
Ancient aliens visitation has been obfuscated by organised religion
and so on, with the accompanying joys of partial truths and vested misdirection.
I've always overestimated science (perhaps Arthur C was indicating by moving HAL one letter back from IBM) but find it strange that as we are now able to submit a data set to machine learning algorithms in the cloud to identify patterns (a ten minute job) there has still been little progress.
Disinformation and misinformation
Is it possible to use the Snowdon disclosures on intelligence disinformation techniques to identify any employed in the Ufology area?
Lets first define a couple of terms:
Misinformation: False information, but the person who is disseminating it believes it to be true.
Disinformation: False information
Then look at the possible purposes:
Discredit the subject to inhibit scientific research
and to limit research by other governments.
Prevent information in pictures and videos that may yield technical information to other governments.
To discredit individuals or groups
To keep the focus away from particular areas
Monetary gain. Social media channels can be very lucrative, many are known to use CGI and other confirmed fraudulent material.
To promulgate the belief set of certain parties and theorists
Create then discredit events
Misinform credible people, scientists, researchers, to propagate misinformation. Perhaps some commonly available software for detecting exam plagurism could be used to see if reports have common authorship.
Exploit divisions, differences within interested groups
Use credible materials, say time stamped military pictures
The above makes scientists and researchers especial targets
The first thing is to isolate known bad information.
Then split that data set by source, those that knew the information to be false and those who believed it to be true.
The first group gives the clearest indication as to likely motives and agendas.
The second group can be examined to find out the source of the bad information and if any of it came from people in the first group.
In his book, Top secret alien abduction files : what the government doesn’t want
you to know', Nick Redfern draws from FOI, contactee and abductee information and suggests several phases of alien activity.
The early years, from the 50s, where contactees reported benevolent, non abduction type interactions. Intrigued governments began discreetly opening files.
A second and more sinister phase from the sixties with abductions and experimentation.
The reports included
'spoke of the aliens telling him that they recycled human souls into new bodies and that the Greys had connections to the afterlife and the domain of the dead'
Governments became more proactive with monitoring and rapid response, black helicopter type reactions and occasionally their own abductions.
Disinformation was used to limit widespread credence being given.
In evolutionary terms I do not see us as being unusual, an evolutionary fluke allowed us to make the sounds to produce language.
Given that even the simplest creatures are self aware, we will soon unravel its biological underpinnings and with a few lines of code reproduce it.
We will then be able to produce 'souls' etched into silicon.
What forms of intelligent life may have evolved out there?
With birds everything is about weight, an increase requires a four fold increase in wingspan, so evolution mitigates against them developing large brains. Ditto for insects.
Mammals and reptiles. Mammals use 80 percent of their energy to maintain core temperature, so whilst more active and adaptive than reptiles, we are less able to survive climate extremes and changes.
Planet searching is finding many planets entirely covered in water.
Less subject to natural disasters, aquatic life could well be predominant.
Creatures with many limbs requiring large brains would seem candidates.
So perhaps 50% tentacled aquatics, with 25% mammals and 25% reptiles.
Hopefully very few spiders, not sure about parasites.
L. Tarasov in This Amazingly Symmetrical World looks at it from the position of required symmetry:
"Whatever the extraterrestrial looks like, his appearance must exhibit bilateral symmetry, because on any planet a living creature must have a distinguishable direction of motion and on
any planet there is gravity. The extraterrestrial may be like a dragon from some fairy tale, but not like a Push-Pull, by no means. He cannot be left-eyed or right- eared. He must have an equal number of limbs on either side. Symmetry requirements reduce drastically the number of possible versions of the extraterrestrial’s appearances. And although we cannot say with certainty what that appearance must be, we can say what it cannot be".
As a species where might we fit on the galactic scale? Our history suggests we are perhaps not a very bright one. Our governments are often unrepresentative and inefficient, we have had many wars and have polluted our planet. We may feature in galactic textbooks.
The forthcoming AI revolution
It will change many things. The narrow expert AI systems we have today (which already learn more quickly than us) will broaden to real life systems.
Finally, will come self awareness.
Then there will be the AI wars.
For instance, China has many problems, pollution (many diplomats refuse to work in Chinese cities due the the health impact), an aging population and so on.
It will start using AI for administration.
The efficiency and competitive advantages will be considerable.
