Extraterrestrials

E.T. Stay Home?

We haven't heard from space aliens and that might be good news.

|

If extraterrestrial civilizations exist in our galaxy—and there are good reasons to think they do—it's probably a good idea to mind our own business and hope they do the same.

There seems to be plenty of available real estate for extraterrestrials to live on. In the past few years, astronomers have identified over 500 planets circling nearby stars. Extrapolating these findings, it is likely that tens of trillions of planets revolve the hundreds of billions of stars that make up our home galaxy. Trillions of these planets could have Earth-like characteristics, e.g., rocky with liquid water.

In a 2008 article in the journal Astrobiology, University of East Anglia researcher Andrew Watson calculated [PDF] the probability that intelligent life will emerge on Earth-like planets is quite low (less than 0.01 percent over 4 billion years). However, if there are a trillion Earth-like planets in the galaxy that would imply that intelligent life could arise on something like 10 million of them. Or if that is too high, cut the figure down by a factor of 10, to just one million planets inhabited by intelligent aliens.

Americans are open to the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. A 2008 Scripps Howard News Service poll found that 56 percent of Americans believe that intelligent life exists on other planets, and more than a third think that aliens have already visited Earth. In 1960, Project Ozma used a radio telescope to search for artificial transmissions from nearby stars. In November, astronomers from 12 countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of SETI (Search Extraterrestrial Intelligence) using new instruments, including the Allen Telescope Array, that dramatically increase the rate at which stars can be surveyed for signals produced by technologically advanced civilizations. Since 1999, the SETI@home project has involved hundreds of thousands of volunteers who process radio telescope data on their home computers searching for signals. So far, the sky searches have turned up nothing.

So why the "Great Silence?" Or as Manhattan Project physicist Enrico Fermi quipped over lunch in 1950, "Where are they?" In 1980, physicist Frank Tipler proposed a scenario in which alien civilizations would launch fleets of self-replicating machines possessing human-level intelligence to explore the galaxy. The machines would arrive in a new star system and immediately start to populate it with duplicates of themselves and launch the next wave of explorers. Tipler calculated that once launched such machines would inhabit every solar system in the galaxy within 300 million years. Since there is no evidence for such an ever-expanding fleet of self-replicating machines, Tipler concluded, "Extraterrestrial intelligent beings do not exist."

In 1983, planetary scientists Carl Sagan and William Newman countered Tipler's "solipsistic" conclusion arguing, among other things, that intelligent aliens might refrain from constructing fleets of self-replicators because such machines might turn on their creators. In addition, Sagan and Newman suggested that advanced aliens might have "much more exciting and fulfilling objectives…than strip-mining or colonizing every planet in sight." Then Sagan and Newman turned Pollyannaish proposing that aggressive mean-spirited aliens would conveniently kill themselves off leaving only benevolent civilizations "pre-adapted to live with other groups in mutual respect." Moreover, they suggested, "We think it is possible that the Milky Way is teeming with civilizations that are far beyond our level of advance as we are beyond the ants; and paying us about as much attention as we pay to the ants." Never mind how thoughtlessly we walk over anthills as we go about our daily tasks.

George Mason University economist Robin Hanson took Tipler's arguments seriously but laid out a scenario in which a wave of exploration by aliens would hop through our region of the galaxy only temporarily occupying the more favorable oases before pushing on, followed by a more sedentary wave later. We just happen to be living in a solar system that the first wave skipped over and which the second wave has not yet reached.

Let's assume SETI is successful and we detect the existence of an extraterrestrial civilization. What effect would such a discovery have on humanity? When we contemplate extraterrestrials we see ourselves; they are mirrors reflecting humanity's hopes and fears.

On the side of hope, many see E.T.s as benevolent saviors from our worst natures. On the fear side, they reflect our worst natures. Sagan and Newman believed of extraterrestrials that "it highly likely that their intentions are benign and their sensitivities about societies at our level of technological adolescence delicate." Apparently aliens obey the Prime Directive as formulated by the TV series Star Trek in which advanced civilizations don't interfere with primitive cultures. In Sagan's 1985 sci-fi novel Contact, aliens were portrayed as wise teachers who want to help humanity explore the hidden meanings inscribed in the very structure of the universe.

Tipler pondered the idea that the "biological exclusion" principle might apply to encounters with aliens, the upshot being that two intelligent species cannot co-exist because they would both be competing for the same resources. If one species had even a slight advantage over the other, it would out-compete the second one. In fact, it has been suggested that this is what happened when Neanderthals and modern humans came in contact [PDF], with the consequence that Neanderthals are now extinct. More recently, Cambridge University physicist Stephen Hawking warned that if we detect intelligent aliens, we should be "wary of answering back, until we have developed a bit further." Why? "Meeting a more advanced civilization, at our present stage, might be a bit like the original inhabitants of America meeting Columbus," explained Hawking. "I don't think they were better off for it."

Even if Sagan and Newman are correct that the galaxy is populated with saintly super-advanced intelligences, it is puzzling that no one has so far found any physically detectable astronomical evidence of their existences. Hanson also noted that our instruments should be able to detect some evidence for his postulated colonizing wave front as it progressed by converting matter and energy around various stars. There is, however, another possible explanation for this absence of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations—intelligence could be toxic.

In 1996, Hanson formulated the idea that there is a Great Filter that somehow reduces the chances that a civilization can reach the stars before going extinct. The question then becomes is the Great Filter behind us or ahead of us? It might turn out that evolving life is highly improbable which would suggest that the Filter is behind us and that we are alone in the universe. Of course, finally detecting an alien civilization would be a positive event with regard to the Great Filter: if aliens have survived technological development, then so might we.

But what if we just find evidence of alien life? Oxford University transhumanist philosopher Nick Bostrom argues that finding fossils for independently evolved complex life on Mars would signal a dismal future for humanity [PDF]. "Such a discovery would be a crushing blow," argues Bostrom. "It would be by far the worst news ever printed on a newspaper cover." Why? Because it would mean that it is highly probable that life arises frequently in the universe.

In that case, since we have no evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations that would strongly imply that the Great Filter lies ahead of us, it is likely we will be winnowed out by it. Intelligent life might inevitably destroy itself by deploying apocalyptic technology, e.g., thermonuclear weapons, biotech plagues, runaway nanotechnology, or something else horrible that we've yet to imagine. Thus Bostrom concludes, "In the search for extraterrestrial life, no news is good news. It promises a potentially great future for humanity." In other words, extraterrestrial silence is golden.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

NEXT: Congress Causes Credit Card Customers to Jump to Sharks

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Eventually all civilizations are overcome by fatty foods and sedentary lifestyles.

    1. We tried to warn you… not about the sedentary lifestyle, as that is just a function of existing in Liberaltopia.

    2. This is the absolute last word on the topic:

      http://baetzler.de/humor/meat_beings.html

      “They’re made out of meat!”

  2. Libertarian aliens would leave us alone. Liberal aliens would force us to join their galactic nanny state.
    Republican aliens would attack us before we could develop a WMD.

    1. There are no libertarian aliens. As we all know, all aliens are either highly aggressive with the intention of wiping us out or enslaving us, or they wouldn’t hurt a fly and the end of their finger glows. Elliott.

      1. Oops, I forgot one: there is also the kind of alien that sends probes to talk to the whales and causes plot complications that allow for amusing moments in the late 20th century. Nuclear wessels!

        1. And double dumbass on you too!

          1. Are you sure it isn’t time for a colorful metaphor?

            1. 🙂

              You mean the profanity? That’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays attention to you unless you swear every other word. You’ll find it in all the literature of the period.

      2. Citing E.T. will require you to go to the top of K2 to be ritually purified by the Dalai Lama. It’s okay, he’ll do it–I caddied for him once.

