Possible Explanations To Fermi's Paradox?

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  • #1
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I think we can all agree that no alien civilization has made contact with us yet, but does this really mean we are alone in the galaxy?
 

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  • #2
cragwolf
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Gold Barz said:
I think we can all agree that no alien civilization has made contact with us yet, but does this really mean we are alone in the galaxy?

Possibly, but not necessarily. There's a book that speculates on answers to Fermi's question, by Stephen Webb, but I haven't read it and I don't know how good it is. It's an entertaining question to think about, but you will not find any definitive answers.

I suspect that highly intelligent life may be relatively rare, that interstellar travel is impractical, and that the lifetimes of technologically advanced species may be limited by adverse natural events and/or the tendency towards self-destruction. But what do I know?
 
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  • #3
mathman
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Not only has no one made contact with us, but we haven't made contact with anyione else. As cragwolf suggests, it is hard to get from here to there.
 
  • #4
amt
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So for now we can conclude that we are alone and hence, we must celebrate life to the fullest! :biggrin:

My theory: If we are alone, then we are the result of Intelligent Design.
If there are others, then we are the result of Billions of years of on going evolution in a never-ending chain reaction of constantly evolving Universes.
 
  • #5
Gold Barz
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Even if there were 50 highly advanced alien civilizations, they still could be separated by 4,000,000,000 stars on average...and if there were 100, they could be separated by 2,000,000,000 stars
 
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  • #7
tony873004
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Imagine if other intelligent life is so far advanced that we wouldn't recognize it if it were staring us in the face.

Think of how much more advanced we are than a colony of ants. If humans inhabited a previously uninhabited island, and tried to make contact with the ants I doubt we could. I doubt the ants would be rubbing antennas telling each other that humans have arrived and are communicating with us. They'd just see us as an obstacle to be worked around, no different than a tree or a turtle.

Imagine an alien civilization so far advanced that they need not take precautions to hide their presence. We wouldn't know they existed if they waved their arms in front of our faces.

Imagine if stars and planets were actually alive. We see them as just balls of rock or gas. But our brains, to an outside observer, aren’t much different than 5 pounds of ground chuck. The chemistry inside stars and planets may be much more complicated than we imagine, playing host to intelligence and consciousness. We'd never know because we're looking for biology.

Not necessarily my opinions... Just trying to play devil's advocate... :devil:
 
  • #8
Chronos
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Gold Barz said:
Dont want to spam the forum with another thread but try your hand at the Drake Equation

http://www.msnbc.com/modules/drake/default.asp

I got 50
I think the tightest constraint is how long a communication capable civilization can survive. We have only been communication capable for a matter of decades, but are imminently imperiled by our own technology. We could bomb ourselves back to the stone ages [or worse] in the blink of an eye. We are also imperiled by potential ecological disasters of our own making that could do an equally fine job of 'stoning' civilization [or worse]. Based on the one example we do have to examine, I don't think life or intelligence is nearly as rare as it's ability to avoid self destructing shortly after acquiring the capability to do so.
 
  • #9
turbo
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Chronos said:
Based on the one example we do have to examine, I don't think life or intelligence is nearly as rare as it's ability to avoid self destructing shortly after acquiring the capability to do so.
It's a sobering (actually depressing) thought, but in our society the motivations and efforts of decent ethical people can be undone by those who lust only for power and control. These maniacs realize that through lies, manipulation, etc, they can acquire the means to destroy life, destroy societies, etc. Usually, they fill their rhetoric with words like "freedom", "liberty", and "security", while they work very hard to deny these things to entire classes of people, sometimes entire societies. Eventually, careless use or intentional use of the destructive capabilities controlled by these sociopaths may spell the end for the human race. For this reason, the Drake equation should contain a term for the ethics of the intelligent species. In a truly ethical society, all life would be valued and individuals would act in a manner consistent with the Golden Rule. In a moralistic society, in which behavioral motivations are derived from rules, religious tradition, political doctrines, laws, etc, almost any atrocious act against another individual can be "justified". I fear that the long-term survival rates of moralistic societies will be rather poor compared the the survival rates of ethical societies.

