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"Nobody out there cares about us"


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Posted (edited)

Do you agree with the physicist Brian Greene?  I also heard this reasoning from Michio Kaku.  I strongly disagree.  They reason that we would be no more interesting to an ETI than an ant hill is of interest to us.  There are lots of ant hills on Earth, but we don't know how many Earths there are in the galaxy, or more importantly within 1,000 light years of us.

So far, Earth is very unusual and would be of great interest to any ET. The Rare Earth Hypothesis explains the Fermi Paradox, and also why we would be of great interest to ANYONE more advanced to us. Kepler Mission has NOT found many Earth 2.0s out there. Neither has the TESS (transiting exoplanet survey satellite) telescope. Most planets are hellish. Solar systems are not nice and circular like ours.  Most planets don't have a big moon like we do.  We are in the galaxy's narrow habitable zone.  There are probably not many advanced ETs in our local of the Milky Way. Earth must be the greatest circus within 1,000 light years, IF anybody is watching us. Maybe the greatest circus in our galaxy.  What do you think?

 

Edited by Airbrush
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Not a fan of videos about science, especially with that host, but I would think any species that can leave it's own planet deserves some interest from any alien intelligence that can observe it. We may not notice ants much in their own environment, but when they enter ours, it's hard to ignore them.

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I don't see why you need and Earth-like planet to produce intelligent life. Any planet or Moon that has liquid water on it's surface is a possibility. 

Also, what is the Galaxy's "narrow habitable zone" ? I didn't know that there was one. 

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, mistermack said:

I don't see why you need and Earth-like planet to produce intelligent life. Any planet or Moon that has liquid water on it's surface is a possibility. 

Also, what is the Galaxy's "narrow habitable zone" ? I didn't know that there was one. 

The center and spiral arms of the Milky Way are too densely packed with giant stars going supernova.  Any life would get extinguished before the billions of years it may take to get intelligent.  Earth is more isolated from explosive events in the galaxy.

It is hard for me to imagine how intelligent life can evolve without super-habitable conditions, like we have on Earth.  Look at the Rare Earth Hypothesis:

"In the 1970s and 1980s, Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, among others, argued that Earth is a typical rocky planet in a typical planetary system, located in a non-exceptional region of a common barred-spiral galaxy. From the principle of mediocrity (extended from the Copernican principle), they argued that the evolution of life on Earth, including human beings, was also typical, and therefore that the universe teems with complex life. However, Ward and Brownlee argue that planets, planetary systems, and galactic regions that are as accommodating for complex life as are the Earth, the Solar System, and our own galactic region are not typical at all, but actually exceedingly rare."

Rare Earth hypothesis - Wikipedia

Edited by Airbrush
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45 minutes ago, Airbrush said:

<snip> They reason that we would be no more interesting to an ETI than an ant hill is of interest to us.  <snip>

In addition to your response for rejecting the reasoning, I note that the search phrase "ant ecology" on Google Scholar returns "about 971,000" items. It seems some of us are interested in ants.

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Ants are highly interesting for a huge range of topics. A surprising number of biologists I know turned became fascinated with biology after observing ant behaviour. 

They are models for a huge range of neurobiological and behavioural aspects, including colony behaviour and related emergent properties. Even engineers, physicists and mathematicians have been looking at ant hill to look at how simple rules can create complex structures, avoid traffic jams and so on. If we are only somewhat as interesting, I fully expect that someone will pour liquid metal over our cities to make a pretty cast and marvel how such simple organisms are able to make such pretty structures.

What I am trying to say is that ants are awesome and any disagreeing is just objectively wrong. Also, I have no idea how one would even try to speculate about motivations and patterns to a psychology that is literally alien to us.

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I suppose some extraterrestrials are more interested in exobiology than others, just as some of us more interested in ants or squids or wild geese than others.

People are interested in all kinds of things - animate, inanimate, extinct, emerging, imaginary - all sorts of things. Why would aliens be any different?

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1 hour ago, Airbrush said:

The center and spiral arms of the Milky Way are too densely packed with giant stars going supernova.  Any life would get extinguished before the billions of years it may take to get intelligent.  Earth is more isolated from explosive events in the galaxy.

It is hard for me to imagine how intelligent life can evolve without super-habitable conditions, like we have on Earth.  Look at the Rare Earth Hypothesis:

"In the 1970s and 1980s, Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, among others, argued that Earth is a typical rocky planet in a typical planetary system, located in a non-exceptional region of a common barred-spiral galaxy. From the principle of mediocrity (extended from the Copernican principle), they argued that the evolution of life on Earth, including human beings, was also typical, and therefore that the universe teems with complex life. However, Ward and Brownlee argue that planets, planetary systems, and galactic regions that are as accommodating for complex life as are the Earth, the Solar System, and our own galactic region are not typical at all, but actually exceedingly rare."

