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579 comments

too much st (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157206)

It begs the question of if we need to consider a Prime Directive before exploring or sending signals too far into the depths of space.

No it does not. Kindly switch off the television now. If the universe were chock full of alien life that you couldn't miss if you threw a stone, and if we were somehow superior in technology and progress to all of them, then it MIGHT become an issue. But not in your lifetime, bub.

Re:too much st (5, Insightful)

unlametheweak (1102159) | about 6 years ago | (#23157626)

I would presume any such Prime Directive would ultimately be abused/ignored like it has been on Star Trek. International Law is only arbitrarily enforced. Let's first get a grip on how we treat our own people and the other species which inhabit our planet, then maybe we could think about how we would treat extra-terrestrial life forms (if in fact there are any). The only downside to idealism is reality.

Re:too much st (4, Funny)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 6 years ago | (#23157946)

I don't know what this Prime Dircetive actually says but if it's something along the lines of

1) Subjugate and conquer any species you encounter against which you can prevail with military might.
2) Use diplomacy and survelliance/espionage techinques to undermine any species against whom you are not guaranteed to prevail to bring about their downfall and leave you in control of their resources.
3) Attempt to avoid or form favourable alliances with anything you come across which is stronger than you.
4) ...
5) Profit

Fictional rules will be no help (1)

thermian (1267986) | about 6 years ago | (#23157694)

The Prime Directive, is a dramatic device, no more. It has no universally applicable elements.

We as a species have not even managed to apply the rules it describes to ourselves yet. The idea that we could apply such a thing to aliens when we can't even agree not to bankrupt poorer nations in the name of banking profits is laughable at best, deeply disturbing at worse.

But The Real Question: (1)

blcamp (211756) | about 6 years ago | (#23157214)


Will they simply laugh at us earthlings; or shake their heads in frustration, wondering "when will we ever learn"?

Re:But The Real Question: (4, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | about 6 years ago | (#23157512)

Will they simply laugh at us earthlings; or shake their heads in frustration, wondering "when will we ever learn"?

What makes you think life forms entirely alien to earth will even have heads? Starfish have no heads, jellyfish have no heads.

I think it's a bit early to worry about TFS's "Star Trek Prime Directive". Sure, there is probably life alien to earth but face it, guys - we haven't found any. Not yet.

There are folks who think an advanced civilization from some other star has already come here to study us (Roswell), but if in fact those are aliens come to visit us, I think it more likely that it is a species descended from us come back in time to do some archaeology rather than visiting from Betelguise to work on a Wikipedia entry on us..

Travelling faster than the speed of light is, after all, just as impossible as time travel. Humans have been human for less than a million years, what will we be like in another ten million? Will we have found that time travel is as impossible as air travel was 1000 years ago?

Re:But The Real Question: (4, Informative)

JohnFluxx (413620) | about 6 years ago | (#23157676)

> Travelling faster than the speed of light is, after all, just as impossible as time travel

Travelling faster than the speed of light is pretty much the same thing as time travel. If you could travel faster than the speed of light, then you could time travel.

Re:But The Real Question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157812)

Will we have found that time travel is as impossible as air travel was 1000 years ago?
But 1000 years ago air travel wasn't impossible, it just wasn't possible for humans. Do you propose that birds evolved to develop the power of flight in the last 1000 years? If so then you're crazy.

Re:But The Real Question: (5, Funny)

SterlingSylver (1122973) | about 6 years ago | (#23157908)

The best evidence for intelligent life in the universe is that it hasn't contacted us yet
(Paraphrasing Calvin)

Why is this newsworthy? (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 years ago | (#23157224)

firstly many Scientists have came to that conclusion, Many mathematically proven that even if you call life rare, the sheer number of stars with the possibility of planets in a habitable zone means there is a crapload of civilizations out there.

Hawking has said this before earlier as well. Just because he makes the same statement again instantly makes this news??

Come on the Drake Equation has been around for a long time now guys.

But...but... (4, Funny)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 6 years ago | (#23157252)

But...but...the sumbitter managed to insert a spurious Star Trek reference!!! Surely that is newsworthy!