I'm sorry to wander so far into philosophy, but I feel that the capacity for self-destruction is an important factor, and the motivations of the people wielding the most power of self-destruction are of critical importance.
 
  • #10
tony873004
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Chronos said:
I think the tightest constraint is how long a communication capable civilization can survive. We have only been communication capable for a matter of decades, but are imminently imperiled by our own technology. We could bomb ourselves back to the stone ages [or worse] in the blink of an eye. We are also imperiled by potential ecological disasters of our own making that could do an equally fine job of 'stoning' civilization [or worse]. Based on the one example we do have to examine, I don't think life or intelligence is nearly as rare as it's ability to avoid self destructing shortly after acquiring the capability to do so.
Let me argue the other side.

I don't think we could bomb ourselves to the stone ages if we tried. An all-out nuclear war doesn't have the kill power to eliminate everybody. It might kill most, but there are not enough nukes to bomb the countless populated rural areas, many of which are not downwind from a major target. The lack of infrastructure would take a big toll amongst those that survived the nuclear war. But there's lots of people on Earth, and the most resourceful would find a way to survive. In fact, it might thin the gene pool to only the most intelligent.

Even if the conditions were stone age afterwards, the survivors are people from technologically advanced civilations, not cavemen. Once intelligent life gets a taste of technology, there's no turning back. It may take 2 or 3 or even 10 generations, but we'll have cell phones and space shuttles and starbucks coffee again.

As far as an ecological disaster...
Man survived the ice age. Global warming has happened before, probably many times in the history of mankind, and mankind has survived. Mankind has survived droughts, floods, etc. Even in the most dire global warming scenarios, Canada will still be pleasant.

And unlike any other species on Earth, man has the ability to deal with asteriod and comet threats.

Mankind is resourceful. Mankind is here for a VERY long time.
 
  • #11
Gold Barz
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So all aliens have human tendencies?...the tendency to harm to each other?
 
  • #12
Gold Barz
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What if the aliens were very resourceful and just took what they needed? not populate the whole galaxy, tell me just because they arent here does that mean they dont exist? I see alot of people are saying "well they arent here yet so they probably dont exist"

Another question has the Milky Way galaxy allowed enough time for life to evolve and populate the galaxy?
 
  • #13
EnumaElish
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Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
 
  • #14
Gold Barz
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Yeah, you basically summed up what I felt about the paradox, although the paradox does proves that technological civilizations IS NOT abundant..
 
  • #15
ohwilleke
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I think that we are less advanced over a colony of ants than we would like to believe, if the colony as a whole, rather than individual workers are viewed as the organism.
 
  • #16
Chronos
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My point is/was [and much in agreement with turbo], we have been dangerously close to catastrophe [all out nuclear war] at least once in the measly ~half century we have been technologically capable of communicating with extrasolar civilizations. Assuming 'survival of the fittest' is a universal caveat for life, the tendency to destroy competitors for the 'top of the food chain' award is hardwired. Technololgy makes us more efficient assasins. A thousand years ago, a single 'terrorist' could only take out a handful of people. But with access to the right technology, a modern 'terrorist' could take out millions. With another thousand years of technological advances, is it so far fetched to think a single, technologically enabled individual could take us all out? The Fermi paradox suggests we might be well advised to get our priorities straight.
 
  • #17
turbo
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tony873004 said:
I don't think we could bomb ourselves to the stone ages if we tried. An all-out nuclear war doesn't have the kill power to eliminate everybody. It might kill most, but there are not enough nukes to bomb the countless populated rural areas, many of which are not downwind from a major target.
You don't need to kill everyone with blast effects and radiation...Sagan et al thought that as few as 100 nuclear weapons (especially ones targeted on smoky targets such as oil facilities)would be enough to trigger a nuclear winter that would destroy most species. I would estimate that there are probably 200-500 times that number of nukes in the arsenals of the Earth's industrialized countries.

http://www.sgr.org.uk/climate/NuclearWinter_NL27.htm

Photosynthesis drives most of this planet - even the largest whales in the ocean rely on phytoplankton for food. Some life would survive, but it would be a bit of a setback to have to start repopulating Earth with Sulfur-loving tube worms thriving around volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean. OK, some land life might survive - my bet is on cockroaches and perhaps Keith Richards (nothing else has seemed to be able to kill him!). :rolleyes:
 
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  • #18
Garth
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Chronos said:
The Fermi paradox suggests we might be well advised to get our priorities straight.
Bang on target!

