Need a good analogy of finding life in the universe

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  • #26
DHF
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The Fermi paradox raises another, more ominous thought, IMO. Perhaps interstellar travel is prohibitively expensive, or, so demanding we would appear about as interesting as an ant colony to any who had mastered it.
an Excellent point. overcoming the physics needed to casually travel the stars would denote a extremely advanced society. Your Ant Analog is a good one. Assume you have an ant colony in the middle of an empty field. you walk past that ant hill. you might look down and think "hmm, look at those busy ants" then go about your way. meanwhile the ants are asking themselves "there is lift outside this anthill why hasn't it visited us and introduced itself?"


Don
 
  • #27
phyzguy
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an Excellent point. overcoming the physics needed to casually travel the stars would denote a extremely advanced society. Your Ant Analog is a good one. Assume you have an ant colony in the middle of an empty field. you walk past that ant hill. you might look down and think "hmm, look at those busy ants" then go about your way. meanwhile the ants are asking themselves "there is lift outside this anthill why hasn't it visited us and introduced itself?"
Don
I don't think this is a good analogy at all. The ants are surrounded by evidence of more advanced life (us), they are simply incapable of noticing it. For your analogy to work, we would need to be surrounded by more advanced intelligences who have modified the galaxy extensively, but in ways that we are incapable of noticing. The fact is that we have a good inventory of the universe around us in ways that ants do not.
 
  • #28
DHF
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I don't think this is a good analogy at all. The ants are surrounded by evidence of more advanced life (us), they are simply incapable of noticing it. For your analogy to work, we would need to be surrounded by more advanced intelligences who have modified the galaxy extensively, but in ways that we are incapable of noticing. The fact is that we have a good inventory of the universe around us in ways that ants do not.
I don't agree that we have a good inventory of the universe. I feel our understanding of the universe is still in its infancy. we have glimpses of other stars and hard confirmation of planets in a few hundred systems but there are literally trillions of stars out there.

you feel that if the universe was populated then there would be obvious evidence but I feel that the ant analogy is fitting because just as we have modified our world extensively to fit us, the ants in that single ant colony in the middle of a field are unaware of our presence. unless we made direct contact with them they wouldn't know we existed or frankly even be capable of comprehending us. if you placed a cell phone next to that ant hill they would be incapable of fathoming what it was much less its function.

In this same way I feel that any race that has figured out how to traverse the stars as casually as we traverse our globe then that race will have evolved beyond what we are currently capable of understanding. Another thing to consider is that that a highly advanced race that is aware of our presence might take pains to go unnoticed just as scientists take pains not to contaminate a sub glacial lake or an uncontacted tribe in the wilderness.

I am not saying the universe is swimming with Galactic empires, I am just saying its possible for another race to be out there and us not know it.

Don
 
  • #29
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..... Perhaps........ we would appear about as interesting as an ant colony to any who had mastered it.
more likely the constituents of our planet will be of value to them....??

Anyway, I do not want to be a slave laborer!!
 
  • #30
phyzguy
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I don't agree that we have a good inventory of the universe. I feel our understanding of the universe is still in its infancy. we have glimpses of other stars and hard confirmation of planets in a few hundred systems but there are literally trillions of stars out there.

you feel that if the universe was populated then there would be obvious evidence but I feel that the ant analogy is fitting because just as we have modified our world extensively to fit us, the ants in that single ant colony in the middle of a field are unaware of our presence. unless we made direct contact with them they wouldn't know we existed or frankly even be capable of comprehending us. if you placed a cell phone next to that ant hill they would be incapable of fathoming what it was much less its function.

In this same way I feel that any race that has figured out how to traverse the stars as casually as we traverse our globe then that race will have evolved beyond what we are currently capable of understanding. Another thing to consider is that that a highly advanced race that is aware of our presence might take pains to go unnoticed just as scientists take pains not to contaminate a sub glacial lake or an uncontacted tribe in the wilderness.

I am not saying the universe is swimming with Galactic empires, I am just saying its possible for another race to be out there and us not know it.

Don
I understand what you are saying, but I just don't buy it. You say, "if you placed a cell phone next to that ant hill they would be incapable of fathoming what it was much less its function." Notice that you don't say that they wouldn't know it was there (because they would). To continue the analogy further, do we see anything lying around that we are incapable of fathoming? Do we see any mysterious structures that we have no idea what they are? The answer is no, everything that we see is quite explainable.

