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THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.
The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.
Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.
"To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."
The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.
One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.
Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
We always weigh the available evidence because in most cases there's not absolute evidence. With Ufology and the Paranormal the skeptics want an illogical all or nothing debate.
Either we are 100% certain or 100% uncertain and all things are possible. Of course there are other possibilities but they are not all weighed equally. We weigh these things within reason as to what's most likely and what's less likely based on the available evidence.
The skeptic does not want to weigh the evidence within reason. This is because they have no evidence to weigh. So they want an all or nothing debate.
war and peace are likely concepts that are unique to our barbaric species. as hawking suggests life is not limited to forms like our own. Planetary based life is all we can conceive of but it is possible that life exists in the nether of space itself or even within the stars. Such beings would have much different composition and a different purpose to existence than we do.
Originally posted by ghostsoldier
I agree that we shouldn't go looking for aliens.
Instead we should be cleaning up our house, before they come and visit.
I very much doubt that any species that can travel between stars and galaxies would be a war-like people. They would be an extreme rarity in anycase.
Originally posted by Exuberant1
reply to post by thomas_
You don't know anything about aliens.
But you act like you do.
Originally posted by 11118
Extremely advanced extraterrestrials don't need our "precious" metals, they can easily materialize such with thought into thought forms. Technology is not that special.
The matter is about them being much more aware of the reasoning for existence; they understand that they, including us, are the One Creator, and Create simply by Will.
[edit on 25-4-2010 by 11118]
Our solar system was formed about four and a half billion years ago, or about ten billion years after the Big Bang, from gas contaminated with the remains of earlier stars. The Earth was formed largely out of the heavier elements, including carbon and oxygen. Somehow, some of these atoms came to be arranged in the form of molecules of DNA. This has the famous double helix form, discovered by Crick and Watson, in a hut on the New Museum site in Cambridge. Linking the two chains in the helix, are pairs of nucleic acids. There are four types of nucleic acid, adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thiamine. I'm afraid my speech synthesiser is not very good, at pronouncing their names. Obviously, it was not designed for molecular biologists. An adenine on one chain is always matched with a thiamine on the other chain, and a guanine with a cytosine. Thus the sequence of nucleic acids on one chain defines a unique, complementary sequence, on the other chain. The two chains can then separate and each act as templates to build further chains. Thus DNA molecules can reproduce the genetic information, coded in their sequences of nucleic acids. Sections of the sequence can also be used to make proteins and other chemicals, which can carry out the instructions, coded in the sequence, and assemble the raw material for DNA to reproduce itself.
We do not know how DNA molecules first appeared. The chances against a DNA molecule arising by random fluctuations are very small. Some people have therefore suggested that life came to Earth from elsewhere, and that there are seeds of life floating round in the galaxy. However, it seems unlikely that DNA could survive for long in the radiation in space. And even if it could, it would not really help explain the origin of life, because the time available since the formation of carbon is only just over double the age of the Earth.
One possibility is that the formation of something like DNA, which could reproduce itself, is extremely unlikely. However, in a universe with a very large, or infinite, number of stars, one would expect it to occur in a few stellar systems, but they would be very widely separated. The fact that life happened to occur on Earth, is not however surprising or unlikely. It is just an application of the Weak Anthropic Principle: if life had appeared instead on another planet, we would be asking why it had occurred there.
If the appearance of life on a given planet was very unlikely, one might have expected it to take a long time. More precisely, one might have expected life to appear just in time for the subsequent evolution to intelligent beings, like us, to have occurred before the cut off, provided by the life time of the Sun. This is about ten billion years, after which the Sun will swell up and engulf the Earth. An intelligent form of life, might have mastered space travel, and be able to escape to another star. But otherwise, life on Earth would be doomed.
There is fossil evidence, that there was some form of life on Earth, about three and a half billion years ago. This may have been only 500 million years after the Earth became stable and cool enough, for life to develop. But life could have taken 7 billion years to develop, and still have left time to evolve to beings like us, who could ask about the origin of life. If the probability of life developing on a given planet, is very small, why did it happen on Earth, in about one 14th of the time available.
The early appearance of life on Earth suggests that there's a good chance of the spontaneous generation of life, in suitable conditions. Maybe there was some simpler form of organisation, which built up DNA. Once DNA appeared, it would have been so successful, that it might have completely replaced the earlier forms. We don't know what these earlier forms would have been. One possibility is RNA. This is like DNA, but rather simpler, and without the double helix structure. Short lengths of RNA, could reproduce themselves like DNA, and might eventually build up to DNA. One can not make nucleic acids in the laboratory, from non-living material, let alone RNA. But given 500 million years, and oceans covering most of the Earth, there might be a reasonable probability of RNA, being made by chance.
As DNA reproduced itself, there would have been random errors. Many of these errors would have been harmful, and would have died out. Some would have been neutral. That is they would not have affected the function of the gene. Such errors would contribute to a gradual genetic drift, which seems to occur in all populations. And a few errors would have been favourable to the survival of the species. These would have been chosen by Darwinian natural selection.