Various religions over the centuries have warned of impending doom, the judgement of God on humankind, it seems to me that in our generation God has given us the means to judge ourselves...

Garth
 
  • #19
Chessguy
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Turbo-1,

While, the nuclear winter that article describes is certainly horrible, I'm not convinced that such a disaster would wipe out humanity. It makes a comparison to the Cretaceous extinction which wiped out 75% of species. That means that 25% of species survived. Many mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and birds survived it - why couldn't we?

Given time our destructive technologies will undoubtedly improve. I guess I'm hoping though that other technologies that may increase our odds will be developed in time like space exploration/interstellar travel.
 
  • #20
turbo
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Chessguy said:
Turbo-1,

While, the nuclear winter that article describes is certainly horrible, I'm not convinced that such a disaster would wipe out humanity. It makes a comparison to the Cretaceous extinction which wiped out 75% of species. That means that 25% of species survived. Many mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and birds survived it - why couldn't we?

Given time our destructive technologies will undoubtedly improve. I guess I'm hoping though that other technologies that may increase our odds will be developed in time like space exploration/interstellar travel.
The original group that posited nuclear winter (including Sagan) thought that 100 well-placed nuclear devices would be enough to trigger the cataclysm. The US alone has 100 to 200 times that many nuclear devices, and when you add in Russia, China, GB, France, Pakistan, Israel, etc, etc...well, you can do the math (provided the quantitative estimates in the publicly-available literature are even OOM accurate). I think any hope that humanity might survive a massive nuclear exchange is ambitious but mis-placed. The small percentage of surviving species would likely be those sheltered by deep water, earth, etc and least reliant on photosynthesis for food.
 
  • #21
Antiphon
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Actually, extreme conflict is in our nature. I see our survival as a species
not in terms of good people vs. bad people but as a race between
propulsion technology and biological weapons engineering.

We need to get off the planet and have redundent civilzations going
so that if disease, comet, engineered virus or nuclear weapons wipe
us out on earth it's not the end.

(I'm a realist and wanna-be-survivalist. :rofl: )
 
  • #22
Gold Barz
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Alot of people say their reasoning why they think that there are vey few, if not, no other technological civilizations in the Milky Way was that because if there were a decent amount of them, atleast one would have populated the galaxy, do you think that it would be inevitable like that?
 
  • #23
mapper
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Gold Barz said:
I think we can all agree that no alien civilization has made contact with us yet, but does this really mean we are alone in the galaxy?

How can we all agree with this? Isnt that so limited in scope, mind and logic? There very well could be and most probably civilizations that are millions of years beyond us. We would more or less appear to be maggots even bacteria in respect to their evolution and technological development.

Perhaps they are already among us. Maybe we just cant perceive or even comprehend to perceive. Also, maybe that is what all this god/religion thing comes from. They may be nothing more then a super advanced god-like race to us.

We may think we know a lot now, which we do. But i can promise you one thing, if we evolve and survive over another million years, we will have a much different civilization, technologies etc...

As human beings, we need to be more humble in what we know and where we think we are going.

And maybe that is our purpose, lifes purpose. To become god-like through knowledge, wisdom and experiance.
 