Re:But...but... (4, Informative)

aug24 (38229) | about 6 years ago | (#23157400)

Not to mention a blatant physics error*, good on him, give him a /. gold star ;-)

Justin.
* "sending signals too far into the depths of space" - see 'inverse square law' and 'size of solar system', not to mention 'microwave background'

Re:Why is this newsworthy? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 6 years ago | (#23157278)

Actually, it means that there is almost certainly a crapload of civilizations out there, it is not a foregone conclusion.

It is nevertheless still entirely possible, however unlikely, that our own civilization might actually be the only one in the whole universe.

Re:Why is this newsworthy? (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | about 6 years ago | (#23157764)

It is nevertheless still entirely possible, however unlikely, that our own civilization might actually be the only one in the whole universe.

You call this "civilization?" Get your hands off me, you dirty ape!

In other news, aliens consider Stephen Hawking unlikely.

Re:Why is this newsworthy? (5, Informative)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | about 6 years ago | (#23157836)

It is nevertheless still entirely possible, however unlikely, that our own civilization might actually be the only one in the whole universe.
We certainly don't know for sure yet. But, if the universe is infinite (our current best measurements indicate that the universe is flat [wikipedia.org] and infinite), and if the initial conditions were ergodic [wikipedia.org] (which is indeed the prediction of our best model, inflation [wikipedia.org], and is consistent with the data, e.g. the microwave background [wikipedia.org]), then there are an infinite number of causally-disconnected Hubble volumes [wikipedia.org], which essentially guarantees that life exists at multiple locations in the universe.

What this means is that in an infinite universe that has totally random initial conditions, every possible state will be realized somewhere. That means that somewhere in the universe, conditions very similar to our local conditions will be realized. Not only does this mathematically guarantee that life exists somwhere, but also that "copies" of Earth and you and me exist somewhere. All possible variants of matter organization are realized somewhere in the infinite universe (and in fact may be repeated over and over). Of course, the distances over which you will see a repeat may be fantastically large (much, much larger than the observable universe, for instance). Also, life-forms in causally-disconnected volumes can never communicate with each other. (So you may say... who cares?)

In any case, it's not known with certainty that the universe is infinite (or that the big bang was ergodic)... but our current theories allow for models where the multiple emergence of life (and all physically reasonable variants) is in fact mathematically guaranteed. Kinda interesting.

Re:Why is this newsworthy? (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 6 years ago | (#23157436)

Well, most of us assign quite a low value to B_6 in the Drake Equation. That said, the likelihood of life existing and the likelihood of our encountering it are two very different things. If it is not possible to travel faster than light then the space and time between us and our nearest neighbouring civilisation is likely to be prohibitive.

Re:Why is this newsworthy? (-1, Troll)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 6 years ago | (#23157536)

Because it means that he support Clinton and or McCain.
"Hawking compared people who don't want to spend money on human space exploration to those who opposed the journey of Christopher Columbus in 1492."
Of course some Native Americans my feel otherwise.
BTW I am part Native American so please keep you self loathing indignation to yourself.

Re:Why is this newsworthy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157598)

This time he also suggested that we all cooperate together, perhaps spend 0.25% of the globe's GDP on space exploration. Basically, we need to get off our asses, pull our collective heads out of them, and do some REAL space exploration.

I said something similar a couple of days ago. Judging from comments on that post, I hope that SH gets more respect than I did.

Besides, it's good to see some kind of intelligence in the news, as opposed to what color real American patriots should wear when voting.

It will take people like SH to put in the public consciousness the thought that we should all work together to explore space, exploit some of those other natural resources out there, meet the neighbors. Nothing would be better than a kind of galactic King Of The Hill having a beer with the neighbors television show.

I can't wait to see the commercials for the first NASCAR Asteroid 500 race.

Seriously, SH made the news because he is trying to gather support for global cooperative space exploration efforts... and lets face it, he doesn't have the kind of time where he can be patient about it.