Rare Earth hypothesis - Wikipedia

Rare Earth was a great read but the concept has been shown to be a bit harsh if not completely irrelevant. Most of the rare earth parameters have been shown not to be so rare. The formation of the moon was one of the parameters that impressed me when I read the book but studies have shown that such large impacts are quite common and all the solar systems inner planets probably experienced such impacts. The formation of a large moon is probably not particularly rare. 

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1 hour ago, Airbrush said:

The center and spiral arms of the Milky Way are too densely packed with giant stars going supernova.  Any life would get extinguished before the billions of years it may take to get intelligent.  Earth is more isolated from explosive events in the galaxy.

I'm not convinced that life would get extinguished as often as they think. I just looked up the safe distance from a supernova, the estimate is 60 light years. Our nearest star system to us is about 3.4 light years, so you would have to be very unlucky to have a supernova go off within 30, even in a more densely packed part of the galaxy.

The description of a 30 light year distance supernova sounds nasty, but not necessarily a TOTAL extinction event. 

https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/safe-distance-from-a-supernova-earth/#:~:text=Bottom line%3A What's a safe,away from the exploding star.

On Earth, our evolution has taken 4.5 billion years. But much of that time was going from nothing to the first multi-celled organisms. If you have a massive extinction event that wipes out the larger organisms, you aren't starting again from zero. You have a head start of billions of years, in the life that survived. On Earth, we went from arthropods and molluscs to dinosaurs in a (relative) flash. So a lot would depend on what survives the supernova.

If you have deep oceans the chances are that fairly advanced creatures would survive in the depths, kicking off rapid evolution to re-populate the planet. 

 

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To borrow thoughts from the thread on falsefiability, neither the 'rare Earth' orthe 'uninteresting Earth' hypothesis are falsefiable with existing technology.
We might as well conjecture that a God createed only us and no others, and put us in an uninteresting 'frame' to teach us humility.

All our conjectures are based on what we've experienced, and certainly cannot be the basis for what we don't know.

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17 hours ago, CharonY said:

What I am trying to say is that ants are awesome and any disagreeing is just objectively wrong. Also, I have no idea how one would even try to speculate about motivations and patterns to a psychology that is literally alien to us.

In discussions about what aliens would, or would not do, what they would, or would not be like, and what they would, or would not think, it always strikes me how few people appreciate precisely what alien means. Put another way, I agree wholeheartedly with your second sentence. (And your first, but that's a secondary matter.)

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Posted (edited)
22 hours ago, swansont said:

With what, specifically? 

Physicist Greene thinks we can't prove aliens exist because Earth would not be very interesting to aliens, because we are not very intelligent.  What's the point of trying to communicate with an ant hill?  Michio Kaku said we don't try to communicate with a squirrel.  "Nobody out there cares about us."  That's why we cannot prove that advanced interstellar "aliens" exist.  Which also explains the Fermi Paradox, why we don't see evidence for aliens. 

Rogan argues the opposite, that we would probably be interesting to any "aliens."  The Kepler and TESS satellites have found FEW other "Earth 2.0s, where life can evolve long enough to become technological.  The vast majority of planetary systems are hellish, most planetary orbits are not circular but elongated ellipses.  3/4 of stars are red dwarfs that have flare fits, over half of all stars are binary systems that make habitability more complicated.

22 hours ago, Peterkin said:

I suppose some extraterrestrials are more interested in exobiology than others, just as some of us more interested in ants or squids or wild geese than others.

People are interested in all kinds of things - animate, inanimate, extinct, emerging, imaginary - all sorts of things. Why would aliens be any different?

Exactly, especially if intelligent, technological life is very rare, and not what "Star Wars" would suggest.  

20 hours ago, MigL said:

To borrow thoughts from the thread on falsefiability, neither the 'rare Earth' orthe 'uninteresting Earth' hypothesis are falsefiable with existing technology.
We might as well conjecture that a God createed only us and no others, and put us in an uninteresting 'frame' to teach us humility.

All our conjectures are based on what we've experienced, and certainly cannot be the basis for what we don't know.

Yes but what is PROBABLE about a hypothetical alien that can travel to Earth, IF intelligent life is rare?  The Fermi Paradox suggests they are rare.  Kepler and TESS haven't found many havens for intelligence to thrive.