  • #24
turbo
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Gold Barz said:
Alot of people say their reasoning why they think that there are vey few, if not, no other technological civilizations in the Milky Way was that because if there were a decent amount of them, atleast one would have populated the galaxy, do you think that it would be inevitable like that?
Hey, Gold! We are here and we have not populated our neighborhood of the galaxy, nor have we populated our solar system. Reasons:
We do not have the resources available to populate even the Moon. We do not have the ability to properly shield spacecraft to protect humans from Solar tantrums beyond the Earth's magnetic field. We do not have a propulsion technology capable of reaching the nearest planets in a reasonable period of time (for manned trips), nor do we have the lift capability to put all the fuel, shielding, consumables, etc in orbit to assemble a probe suitable for even for a brief manned visit to the Martian surface within our lifetimes. Nobody has bothered to tell President Bush these uncomfortable facts, so he blithely spouts comic-book rhetoric about sending men to Mars, despite the fact that his administration cut funding for NASA's breakthrough propulsion research.

Why should we expect that intelligent life will spread through the galaxy? In my (admittedly biased) opinion, intelligent, ethical creatures (and we are not convincingly either, as a species) would value quality of life over quantity, and would strive to live harmonically within their environs, instead of looting every easily-recoverable resource until it is threatened or lost.
 
  • #25
MonstersFromTheId
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My own answer to Fermi...

... would be that the reason we've never heard from other civ's that might be around in our Gal is because NOBODY, absolutely NOBODY, uses radio waves to communicate across interstellar distances.
Just because using radio waves (or light waves, or whatever) is the only way *we* can currently come up with to use as the basis for interstellar communication, doesn't make it any less of a really DUMB choice.
We can be forgiven for making such a silly-assed choice given that we haven't come up with any alternatives ... yet, but lets face it, that still doesn't make electromagnetic emissions any less stupid a means of communicating across interstellar distances.
Fermi’s paradox, I suspect, is a lot like a stone-age cave dweller asking why tattooing a message on the ass of a fish and tossing it in the ocean isn't getting any responses from the suspected far flung lands on the opposite shores of that ocean.
It's not getting any responses because nobody's crazy enough to be checking the ass of every fish they catch to see if there are any messages on it.

What I expect, personally, and maybe it's just me, is that sooner or later, (possibly MUCH later), somebody's going to either develop, or stumble onto, a MUCH more practical means of communicating across interstellar distances, and THAT'S when we're all going to be shocked by how many people ARE talking to each other.

So what's that "more practical means" likely to be?
Frankly I don't think that's even a question worth asking this early in our development. It's likely to be something every bit as wholly beyond our imaginings as radio waves would be to a stone-age cave dweller. We can talk all we want about using "worm-holes" or some mythical "sub-space", but that's really no different at all than any stone-age cave dweller talking about using pixie dust sprinkled on magic flying stones.

Show me a practical, working means, of sending and receiving messages across interstellar distances, and only at THAT point am I willing to entertain Fermi's question of why we haven't heard from anyone.

Until then, imo, we can spend all the time and money we want checking fishes' asses for tattoos from far away lands, but imo, that little exercise, even it IS the best shot we've got, isn't all that likely to get us anywhere. It's a VERY big ocean, with one HELL of a lot of fish in it, and just because we haven't found any fish with weird alien text tattooed to their asses, doesn't mean there's nobody out there. That's just a ridiculous assumption to make imo.
 
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  • #26
turbo
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Respectfully disagree, MFTI

I've got to take issue with your characterization of the search for extraterrestrial life. It's not as random and haphazard as you describe, by a long shot. If we find it helpful to map parts of the cosmos in the 21cm wavelength, other beings might, too. It is a logical extension to consider that if we wanted to be found, we might emit a modulated signal in this wavelength, and other similarly motivated beings might decide to do this as well. This is not a "message in a bottle" type of approach, nor is it equivalent to tattooing fish. It's really quite logical, regardless of the odds of success.
 
  • #27
Chronos
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I agree with turbo, broadcasting on 21 cm would be like dialing 911 on your cell phone.
 
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  • #28
MonstersFromTheId
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Eh, yeah, I DO get your point, but I think your missin mine. I'm not trying to put down the search for intelligent E.T. life, or represent it as either radom or haphazard. I think it's woefully primitive, and as such highly unlikely to succeed, (which is by no means an excuse not to at least make the effort in trying with what little we've got to work with).