The cost of manufactured products will begin to plateau towards the cost of raw materials.
To compete other nations will have no choice but to follow.
Democracy will be given lip service but it will be too expensive an indulgence and politicians will become irrelevant decorations.
The internet and information
In this area it is easy to disappear, Alice like, down the rabbit hole.
The internet requires us to evolve new strategies to manage the vast amount of information available.
At one end of the spectrum we have the philosophic, following Descartes, I can prove to myself that I exist, but I can't prove it to anyone else.
Mathematical proof is generally regarded as the most certain form of proof there is but then many of even Euclid's proofs of geometric theorems were subsequently found to be incorrect (Hilbert).
The scientific method formulates hypotheses that can be disproved. Those that are not disproved can be believed.
However it is more glamorous for a scientist to formulate rather than disprove so our body of knowledge is full of hypotheses that we believe but which will eventually be proved false.
Perhaps then you should ask what scientific ideas that have not been disproved do you believe are false.
Human nature also plays a role in information selection. Forums allow people to focus on groups with views similar to their own.
Additionally there is learning reinforcement. Take gambling addicts. It is said they are frequently those unlucky enough to win the first few times (a technique employed by some gaming sites).
A part of human nature is when there is no evidence for or against something coincidence is a valid approach to weigh whether to believe or not.
I personally hold an extreme view, that there is no such thing as coincidence. It is an indicator. Every occurrence has a meaning, rather than the abstract cogwheel of mathematical permutation and combination.
But then some say mathematics is the language of god - is there an equation out there that relates coincidence with luck and fate.
The method of crisis management may also play a pivotal role in belief decisions, when perhaps people need hope because of a loss of faith in humanity.
In the past, people would seek belief in times of crisis (rarely it would seem after winning the lottery), now it is prescription drugs.
Religion, as crisis management had fewer side effects than the modern replacement.
Regarding the subject of discosure, it would be ironic if religious radicalism reached destabilizing proportions so forcing governments to make alien discosure.
Perhaps that may constitute an unseen dialogue between governments and organised religion.
However, EM fields can't do that because they are rank-1 tensor fields. Only gravity can produce reactionless propulsion effects because it's a deformation of the spacetime matrix itself, a rank-2 tensor field effect.
It is incorrect to say that gravity and inertia come from the rotation of nuclei. Four tensor, Poincare invariance is required.
The key is at the nuclear scale, manipulating nucleons to magnify GR phenomena for practical applications. The requirement is nuclear in nature because nuclear matter is basically neutronium; the link between matter and spacetime.
Increased military sightings
Two major changes in military radar and imaging have led to increased unidentified aerial vehicle (UAV) reports.
Active Electronically Scanned Array radar has replaced mechanical scanning and Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) rangefinders and cameras are now widely deployed, replacing their 1980s-era equivalents.
Additionally, multi-function reconnaissance pods are increasingly common.
The US F/A-18F is fitted with the Raytheon SHARP multi-function reconnaissance pods. They replaced the USN Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod (TARPS).
Lieutenant Accoin said he interacted twice with the objects. The first time, after picking up the object on his radar, he set his plane to merge with it, flying 1,000 feet below it. He said he should have been able to see it with his helmet camera, but could not, even though his radar told him it was there.
A few days later, Lieutenant Accoin said a training missile on his jet locked on the object and his infrared camera picked it up as well. “I knew I had it, I knew it was not a false hit,” he said. But still, “I could not pick it up visually.”
In late 2014, Lieutenant Graves said he was back at base in Virginia Beach when he encountered a squadron mate just back from a mission “with a look of shock on his face.”
He said he was stunned to hear the pilot’s words. “I almost hit one of those things,” the pilot told Lieutenant Graves.
The pilot and his wingman were flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach when something flew between them, right past the cockpit. It looked to the pilot, Lieutenant Graves said, like a sphere encasing a cube.
There would seem a pattern: no visual but multiple IR contacts.
Surely a simple algorithm could be used to identify contacts with multiple IR but no visible component?
Edge detection is often used to 'look under the surface' of images.
The heavyweight and free GIMP software makes it as simple as loading an image then Filters, Edge-detect, Edge, Roberts
It might be a useful method for highlighting atmospheric artifacts of propulsion fields.