The process of biological evolution was very slow at first. It took two and a half billion years, to evolve from the earliest cells to multi-cell animals, and another billion years to evolve through fish and reptiles, to mammals. But then evolution seemed to have speeded up. It only took about a hundred million years, to develop from the early mammals to us. The reason is, fish contain most of the important human organs, and mammals, essentially all of them. All that was required to evolve from early mammals, like lemurs, to humans, was a bit of fine-tuning.
But with the human race, evolution reached a critical stage, comparable in importance with the development of DNA. This was the development of language, and particularly written language. It meant that information can be passed on, from generation to generation, other than genetically, through DNA. There has been no detectable change in human DNA, brought about by biological evolution, in the ten thousand years of recorded history. But the amount of knowledge handed on from generation to generation has grown enormously. The DNA in human beings contains about three billion nucleic acids. However, much of the information coded in this sequence, is redundant, or is inactive. So the total amount of useful information in our genes, is probably something like a hundred million bits. One bit of information is the answer to a yes no question. By contrast, a paper back novel might contain two million bits of information. So a human is equivalent to 50 Mills and Boon romances. A major national library can contain about five million books, or about ten trillion bits. So the amount of information handed down in books, is a hundred thousand times as much as in DNA.
Even more important, is the fact that the information in books, can be changed, and updated, much more rapidly. It has taken us several million years to evolve from the apes. During that time, the useful information in our DNA, has probably changed by only a few million bits. So the rate of biological evolution in humans, is about a bit a year. By contrast, there are about 50,000 new books published in the English language each year, containing of the order of a hundred billion bits of information. Of course, the great majority of this information is garbage, and no use to any form of life. But, even so, the rate at which useful information can be added is millions, if not billions, higher than with DNA.
This has meant that we have entered a new phase of evolution. At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information. But in the last ten thousand years or so, we have been in what might be called, an external transmission phase. In this, the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage, has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes. We may be no stronger, or inherently more intelligent, than our cave man ancestors. But what distinguishes us from them, is the knowledge that we have accumulated over the last ten thousand years, and particularly, over the last three hundred. I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race.
The time scale for evolution, in the external transmission period, is the time scale for accumulation of information. This used to be hundreds, or even thousands, of years. But now this time scale has shrunk to about 50 years, or less. On the other hand, the brains with which we process this information have evolved only on the Darwinian time scale, of hundreds of thousands of years. This is beginning to cause problems. In the 18th century, there was said to be a man who had read every book written. But nowadays, if you read one book a day, it would take you about 15,000 years to read through the books in a national Library. By which time, many more books would have been written.
This has meant that no one person can be the master of more than a small corner of human knowledge. People have to specialise, in narrower and narrower fields. This is likely to be a major limitation in the future. We certainly can not continue, for long, with the exponential rate of growth of knowledge that we have had in the last three hundred years. An even greater limitation and danger for future generations, is that we still have the instincts, and in particular, the aggressive impulses, that we had in cave man days. Aggression, in the form of subjugating or killing other men, and taking their women and food, has had definite survival advantage, up to the present time. But now it could destroy the entire human race, and much of the rest of life on Earth. A nuclear war, is still the most immediate danger, but there are others, such as the release of a genetically engineered virus. Or the green house effect becoming unstable.
There is no time, to wait for Darwinian evolution, to make us more intelligent, and better natured. But we are now entering a new phase, of what might be called, self designed evolution, in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. There is a project now on, to map the entire sequence of human DNA. It will cost a few billion dollars, but that is chicken feed, for a project of this importance. Once we have read the book of life, we will start writing in corrections. At first, these changes will be confined to the repair of genetic defects, like cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. These are controlled by single genes, and so are fairly easy to identify, and correct. Other qualities, such as intelligence, are probably controlled by a large number of genes. It will be much more difficult to find them, and work out the relations between them. Nevertheless, I am sure that during the next century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence, and instincts like aggression.
Laws will be passed, against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won't be able to resist the temptation, to improve human characteristics, such as size of memory, resistance to disease, and length of life. Once such super humans appear, there are going to be major political problems, with the unimproved humans, who won't be able to compete.
Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings, who are improving themselves at an ever-increasing rate.
If this race manages to redesign itself, to reduce or eliminate the risk of self-destruction, it will probably spread out, and colonise other planets and stars. However, long distance space travel, will be difficult for chemically based life forms, like DNA. The natural lifetime for such beings is short, compared to the travel time. According to the theory of relativity, nothing can travel faster than light. So the round trip to the nearest star would take at least 8 years, and to the centre of the galaxy, about a hundred thousand years. In science fiction, they overcome this difficulty, by space warps, or travel through extra dimensions. But I don't think these will ever be possible, no matter how intelligent life becomes. In the theory of relativity, if one can travel faster than light, one can also travel back in time. This would lead to problems with people going back, and changing the past. One would also expect to have seen large numbers of tourists from the future, curious to look at our quaint, old-fashioned ways.