The point I'm really trying to make is that "Fermi's Paradox" is based on some pretty sh!tty logic. Just because you shout "Here I am. Is there anybody out there?", and don't get an answer, is no reason at all to start questioning whether or not anyone IS out there. Imo, by far, the MUCH more likely explanation is that no one heard the call.

I DO take issue with the idea that "broadcasting on 21 cm would be like dialing 911 on your cell phone". That's a pretty over the top assumption to make imo. Broadcasting on 21 cm could very well be more like beating on a phone wire with a stick. IF the phone company had sensors installed on phone wires to detect attempts at communication by people far too primitive to figure out how to tap into the line somebody might notice. But I'm not sure that that's all that likely.

You have to consider the idea that any culture that's developed technology capable of practical interstellar communication may not have been using electromagnetic emissions of any kind at all for communication for hundreds to many thousands of years.

So who's listening? A few crackpot amatures that built "radio recievers" in their basements based on arcane technology from so far in their own culture's past that most people don't even know what a "radio wave" is? Mind you those recievers, built from their culture's equivilant of a chip of flint taken from a disposable lighter, and a bone toothpic, are probably far more advanced and capable than any reciever we'll be capable of building over the next 2,000 years, but that doesn't change the possibility that their technology isn't built to detect communications by way of using such an anachronistic medium of exchange.

It could very well be the case that electromagnetic emissions aren't used for communication of any form at all in more advance cultures than our own, and that our own attempts at communication by that means do little more than make somebody's toaster act a little weird at times.
 
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  • #29
Kazza_765
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I agree with you MFTI. Who knows what means of communication we will have in a few 100,000 years, that would be doubling the time us H.Sapiens have existed. But if there are other civilizations out there the chance they would be within even a million years of us technologically or evolutionarily(sp?) is pretty unlikely in a 15billion year old universe, assuming of course they continue to advance. Chances are we can't even conceive of the means to detect them, let alone recognise them if we could.

Btw, you have some out there analogies. Fish, tattoos, pixie dust...
 
  • #30
setAI
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Fermi's paradox is rather bold for a bunch of monkeys- we don't even have the ability to detect something like neutronium femtotechnology- let alone possible planck-scale vendekotechnology- and guess what? no alien civilization is going to decide to stagnate at the nanotechnological level using ordinary matter- in other words we are simply to primitive to see aliens- even if they were right in front of us
 
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  • #31
turbo
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MonstersFromTheId said:
I DO take issue with the idea that "broadcasting on 21 cm would be like dialing 911 on your cell phone". That's a pretty over the top assumption to make imo. Broadcasting on 21 cm could very well be more like beating on a phone wire with a stick. IF the phone company had sensors installed on phone wires to detect attempts at communication by people far too primitive to figure out how to tap into the line somebody might notice. But I'm not sure that that's all that likely.
Broadcasting and listening on the 21 cm band may ultimately be fruitless, but it's a pretty smart way to attract attention for two reasons.
1) Neutral hydrogen is pretty fundamental, and it's a good bet that anybody mapping the universe in EM will pay special attention to that wavelength and actually conduct surveys (large-area studies) in that wavelength.
2) Patches of neutral hydrogen do not exhibit modulations in complex repeating patterns, and any such broadcast would be a pretty good indication of intelligence behind the source.

You might not like Chronos' comparison of 21 cm to 911, but it is a valid point. Anywhere in the US, you can dial 911 on your cell phone and it will be universally recognized as a call for assistance. I don't know how many other countries might have adopted that code (ignorant on that count) but it is very handy here. Not being able to communicate with other civilizations yet (and set up a common meeting ground), we have to guess where they might be looking for signs, and 21 cm is a very logical place to look.

Compared to putting plaques and phonograph records on interplanetary probes, broadcasting and searching at 21 cm is just a little (maybe 1010 times :devil:) likely to yield something, if only a qualified negative result.
 
