Sunday, February 7, 2016





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YODA, Star of stage , screen, toy manufacturing, action figures, and outer space, photo from Star
 Yoda, the Star Wars character that we refer to as our euphemism for extraterrestrial intelligent life might more accurately be referred to as "Yodas", plural. It is highly unlikely that intelligent life on some unknown planet in this galaxy or one "far far away" evolved into a single intelligent individual. But even if on some as yet undiscovered planet intelligent life evolved into an intelligent species, the odds are that the entire species is already dead, or will be before we can discover them. While generating life in the universe may be more uncommon than often thought, sustaining it long enough to evolve into intelligent space faring civilizations is probably exceedingly rare. Indeed in our own case we are far from being able to evacuate a large portion of humanity from the planet should the planet cease to be able to support life as apparently Mars and perhaps Venus did. Without any intervention by an intelligent species based on their industrial processes, the evidence is wide spread that planets with warm wet climates, routinely change to hot and dry or cold and dry, and quickly lose oxygen rich atmospheres. In short the universe is probably pretty friendly towards microbiological life, but not so much for intelligent species or even fair sized mammal like creatures. The jury is still out on us humans. We've made it past a couple of important mile stones but still are not capable of space migration. To evolve and survive intelligent species need billions of years of life sustaining climate. There is mounting evidence that such conditions are rarely even long lasting in geologic terms much less permanent. 

 The visible universe may well be filled with "habitable planets" in terms of what we usually think necessary to support mammalian life. However, increasingly, we've seen evidence that such conditions are temporary, and rarely last long enough for intelligent life forms to evolve, much less to evolve to the point of space faring civilizations. Early life such as microbes, perhaps fish and amphibians is very fragile, so the current line of reasoning is that it evolves fast in order to survive. We have seen examples of earthly sea plankton found surviving on an exterior surface of  of the International Space Station, and found meteor fragments  thought to be from Mars, with evidence of microbial fossils. Some astronomers think they have detected clouds of what may be virus in deep space. So one might already concur that the universe is widely "seeded" for life, but for life to last long enough for civilizations of intelligent life to evolve requires  extraordinary circumstances. A planet where life can evolve all the way to intelligent beings must be extraordinarily stable in terms of its atmosphere. Most aren't.

 While there are billions and billions of planets just in our own galaxy alone, the center of a galaxy is a very violent place. Planets in the spiral heart of our Milky Way Galaxy frequently collide with space objects including other planets. Our planet exists in a relatively quiet outer arm of the galaxy. We enjoy the protection from collision with space objects by way of large gas giants orbiting at the outer entrance to our sun's gravitational influence area, and a small planet like moon circling our planet. Merely being positioned in the "Goldilocks Zone" is not enough. No matter how much microbiological "seed" the center of the galaxy spews out, it must find protected soil. One look at the moon, the surface of Mars, or Venus or our own planet's surface tells us that even in our relatively quiet radial arm over time there are a lot of things crashing into planets. We have encountered some game changers over geological time, but no life extinguishers. The fact is that planets able to sustain the evolution of life to the level of intelligent civilizations need very special locations, and more than a small amount of luck. 

 The folks who are professionals in the search for alien intelligent life sometimes refer to this situation as the "SETI-Fermi paradox." It sort of boils down to the question of "If the universe is so full of life and potentially life sustaining planets....where is everybody?". The mathematical odds  appear to indicate that they are probably dead. The odds of two intelligent civilizations evolving on two different planets and then meeting are astronomical. Where is Yoda? We hope not , but the odds are that if he ever existed he is probably dead.  

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