Edited by Airbrush
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On 6/8/2022 at 10:33 AM, Airbrush said:

Do you agree with the physicist Brian Greene?  I also heard this reasoning from Michio Kaku.  I strongly disagree.  They reason that we would be no more interesting to an ETI than an ant hill is of interest to us.  There are lots of ant hills on Earth, but we don't know how many Earths there are in the galaxy, or more importantly within 1,000 light years of us.

So far, Earth is very unusual and would be of great interest to any ET. The Rare Earth Hypothesis explains the Fermi Paradox, and also why we would be of great interest to ANYONE more advanced to us. Kepler Mission has NOT found many Earth 2.0s out there. Neither has the TESS (transiting exoplanet survey satellite) telescope. Most planets are hellish. Solar systems are not nice and circular like ours.  Most planets don't have a big moon like we do.  We are in the galaxy's narrow habitable zone.  There are probably not many advanced ETs in our local of the Milky Way. Earth must be the greatest circus within 1,000 light years, IF anybody is watching us. Maybe the greatest circus in our galaxy.  What do you think?

 

At times, I like to think what we know about the universe, we can assume that aliens (especially intelligent ones) would know about it too. In fact, we could assume that intelligent aliens would be thinking about the same issues we propose like the scope of the universe and its relations to us.

If we are interested in finding other aliens, we can assume they would be too. Chances are, aliens would be more technologically advanced if aliens came to us. 

Just a thought... 

 

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Posted (edited)
38 minutes ago, LazyLemonLucas said:

At times, I like to think what we know about the universe, we can assume that aliens (especially intelligent ones) would know about it too. In fact, we could assume that intelligent aliens would be thinking about the same issues we propose like the scope of the universe and its relations to us.

If we are interested in finding other aliens, we can assume they would be too. Chances are, aliens would be more technologically advanced if aliens came to us. 

Just a thought... 

 

It seems to me we have learnt enough to realise the futility of interstellar travel.

So I think advanced aliens would not be so thick as to try to visit physically at all. Either they would rely on robots, sent on multi-millennium missions, or else on remote sensing methods. If the latter, we might never know of their interest.

Edited by exchemist
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9 minutes ago, exchemist said:

It seems to me we have learnt enough to realise the futility of interstellar travel.

So I think advanced aliens would not be so thick as to try to visit physically at all. Either they would rely on robots, sent on multi-millennium missions, or else on remote sensing methods. If the latter, we might never know of their interest.

Oh yes, this is true. I believe I read somewhere that using robots that would multiply across different planets, systems, and galaxies would be very efficient. 

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17 hours ago, Airbrush said:

Physicist Greene thinks we can't prove aliens exist because Earth would not be very interesting to aliens, because we are not very intelligent.  What's the point of trying to communicate with an ant hill?  Michio Kaku said we don't try to communicate with a squirrel.  "Nobody out there cares about us."  That's why we cannot prove that advanced interstellar "aliens" exist.  Which also explains the Fermi Paradox, why we don't see evidence for aliens. 

I agree with Greene to some extent; the earth would not stand out. If they are more than ~100 LY away, what would make us “interesting”?

It’s not communicating with an anthill so much as communicating with a rock. Why would they care about this rock?

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On 6/8/2022 at 8:04 PM, Airbrush said:

and galactic regions that are as accommodating for complex life as are the Earth, the Solar System, and our own galactic region are not typical at all, but actually exceedingly rare."

(My emphasis.) The question, of course, is how rare "exceedingly rare" actually is.

I'm working on reading all the comments. I tend to agree with people who have pointed out that ants are interesting from many points of view and to many other organisms --Airbrush, Charon Y.

Humans have been busy with ants probably for hundreds of thousands of years.

The interest of hypothetical civilisations on us ants would have to be weighed against the Herculean task of overcoming the enormous difficulties of finding us in any useful way, as exchemist and swansont have implied.

I don't know what that says about the argument Greene is trying to make. It's possible that the analogy does not efficiently bear out the point, even if the point is a good one.

Edited by joigus
minor correction
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5 hours ago, swansont said:

I agree with Greene to some extent; the earth would not stand out. If they are more than ~100 LY away, what would make us “interesting”?

It’s not communicating with an anthill so much as communicating with a rock. Why would they care about this rock?

I think that is a slightly different argument than this one:

23 hours ago, Airbrush said:

Physicist Greene thinks we can't prove aliens exist because Earth would not be very interesting to aliens, because we are not very intelligent.  What's the point of trying to communicate with an ant hill?  Michio Kaku said we don't try to communicate with a squirrel.  "Nobody out there cares about us." 

The latter seems to be more an argument that life forms must reach a certain complexity to be interesting (which I would argue against), whereas the former takes accessibility into account, which makes a lot of sense. 