Re:Why is this newsworthy? (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 6 years ago | (#23157758)

The Drake Equation doesn't tell us everything. For starters, there's the Fermi Paradox [wikipedia.org]. More interesting, imho, are the questions raised by the Great Filter [gmu.edu] -- namely, are the hard challenges ahead of us, or behind us?

If Hawking says he thinks life elsewhere is likely, then that implies a certain degree of pessimism about our future chances.

No begging (4, Informative)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 6 years ago | (#23157228)

It begs the question of if we need to consider a Prime Directive before exploring or sending signals too far into the depths of space.

No, it doesn't [begthequestion.info]. There. Got that out of the way.

Re:No begging (2, Insightful)

irlyh8d2 (1241290) | about 6 years ago | (#23157300)

That's the popular usage of "begging the question". As in: "that invites the question...".

Re:No begging (1, Informative)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | about 6 years ago | (#23157442)

Popular, but incorrect usage. Sort of like saying "I bough a soda for my wife and I." It's used quite regularly, but it's still wrong (should be "I bought a soda for me and my wife."

Re:No begging (1)

Angostura (703910) | about 6 years ago | (#23157506)

Actually, I believe that the correct, polite usage would be 'I bought a soda for my wife and me' - it is polite to put the other person first.

Feel free to show me where I am wrong, however.

Re:No begging (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 6 years ago | (#23157800)

Actually, I believe that the correct, polite usage would be 'I bought a soda for my wife and me' - it is polite to put the other person first.

Feel free to show me where I am wrong, however.
IANAET, but from what I remember, the order isn't relevant as long as the subclauses work individually.

"I bought a soda for me." "I bought a soda for my wife." "I bought a soda for my wife and me" || "I bought a soda for me and my wife."

I would think it would be "..for my wife and myself", but... yeah.

Re:No begging (2, Insightful)

irlyh8d2 (1241290) | about 6 years ago | (#23157542)

There's a reason why linguists don't go anal over these things. The point of language is to communicate and be understood by the other side. So long as that happens, it doesn't really matter what happens with the language itself. If a change makes it harder to communicate, then it won't catch on. Popular misinterpretation of phrases often comes from the interpretation making more sense than the original usage. Here: to beg for a question is to invite it. Meanwhile, where in premise-assuming is the question?

Re:No begging (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | about 6 years ago | (#23157616)

If you really insist on phrasing it in that order, wouldn't it be more correct to say "I bought a soda for myself and my wife"?

Re:No begging (1)

genner (694963) | about 6 years ago | (#23157708)

No that's stillnot right. The correct sentence structure would be
"I bought a soda for my wife and another for myself, so she wouldn't feel guilty drinking it. "

Re:No begging (3, Funny)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | about 6 years ago | (#23157822)

No that's stillnot right. The correct sentence structure would be "I bought a soda for my wife and another for myself, so she wouldn't feel guilty drinking it.

You stil don't have it right. "I bought a soda for your wife, and a double shot of rum for myself, because your wife is so fugly that even drunk, she scares me!"

Re:No begging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157612)

I think you're a douchebag because you're an asshole.

Re:No begging (1)

blind biker (1066130) | about 6 years ago | (#23157620)

English is not my mother tongue, but my impression is that the original (quoted) poster didn't abuse, but only use, the "beg the question" expression. It did not try to prejudice an outcome.

Feel free to correct me or confirm - I'll learn something either way.

Re:No begging (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 6 years ago | (#23157638)

Keep banging that head against the wall.

Not only does the old usage hardly exist anymore, but when you try to use it people have no idea what you are talking about.

Language changes.

Re:No begging (1)

B3ryllium (571199) | about 6 years ago | (#23157646)

... well, at the very least, your post begs the question of why you have so much free time that you can sit on the intarweb and patrol for grammatical and logical infractions.

Re:No begging (1)

Experiment 626 (698257) | about 6 years ago | (#23157686)

Words and expressions often have multiple meanings. In this case, both the definition you cite, and the way the summary uses the phrase, are correct, and which is meant is discerned from the context. While I laud your ability to get +5 Informative by lacking the ability to do so, it begs the question as to whether you also post on topics about gay rights insisting that gay can only mean cheerful and not homosexual.