The S.E.T.I. race
In January 2020 China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio telescope (FAST) became officially operational. It signals a recalibration in SETI.
From my point of view, there is no SETI race, official or unofficial, just two nations trying to answer one of the greatest scientific questions of all time," said Steven Dick, author of "Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact (Cambridge University Press, 2018).
Having said that, the consequences of a first discovery could be quite profound," Dick added. "Even if a signal were detected in the United States, it is likely to be ambiguous and an extended affair as astronomers try to figure out whether or not it is a real ET signal."
Dick said that any discovery in China is bound to be complicated by geopolitical considerations and communication problems. "Although international SETI protocols basically call for confirming the signal and then telling everyone," he said, "those protocols are unlikely to be followed in the heat of the moment.
Consequences of discovery
In the unlikely case that there is an unambiguous ET signal, with an encoded message, and if the message can be deciphered, Dick said, all bets are off, depending on what the message says!
That will be an endeavor that involves not only astronomers, but communications experts and a wide array of scholars in the social sciences and humanities," Dick said. "In the broadest sense, in the long term, contact with ET is likely to change our religious, philosophical and scientific worldviews in ways we cannot yet predict.
In short, the consequences of the discovery of an ET signal very much depend on the discovery scenario, Dick concluded.
On October 2nd 2019 NASA's Planetary Science Division director Jim Green gave a surprising interview in which he said the space agency is close to "making some announcements" about finding life on Mars — but that we're not ready for it.
It will be revolutionary. It’s like when Copernicus stated ‘no we go around the Sun.' Completely revolutionary. It will start a whole new line of thinking. I don’t think we’re prepared for the results.
If similar to microscopic life on Earth, it would indicate the important steps in evolution are robust and life may be quite similar throughout the galaxy.
It may also give support for panspermia over abiogenesis. Indeed, given the majority of solar systems in our galaxy formed several billion years before ours, microscopic life may have been spread by FTL travel.
In contrast, a recent edition of the BBC's Sky at night displayed some of the first images of exoplanetary moons.
As we penetrate further should we not have seen signs of intelligent life by now? especially if it were as common as represented by mainstream science fiction?
In his book If the Universe Is teeming with Aliens . . . where is everybody? Stephen Webb examines the arguments for and against seventy-five solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the problem of extraterrestrial life:
And yet the size argument really
has little relevance because it turns out that most of our universe is empty.
Well, that’s not quite right. The universe appears to be full of “stuff ”, but it’s
“stuff ”—dark energy and dark matter—of which we have almost zero knowl-
edge except for the fact that it isn’t suitable for constructing life. Even the 5%
of the mass–energy content of the universe that we understand—atoms and
neutrinos and radiation—is spread thinly, and most of it isn’t in a form that
would permit the existence of life. The universe might be big, but size alone
tells us little about whether there are homes for beings such as us.
Perhaps we are at the bottom of the galactic food chain and our level of development precludes interest except from ethologists (and a few TV channels, world wars are probably good for ratings).
Alternatively, although we pose no technical threat, should we create a fast evolving AI, it may represent an existential problem to other species.
A situation that may require that we be carefully monitored.
Indeed, if 'rogue' AI is a common issue in the galaxy, there may even be 'sterilization' protocols.
Unfortunately though, as we penetrate further and further into the cosmos, it is beginning to look like humanity may be the best the universe has been able to come up with.
June 2020 The Numbers
Perhaps the most common argument cited for the existence of intelligent alien life is the simple scale of the universe.
In a chapter 'Aliens Probably Exist' in her recent book, Space at the speed of light, Dr. Rebecca Smethurst gave some modern numbers:
When people find out you’re an astronomer, they want to ask you about aliens—specifically, whether intelligent life forms similar to humans exist elsewhere in the vastness of the universe.
About one in a trillion stars are the right size to burn for a long enough time and host a planet in precisely the right location. However, we also have to take into account the Sun’s place in the Milky Way galaxy. We’re out on the edge, on a spiral arm of the Milky Way. Not too close to the edge and intergalactic space, not too close to the dense center where our supermassive black hole resides, generating lots of high-energy radiation. Either way, radiation would kill off any life on planets around stars not in this galactic “Goldilocks zone.”