It might be possible to use genetic engineering, to make DNA based life survive indefinitely, or at least for a hundred thousand years. But an easier way, which is almost within our capabilities already, would be to send machines. These could be designed to last long enough for interstellar travel. When they arrived at a new star, they could land on a suitable planet, and mine material to produce more machines, which could be sent on to yet more stars. These machines would be a new form of life, based on mechanical and electronic components, rather than macromolecules. They could eventually replace DNA based life, just as DNA may have replaced an earlier form of life.
This mechanical life could also be self-designing. Thus it seems that the external transmission period of evolution, will have been just a very short interlude, between the Darwinian phase, and a biological, or mechanical, self design phase. This is shown on this next diagram, which is not to scale, because there's no way one can show a period of ten thousand years, on the same scale as billions of years. How long the self-design phase will last is open to question. It may be unstable, and life may destroy itself, or get into a dead end. If it does not, it should be able to survive the death of the Sun, in about 5 billion years, by moving to planets around other stars. Most stars will have burnt out in another 15 billion years or so, and the universe will be approaching a state of complete disorder, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But Freeman Dyson has shown that, despite this, life could adapt to the ever-decreasing supply of ordered energy, and therefore could, in principle, continue forever.
What are the chances that we will encounter some alien form of life, as we explore the galaxy. If the argument about the time scale for the appearance of life on Earth is correct, there ought to be many other stars, whose planets have life on them. Some of these stellar systems could have formed 5 billion years before the Earth. So why is the galaxy not crawling with self designing mechanical or biological life forms? Why hasn't the Earth been visited, and even colonised. I discount suggestions that UFO's contain beings from outer space. I think any visits by aliens, would be much more obvious, and probably also, much more unpleasant.
What is the explanation of why we have not been visited? One possibility is that the argument, about the appearance of life on Earth, is wrong. Maybe the probability of life spontaneously appearing is so low, that Earth is the only planet in the galaxy, or in the observable universe, in which it happened. Another possibility is that there was a reasonable probability of forming self reproducing systems, like cells, but that most of these forms of life did not evolve intelligence. We are used to thinking of intelligent life, as an inevitable consequence of evolution. But the Anthropic Principle should warn us to be wary of such arguments. It is more likely that evolution is a random process, with intelligence as only one of a large number of possible outcomes. It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value. Bacteria, and other single cell organisms, will live on, if all other life on Earth is wiped out by our actions. There is support for the view that intelligence, was an unlikely development for life on Earth, from the chronology of evolution. It took a very long time, two and a half billion years, to go from single cells to multi-cell beings, which are a necessary precursor to intelligence. This is a good fraction of the total time available, before the Sun blows up. So it would be consistent with the hypothesis, that the probability for life to develop intelligence, is low. In this case, we might expect to find many other life forms in the galaxy, but we are unlikely to find intelligent life. Another way, in which life could fail to develop to an intelligent stage, would be if an asteroid or comet were to collide with the planet. We have just observed the collision of a comet, Schumacher-Levi, with Jupiter. It produced a series of enormous fireballs. It is thought the collision of a rather smaller body with the Earth, about 70 million years ago, was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. A few small early mammals survived, but anything as large as a human, would have almost certainly been wiped out. It is difficult to say how often such collisions occur, but a reasonable guess might be every twenty million years, on average. If this figure is correct, it would mean that intelligent life on Earth has developed only because of the lucky chance that there have been no major collisions in the last 70 million years. Other planets in the galaxy, on which life has developed, may not have had a long enough collision free period to evolve intelligent beings.
A third possibility is that there is a reasonable probability for life to form, and to evolve to intelligent beings, in the external transmission phase. But at that point, the system becomes unstable, and the intelligent life destroys itself. This would be a very pessimistic conclusion. I very much hope it isn't true. I prefer a fourth possibility: there are other forms of intelligent life out there, but that we have been overlooked. There used to be a project called SETI, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. It involved scanning the radio frequencies, to see if we could pick up signals from alien civilisations. I thought this project was worth supporting, though it was cancelled due to a lack of funds. But we should have been wary of answering back, until we have develop a bit further. Meeting a more advanced civilisation, at our present stage, might be a bit like the original inhabitants of America meeting Columbus. I don't think they were better off for it.
That is all I have to say. Thank you for listening.
Originally posted by Bob Sholtz
[one chance in 10^138, that’s one chance in one with 138 zeros after it. There are only about 10^70 atoms in the entire universe]
thats what the odds are...based on anthropic constants, for life to exist without intervention.
though your train of logic is interesting. preconsieved belief>confronted with data>life exists, so data must be wrong>preconsieved belief holds.
nothing really wrong with it, though either you misread, didn't read the link, or tossed out the possibility of an overarching god figure.
Originally posted by triplehelix888
wow it took a genius to figure all that out? which side is the robot on anyways, not to disrespect him, but there are good and bad aliens.