Re:No begging (3, Insightful)

LanceUppercut (766964) | about 6 years ago | (#23157932)

Absolutely not. There's a line, albeit fuzzy, between the formerly incorrect but now accepted uses of words, and the uses that are incorrect and unacceptable. This "begs the question" nonsense belongs to the second category. One day it will move to the first, no doubt about it, since after all, that's what American English is: an exercise in well-established illiteracy. But it is not there yet.

Re:No begging (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157902)

no, you didn't get anything out of the way. you're an idiot. the only thing i hope you get out of the way is your inability to work with the rest of the world that uses the term begs the question in a different manner. shove it.

Prime Directive? (4, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | about 6 years ago | (#23157238)

We, as a species, haven't managed to solve the problem of destroying primitive cultures *here* or a thousand other problems that suggest not corrupting alien cultures is something we shouldn't worry too much about.

I mean seriously -- if we think our technology and culture is okay for the entire planet, why should we stop here?

Re:Prime Directive? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157472)

Well, I thought "primitive life" was also called "food"? I didn't think of it as having a culture (although of course you can "culture" bacteria in a lab, but that hardly counts!).

I mean, do we think cows have a culture? How about chickens? Just a "pecking order" right? As long as it "tastes like chicken" it must be food...

Re:Prime Directive? (1)

EMeta (860558) | about 6 years ago | (#23157488)

Indeed. I think the unstated addendum to the Prime Directive is that No pre-warp civilization should be affected by a warp-age civilization. We're still a bit away from having to worry about that.

Unless Stephen has another announcement he's saving for another date...

Re:Prime Directive? (1)

dmd53 (1269344) | about 6 years ago | (#23157656)

I mean seriously -- if we think our technology and culture is okay for the entire planet, why should we stop here?
On the contrary-- it's not fair to assume that our technology and culture is okay for the entire planet. According to Wikipedia, Roddenberry built his conception of the Prime Directive based on his belief that Christian missionaries were unduly interfering in primitive cultures. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_directive#Variation_and_Origin [wikipedia.org] ]

The negative effects of contact with primitive cultures is well-documented, with the development of "cargo cults" and the like [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult [wikipedia.org] ]. Certainly there are benefits for the culture (AIDS prevention and clean water in Africa, as well as the OLPC program come readily to mind) but past experience raises some issues.

I think the real question should be if we need a Prime Directive for Earth itself, not whether we should disregard any possible interactions with extraterrestrial cultures.

Re:Prime Directive? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | about 6 years ago | (#23157700)

Voyager 1 has been travelling for thirty years and still isn't completely out of the solar system. If you travel at half the speed of light it will take you that long to get to Sirius and back.

I think before we contemplate attacking France maybe we should get out of our own backyard first.

okk.. (5, Funny)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | about 6 years ago | (#23157240)

It begs the question of if we need to consider a Prime Directive before exploring or sending signals too far into the depths of space.

You're absolutely right! We should definitely set hold back on all the space exploration we've been doing. Also, we should set physical limits for our transmissions to "expire" after a certain distance, so we don't send them "too far". In fact, that would be the only responsible thing to do for Masters of the Universe such as us.

Re:okk.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157338)

By "us," I assume you mean "The US."

Re:okk.. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157484)

we should set physical limits for our transmissions to "expire" after a certain distance
New York - April 22, 2008 - The RIAA/MPAA today announced a new initiative targetting so-called "transmission sharing." A spokesperson for the group is quoted as saying "just because an intelligent alien signal has been put out there - illegally - in the public domain doesn't mean the recording label doesn't deserve their fair cut of the action." As with the ongoing file-sharing battle, technology will play a pivotal role in the battle against transmission sharers. Several not-for-profit SETI organizations are reporting that signals are mysteriously "expiring" at a certain distance from the earth. "It's making our work unnecessarily complicated" one researcher is quoted as saying.