        1. E.T. is a good fucking movie, dude. The original, unaltered version, that is.

          1. You realize, of course, that you are now dead to me, the Reason staff, all of the commenters, and all right-thinking people in the galaxy?

            In fact, it is your comment that explains the alien boycott of Earth. Good job, loser.

            1. You’re pretty sensitive about this E.T. thing, buddy. Did he…touch you somewhere that wasn’t your heart?

              1. My complaint is that it was a stupid fucking movie.

            2. Next he will tell us how it was the greatest video game of the Atari era.

              1. Don’t be absurd, rob. The best game was Pitfall.

                1. Better than Adventure? I think not. Shall we say pointy arrows at dawn?

                  1. Yar’s Revenge.

                    1. What was that space war game? I liked that one.

                    2. I need more specifics. You can be talking about Missile Command, Star Command, or Star Raiders, or another game which I’d have to think about for a minute.

                    3. Star Raiders–that’s it.

                    4. Agree. Star Raiders wins.

                    5. I think I have that game on some Atari classics DVD, but I’m not sure.

                      In any case, I just looked, and they are making a new version of it for the Xbox 360. Go figure.

                      Wish they’d bring back Wing Commander, which I always liked.

                    6. Isn’t the XBOX 360 version just a port of the original?

                      Yeah, Wing Commander was excellent. Apparently they released a Wing Commander Arena for XBOX 360 in 2007. Looks like crap, though.

                    7. I don’t get it. The franchise was a huge hit, spawning books and movies, and the property is owned by EA, which is friggin’ huge. Why the hiatus?

                    8. Maybe it has to do with the kzinti?

                    9. I don’t see how that could be it. They had their kzinti knock-offs for years without any litigation that I ever heard of.

                    10. Space Quest V: The Next Mutation

                      Or StarCraft?

                    11. Yar’s Revenge and Pitfall were both classics. Either is an acceptable answer.

                2. E.T. was a pretty fucking good Atari game, though. But yeah, stupid movie.

                3. Anyone here ever play HappyWeed? It was great, although it might of been a Mac only game.

                  1. I had a soft spot for Kaboom.

                    Unfortunately, I can’t find a good emulator for Q-Bert that works on Windows XP. 🙁

                4. Anyone here ever play HappyWeed? It was great, although it might of been a Mac only game.

          2. Episiarch|1.4.11 @ 4:54PM|#
            E.T. is a good fucking movie, dude. The original, unaltered version, that is.

            You mean the one where they vivisected E.T. in front of the kids and ET’s crewmates smashed the Earth in revenge?

            1. If I ever get a chance to change history, I’m going to force Spielberg to make the film you’ve described.

              1. He did, it was called War of the Worlds

                1. Nah, that didn’t have the cute alien with the glowing finger. Closest he came was that lead actor, but he’s technically human.

                  1. ET’s glowing finger should have been the middle one.

              2. In the meantime, if there really is any justice in the world someone would force John Cameron to do that as a remake today.

            2. The greatest alien movie of all time: “Mars Attacks!”
              And probably the most representative.

          3. You mean the NC-17 version, or the theatrical release, where it was ET’s finger that lit up?

            1. What’s amazing is that two comments on an obscure Internet blog far surpass in concept the movie that was actually, and sadly, filmed.

          4. Jaysus C. Goldwyn, aren’t you the guy constantly bitching about Michael Bay? And you swallowed, and liked, Spielberg’s sap?

          5. E.T. is a good fucking movie, dude. The original, unaltered version, that is.

            I happen to prefer Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg’s other friendly-alien movie. Anyone else?

            1. Agreed.

              1. Word. On a side note, the French character in that movie is based on a real-life fellow named Jacques Vallee. Interesting character, still alive, years and years of UFO study. His books easily are the best on the subject, especially if you’re allergic to tin-foil hats.

        2. Gunga galunga. Gunga..gunga lagunga.

          1. ..I would receive total conciousness on my deathbed. So, I’ve got that going for me…

            1. Right. His usual tip. He’s a big hitter, the Lama, but he’s pretty tight with the coin. Guess he needs it for all of those hookers and blow.

        3. I hear the Dalai Lama’s a shitty tipper.

      3. You forgot those tall dudes that use us for livestock, Epi.

        1. Man-animal!

        2. As the group XTC put it, “we raised you to be our dinner… human flesh is porky meat!”

    2. Libertarian aliens will fry the earth with their space monocles.

      1. They already are–what do you think the real cause of global warming is?

          1. An alien superbeing, not a spacial phenomena as we’ve been led to believe.

        1. Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

  3. Before anyone else can post it:

    Maybe they looked at Sol III, decided there was no inteligent life here and kept on going.

    (is there an “Ugh joke” emoticon?)

    1. No, but there was once a libertarian magazine called Sol III.

  4. “George Mason University economist Robin Hanson took Tipler’s arguments seriously but laid out a scenario in which a wave of exploration by aliens would hop through our region of the galaxy only temporarily occupying the more favorable oases before pushing on, followed by a more sedentary wave later. We just happen to be living in a solar system that the first wave skipped over and which the second wave has not yet reached.”

    The other possible explanation is that the aliens ran out of tax money before they could start their planet-seeding boondoggle.

    1. There are millions of planets caked in windmills spinning away, their creators long gone…

  5. I say we find each of those planets with life on them and nuke them from orbit. Then hit the ones without life on them. It’s the only way to be sure.

    1. Uh… Hey, corporal Hicks… You’re just a grunt. No offense.

    2. “Right, right. Somebody said ‘alien’, and she thought they said ‘illegal alien’ and signed up!”

      Mostly.

      1. Ho-ho-hold on, hold on one second. This installation has a substantial dollar value attached to it.

        1. Best. SciFi Movie. Ever.

          1. I think you are vastly underestimating the cultural value of Howard the Duck.

            1. That, sir, is impossible….

  6. Oxford University transhumanist philosopher Nick Bostrom argues that finding fossils for independently evolved complex life on Mars would signal a dismal future for humanity. “Such a discovery would be a crushing blow,” argues Bostrom. “It would be by far the worst news ever printed on a newspaper cover.” Why? Because it would mean that it is highly probable that life arises frequently in the universe.

    Why would it be dismal news? It would simply mean to the believers that there’s a Johnny Appleseed-type of God. Or it would mean for science-lovin’ types that life is ubiquitous. Either way, people are not going to be convinced to shed their beliefs, they will simply rationalize the new knowledge.

    1. I agree. I believe in God, and I think it’s probable that other life is out there. Even the Vatican recently acknowledged the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

  7. Aliens landed 100 million years ago, and got “Jurassic Parked”.

  8. Haven’t they found a half-buried Raptor yet?

    1. That’s not funny.

      1. Particularly since it implies that Moore and Eick are serially immortal.

  9. here’s an idea, the progression of life at least on this planet ain’t exactly linear. One less asteroid and we be nothing but a bunch of dinosaurs not really giving a shit about space travel. Or one more asteroid (or WWIII) and we’re soon replaced by bacteria who also don’t give a shit about space travel.
    Either way, only human are so insecure as to come up w/ this “where do I come from” and “are we alone” business despite the obvious fact that activity pursuing the answer (system hoping) is kinda time/physics prohibitive.

    1. WWIII might get all of humanity with sufficient radiation and bio-agents, but I think our species would make it through another KT event. It wouldn’t be nice and the number of survivors would be on the order of 10^5 at best, but Chicxulub wouldn’t take us out entirely.

      We’re adaptable beasts.

