Posted 23 March 2004 - 11:17 PM
Hayia all. Just got back from my road trip hence my previous silence but I'll try to respond to everyone here and again when I next can as I may have to set out again frequently.
Quoting Neorapsta: But then you have to factor into account that the BBC takes the most pesimistic views when it comes to human development, being they only take one side of things and it has to please the right sort of people.
Fact is if you use the probability model I normally use, 0.02% of anything your measuring, ie.psychics, fortune tellers whatever. In this case, there would possibly be upto 400 million races in our Galaxy alone, or something around that area, can't be bothered to really go into minute details.
You may well be right regarding BBC's objectivity or rather their lack thereof, Neo. However, I'm aware of the 'Formula for Advanced Life' that you are speaking of and saw yet another documentary, this time on Nova - which is a bit more objective, wherein a scientist explained all of the factors in their equation for advanced life. Sadly that formula suffers from the same lack of objectivity which the BBC has, only in its case it is from the opposite side of the argument.
The formula takes into account all of the possible Galaxies x Star systems within each galaxy x Possible planets orbitting each star, etc. The formula did contain a factor for the unlikeliness for life to start and another for life to advance but even then it didn't accurately account for each in the equation and a few other negative modifiers, but it intentionally only included a few negative modifiers but a sleu of positive. However the formula left out completely most of the factors that led to life as we know it, such as having just the right type of minerals to create things that were building blocks in our ability to create ever better things. It also did not take into account things such as predation, food supplies, and other very essential categories in the advancement from simple life to complex and then later advanced sentience. There is a vast list of key ingredients to the end-product of a race of space travellers, or for that matter even a species that can even equal our own existance, that just are never taken into account by any of the scientists that are true believers in its possibility.
If the best possible formula for our equals being out there somewhere only has a 0.000*1 % (The * because I can't remember the exact number of 0s before the 1 but that it was quite a few) chance of probability when you don't even take into account all of the things that could go wrong to prevent it, then the odds after taking those things into account would be so small that it is no wonder the scientists, who earn their living by proclaiming their field of study to be worth spending money on, would completely avoid using the true formula for life equal to our own.
I'm going to give you an example of just how unlikely it is to find a race of space travellers or even a species capable of broadcasting or even receiving signals from across the emptiness of space.
Imagine if you will that humanity never rose up on earth to become the dominant higher life form, but rather that snakes ruled the roost. It could have very well happened if they had been able to become a higher level predator over mankind's early ancestors, and as it is they exist nearly everywhere on earth including some places that are inhospitable to humanity. Now imagine that our brains or even a more advanced brain capability were given to them. Even though their brains were at our own current level or higher they would not have been able to build cities or travel even as far as the moon simply because of their body design.
Some might attempt to counter that with an argument that snakes would grow the limbs necessary to do these things, however that growth just would not happen and wouldn't even be suggested unless the suggestor has done absolutely no study into how evolution works.
Snakes used to have arms and legs just like most land animals, in fact certain species can still be found which have not quite fully lost the tiny bone spur which one upon a time would have been an upper limb bone. The reason they no longer have legs is that the species without legs were able to not only survive but rather actually thrived in the environments encounterred.
Say a litter of seven babies are born and six had the standard limbs found commonly among animals, while the seventh had something wrong with it... say a leg bone wasn't strong enough to support its weight for instance. If it had stuck with attempting to walk 'normally' it would have died off due to hunger/thirst/predation early in life. Since snakes exist we know that their ancient ancestor learned to accomodate its disability by using a different mode of locomotion. Now this crawling or whatever animal has reached the reproductive stage of life... for evolution to work it had to have passed its genes off which means that it somehow was able to attract/ambush/whatever a mate during his/her breeding cycle. The catch is that one parent would have had to have had a fully functioning set of legs... this would have led to a gene clash between the gene leading to a fully functional limb and the other which contained the false limb. In order for the missing limb to have won out and been passed onto the second generation and then beyond that through all of the later generations then it would have had to have been a dominant trait that overpowerred the limbed genes of the other partners in the genetic chain.
What this means is that even if you somehow managed to create a snake/lizard hybrid birth the odds of the offspring (and their offspring in turn on down the line) regaining the limbs, would not occur. The missing limb trait would be too strong of a trait in the species. Thus snakes are pretty much doomed to eternal limblessness. The other cause of evolution (and also the one that is the most common), climate changes, would no longer be able to force the snake into a new evolutionary path. Either their limbless state would continue to be useful with the climatic changes that occurred... or else the entire index of species known as snakes would die off in a world that could no longer support them.
Besides which... all of that talk about genetically forcing a return of a limbed state to snakes is useless when you speak of a world where snakes have assumed humanity's place as the highest lifeform. After all the reason they became the top of the chain would have been because they were the best around... they would have no example (such as our own human society) of limbs being worth having. No limbs has led to a total lack of tools, machinery, construction abilities, or any of the other necessities for receiving and sending messages or outright space travel.