Re:okk.. (1)

andphi (899406) | about 6 years ago | (#23157580)

I thought that our signals already atrophy into white noise after a few light-years. So far as I can tell, the only noticeable, durable transmissions we've sent so far are the Pioneer 10 and 11 and the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, which haven't even really left the solar system yet. Somehow, I think the odds of another civilization finding one of them by accident are (no pun intended) astronomically low. The finders would probably have to intercept them quite deliberately.

I realize, of course, that you were replying sarcastically to the summary editorial.

Directive Prime (3, Funny)

dark grep (766587) | about 6 years ago | (#23157242)

A prime directive is a great idea. It provides the 100% certainty that it will not be followed any in instance the plot line requires it.

Re:Directive Prime (2, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | about 6 years ago | (#23157452)

I always thought that's why it's the "prime" directive - because it's the first one to go out the window when inconvenient.

if we ever find intelligent life (2, Interesting)

OrochimaruVoldemort (1248060) | about 6 years ago | (#23157244)

we should be sure of two things. one, is it friendly? and two, are they willing to share in their probably vast knowledge? if the first is no, then it would have been better to not have found life in the first place. if the second question is no, then we need to prove that we are not as violent as we really are. if the second one is yes, then we should take great care not to turn on them.

Re:if we ever find intelligent life (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 6 years ago | (#23157440)

we should be sure of two things. one, is it friendly? and two, are they willing to share in their probably vast knowledge? if the first is no, then it would have been better to not have found life in the first place. if the second question is no, then we need to prove that we are not as violent as we really are. if the second one is yes, then we should take great care not to turn on them.
This attitude comes straight out of reading too much science fiction. Whether it's 'friendly' or not paints wayyy to simplistic of a picture. I would say that it would be more important to ask "How do they regard intelligent life and how do they interact with it, amongst themselves and between other species?"

Furthermore, for the second question, how willing would you be to share your knowledge with someone you just met off the street 5 mintues ago? Some information, you might share such as the location of your favorite [insert food-type] restauraunt. Other information, like, say, your secret plans for world domination, you wouldn't be so likely to share.

Re:if we ever find intelligent life (1)

OrochimaruVoldemort (1248060) | about 6 years ago | (#23157538)

This attitude comes straight out of reading too much science fiction. Whether it's 'friendly' or not paints wayyy to simplistic of a picture.
for as much as that is true, science fiction does bring in a few very real and basic questions. there is no denying this.

he must be one of them (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157258)

I for one, Welcome our new Hawking Overlords

But there are aliens on every planet! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157274)

Must be a slow day for news...

Re:But there are aliens on every planet! (1)

tgatliff (311583) | about 6 years ago | (#23157404)

Wouldnt you know that on Drudge Report this morning the top new article heading is "MYSTERY LIGHTS OVER ARIZONA, FLORIDA; RESIDENTS SPOOKED"...

So yes, it must be a slow news day... :)

No (4, Insightful)

Oscaro (153645) | about 6 years ago | (#23157282)

"Aliens being likely" does not mean that it's likely we will ever meet one (or be successful in either sending or receiving any communication).

We are primitive (1)

jonfr (888673) | about 6 years ago | (#23157296)

He is correct, we are primitive. Lets hope that there are smarter aliens out there.

maybe (1)

vajaradakini (1209944) | about 6 years ago | (#23157306)

There are more enlightened beings in the universe than us and their prime directive policies keep them from contacting us.

As much as it's noble to not want to interfere with the development of other species on other planets, if they're scanning the skies looking for radio signals from distant worlds, they're probably about as advanced as we are and it's rather conceited of us to assume that we're smarter or better off than these people. And really, any interaction with intelligent beings from other worlds would probably have a profound effect on us as well.

Re:maybe (2, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | about 6 years ago | (#23157588)

I think any advanced race would be one of two ways.
1) Independence Day types, which go around trying to use the resources of other planets, and probably destroying other races so that those races won't even become a threat.
2) Loners who don't care about us, and are doing their own thing (probably something we can't fathom as this stage in our scientific understanding).

I figure if a race is evolved enough to fly all the way to our planet, if they wanted something they would not just do a "fair trade" they would just take it. That includes the whole planet if they wanted it for something.