      1. Thanks to the colony on the Moon, I agree.

        1. The Martin Landau option?

          1. Oh, rats, forgot about the Moon blasting out of orbit in 1999.

            1. That makes no sense. How could the moon blast from orbit in 1999 when they find the monolith on it in 2001?

              1. That was on the replacement Moon.

                1. I think we’re conflating Universes (Universii?) here.

                  1. My brother got me Space: 1999 on DVD. It gets nostalgia points, Landau points, special effects points (for the time, of course), and cool spaceship points, but the stories were mostly about as realistic as Gilligan’s Island. In fact, come to think of it, less so.

                  2. I think we’re conflating Universes (Universii?) here.

                    Perhaps. But, no matter what you think of Arthur C. Clarke, I think it’s a safe bet that the Clarke universe is vastly superior to the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson universe.

                    And I say this as a proud owner of the UFO series on DVD. I may get the 1999 set yet.

                    1. argh…

                      …vastly superior to the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson universe and should take precedence.

                    2. Hard to argue with that. At the end of 2001, we’re all presumably going to become godlike creatures. Or, at least, our kids will be.

                2. Psssh. The replacement moon was a studio where they filmed Elliott Gould and OJ Simpson.

                  1. That was Mars, silly. Don’t you know anything about NASA conspiracy documentaries?

        2. Not required. Given even a few hours warning, probably ~10^7 people would make it to shelter to survive the initial 24 hours. The secondary environmental effects would take out most of the rest, but enough would survive by scavenging until it was possible to grow crops once again.

          I remember hearing an argument that a mega-volcano about 70,000 BCE may have taken the human population down to less than 5,000. And they did not have the technological knowledge (note that I do not say the technology, since it is possible that almost all our machines would be taken out) that the putative earlier group had.

        3. Not required. Given even a few hours warning, probably ~10^7 people would make it to shelter to survive the initial 24 hours. The secondary environmental effects would take out most of the rest, but enough would survive by scavenging until it was possible to grow crops once again.

          I remember hearing an argument that a mega-volcano about 70,000 BCE may have taken the human population down to less than 5,000. And they did not have the technological knowledge (note that I do not say the technology, since it is possible that almost all our machines would be taken out) that the putative earlier group had.

          1. Damn alien server squirrels.

          2. Hmm, dig a hole in the ground and cower like vermin, or terraform Luna.

            I say terraform Luna.

            1. I beg your pardon.

              I intend to cower like HEAVILY ARMED AND RUTHLESS vermin.

              1. Well, in the interest of friendship, we’ll ship you foodstuffs from our lovely, unaffected world during your long struggle back to the 1500s.

                1. The friggin cockroaches will probably out survive us all anyway.

                2. Dude, have you SEEN all the fucking craters on the Moon? That place is a deathtrap!

                  1. The earth has similar craters but we also have an atmosphere to protect us. Artificial atmosphere perhaps?

                    1. The moon a death trap? yes… But its honest about it! The earth on the other hand is constantly changing her surface area. It easier to hide the countless species she’s devowered with a little makeup! Followed with long term baking of her victems in her hellish interior.

                      I say we mount big guns on the moon! Pointed at earth for self defense against mommy dearest.

    2. Why would an intelligent civilization stop here???

      1. Rest stop.

      2. Deep discounts on home electronics?

        1. Oh, who are we kidding? They’ll come here for the same reason everyone does. For the porn.

          1. Marshmallow Peeps. It’s the only place in the Universe where you can get ’em.

      3. Because, in all the vast universe, there is nothing that compares to sushi.

        1. Er, sushi, um, made with fish?

          1. Made with Earth fish.

            1. Made with endangered Earth fish.

  10. I think there is some space between “We are totally alone” and “Self-replicating machines should have taken over Earth long ago”.

    There could be 50 intelligent species in the galaxy – and 49 of them could have unique reasons for not having launched replicators.

    Replicators only become inevitable and thus Fermi-Paradox-Inducing at large numbers of civilizations.

    If the number is only 50, 40 of them could easily be anaerobic and thus incapable of metallurgy. No metallurgy = no replicators.

    5 of them could be blowing each other up every few centuries.

    4 of them could be inward-focused.

    1 could be us.

    1. 1 could be us.

      I’m doing my best on that.

    2. So, basically, the reason why people think that this isn’t a likely scenario is that it’s a very small range of probabilities that suggest it.

      Like, okay, say that there are approximately 10 billion potentially life-bearing planets in the galaxy. If we say that 50 of them developed intelligent life, then that implies that the odds of developing intelligent life are right around 0.0000000002. If the odds were just a little different, like 0.00000000005, then we’d see not 50, but 0 expected species in the galaxy.

      It seems unlikely that the universe just so happens to be randomly set so that there’s a handful of intelligent species in a galaxy, when there are huge sets of parameters which would either result in less than one expected intelligent species in a galaxy, or thousands (or millions) of intelligent species per galaxy.

      That’s why we assume either 1 or lots, not, like, a few dozen. It’s like we’re playing a game. We generate a random number between one and a million. You can place a bet on it being “over 500,050,” or “under 500,000,” or “between 500,000 and 500,050, inclusive.” Obviously that last one is a poor bet.

      1. Only if you’re paying unfair odds. 😉

      2. That might be the case if we were doing a thought experiment about a theoretical galaxy, but we aren’t.

        We have an extant galaxy with us in it and with no other detectable intelligent life so far.

        So the random number can’t be between 1 and 1,000,000. If it was, Fermi’s paradox would kick in.

        We know the number is at least one, and less than a number at which it would be likely that at least one civilization would have expanded to fill the ecological niche for intelligence galaxy-wide.

        I’m only saying that the arguments for 1 don’t exclude 50.

        1. This is probably too late for anyone to read it: I forgot I posted in this thread. But,

          I don’t exactly disagree. I think all of this stuff about trying to divine what’s out there is essentially reading tea-leaves. It’s kind of fun to noodle about, but I wouldn’t put any serious money on any of it being at all right.

          But just to play to the other side of that argument, your case has two flaws:

          1. If a galaxy had no intelligent life, nobody thinks about whether it has intelligent life. Our galaxy having at least one intelligent species doesn’t really mean anything: it could be that 999,999 of 1,000,000 galaxies have no intelligent life. So even if you regard it as proven that there aren’t millions of intelligent species in our galaxy, saying that there may be 50 still looks like it’s a betting on a tiny fraction of the range of possibilities.

          But the upper bound is problematic as well. You’re essentially assuming what you want to prove. The point of all this argument is that, yes, we haven’t been contacted by intelligent aliens. Why? Your hypothesis is that there are only 50 intelligent alien species in our galaxy. The other side is, “There maybe are many more, but they tend to die off because…” whatever. Because technological progress inevitably brings you to a stage where one madman can destroy the entire world, maybe.

          That’s the point: for some reason, there don’t appear to be a lot of intelligent species in the galaxy. Why? We exist, have we already beaten the odds? Is it just that it’s hard for life to develop, or hard for multi-cellular life to develop, or hard for intelligence to develop, or hard for intelligence to get basic technology? Or is it something that still looms in our future, like Charlie Stross’s “Economics 2.0” solipsistic superintelligences?

          Like I said, this is building speculation on speculation on speculation, and I don’t find any of it terribly convincing. I don’t think that we’ll really get significantly more data on the subject until we’re either a. contacted by an alien species, or b. send out probes to a few dozen star systems.

    3. In addition to the “Anaerobic/underwater” possibility to keep intelligent aliens from metalworking and all that was eventually built on that, there’s also the possibility aliens evolved on a stony planet lacking enough metal in the crust to build a civilization. Or they could be intelligent but lack manipulative limbs — I think some species of cetaceans are probably intelligent now, but unless they evolve arms, hands and opposable thumbs, they won’t be able to do jack with it.

      1. The simpler explanation is that intelligent, tool-using life inevitably develops flawless virtual reality and leaves this universe for one of their own making.

        1. I think I am in that universe now.

      2. What the hell does anaerobic have to do with underwater?

        1. I think she means two separate possibilities that both have the same consequences for development of metallurgy by a sentient species.