In other words, earth would have become a place teeming with life, perhaps even intelligent life, but without any means of alerting other outside life forms to their existance or becoming aware of them in turn.
The main problem with the existance of another space-age species existing besides humans and also being able to contact with our own is that there are so many levels of negativity which argues against it.
1st it needs just the right planetary host.
2nd life needs just the right elements on its planet for life to be formed.
3rd it needs to be able to grow beyond the point of simple cell organisms such as bacteria.
4th it needs to evolve into a species with high intelligence and reasoning capabilities.
5th it needs to be able to have the capabilities to change its environment (ie tool use, manufacturing, construction, chemistry, etc.).
6th it needs to be safe from predation and have an adequate food/water supply to allow for a large society.
7th it needs to actually have the thought of an exterior life existence occur to it or it wouldn't ever even bother searching for it.
To clarify that seventh point - Humans lived on the continents of North and South America, yet other humans living on the European continent never even thought of their existance nor tried to contact them nor search for their existance. The only reason that changed is that explorers found them while searching for something else entirely (a shortcut to the other side of their own land mass - ie the Orient), prior to that and without that occurring both groups had been and would continue to have been unaware of each other's existance and never made any attempts to look for or visit each other.
On the surface that's an even greater argument for searching the cosmos for life, except that those other life forms in the 'new world' had originally been connected by land to the life native to Europe/Africa/Asia but had been seperated by rising water levels. This is not a case of two sets of life growing from nothing but rather pre-established life simply continueing to exist exactly as it had with very little change if any, and simply being forgotten about or mourned for dead by relatives that had fled away from the water levels.
It is quite possible that this could even explain the myth of Atlantis when you stop to think about the correlations, and how the ones who fled back to the original side of the former land bridge had no way of knowing that the water stopped rising prior to swallowing the rest of that land mass and the people now seperated onto it - and antler tipped spears were a major jump in technology from stone tipped which would fit the requirement of technological advancement spoken of in the myths if the tale was indeed that old and had been passed down and retold in ways to be more understandable or entertaining to later peoples.
Anyway, returning to the subject I began to meander away from, without thinking of something being possible in the first place it will not be searched for, and if it is not searched for then it won't be found without sheer dumb luck of accidently stumbling across that unimagined thing/concept/being.
8th the vastness of space is humongous. Even if a species became space-aware and space-capable, the time necessary to find a second species also space-aware/capable is so long that in all likelihood the two societies could never connect in the timeframe between from when their society reached that level and the eventual ending of their society due to planetary or celestial changes no longer allowing for their form of life to exist.
In other words it isn't enough that a second set of life grow like our own has, it also needs to have done so/begin to do so during the proper timeframe to allow for our contact with them. Imagine if a space-capable species came about even as often as once in ten thousand years. It could very well have last occurred too early for our own advancement to that level to have realized it and by the time we ourselves had reached the same pinnacle theirs could be gone already and the next yet to come might also be too late for our own ability to make contact with them prior to the ending of our existance due to some factor or another.
All of that leads down to the very last factor in any formula for the ability to make contact/be contacted with/by alien life forms. Did all of the building blocks for advanced life tumble exactly right then also stop tumbling at just the right instant (in comparison with the vastness of time) for the two to affect one another. Without the last factor of time, any formula for the existance of life (in regards to the reason the quest for it exists - contact) will be flawed and useless. And with that last factor added in... it is mathematically and scientifically impossible.
Quoting Shades of Green: The fact that Earth's advanced life suits our very specific temperature means nothing; LIFE, represented by bacteria, could exist in warmer places (120 degrees celsius at least) and colder ones (beneath the ice on Antartica). Most of Earth is not in these extremes, so most life forms evolved to suit the common temperature. Thermophilic bacteria are rare because vulcanic hot springs are rare.
The problem with what you just stated is that bacteria are not advanced forms of life. Yes, bacteria can survive conditions we cannot even imagine the difficulties to. However, bacteria cannot emit radio waves through the cosmos, nor can it build spaceships to travel said cosmos and then abduct/meet other species. If advanced life could handle what simplistic bacterial life can handle there would be advanced life forms everywhere in our own solar system you would even have to look farther than the moon for that.
Even when life deals with harsh environments it does not lead to any of the steps necessary for planetary travel. Or rather let's put it this way... the day we see a space shuttle rise out of the depths of the ocean and blast off in search of other worlds while pilotted by a crew of jellyfish and other life forms that evolved, where even sunlight does not appear to exist in any detectable way other than the presence of that life, is the day you'll have won your argument.