Presumptuous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157316)

and arrogant to assume that all other life in the universe is more primitive than our own.

Hawking isn't an astrobiologist (4, Interesting)

Five Bucks! (769277) | about 6 years ago | (#23157336)

However, because alien life might not have DNA like us, Hawking warned: "Watch out if you would meet an alien. You could be infected with a disease with which you have no resistance."
That is precisely why I wouldn't be worried. Any pathogenic symbiote would have evolved to take advantage of the host's physiology -- not ours.

Re:Hawking isn't an astrobiologist (3, Insightful)

liquidpele (663430) | about 6 years ago | (#23157444)

I think he means things like alien bacteria, fungus, and parasites that don't depend on DNA. There are a lot of pathogens out there besides viruses...

Re:Hawking isn't an astrobiologist (1)

Timesprout (579035) | about 6 years ago | (#23157502)

Exactly and we are no use to the aliens for food or slaving in their mines if we all die from alien bird flu so expect them to bring lots of antibiotics anyway.

Re:Hawking isn't an astrobiologist (1)

sdpuppy (898535) | about 6 years ago | (#23157516)

Exactly! As much as I respect Hawking, that has to be one of the most bone headed comments...

In any case, its a perfect example why you don't go to your friendly neighborhood chemist (the one with the PhD) to treat your broken leg, you go to an MD.

Some Notes on Alien Life (2, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | about 6 years ago | (#23157340)

1: I too believe there's alien life. In fact, I have no doubt that there is.

2: I suspect there's no other intelligent/space faring life in our galaxy, but probably there is in other galaxies. (Fermi paradox and Tipler-Barrow arguments both are pretty convincing to me).

For me, #1 means that we should be careful to make sure our spaceships are bug free so we don't contaminate places we land on with life that could wipe out any indigenous life.

For #2, it means that it's impossible for us to ever have a meaningful conversation with other life (assuming I'm right that there's no other intelligent/spacefaring civilizations in our galaxy).

So, I don't think we need to be too concerned with sending out signals. By the time they reach any other life, we'll either be gone, or we will have colonized the entire galaxy, which means we'd likely be safe from extermination. I suspect those are the only 2 realistic probabilities.

Re:Some Notes on Alien Life (4, Insightful)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | about 6 years ago | (#23157774)

I don't see why Fermi's paradox is in any way a good argument. By his argument, there are no lobsters at all. I know this because last night I left my door open and waited for one to crawl in.

Put another way - we (humanity) went from fairly small mammals to now in about 65 million years. If the dinosaurs hadn't fallen victim to $extinctionLevelEvent, they could easily have become as evolved as we are now - just a whole lot earlier. So, if intelligent/sentient life could have evolved here 60 million years ago, why wouldn't that be the case in another solar system?

For all we know, it's entirely possible that 15,000 light years away there's a planet with a civilization that is EXACTLY as evolved as we are. Why haven't we heard from them yet? Physics - would take 15,000 years for any signal to reach us. Hell, 200 light years away would suffice for that argument, and in both cases Fermi would look like an idiot.

As an aside, I see his paradox along the lines of creationism - after all, we can't prove that something doesn't exist. Only that it does.

Re:Some Notes on Alien Life (1)

qazsedcft (911254) | about 6 years ago | (#23157906)

For me, #1 means that we should be careful to make sure our spaceships are bug free so we don't contaminate places we land on with life that could wipe out any indigenous life.

This is the default. Radiation from the sun and a zero pressure, zero gravity environment is enough to kill any microbes on our spaceships.

Prime Directive my shiny metal ass! (4, Funny)

benwiggy (1262536) | about 6 years ago | (#23157398)

Was there a planet that Kirk/Picard/Janeway didn't leave in a fundamentally different state after turning up?
Humans are designed to trade, travel and exploit resources. Then move on when there are too many tourists.
Frankly, I'm surprised there isn't aready a Prime Directive that reads:
"See that blue/green planet with all the space junk and EM noise? You want to leave that one well alone!"