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  • #32
MonstersFromTheId
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"Btw, you have some out there analogies. Fish, tattoos, pixie dust..."
;-)
I know K, but I'm trying to keep this on the level of a friendly chat hanging out over a back yard fence post. A little absurd humor never hurts ya know?
-------------------

"in other words we are simply to primitive to see aliens- even if they were right in front of us"

A valid point setAI, and to an extent that's what I'm getting at. If the day comes when we either develop, or stumble onto, a practical means of communicating across interstellar distances, we could well find the universe chuck FULL of civilizations, all babbling all away to each other, in a vast noisy conversation in which ours becomes just one more voice among the throng.
-------------------------------

"Broadcasting and listening on the 21 cm band may ultimately be fruitless, but it's a pretty smart way to attract attention for two reasons.
1) Neutral hydrogen is pretty fundamental, and it's a good bet that anybody mapping the universe in EM will pay special attention to that wavelength and actually conduct surveys (large-area studies) in that wavelength.
2) Patches of neutral hydrogen do not exhibit modulations in complex repeating patterns, and any such broadcast would be a pretty good indication of intelligence behind the source."

Actually Turbo I think it's an admirably shrewd way of calling attention to ourselves *given the tools we've got to work with at the moment*.

And I have to stress, yet again, that it's, at least imo, no waste of time on our part to try despite our evident handicaps and/or the odds against our getting an answer. We're NEVER going to get anywhere by throwing up our hands and crying in our beer over the fact that we don't have better means at out disposal. Our ancestors put up with using horses and sail boats to explore their world, and before that used their feet, but they didn't wait around with their collective thumbs in their mouths for the advent of airplanes, helicopters, "humvees" and air conditioned land rovers to do it in more practical and comfortable style.

But.... consider for a moment the implications of a culture that has access to "practical means of interstellar communication". I'm being very intentionally vague about what "practical means of interstellar communication" means for a reason. I've got no idea what that means would be. I'm a cave dweller speculating on the possible existence of radio waves here remember, we all are.
*IF* such means even exist, and frankly, I think we all have to admit that none of us have any way at all of knowing that one way or another at *this* point in time, then it's possible that nobody out there is "mapping the universe in the EM bands" anymore (at least no one still restricted to such primitive means of mapping things, that also happens to be close enough to respond with an answer in the next thousand years).
Why bother continuing to map the universe in the EM band when you've got much more interesting and productive ways of mapping things? Any such civilizations may have completed "mapping the universe" at least in the EM band, several thousand years ago, and moved on to mapping it by considerably more productive ways. The EM band might well be something they just don't bother paying much attention to anymore.

All of which could be mistaken for an argument against things like SETI, but it's not, it's an argument for patience an perseverance.
Fermi, for all his genius, was being a bit of a jackass imo, by posing the question that if there IS intelligent life out there, why haven't we all ready heard from them?
All I'm trying to point out is that there are probably PLENTY of reasons we haven't heard from them, that getting and answer soon or easily could very well be unlikely, and that inferring that there's no one out there just because we haven't heard from them (using what could well be woefully primitive and inadequate means of doing so), borders on childish petulance and sublime arrogance.
 
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  • #33
Chronos
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I think you have too lightly dismissed what Turbo was saying. Dodging and twisting does not make a compelling argument. Searching for signals at 21 cm makes perfect sense.
 
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  • #34
MonstersFromTheId
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Please take the floor and expand Chronos.
Seriously, I really don't mind having it stuck up my nose when it's due. (That's half the fun of this forum, and a good way to learn).
 
  • #35
Garth
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turbo-1 said:
You might not like Chronos' comparison of 21 cm to 911, but it is a valid point. Anywhere in the US, you can dial 911 on your cell phone and it will be universally recognized as a call for assistance. I don't know how many other countries might have adopted that code (ignorant on that count) but it is very handy here. Not being able to communicate with other civilizations yet (and set up a common meeting ground), we have to guess where they might be looking for signs, and 21 cm is a very logical place to look.
Here in Britain we dial 999, (which I believe is where the idea for the American 911 came from, but that is another story!) But it does highlight the fact that we have to watch on all other possible "21cm" frequencies as well. And "all" can be a very large number!

Garth
 

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