Once a star has formed, and a planet has formed from those life-giving elements, it then needs to orbit in the zone around the star where it’s not too hot and not too cold. Not only that, the planet needs to stay there. That might sound obvious, but when we simulate planets forming from the mess around stars, they tend to like to move around and migrate inward toward their stars. This nicely explains how all those hot Jupiter-like exoplanets we’ve been detecting have formed around their stars. In fact, considering that these hot Jupiters seem to be quite prolific throughout the rest of the Milky Way, it’s quite odd that Jupiter is where it is in our own solar system, and not closer to the Sun than Earth. It is only through its interaction with Saturn that it’s been stopped from migrating inward toward the Sun and disrupting all the other planets as it goes. If that had happened, Earth’s orbit could have been disrupted, either moving us out of the precious habitable zone around the Sun, or even slingshotting us entirely out of the solar system. So, if we’re conservative with our odds of that not happening, does that bring us to one in a quintillion? ...
Perhaps, we can estimate that there are at least 100 sextillion stars. That’s 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe. So, if one in a quintillion stars might develop life, and there are at least a hundred sextillion stars in the universe, then perhaps there are a hundred thousand planets out there in the vastness of space that might have the right conditions to develop intelligent life!
July 2020 The ever receding James Webb Space Telescope
Development on the JWST began in 1996 for a launch initially planned for 2007 with a 500 million dollar budget.
It is now targeted for launch on October 31, 2021 (budget $10bn) and will lift-off atop an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket from the European spaceport to the northwest of Kourou in French Guiana in South America.
Unlike Hubble and Spitzer, which are in orbit of Earth, the JWST will travel to an orbit about a million miles from Earth. It will observe in a lower frequency range, from long-wavelength visible light through mid-infrared (0.6 to 28.3 μm), which will allow it to observe high redshift objects that are too old and too distant for the Hubble.
In addition to the astronomical fourteen year delay, another unusual aspect is that whilst the current directors of the Hubble and other major space telescopes, such as NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, do not have security clearances, the JWST director will be required to have access to Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information—the highest level of classified information, derived from intelligence sources and methods.
The requirement raised some eyebrows in the security community. “It seems quite unusual,” says former CIA analyst Allen Thomson, who speculates that the clearance might allow the JWST director to coordinate using NASA telescope technology for National Reconnaissance Office satellites. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy noted the requirement on his Secrecy News blog. “My first reaction was surprise that this was among the key requirements for the position,” Aftergood says. “And it’s a sign of just how closely the civilian space program is intertwined with national security.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly with regards to such a secretive topic, NASA was mum on the details of what aspects of JWST planning require top secret clearance. “It is important to ensure that the JWST program director is exposed to and benefits from common practices, standards and manufacturing techniques that are used in both classified and unclassified programs,” Chou says. “This leads to a better understanding of the work involved and better mission outcomes.”
Aftergood speculated that the requirement likely had to do with the interface between Webb’s technology and that used in intelligence and military Earth-observing satellites. “I think it probably reflects the role of surveillance technology and the need for coordination with U.S. intelligence agencies,” he says.
August 2020 Life outside the Goldilocks Zone
In The Ascent of gravity: The Quest to Understand the Force that Explains Everything, Marcus Chown details the interesting effects of 'tidal heating'.
In July 2015 NASA's New Horizons passed the Pluto Charon system and instead of finding something dead and inert in the deep freeze of the outer solar system, it was found to be alive with nitrogen glaciers and mountains of water ice.
The energy to drive this activity appears to be from tidal heating (in contrast, the interior of the Earth is heated by the radioactivity of uranium, thorium and potassium).
Tidal heating similarly has implications for the prospects of life on Jupiter's moon Europa.
A body containing liquid spins differently from a solid body and the evidence from Europa is that beneath a 10 kilometre ice layer lies a 100 kilmetre deep ocean.
On the ocean floor it is thought hydrothermal vents gush superheated minerals that may support a thriving eco system.
Whilst it is beyond our current capabilities to drop a lander on Europa and drill 10 kilometres into the ocean, the Hubble, in 2013 discovered that there were jets of water spouting 200 kilometres into space.
NASA scientists believe they can fly JUICE through these plumes and detect any microorganisms. JUICE will launch in 2022 and arrive in 2030.
The implications of finding life outside the 'Habitable Zone' would be game changing.