I think it must be the case that an alien race, no matter how advanced, would still be composed of matter and energy, and we would be able to perceive them and their constructs, even if we couldn't understand them. The only alternative I can see would be if this hypothetical alien race existed on a "higher plane" that we are incapable of perceiving, but this takes us out of the realm of science and into mysticism.
 
  • #31
DHF
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I understand what you are saying, but I just don't buy it. You say, "if you placed a cell phone next to that ant hill they would be incapable of fathoming what it was much less its function." Notice that you don't say that they wouldn't know it was there (because they would). To continue the analogy further, do we see anything lying around that we are incapable of fathoming? Do we see any mysterious structures that we have no idea what they are? The answer is no, everything that we see is quite explainable.

I think it must be the case that an alien race, no matter how advanced, would still be composed of matter and energy, and we would be able to perceive them and their constructs, even if we couldn't understand them. The only alternative I can see would be if this hypothetical alien race existed on a "higher plane" that we are incapable of perceiving, but this takes us out of the realm of science and into mysticism.
Even leaving the Ant Analogy off the table I feel that we would be hard pressed to notice another civilization if that race didn't knock on our front door. There are thousands of asteroids in our solar system that are unaccounted for, highlighting that fact was the rock that exploded over Russia. Until it hit our sky we had no idea it was there. On the larger scale we recently discovered a planet in Alpha Centuri. We have been watching the skies for a very long time and cosmically speaking it was right next door but we completely missed it until a few years ago, just confirming it in 2012.

If our astronomy was a lot more advanced or if NASA had the budget of a pharmaceutics company then I would be more inclined to agree with you that we would notice if life was out there. Unfortunately I think we have a long way to come before we can look at our sky and say with confidence that we have it all figured out.

Don
 
  • #32
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A meteorite with amino acids was only recently discovered.....
and they are still having issues deciding if life [as we know it] exists or existed on Mars....

And who sayseven if we found life we'd even recognize it if different from our carbon based life forms??
 
  • #33
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A meteorite with amino acids was only recently discovered.....
and they are still having issues deciding if life [as we know it] exists or existed on Mars....

And who sayseven if we found life we'd even recognize it if different from our carbon based life forms??
If it's to become as complicated as us, I can't see how anything else would do.

Reading the wiki article it looks like carbon has some pretty unique characteristics with respect to electrons.


That said I hear ya with respect to "even recognizing it". Just saw a "deep sea" type show that featured an Octopus. My Land those things are strange, and apparently as smart as my dog...in the realm of mimicry . Thought I was looking at a rock, then all of the sudden it turn into some weired animal and "swam" away.
 
  • #34
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I agree that the number of stars and planets is huge. I also agree that life is tenacious and tends to spread to diverse environments. This is the basis of the Fermi paradox - if intelligent life is common, it should already have spread throughout the galaxy. However, you can't argue that the probability of intelligent life existing elsewhere is good because the number of planets is large, because you have no idea how small the probability of intelligent life developing is.
The fact that we (life) exist here on this planet earth tells me that the probability of similar life existing elsewhere in this galaxy is very high. Seems like the more we know, the more we know how little we know, and I think we need to accept this in our thought process.
 
  • #35
Chronos
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I think it is a lot like the copernican principle. Our existence is statistically meaningless. A sample of one proves nothing. I suspect the fact we are here is highly significant and strongly suggests we are not alone. I do not, however, believe we have any realistic chance of 'communicating' with our fellow confused beings.
 
  • #36
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Lower life forms would appear to be unable to spread beyond a single star.
not necessarily so. If amino acids can make it, what else??

I watched a tv program last night "Aliens'.....a series with different topics....not all that interesting overall but they made some interesting comments:

DNA is now believed well suited to interstellar travel,
an advanced civilization might well go robotic themselves but with species 'intelligence',
Might be an advanced civilization would be more interested in our resources than humans,
If predators more intelligent than prey, might alien travelers be so determined?
 
  • #37
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...To continue the analogy further, do we see anything lying around that we are incapable of fathoming? Do we see any mysterious structures that we have no idea what they are? The answer is no, everything that we see is quite explainable...
Dark matter, dark energy, graviton, Unifying theory...
 

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