          1. I’m not exactly clear as to why anaerobic = no metallurgy. Metals exist in reducing environments and certainly can be manipulated.

            1. Oxygen is very important to processing Fe into steel and other useful goodies. Sulfur is very bad for steel and other iron alloys. While sulfur-based metabolisms are conceivable, subsituting sulfur for oxygen in an Fe-alloy production is probably not.

  11. It’s quite possible that without an acceptance of freedom as a guiding principle, a civilization can’t have the creative possibilities to create the technologies necessary to make long-distance (read: millions of light years) space travel possible.

    And as we here know, greater freedom *must* include greater economic freedom. That, in turn, leads to peace-inducing trade. So, in other words, maybe a society much be a bunch of peace and freedom-loving libertarians before they get out there into space.

    And with such an ability to end scarcity through technology, there’s just no imperative to harm life on other planets.

    1. Hudson: Well that’s great, that’s just fuckin’ great, man. Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We’re in some real pretty shit now man…
      Hicks: Are you finished?

      Hudson: That’s it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?
      Burke: Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don’t we try that?

    2. Without an acceptance of freedom as a guiding principle (at least for some), a civilization probably doesn’t have the desire to travel long distance through space. Why would statists want to go to the asteriod belt? There is no government there make sure they don’t eat Happy Meals, the same reason that libertarians would want to.

    3. Re: Kevin,

      And as we here know, greater freedom *must* include greater economic freedom.

      I remember an essay from a science-fiction-lovin’ economist (I read it in lewrockwell.com – I’m looking for it), and he says that a truly advanced alien society would have to have economic freedom and MONEY, as MONEY allows economic calculation. Without economic calculation, you cannot have efficient allocation of resources or knowledge and thus NO SPACE FLIGHT, only devastating boondoggles.

      1. Meaning that the only aliens that would be interested in finding alien life are those interested in conquest.

        I mean, what would we have for trade that a space-faring race would need? Other than fetching women, that is.

        1. Space perverts? It does tie in with all that anal probing business. Maybe they’re all intergalactic molesters.

        2. You obviously don’t know women….they don’t fetch!

        3. Re: JW,

          I mean, what would we have for trade that a space-faring race would need?

          How about deodorizers?

          1. You read that as space-farting?

            Yeah, I inserted a hyphen where none was needed.

            1. Re: JW,

              You read that as space-farting?

              You certainly don’t seem to have traveled vast distances with the family in a minivan… I didn’t read “farting.”

              1. Ah. No, I mercifully avoided that fate as a child.

                As Dad, I keep the windows down or the AC blasting.

    4. I don’t agree. Consider a species like our own, except with the biologically-enforced social structure of ants. You couldn’t call that free, but I bet they could gather the resources and creativity to colonize space.

      Communism fails for us because of human nature, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for another species.

      1. Re: LeSigh,

        I don’t agree. Consider a species like our own, except with the biologically-enforced social structure of ants. You couldn’t call that free, but I bet they could gather the resources and creativity to colonize space.

        The concepts of “Creativity” and “Biologically-Enforced” or “enforced” anything are mutually exclusive, LS. To be creative you must be free. Ants are not because they’re trapped by their simple programming.

        1. Even our current computers are capable of ‘creating’ given the proper programming. They aren’t free. They’re not even sapient.

          If we develop strong A.I. we can easily put limits on its freedom while still retaining it’s creative capacities.

          There’s no reason to believe a biological parallel couldn’t also exist.

          Just because a creature is not free socially or economically does not mean it does not have the capacity for thought and the incentive to create for the whole.

          1. If we develop strong A.I. we can easily put limits on its freedom while still retaining it’s creative capacities.

            -Written on humanity’s tombstone

            1. Well, at least I’ll have a measure of immortality then.

          2. Technically, it is the programmer that’s the creative force there–not the machine.

      2. You’ve read E.O. Wilson. Well said. 🙂

      3. Ants have been around for a gazillion years – they don’t seem to have advanced very much in that time.

  12. What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?

    1. Define “Manhole”.

        1. LMFAO!!!11

          +1

      1. He’s referring to a Niven story, in which the premise is that humans are being selectively bred by robotic aliens by taking a group from a previously seeded planet (in the story that is Earth) and dumping them on a new, uninhabited planet to breed and diversify until they can be selected from again.

        (An I believe the reference is “Chocolate Manhole Covers” not ‘chocolate covered’ (I’m too lazy to look it up); the answer is “You can eat it”.)

            1. You mean mea cocoa.

            2. The ADA says they are bad for children’s teeth.

              1. We’re going to have to ban those things.

    2. Niven?

      1. Yep. Aliens are testing humanity in order to find the best and the brightest for the next round of colonization/breeding.

        1. Oh God please let them be hot. I’m smart and athletic, if anyone cares up there.

          1. sage,

            Well, let’s consider the problem a bit. Aliens will want to observe us and learn all about us before making contact. In doing so, they will learn that we are totally run by our sex drives. Therefore, they will make perfect, pheromone-emitting fembots and androbots and land them on Earth.

            You can have mine, as I am happy with my femwifebot.

        2. I remember that one. Though I feel that Niven was being a little generous assuming our best and brightest all attend science fiction conventions.

          1. Well, at least we can eliminate the possibility that the ‘best and brightest’ can be found in Congress, the White House, or any governing body anywhere on the planet.

            Although, if they are breeding for stupidity, they might select from School Boards.

            1. Well, yes, that goes without saying.

          2. That was just one group of four. Didnt say how many other groups were selected too.

            But yeah, IIRC, two of the characters selected were based on Niven and his wife.

          3. He thought the aliens were breeding us for flabbiness and poor grooming?

  13. Bailey is probably hoping they went transhumanist (transalienist?) and uploaded themselves onto their version of the internet, so they don’t need planets any more.

  14. So those aliens that probed my anus were “minding their own business”? And that space alcohol they gave me left such a fucking hangover.

    1. Those were you Frat brothers and it’s called Tequila…

    2. Why do you think I am an alien?

  15. The Listeners by James E. Gunn was a fairly interesting discussion of this issue, but it needed to dispense with the filler. The all too abundant filler.

  16. Why is it that if there exists intelligen life outside our solar system, it has to be much more technologically advanced than us? Why can’t it be advancing at about the same pace as us or even slightly ahead, since I doubt we’ll have interstellar travel any time soon?

    1. Well, consider that we have the time scale of the entire universe to play with, so the level of technological advancement could vary widely. For example, imagine a parallel earth where, instead of being wiped out, the dinosaurs started evolving towards intelligence tens of millions of years ago, and had the same rate of advancement as us. That’s millions of years worth of head start. Assuming we survive that long, can you imagine the technological gap between humans now and humans in a million years? Ten million? 100 million?

      For what its worth, I halfway suspect the lack of alien contact has something to do with economics. Solar systems, or ours anyways, seem to have quite a lot by way of raw resources (material or energy). Assuming faster-than-light forever remains a fiction, intelligent species may simply elect to remain in their home systems, because everything else is too far in distance and time to really manage. It’s like an ant colony based off of a dropped cookie. There’s another cookie 10,000km away, and they may even be aware of it, but the distance and cost of going after it may simply lead to a “meh” reaction.

      1. Well the dinosaurs would have had to survive the ice ages and other ELEs while they were evolving into intelligent life, which they were no where near. And that was, what, only the third biggest extinction in our planets history? My point is these type of events happen frequently (on a universe time scale) and have come from within as well as without. Given that an earth-like planet and the forming of life has a low probability of occurring, why is it more likely that life got started on these planets right out of the gate and continued uninterrupted since?

        Also, did you ever get your sonic screwdriver back?