Quoting Shades of Green: Which planet? jupiter? Saturn? meteor impatcs on Earth are quite common. The fact that we don't see as many craters here as we see on Mars or the moon owes it's existance mostly to our atmosphere. Most debries burns up on atmospheric entry, and the craters left behind by the bigger bodies are eroded as time passes. Venus, which has no moon (but a hell of an atmosphere - literally), has nearly no craters on it's surface as well.
I was intending to mean Jupiter when I wrote that post. As for your arguments of impact frequencies... you are both right and wrong in that quote. Earth is indeed under constant heavy bombardment by the lil things that either fully burn away in our atmosphere or the remainder that actually impacts hardly affects life on the planet. However, if Earth was being hit by the bigger space debris we would not have had a chance. Semi-recently, Jupiter was impacted by a meteor that fragmented due to its intense gravity but was estimated to be as large as Earth's own moon if not bigger. If Jupiter wasn't spinning around out there larger debris would be able to pass through Jupiter's range without being dragged by its gravitation field into a collision with it. If that had been the case it would have continued on through and may well have impacted with our planet with such devastating mass that our atmosphere simply could not protect us. Speaking of Jupiter's existance and the way its sucks up space debris... a documentary that came out about that planet a few years back theorized that the gigantic hurricane storm (that appears as a dark spot swirling that planet's atmosphere) was in fact caused by a vacuum created when an overly large celestial body impacted with the atmosphere and continued through leaving a wake in its passing. If true that would have been devastating if it had hit Earth since the 'hole' is supposed to be even bigger than our entire planet.
Quoting Shades of Green: Earth didn't have free molecular oxygen when it was first formed; It's atmosphere was mostly water vapor (which later formed the oceans), CO2 and nitrogen. Oxygen began to appear in the O2 form only about 3 or so billions of years ago, only AFTER life appeared, due to photosynthesis. And water are quite more common than was first thought; Mars, for example, has lots (even if frozen, it had flowing water once upon a time), and Europa probably has a huge under-surface ocean (again, we don't know enough data on it to make any conclusion).
Err... I'm not sure if you realize it but water in a vapor state still contains its 'H20' properties, thus water as we know it did not exist until Oxygen as we know it existed. You are right that earth once did not have the molecule we know of as Oxygen, it also however did not have the molecule we know of as water, but rather back then it was a mixture of the CO2 and hydrogen you touted. In other words it did not contain both the CO2 and H alongside the bonded pseudo-water... it was rather entirely a mixture thereof into pseudo-water-vapors.
We may never exactly be sure what caused the potent mixture of CO2 and hydrogen to rain down onto the surface in that previous form of water, although I personally would assume the mixture's fallout occurred after a large impact to the earth's gaseous external layer via meteor/whatever.
You are entirely correct though regarding the origins of Oxygen and the process that caused it. However I can't figure out why you stated that as if you were arguing against something I said since I never said otherwise. Edit: Hrm on second thought I think it came from my mind thinking one thing and my typing saying another. When I said "lacking oxygen" I had meant "lacking CO2" which is what simple life forms process oxygen from. I apologize for the confusion.
As for the rarity of water or the newfound lack thereof... to the best of my knowledge they have yet to find that frozen water on mars but rather merely evidence which leads scientists to believe that water once existed on that planet (through the land appearrance similar to dried waterbeds on earth). As for Europa... last I heard it wasn't exactly water but rather was a unique form of liquid gas that would be inhospitable to life on Earth.
Quoting Shades of Green: The bottom line is that we know almost nothing about life, the conditions nescery for its formation, other planets, and other solar systems. The question of extraterrestrial life is an open one.
Again a case of being both right and wrong. We know almost everything vital for the creation of life and its continuation and advancement afterward. What we lack knowledge of is what was the instigator that caused life to suddenly spark from its base materials. You are very right in your statement in regards to celestial knowledge and the lack thereof. But you are wrong in stating that because of that the possibility of ET being open-ended.
Suppose one were to willingly accept that every galaxy contained over 1000 star systems and each star system contained over 10 planets and allowed for an overly optimistic view of life on those planets and said that even half of those allowed for life in some form. At that point run a complex program that checks that life hosting planets. You know the drill... evolution, predation, gene dominancy, food supply, water supply, brain power, advancements in the right technologies and theories, etc. Then add a second program that took all remaining planets where life was and give them a random start date and space-capable/searchable length of existance along with the time requirred to reach destinations & wait for response. (For instance Carl Sagan's famous message is supposed to take 50k years for a response to be received back if there is even anyone/thing there to do so and can do so.) Then run a final program that has them randomly search the cosmos for other life without knowing exactly where to look (where even the slightest bit off can make the difference of reaching a system or passing it by)... then you tell me whether or not anyone actually contacted each other in your experiment.
It is far from an open and possible subject.