Sunday, October 21, 2012

10/21/2012 Space as an Ocean

                                 Image; NASA    


 From the Book "PROTOCOLS" (c) 2012 by American Admiralty Books


    What is the real likelihood that we'll meet intelligent life out there?

  When European man first set out on the great voyages of exploration he expected to reach civilizations. He found both civilized and primitive tribal societies in abundance. Indeed the whole Earth while separated by what seemed like uncross able seas, was in fact thickly peopled with diverse societies. Yet sea faring European man also found that much of the Earth was only thinly populated, in some cases so thinly as to be considered uninhabited. What are we likely to find in space?

 Lets look at some probabilities in light of what some serious students of probability have said  based on the latest available information.  For the purpose of simplicity, and keeping the discussion focused on the more immediate future, (the next couple of hundred years vice the next two thousand ) let's limit the discussion to our own galaxy. We shouldn't get beyond this area in the more or less immediate future. If there is going to be a first contact in the next two hundred years it will probably be with folks from our own galaxy.

 In our galaxy which we call the "Milky Way". astrophysicist now estimate that we have about 135 billion stars.  Presently most theories of stellar formation suggest that planetary systems around stars are common, perhaps the norm. We have certainly been discovering a lot of these planets of late now that we have a better idea of how to detect them from Earth or orbital observatories. Some of these planets have been found in constellations that sailors have navigated by for centuries. So let's follow the line of reasoning of Carl Sagan and some of the numbers provided by Isaac Asimov and Stephen H. Doyle and call the number of planetary systems something just a little shy of 135 billion. Lets assume that each of these planetary systems contains 6 to 12 planets. That gives us "billions and billions" (Carl Sagan) in fact , about a trillion "worlds" in the Milky Way. Now of these somewhat less than a trillion "worlds" some are circling stars much larger, smaller, colder, or hotter than ours. Some are circling twin stars and receiving radiations of sorts that we can only begin to imagine. Some have rotations that are two slow to regulate temperature decently for life, some are too near their stars, some too far. In short the vast majority aren't very Earth like. But near a trillion "worlds" is a lot of "worlds".So the law of probability makes it highly likely that some are indeed Earth like.

 Stephen H. Dole and Issac Asmimov applied probability reasoning to the question in PLANETS FOR MAN (Random House 1964).  and arrived at an estimate of as many as 640 million Earth like planets , at least in terms of having approximate mass, temperatures, orbit/rotation, chemistry and a sun like star to rotate about at approximate earth like orbital distance. This boils down to only one star out of every 210 has anything even similar to an Earth like planet. Only one planet out of every 4,000 is estimated to be Earth like. Now assuming 640 million Earth like, life generating planets in our galaxy, what does probability theory say about intelligent space faring life being out there? Asimov looked beyond Sagan's cataloging of "billions and billions" of "worlds" to try to estimate the actual probability of some space faring civilizations in our galaxy. Some of his reasoning can be found in
THE PLANET THAT WASN'T.(Double day and Company 1976).  Let's follow some of Sagan's, Asimov's and Dole's math here.

 As Asimov observed , on Earth life took about three billion years to evolve to its present state . Civilization has existed for about 10,000 years. So the ratio of uncivilized years to civilized is 300,000 to 1. So if we consider Earth to be about average, and consider that life started in different times in different places it should be safe to estimate that civilization exists on 1 out of every 300,000 of these Earth like Worlds at best. According to Carl Sagan' like line of reasoning that would give us an estimated 2, 150 civilizations in our galaxy ranging in technological development from pre-Roman like to far beyond modern day America. (Notice I wrote according to the Sagan line, Asimov injects some new considerations later on.)  Now looking at industrial civilization we see Earth has had one for about 200 plus years out of 2,000 years of well documented civilized life. So of our galaxy's estimated 2,150 civilizations, a likely ratio of non or pre-industrial societies to industrial societies would be 50 to 1. That leaves us with an estimated 43 probable industrial worlds out there. Not all of them will be space faring yet. So lets estimate the spacefarers at 21 societies, figuring ourselves to be the median.

The Milky way our home galaxy as it would appear if viewed from  overhead

We can actually see this edge on view in the night sky because we are located on an outer spiral arm away from the center mass

Now comes the Asmimov zinger. The Sagan line of reasoning doesn't examine the effect of the fact that about 90% of the planets in our galaxy are in the "galactic nucleus. The center regions of galaxies are presently thought to be very violent places full of colliding celestial bodies, quasars, black holes, and other things you wouldn't want as neigbors. So even if Earth like planets are located there , evolution may be considerably disrupted by cataclysmic events. It is much more probable that evolution can go on more or less undisturbed long enough to produce intelligent life only in the relatively quiet spiral arms and other very limited placid parts of galaxies. In THE PLANET THAT WASN'T  Asimov estimated that if the chaotic nature of the galaxy's center is taken into account a more accurate estimate of Earth like "worlds" is probably 64 million vice the more Sagan like 640 million. Now if 640 million "worlds"were only likely to produce 2, 150 civilizations and about 21 spacefaring societies, a mere 64 million makes it rather astounding that we have one spacefaring civilization in our galaxy.

 So the bad news is that we aren't likely to find Yoda or ET any time soon. The great news is that there are probably 64 million Earth like worlds out there in the galaxy! Most don't have intelligent life. So the opportunity to people the galaxy is at least mostly ours! Yes we are going to find life out there. Eventually the odds are in favor of even finding intelligent life but clearly intelligent life is extremely scattered in the universe. This is really good news for two reasons. First it means that civilizations can expand, have room to grow. Second it means that out in space it is likely that civilizations of different species don't often come into contact. Think what happened when long isolated peoples of the same species separated by vast water oceans came into contact during the age of European exploration. Sometimes whole societies died. So when spacefaring civilizations meet it is probably good evolutionary insurance that both species inhabit multiple worlds. When we finally meet, we may well be meeting Yoda or ET. We may also meet Typhoid Mary or even beings who simply see us as a source of protein.

 The good news about those earth like planets involves some bad news about the old home world. It will come to an end. All planets come with an expiration date; either they collide with something "earth shattering" or their suns eventually burn out. So really the choice is clear. Push off for the far shore or stay home and become extinct. Space really is an ocean and if we are meant to be a long term species in the galaxy, we were intended to be an island hopping species./

Some sources:


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