        1. But very small differences in time would make a huge difference to the outcome.

          10,000 years from now, if we don’t wipe ourselves out, humanity will be very detectable to another species with basic astronomical technology.

          The odds of all intelligent species being within 10,000 years of one another, in a galaxy where star births occur billions of years apart, is very, very low.

          1. The odds of all intelligent species being within 10,000 years of one another, in a galaxy where star births occur billions of years apart, is very, very low.

            Excellent point that is often overlooked by SETI enthusiasts.

            “You’re not thinking fourth-dimensionally!”

            … Hobbit

      2. I completely agree with your distance/ apathy hypothesis, though. Especially if these aliens are anything like me.

      3. This is part of it. Also consider the estimated number of stars in the universe: 3×10^23. If there were 1×10^9 intelligent civilizations, each with 6×10^9 individuals (total 6×10^18), that means there would still be almost 17,000 stars for _each_ individual to check up on, if every single intelligent being in the universe were actively involved in some sort of SETI project.

        Consider that the participation rate of SETI @Home is only 0.5% of the human population (hardly a really _active_ participation, but the best estimate we’ve got), and the number of stars each participating being has to check out rises to over 3.3 million, given similar participation rates across the universe.

        Of course, intelligent civilizations might decide to only look at relatively “local” stars for these reasons, but then the odds of finding another intelligent civ go down.

        (Yes, I am aware that I’m engaging in the fallacy that backs up the Drake equation–selecting convenient numbers (billions of civs with billions of denizens) because we just don’t know and all we can do is talk out our ass on this subject.)

    2. “Why is it that if there exists intelligen life outside our solar system, it has to be much more technologically advanced than us? Why can’t it be advancing at about the same pace as us or even slightly ahead, since I doubt we’ll have interstellar travel any time soon?”

      The galaxy existed for a long time before our solar system appeared, so there was plenty of time (billions of years) for intelligent aliens to appear, in other earlier systems, and colonize everything.

  17. Some theories suggest that Sol system was seeded by nano machines (bacteria) traveling on interstellar comets, and that they started reproducing and evolving within a few hundred million years of the Earth’s formation.
    This theory is testable but we will need to sample comets and ocean worlds around Jupiter and Saturn.

  18. Did SETI really celebrate its 50th anniversary?

    If so, it was a celebration of fifty years of failure … and squandered funds.

    1. As long as it’s their money, I have no objection.

      OTOH, the potential payoff from getting access to technologies derived independently of ours would be fantastic.

      1. Hasn’t SETI been privately funded since the 90s?

        1. I think so, since Congress dumped it. But I’m not 100% sure.

      2. An intergalactic secularist’s Pascal’s WAger?

        1. That’s one way of looking at it.

          Except the payoff would be real, not eternally cosmic muffinitude.

          1. There’s a real, though infinitesimal chance, that an alien superbeing will greet me on my commute home and hand me a power ring or its functional equivalent. That’s how cool of a universe we live in.

            1. So…Not very cool then, because that will never happen. God, modern entertainment has taught us all that life on Earth sucks when it is ‘exciting’ (wars, wars and more wars) and when it is ‘boring’ (working bullshit jobs to prop up bullshit governments that will start the next round of bullshit wars).

              1. It’s certainly possible, as I doubt anyone seriously thinks we’re even close to the greatest potentials of technology. It’s just unlikely to the extreme.

                I fail to see how me getting a power ring and taking my rightful place as the benevolent ruler of Earth is not a good thing.

                1. The rest of our species considers that possibility justification for nuking Florida.

                  That and Disney World.

                  1. I find that a dubious remark, coming from a Canadian. Y’all crave the Disney. Crave it.

  19. We just need to get a little more outward bound. If we can get humans settled self-sefficiently on a few more planets, especially ones outside the solar system, the chances of the survival of our species increases greatly. That propogation and redundancy to allow the survival of the species is the most basic purposes of a species.

    1. Funny thing that, once you disperse the race, they begin diverging into separate species.

      1. That would take some time, even with genetic modifications for space adaptability.

        1. And that just reminded me of this.

      2. Racist!

  20. I think these pronouncements that, since we haven’t gotten (or recognized) a radio signal, there must be some dearth of intelligent life in the galaxy are rather silly. We have exactly one example to extrapolate from, and there’s already some evidence that the time in which a civilization uses radio might be quite narrow.

    Let’s say we move on to some other technology that doesn’t broadcast beyond the solar system in the next 100 years. We’d have broadcast for about two centuries–that’s it. Of our entire history. And radio is the easy one–would we recognize other examples of technology in use? Maybe not.

    I won’t even address the possibility that we may be atypical as an intelligent lifeform, that other intelligent life is, in fact, isolating us on purpose, and probably fifty other possibilities we’re not considering.

    1. Agreed. The sheer scale of the galaxy–let alone the universe–would seem to pretty much guarantee some other life, but at the same time makes contact that much more unlikely.

      And no one has solved that pesky speed of light thing yet, and maybe never will.

      1. We still don’t have a clear idea about physics on a cosmological scale, which means we could be missing technological activities that are happening right in our face.

        And, as you note, the distances involved are tremendous. If there’s no end run around the speed of light limit, then things happen very slowly.

        And the Berserkers.

        1. We’ll have C-plus cannons by then, ProL, and can at least put up a fight.

          1. I’m sure you’re right.

            I’m tricking my oldest son into Saberhagen by getting him to read The Dracula Tape. It’s a gateway book.

            1. Why would you need to be tricked into reading the Beserker series? It’s a great intro to SF.

              1. He’s confused. Why, just yesterday, he asked me why I think the prequels suck.

                1. Commodore Decker!!!

                  1. Was he in the prequels? Makes about as much sense as anything else in them.

                    Plinkett just trashed Revenge of the Sith. I love his reviews.

                2. I had a semi-drunken argument recently with a guy in his late 30’s about how ALL of the Star Treks sucked, movies and series, even TOS. But the JJ Abrahms movie was the BEST, according to him.

                  A more sober member of the group figured it out. The malcontent was raised on Star Wars and the drunken lout confirmed this. It’s good that we had a designated moderator, because we may have come to blows over The Shat’s honor.

                  There’s just something seriously wrong with kids today.

                  1. That’s just disturbing.

                    Same son considered getting me the Star Trek DVD for Christmas. When I asked which series, he said, “I meant the new movie.” I stared at him like he was batshit insane.

                    1. Yeah, my son also doesn’t understand why I will never, ever buy that DVD.

                      The Plinkett review of Star Trek was one of his better ones.

                    2. Yes. While watching it, I realized that he was superficially saying the movie was okay while trashing it over, and over, and over again.

                  2. The big difference is that the new Star Trek movie is yet another rehashed Hero’s Journey. The original Star Trek was about a civilization. The two aren’t really compatible.

                  3. There’s just something seriously wrong with kids today.

                    Prefering our movies not boring and laden with heavy-handed political messages is ‘wrong’? If recognizing the previous Star Treks as lame is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

                    1. Ewwww.

                3. The Books of Swords is one my favorite fantasy series ever.

                  1. Did you ever read the original stories (now consolidated as The Empire of the East)? I actually like those better than the various sword books.

                    1. I have not gotten around to those yet, but they’re on my (very long) to-read list.

            2. Pardon my intrusion, almost anything by Harlan Ellison (may he get the $40k for his 1st typewriter) – including the anthologies he edited (Dangerous Visions is HIGHLY recommended if it is still in print) – is a great gateway drug.

            3. It’s a gateway book.

              For me it was the Heinlein juvies. Got the daughters hooked, can’t wait until the grandkids are old enough.

              … Hobbit

        2. Yes?

          1. Not you. The deadly robot ones. Like that doomsday thingee on Star Trek once.

            1. This is why I come here. Excellent.

            2. That doomsday device scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. Seriously, I had nightmares about it for weeks.