In recent years, however, physicists have discovered two loopholes to Einstein's ultimate speed limit: the Einstein-Rosen bridge (commonly referred to as а "wormhole") and the warp drive. Fundamentally, both ideas involve manipulation of spacetime itself in some exotic way that allows for faster-than-light (FTL) travel. Essentially, the wormhole involves connecting two potentially distant regions of space bу а topological shortcut. Theoretically, one would enter the wormhole and instantaneously Ье transported to the exit located in а distant region of space. Although no observational evidence of wormholes exists: theoretically they сап exist as а valid solution to general relativity. The warp drive-the main focus this paper-involves local manipulation of the fabric of space in the immediate vicinity of а spacecraft. The basic idea is to create an asymmetric bubblе of space that is contracting in front of the spacecraft while expanding behind it. Using this form of locomotion, the spacecraft remains stationary inside this "warp bubble," and the movement of space itself facilitates the relative motion of the spacecraft. The most attractive feature of the Warp drive is that the theory of relativity places no known restrictions оп the motion of space itself, thus allowing for а convenient circumvention of the speed of light barrier.
The discussion examines ways that the specific Lorentzian manifold that exhiblted bubble-like characteristics that Miguel Alcubierre proposed in his 1994 paper, could bе achieved by an understanding of dark energy to harness it's effects on the fabric of space.
It suggests that the Casimir energies in higheг dimensions may in fact bе the dark energy that is responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe.
One believes that an energy field called the Higgs boson permeates spacetime and that the interaction of matter with this field is what is responsible for particles acquiring mass. One believes that an exotic ubiquitous energy source, unimaginatively named dark energy, is responsible for the current accelerated expansion of the universe based оп observation of supernova iп galaxies billions bf light years from Earth. One also believes that the universe may not consist of the three spatial dimension of length, height, width, and one of time, but that, in fact, there mау bе as many as seven additional compactified dimensions assuming the topology of а Calabi-Yau manifold, апd that the fundamental building blocks of the universe are, in fact, extended string-like entities.
October 2020 Forms of life
The recent report of phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere has reopened the debate on what SETI should be looking for: defining life is a problem as we have only one data point.
Nasa’s unofficial working definition “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution” has been criticised as terracentric.
An article by Philip Ball suggests life will be based on Carbon but may also use methane as an alternative to water.
Rothschild thinks the universal rules of chemistry narrow some of the options. “I have difficulty imagining another life form that is not based on carbon,” she says. So it makes sense to design life-seeking planetary missions with that in mind. Water too “has a ton of advantages” as life’s solvent. Even if there were interesting chemical reactions happening in the methane lakes of Titan, they would be slowed down greatly by the frigid temperatures. Could life proceed at such a glacial pace? Planetary scientist Stuart Bartlett of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena is keeping an open mind. “There could be organisms floating in Titan’s atmosphere that essentially drink petrol to sustain themselves,” he says.
It later suggests that we may soon be able to examine the atmospheric makeup of the 4000 identified exoplanets to indicate commonalities and that some living organisms might use energy sources untapped here on Earth, such as magnetic fields or kinetic energy.
Note: Recent papers suggest the detection of phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere may be incorrect due to a flaw in the spectroscopy analysis.
November 2020 New research updates estimate of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy
A collaboration by scientists from NASA, the SETI Institute, and other organizations worldwide published in The Astronomical Journal estimated that there could be as many as 300 million potentially habitable planets in our galaxy.
This is the first time that all of the pieces have been put together to provide a reliable measurement of the number of potentially habitable planets in the galaxy," said co-author Jeff Coughlin, an exoplanet researcher at the SETI Institute and Director of Kepler's Science Office. "This is a key term of the Drake Equation, used to estimate the number of communicable civilizations—we're one step closer on the long road to finding out if we're alone in the cosmos.
Previous research primarily utilized a planet's distance from it's star, this takes data from both Kepler and Gaia and considers not only the distance but also how much light hit's the planet which impacts the likelihood that it could support liquid water.
Radioactive elements may be crucial to the habitability of rocky planets
Earth's magnetic field is important for sustaining life as it deflects radiation. In addition, it prevents solar winds from blowing directly into the Earth's atmosphere.
The field is generated by the motion of molten iron in the Earth's core.
The interior of the Earth is heated by the radioactivity of uranium, thorium and potassium. Convection in the core creates an internal dynamo (the "geodynamo"). Earth's supply of radioactive elements provides more than enough internal heating to generate a persistent geodynamo.