In fact, accessibility would remain the biggest issue. Generally speaking, life is comparatively rare, and while I doubt that anyone can make any reasonable claims regarding alien psychology, I suspect that any life form originating from a different planet would be fascinating to most (except for physicists who are disappointed by the lack of intelligence, but then I suspect teaching more undergrad courses would lower your threshold a fair bit).

If we happen to be the only rock where there is some measurable evidence of life, I would think we would stick out. If there are closer ones around, not so much. 

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IIRC, David Brin wrote a story about Von Neumann probes (which @LazyLemonLucas alluded to) from different species starting to proliferate and compete with each other, forming a sort of machine ecology in the galaxy.  Will link it, if I can find it.  

My guess is that if Von Neumann probes were really feasible, some civilization would have sent some off by now, they would have replicated as they do, and we would be overrun by them.  Unless they were designed to steer away from, say, EMF signals or other signs of nascent tech societies.  Or their purpose didn't take them to inner planets.  Or they're here, and responsible for all the weird UAPs.  Or, (etc.)  It's another category of speculation that invites the famous Enrico Fermi Question.  Where are they?

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2 hours ago, CharonY said:

The latter seems to be more an argument that life forms must reach a certain complexity to be interesting (which I would argue against), whereas the former takes accessibility into account, which makes a lot of sense. 

I'm afraid you missed the implications of Swansont's post, CharonY.

We have only become 'interesting' to extraterrestrial observers within the last 100 years.
During that time we started broadcasting our presence, and intelligence (? ), with EM signals like radio, TV, and others.
These signals, being information, can only have travelled about 100 light years distance.
Beyond that distance, we are still unknown and uninteresting.

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27 minutes ago, MigL said:

I'm afraid you missed the implications of Swansont's post, CharonY.

We have only become 'interesting' to extraterrestrial observers within the last 100 years.
During that time we started broadcasting our presence, and intelligence (? ), with EM signals like radio, TV, and others.
These signals, being information, can only have travelled about 100 light years distance.
Beyond that distance, we are still unknown and uninteresting.

That is certainly fair enough, but I was thinking more in terms of biological signatures in general. I mean, intelligent life would be great, but I would still think that any strong evidence of biological activities would be exciting. Though of course if something else was around that is more accessible it would likely be prioritized higher, even with less evidence. Perhaps what I am trying to say is that I am all for alien ants (I may have missed a couple of points, though. Sleep deprivation does that).

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What would be biological signatures that could be detected at astronomical distances ?
( don't answer right away if you need some sleep 🙂 )

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15 minutes ago, MigL said:

What would be biological signatures that could be detected at astronomical distances ?
( don't answer right away if you need some sleep 🙂 )

I need sleep but since I can't get any I might as well say that I don't really have any expertise, well to anything in this thread, really. There are atmospheric gases that are associated with biological activities in conjunction with certain properties of the planets (phosphine was shortly discussed with regard to Venus), for example. But whether those would even be theoretically detectable is beyond my knowledge and would also depend on the available technology of the fictitious alien civilization, I guess.

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I've posted this before on another thread, but I think it's relevant to this one. 

Living on this Earth, with a sample size of one to go by, it's very tempting to get a false idea of the likelihood of intelligent life-forms capable of technology evolving. We are so used to being human, in a human world, that we end up thinking that we are normal, and therefore, there's no reason something like us wouldn't arise on another planet. 

But the truth is that we humans are anything but normal, we are absolute freaks, when it comes to intelligence. Our nearest cousins have brains just a third the size of ours. And most of their brains are just there for the minimum bodily functions of living. The reasoning part of our brains is at least five or six times that of a chimpanzee. And our cerebral cortex is also twice as densly packed with cells, and the way that the cells are networked are also quite different. 

So even compared to our nearest relative, who is sometimes classed as the same species as us, the difference in intelligence and reasoning power is truly gigantic and freakish. 

If you picture an Earth without humans, if we freaks had never evolved, or had become extinct, then you have a planet where the chimpanzee is the ultimate in intelligence. And if you go back seven million years, to our last common ancestor with the chimpanzee, you are looking at an animal that has roughly the same brain power as today's chimpanzee. In other words, the chimpanzees, gorillas and orangs have not really evolved any more intelligence in the last seven to ten million years. They seem to have reached a plateau. It may be that normal evolution only goes so far and no further in the intelligence stakes. Just far enough to ensure the maintenance of population levels. 

The same might apply on other planets. There might be billions of planets out there, with animals like chimps and dolphins at the top of the intelligence ladder, but none, or nearly none, with the equivalent of humans. 

And having read qute a lot on the evolution of humans, I think that could be a very likely picture. We really ARE freakish, in so many ways. 

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