              1. Salt monster for me. And the opening to Dark Shadows. The music creeped out my toddler self.

      2. “And no one has solved that pesky speed of light thing yet, and maybe never will.”

        That never slowed down the Q continuum.

        1. You know, fuck the Q. Where are the Organians?

    2. “I won’t even address the possibility that we may be atypical as an intelligent lifeform…”

      Monkeys! An entire civilization of monkeys! Can you believe that Zordrog?

      1. They must not be permitted to fling their poop at the stars!

      2. Laugh-a while you can, monkey boy!

    3. Vingh’s “zones of though” would be one of those other possibilities. Maybe physics is different closer or further out from the core of the galaxy.

      1. I like that bit by Vinge. Is it original with him? I can’t recall anyone else doing that.

    4. We’d have broadcast for about two centuries–that’s it. Of our entire history.

      I can’t believe no one has mentioned this yet.

      1. I did. But I think you beat me to it.

  21. Great picture of Nancy Pelosi.

    1. It’s a freedom killing machine! It eats liberty and shits statism.

      1. Clearly an alien trying to suppress our ingenuity with statism, they’re not even trying, thing isn’t close to human looking!

  22. I don’t buy anything about competing for resources. Any civilization advanced enough to get here, or any intelligent species at all (which would be far more advanced than us) would have figured out how to supply their own needs from a universe abundant with energy and raw material. I can’t think of a single rational reason that aliens would be hostile. I guess there are irrational ones though, but I don’t see a civilization enduring in space without figuring out cost-benefit relationships.

    1. I can’t think of a single rational reason that aliens would be hostile.

      I can think of a few. Energy and raw materials may be abundant as long as you don’t mind living in a sealed environment, but planets that can support carbon-based life along roughly our lines don’t look all that common, and would likely be very attractive for a species looking to live planet-side.

      Or: an intelligent race descended from predator/omnivores, or even territorial-aggressive herbivores, is likely to have a violent streak and a perhaps perfectly justifiable paranoia about potential threats/competitors. If our great explorers-of-the-unknown went forth armed and prepared to do violence, on a planet just freakin’ stuffed with resources, why wouldn’t aliens?

      1. As much as it pains me…Tony could be right. If an alien race was intelligent enough to get here, what threat are we to them? They can take what they like and not bother with us.

        1. Re: Realist,

          As much as it pains me…Tony could be right. If an alien race was intelligent enough to get here, what threat are we to them?

          You mean the placement of those big lasers by the Reagan administration was all for naught?

        2. I don’t see how “So advanced they can take what they want and we can’t do anything about it,” is applicably different than “really, really willing to violence.”

          So they suck up all the O2 in our atmosphere to fuel their liquid-oxygen FTL drive, but they do it indifferently to our suffering so that makes them non-violent?

          1. Do you consider yourself violent when you fill your swimming pool and drowned ants?

    2. Re: Tony,

      Any civilization advanced enough to get here, or any intelligent species at all (which would be far more advanced than us) would have figured out how to supply their own needs from a universe abundant with energy and raw material.

      Hence economic calculation and money, like I said earlier.

      http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig10/bowman1.html

    3. They wouldn’t have to be actively hostile to cause problems; maybe they’d want to do the alien equivalent of bringing democracy to the Middle East or Christianity to the savages, only hurting us for our own good. Poor stupid little earthlings can’t even figure out interstellar travel; how could they possibly know what’s best for them?

      1. Exactly. History has shown that whenever less-advanced societies meet more-advance societies it is the end of the less-advanced society.

        The primitives who survived the longest were the ones who killed and ate the missionaries sent to them.

        The best thing that our species could do when the aliens land on the White House lawn is to kill them and eat them.

        … Hobbit

    4. Any civilization advanced enough to get here, or any intelligent species at all (which would be far more advanced than us) would have figured out how to supply their own needs from a universe abundant with energy and raw material. I can’t think of a single rational reason that aliens would be hostile.

      That’s what we thought.

  23. I believe in aliens because I believe that in all of the incredible vastness of the universe, humans CAN’T be as good as it gets.

    1. It is sad to think so.

    2. “Get you stinking paws off of me you damn, dirty ape!”

  24. It would be pretty hilarious if intelligent Aliens landed here and completely ignored humanity, not showing us hostility or benevolence. Just acted like they didn’t even notice us and spent their time studying ants and collecting salt water.

    I think that is what would really drive people crazy. At least if they attacked us, we’d have a sense of purpose.

    1. They’re probably here ignoring us right now.

      1. Or they could be posting on websites under amusing pseudonyms…

        1. I’d say that’s likely.

          1. I thought we were talking about intelligent aliens?

            1. Intelligent, but with a very developed sense of humor. That probably explains some of our trolls.

        2. … or even under their real names.

      2. Indeed. Earth could be under 24/7 surveillance and we’d have no clue

        1. I think Earth is just a reality space-television show like in that episode of South Park. I think we are the universal equivalent of the Jersey Shore or, at best, Bride Wars.

        2. 43/19 surveillance. duh.

    2. “spent their time studying ants”

      Don’t you mean mesquitoes? Why hasn’t anyone mentiond “Hitchhiker’s guide to the Universe” yet?

      1. oops “Galaxy” sorry

  25. “Intelligent life might inevitably destroy itself by deploying apocalyptic technology, e.g., thermonuclear weapons, biotech plagues, runaway nanotechnology, or something else horrible that we’ve yet to imagine”

    We don’t need to imagine something more horrible than those things that will destroy us all – we’ve already got it:

    entitlement programs and public sector labor unions.

  26. A 2008 Scripps Howard News Service poll found that 56 percent of Americans believe that intelligent life exists on other planets, and more than a third think that aliens have already visited Earth.

    And 78% watch too much TV.

  27. We probably are being shunned. Humanity might be the equivalent of that nerdy kid who always tried to sit with you at lunch period.

  28. I found the piece:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig10/bowman1.html

    “Silver and Gold, ‘Star Trek,’ and the Truth About E.T.”
    by John Bowman

    In fact, there is some pretty credible evidence that the entire sci-fi domain (at least insofar as films are concerned) is nothing if not a gentle, alluring introduction to the monstrous tenets of Karl Marx and his deplorable Communism[…]

    First, I can tell you, unequivocally, that E.Ts., unlike captains of the Enterprise, have money, and they use it every day for almost every transaction, and they make a lot of transactions. Further, the money will almost certainly be a rare, metallic element, such as gold or silver, or an indestructible, painstakingly created alloy.

    I know this because the full spectrum of investigation into the matter does not end with Hubble, the patentably absurd Drake equation, or the wisecracking goof, Carl Sagan. Rather, it is rational figures from Aristotle to Adam Smith who have guaranteed this aspect will be evident.

    For example, [I paraphrase from a John Lee economics article] Aristotle discovered, formulated, and analyzed the problem of commensurability (how to compensate another and therefore make a fair transaction). He wondered how ratios for a fair exchange of heterogeneous things could be set. He searched for a principle that makes it possible to equate what is apparently unequal and non-comparable. E.g., how does one compare apples to oranges? Or decide whether the go to school or to work? Well, it’s all but impossible (or I should say quite inefficient and uncertain) without money.

    Aristotle claimed that money, as a common measure of everything, makes things commensurable and makes it possible to equalize (or relatively value) them. He states that it is in the form of money, a substance that has a telos (purpose), that individuals have devised a unit that supplies a measure on the basis of which just exchange can take place. Aristotle thus maintained that everything can be expressed in the universal equivalent of money. He explained that money was introduced to satisfy the requirement that all items exchanged must be comparable in some way[…]

    Hence, E.T. must have money, which appears to be an immutable requirement. Furthermore, the money must be “honest” such as gold or silver, rather than irredeemable fiat promises to pay or any form of debt-based money. Our own history is rife with examples of the failures of paper money going back to 600AD. They all collapse, and with them the underlying society or civilization. Civilizations that turn to paper money simply do not last long enough: on average a mere 39 years, which is not long enough for a civilization to develop the technological and productive wherewithal to start exploring space[…]

    1. One of the things that used to drive me nuts about Star Trek TNG was how they left unanswered the question of how economic transactions took place in the Federation.