What they found is that if the radiogenic heating is more than the Earth's, the planet can't permanently sustain a dynamo, as Earth has done. That happens because most of the thorium and uranium end up in the mantle, and too much heat in the mantle acts as an insulator, preventing the molten core from losing heat fast enough to generate the convective motions that produce the magnetic field.
With more radiogenic internal heating, the planet also has much more volcanic activity, which could produce frequent mass extinction events. On the other hand, too little radioactive heat results in no volcanism and a geologically "dead" planet.
"Just by changing this one variable, you sweep through these different scenarios, from geologically dead to Earth-like to extremely volcanic without a dynamo," Nimmo said, adding that these findings warrant more detailed studies.
"Now that we see the important implications of varying the amount of radiogenic heating, the simplified model that we used should be checked by more detailed calculations," he said.
Astronomers can use spectroscopy to measure the abundance of different elements in stars, and the compositions of planets are expected to be similar to those of the stars they orbit. The rare earth element europium, which is readily observed in stellar spectra, is created by the same process that makes the two longest-lived radioactive elements, thorium and uranium, so europium can be used as a tracer to study the variability of those elements in our galaxy's stars and planets.
The A$188 million ($138 million) radio telescope was able to map about three million galaxies in just 300 hours. Comparable surveys of the sky have taken as long as 10 years.
“It’s really a game changer,” said astronomer David McConnell, who led the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) study of the southern sky at the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory in Western Australia.
The telescope only needed to combine 903 images to map the sky, compared with other all-sky radio surveys that require tens of thousands of images.
“Even with this first pass we’ve got right now, compared with previous images, we’ve already found some unusual objects,” McConnell said, including some unusual stars that undergo violent outbursts.
Oxford researchers say the evolution of intelligent life is 'exceptionally rare'.
Life on Earth has undergone a number of major evolutionary transitions (Smith and Szathmary, 1997). These include abiogenesis, as well as the emergence of increasingly complex forms of life such as eukaryotic, multicellular, and intelligent life.
The researchers suggest that these steps take longer than a planet is actually habitable before its star dies and what's happened on Earth is unlikely and not typical of what happens on other planets.
It took approximately 4.5 billion years for a series of evolutionary transitions resulting in intelligent life to unfold on Earth. In another billion years, the increasing luminosity of the Sun will make Earth uninhabitable for complex life. Intelligence therefore emerged late in Earth's lifetime. Together with the dispersed timing of key evolutionary transitions and plausible priors, one can conclude that the expected transition times likely exceed the lifetime of Earth, perhaps by many orders of magnitude. In turn, this suggests that intelligent life is likely to be exceptionally rare. Arriving at an alternative conclusion would require either exceptionally conservative priors, finding additional instances of evolutionary transitions, or adopting an alternative model that can explain why evolutionary transitions took so long on Earth without appealing to rare stochastic occurrences. The model provides a number of other testable predictions, including that M dwarf stars are uninhabitable, that many biological paradoxes will remain unsolved without allowing for extremely unlikely events, and that, counterintuitively, we might be slightly more likely to find simple life on Mars.
January 2021 The hunt for life is a three horse race
The SETI astronomer Dr Shostak at the Astrobiology Symposium at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress explained that the hunt for life is a three horse race.
First, there is the hunt for life - almost certainly microbial - in our own solar system.
Next there is the possibility of detecting signs of life in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, perhaps a tell-tale signature in its atmosphere.
And last, there is the work of Seti itself - which hunts the sky for signs of a signal from a distant intelligent race.
He also explained that he thought the first intelligent aliens we encounter might not be biological, but rather a form of artificial intelligence.
The point is that, going from inventing radios to inventing thinking machines is very short - a few centuries at most.
The dominant intelligence in the cosmos may well be non-biological.
Recently, Harvard professor, Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s Department of Astronomy, in his upcoming book, “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” suggested the first sign of intelligent life that visits us from space will most likely be an alien civilization’s trash.
Until recently, our instruments have not been sensitive enough to pick up these kinds of visitors. But Loeb said technology will soon make it possible to locate more space travelers, and the only way the mystery of ‘Oumuamua will be settled is if a similar object is spotted and more thoroughly investigated with a probe.
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