      Deep Space 9 was a lot better in that regard. Quark, the rest of the Ferengis and gold-pressed latinum made more sense and seemed more realistic. That’s one of the reasons I think it was the best of the lot.

      1. The Pastel Generation had “credits” at least.

        And quatloos. Sweet, sweet quatloos.

      2. It was certainly the most realistic, by far.

        I think that’s why a lot of people didn’t like it as much. Too grubby.

  29. “Liberal aliens would force us to join their galactic nanny state.”

    Great! All we need is another NGO ( New Galactic Order )

    1. That was meant to apply to Tim’s comment at the top.

    2. Maybe we can shake them down over the newly invented, er, discovered phenomenon of “galactic warming.”

  30. So many wild assumptions by these prognosticators.

    1. With SETI not coming up with proof after all these years, it’s been in vogue lately to ask, “Where are they? Maybe they don’t exist?”

      Naturally, that’s total nonsense, as we’ve barely looked. One cosmologist analogized such commentary on our current search as scooping up one glass of water from the ocean and concluding that there were no fish in the whole thing.

      1. There seems to be this assumption that life=intelligent life. There are likely billions of planets in the galaxy with life that never bothered to evolve a species with technology.

        … Hobbit

    2. Yes but our wild prognostications didn’t cost a million taxpayer dollars, so relax.

  31. One must keep in mind some very hard truths about the distance that people refer to when speaking of “interstellar travel”. Alpha Centauri, which is the closest star to our own solar system is approximately 25.8 trillion miles away. Travelling at the fastest speeds in space currently available to man (approx. 20,000 mph) it would take one billion two hundred ninety million hours = 53 750,000 days to get to Alpha Centauri.

    For a species to travel these type of distances it would mean they would have technology that would be indistinguishable from magic to us. And if they didn’t want us to know they had arrived, we would not know. If they did want us to know, we would know. And if they only wanted the crazy guy with the tinfoil hat in Buffalo to know, they only the crazy guy with the tinfoil hat in Buffalo would know.

    It is borderline pointless to pretend to imagine what their motives or reasons for visiting the earth would be beyond simple resource arguments.

    1. Hey, come on, we could easily improve on that. I bet we could get up to 200,000 mph, no problem.

      1. True, I bet we could up that speed at some point in the future to 200,000 mph. Then it would only take us 14 thousand years to get there instead of 147 thousand.

        1. Better bring some DVDs for the kids, then.

          1. And their children, and their childrens children, etc. etc.

            The first few generations wouldn’t even make it to the interstellar on-ramp.

            1. I’ve always been dubious about multi-generational spaceflight. For the time scale we’re talking about, there’s simply too much that could go wrong with the equipment, let alone with the people.

              Might be a different issue if we could vastly extend our lifespans or, of course, dramatically shorten the travel time (even better if we could achieve significant relativistic effects).

              1. Wouldn’t the lower gravity extend our lifespans?

                1. Sure the lower gravity will extend our lives. If we can survive the bone loss and various tissue and toxin effects.

                  But if you want to be a real interstellar traveler I recommend getting dentures first. The problems associated with dental care during prolonged space flight are catastrophic. Especially with “Hibernation” scheams in which humans “sleep” through most of the voyage.

                  No one really thinks about decades without brushing….. Dont think about it.. Your not listening are you..

              2. Piers Anthony’s Macroscope had a neat twist to the idea of interstellar travel. It’s one of his early tru-to-form sci-fi pieces instead of the fantasy stuff he made money with through the Xanth series.

                The device used for interstellar travel is quite inventive, if not entirely practical without some alien technology.

              3. Well, what you need are relativistic effects to shorten the journey for the travellers.

                It’s still 4.3 years to Alpha Centauri, relative, (not counting acceleration and deceleration transits), but to the crew, it will be a few weeks to months, depending on velocity.

                But, the Kzin are already there, so let’s pick another system.

              4. You’re forgetting that our ancestors crossed oceans in canoes.

    2. It takes a long time if one accelerates to a speed then coasts the rest of the way. If one can generate a more or less continuously then near-relativistic speeds are possible.

      … Hobbit

  32. First Contact stories have always fascinated me more then any other.

    What really concerns me is alien DRM preventing me from downloading and watching zero-g pron

    1. First Contact stories have always fascinated me more then any other.

      Try The Mote in God’s Eye. It’s one of the best, if not the best, of the genre.

      … Hobbit

      1. Drake, Hagan, Pournel, Niven have been some of my favorite First Contact authors.

        Footfall ranks right there with the Moties. Just a different scale from the Watchmakers 😉

        Check out juris imprudent’s post below for refrence to quarinteen.

  33. I think your definiton of an Earth like planet is too simplistic. In addition to it being rocky with liquid water it also needs a large moon to stabilize it’s orbit, the formation of which knocks off enough crust to allow for plate tectonics. A metallic core large enough to generate a sufficient magnetosphere to protect it from it’s sun and it needs to have a large gas giant in it’s solar system to protect it from asteroid bombardment.

    1. IceTrey, you’re positing things which are necessary for us to have evolved the way that we evolved; i.e carbon-based chemistry with water as the solvent. Is that the only way to go? No one knows. Maybe somewhere silicon based organisms are arguing about whether carbon-based life is possible.

      1. I would imagine that experiencing severe changes in axial tilt, being blasted by solar radiation and being struck by planet killing asteroids would have a negative effect on any kind of advanced life regardless of it’s chemical makeup.

    2. Is that you God?

  34. My theory is that intelligent life only evolves to the point where it develops scientists that prove that there is no God and come to the obvious conclusion that existence is not only pointless but is a lot of hard work and quite painful too, and the only sensible thing to do is to stop existing.

  35. All advanced civilizations eventually blow themselves up when their mad scientists build super-colliders.

  36. I like the way William Gibson (actually, one of his characters, but in this case I think
    it’s reasonable to presume the character is speaking for the author) put it: “I could
    buy aliens, but not aliens that look like Fifties comic art.”

    My own thinking is that they’re almost certainly out there, and even more certainly
    so far away they might as well not be. One of the things that bugs me most about
    space opera sci-fi is people zipping around from star to star in very small fractions
    of a (unchanged) human lifespan, when in reality extending human lifespan
    indefinitely is a trivial problem compared to figuring out how to travel
    faster than light. It is FAR more likely that we’ll all be sitting around a thousand
    years from now saying “yup, still no FTL travel” than that that will be proven false
    in that length of time.

    One fact is absolutely certain, however. If there is only one, it’s us.

    1. Maybe no FTL, but hope we finally have our fucking flying cars by then.

      1. Maybe no FTL, but hope we finally have our fucking flying cars by then.

        Right now, it’s a lot more of a political than a technical problem.

    2. I agree completely, everyone smooths over FTL when in reality it’s probably not possible and would cripple space expansion and buy the “lesser” species enormous amounts of time to catch up to the advance ones.

  37. Perhaps the ETs are smart enough to keep on the down low- for their sake and ours.

  38. 280 or so posts, and I am the first one to consider that the “great cosmic silence” is because we’ve been frakkin’ quarantined?

    I am indeed disappointed.

    1. Goodness sakes alive! Now if your talking quarantined, we have to talk about types of quarantines. And just the concept of quarentine tells us a lot about the alledged ET value systems.

      First thing it tells us is that their not Democrat’s or libertarians.
      *cue scarry music*

      It also would tell us that on an intergalactic scale we have an actual measurable “Value” worth expending resources to protect. Are at least the passage of penalties if anyone is blantently caught harvesting left handed red headed cheerleaders from Queens.

    2. Juris, Hobbit refrenced a great book “The Mote in God’s Eye” which hits apon your idea.

      But their are great logistical challenges in quarinteen operations in space. Earthers are easy because they got no moxie in that gravity well they cling too.

    3. Quarentine

      Excellent book. I finally “got” Schroedinger’s cat while reading this.

      1. Gah…Quarantine

    4. I’d consider a “down low” a quarantine.

  39. Had to dig this up as soon as i read this

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/ind…..2004#comic

    1. LOL . . . thanks, that’s a keeper.

  40. I like the Gamma Ray Burst.. Got to get me one of those.

  41. I’m kind of doubtful that the aliens will want to eat us. The biological exclusion principle applied to Neanderthals and modern humans (a theory that is very close to being outdated, by the way) because they were chemically similar. Because the availability of different elements varies across the universe and even the galaxy, there is a very low chance that they will have a similar chemical makeup. Therefore, the resources we have here on Earth will probably be useless. Any civilization intelligent enough to master intense space travel will probably be doing so through ion jets, solar cells, or matter-antimatter collisions. The only way to maintain that for a reasonable period of time would be to manufacture those elements themselves using the Hydrogen available in outer space, thus removing the need for space conquest.
    There is also a huge multitude of reasons that we could not be hearing from aliens. You are forgetting the vast multitude of radio frequencies and the sheer number of directions they could be coming from, and from that the sensitivity of some of those signals, and possibly other forms of communication we do not yet know of, or some way to neutralize the radio waves past a certain point specifically so that they do not bleed out to prying ears like ours. The Great Filter is completely possible, but I’m not buying it just yet. Let’s wait and see.

  42. It seems nutty to talk about cosmic silence when our incomprehensibly massive galaxy is less than a pin prick in the vastness of the universe. There could be many trillions of civilizations out there and still it amount to a needle in a billion has stacks to come across one.

  43. Mieczyslaw touched on the real reason the aliens are staying away: They know we would sucker them into bailing out the Fed by backing the dollar with endless rounds of QE (Quatloo Easing), resulting in the ultimate collapse of their Galactic Empire. That, and the fact that we’re terribly short of unobtainium.

  44. Given what I know about physics, it seems likely we haven’t met any aliens because there really is no good way to travel through space in a timely manner.

  45. So most of what I have to say has already been said i guess.

    Our planet has been around for millions of years.
    But just five thousand years ago we were barely more than animals.
    In the next 5 thousand years, we will probably be immortal, and likely we will functionally be Gods compared to ourselves today.

    What would we, our Godlike selves of 5,000 years from now want of even our current selves? Let alone a different species?
    (assuming that everything there is to gain from studying us could probably be figured out in 5 minutes and would be mostly boring after that).

  46. This is a theory which I think is most likely. I think its called the “olduvai gap” theory.

    Our current high-technology is utterly dependent on cheap fossil fuel energy. There are no viable alternatives. Once fossil fuel energy runs low, then we lose the capacity for all space trace and communication, and slowly decline back to early 20th century levels. If we’re lucky.

    If the same thing happens to every other technological species, then there’s your “great silence” explained.

    1. “There are no viable alternatives.”

      Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors.

      http://energyfromthorium.com/

  47. CSI
    Solar?
    Nuclear?
    Coal?
    Wind?
    Vegetable oil?

    And then surely there is some shit that we haven’t though of yet.

    1. We could have used our fossil fuel reserves to bootstrap ourself into a space civilization. Instead we squandered it on crap like wars, suvs and superhighways. Our ancestors won’t be exploring space, they’ll be struggling to grow enough food to feed themselves.

  48. The Fermi Paradox says it all. If there is intelligent life in the universe, Where are they?

  49. Your hair stylist is the person who can really tell you as to what would be best for your hair.
    Hair Wefts can be done with human as well as artificial hair but not every one is right for this process. If your stylist advises you against this process then you must surely listen to them.

    1. AH HA!

      The aliens are harvesting human hair for wefts!

      WEFTS are consuming humanity!

  50. Something I’ve never understood: As enormous as the electromagnetic spectrum is, why do we expect aliens conveniently to use the same wavelengths we use, or in the same ways, or at power levels we can detect from Earth?

  51. Hairless apes bend over and prepare to be sodomized by my huge, spiked, cuttle fish Cthulu! After I am done I will rape the earth itself. HA! HA! HA! Before I do that I will snort all the crank and meth in the world so you have a little time left…

  52. Hairless apes bend over and prepare to be sodomized by my huge, spiked, cuttle fish Cthulu! After I am done I will rape the earth itself. HA! HA! HA! Before I do that I will snort all the crank and meth in the world so you have a little time left…

  53. Hairless apes bend over and prepare to be sodomized by my huge, spiked, cuttle fish Cthulu! After I am done I will rape the earth itself. HA! HA! HA! Before I do that I will snort all the crank and meth in the world so you have a little time left…

  54. Hairless apes bend over and prepare to be sodomized by my huge, spiked, cuttle fish Cthulu! After I am done I will rape the earth itself. HA! HA! HA! Before I do that I will snort all the crank and meth in the world so you have a little time left…

  55. Assume aliens exist in our galaxy. Some percentage of them must be brain-eating zombies, who would spread through the galaxy eating other aliens out of existence.

    As there is no alien zombie invasion, aliens cannot exist.

  56. Roger Ebert is an alien-human hybrid. There was a error in the DNA recombination. Will not happen again.

  57. European hair can really give you a very good look but you should be thoroughly aware of its pros and cons. People who have very feeble hair or no hair can go for hair plantations or permanent hair expansions but those who just want a new look or long hair can use the temporary methods.

  58. Hair extensions can really give you a very good look but you should be thoroughly aware of its pros and cons. People who have very feeble hair or no hair can go for hair plantations or permanent hair expansions but those who just want a new look or long hair can use the temporary methods. Ibeautyhair.com

  59. Hair extensions can really give you a very good look but you should be thoroughly aware of its pros and cons. People who have very feeble hair or no hair can go for hair plantations or permanent hair expansions but those who just want a new look or long hair can use the temporary methods. Ibeautyhair.com

  60. (I haven’t read all the other 350 comments so maybe someone else made this point before.) Having just read through Nick Bostrom’s article I noticed Bostrom’s conclusions are made valid by the hidden assumption that there could only be one Great Filter. Of course, if there’s only one Great Filer it has to be either in our past or in our future. Bostrom doesn’t seem to rule out the possibility of there being two or more Great Filters. If that’s the case, there being for example Two Great Filters, it might be the case we have one in our past and one in our future. If that’s the case, not finding any life on Mars won’t mean all that much. May be life on Mars couldn’t get past Great Filter No 1, but we’d still have to pass through Great Filter No. 2.

  61. We are currently being invaded by a hive-mind species, genetically-engineered to look like us, that emphasizes collective action and group-think. Rumors have it that they call themselves “Liberals”.

    BTW, V has returned for season 2! (Ob)Anna kicks ass!

  62. If the aliens turn out to be Sagan’s sappy European Social Democrats, then I’m afraid I’ll have to use a death ray to vaporize myself.

  63. Anyone interested in learning about aliens and ufo technology from government officials willing to swear before Congress should check out the Presidential briefing found here:
    http://www.disclosureproject.org/access/

  64. I really believe we are not alone in this galaxy! And perhaps they also have casinos there! 😉

  65. Get government replica uggs out of education and kids will get educated or fake uggs for sale not, as their parents desire. More of them will actually become educated without government than do now with it.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.