Re:Prime Directive my shiny metal ass! (3, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 6 years ago | (#23157792)

Was there a planet that Kirk/Picard/Janeway didn't leave in a fundamentally different state after turning up?


Yes. Two episodes of TNG come to mind and they illustrate the Prime Directive. I don't know the names of the episodes (and too lazy to look them up) but here are their descriptions.

The first involved Riker being found out while on a mission to make contact with a civilization that was beginning space exploration. The actress who played Lillith is the female doctor who realizes what he is and wants to hump him at every opportunity (no argument from me). In the end, Picard meets with their leader and is asked not to return until the people are ready for the fact that there are other beings in the universe.

The second involves Deanna's mother and her infatuation with David Ogden Stiers (Charles Emerson Winchester III). On his planet, when people reach a certain age, they are required to commit suicide. Deanna's mother can't come to grips with this and begs him not to go through with it. She even asks for Picard to offer him asylum. Picard refuses and things go on.

In both cases, while contact had been made, the balance of the civilizations was not upset. One could argue that in the first case, the fact that certain people knew about these visitors fundamentally changed things but since only a select few knew, the general populace went about their business none the wiser.

Personally, I think those two episodes, along with the one where Picard has to convince a group of pre-industrial people he is not a god despite his "powers", are the three episodes which best illustrate the Prime Directive and some of its permutations.

Nope (4, Funny)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about 6 years ago | (#23157416)

The Prime Directive applies when an advanced culture encounters a more primitive one. While I think there is alien life out there, I seriously doubt that we'll find anyone more primitive than us.

The problem with Hawking's statement (4, Informative)

eebra82 (907996) | about 6 years ago | (#23157468)

Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man who once claimed to be fortunate to suffer from ALS, because it gives him far more time to think and do things that normal people would instead spend on other activities (because they can).

The only problem I have with his statements at GWU is that he is focusing too much on radio waves. He is speculating that since we haven't detected any radio waves, it is unlikely that any intelligent civilization exists close to earth (and by close, I mean in astronomical measures).

In my opinion, scientists are taking too much for granted when looking for life. We assume that it is more likely to find life wherever water exists and we constantly assume that the conditions must be earth-like. And regarding the radio waves, I don't understand why an extraterrestrial civilization would even need to use such technology. It is just as likely that they communicate in entirely different ways. After all, hearing and seeing is just one way of living, but not a necessity.

I realize that radio waves occur from more than just television shows, but this is mainly the type of signals we look for since the odds of intended communications from other planets are insanely small.

Re:The problem with Hawking's statement (1)

Timesprout (579035) | about 6 years ago | (#23157604)

Whats the problem here? We want to look for alien life so we cant sit around forever trying to figure out what form it has and how it communicates. We have to start somewhere and from our own (albeit very limited experience of life) water and radio waves currently seem to be two very good indicators. It may well be that they are not and we just happen to stumble across alien life completely by accident but if we don't start somewhere we are highly unlikely to find anything.

Re:The problem with Hawking's statement (1)

eebra82 (907996) | about 6 years ago | (#23157696)

Whats the problem here? We want to look for alien life so we cant sit around forever trying to figure out what form it has and how it communicates. We have to start somewhere and from our own (albeit very limited experience of life) water and radio waves currently seem to be two very good indicators.
You ask what the problem is but you also answer your own question (unintentionally). The problem is obviously that if we look for places with similar conditions, not only is it like looking for a needle in a billion haystacks, but at the same time knowing that the needle may not be a needle, but in fact a button, string or something else.

First we should find out how life started, prove it and then see if there are other ways of creating life. Only then can we know what the needle really looks like.

Re:The problem with Hawking's statement (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 6 years ago | (#23157832)

And regarding the radio waves, I don't understand why an extraterrestrial civilization would even need to use such technology.
They are limited by physics (or at least what we understand of it). "Radio waves" are just photons. If a culture is going to communicate wirelessly, they'll need to use photons.

Then it's just a matter of settling on WHICH photons to look for. Some don't work well for communications (like the visible spectrum). Some won't travel very far. We are capable of producing photons at just about any desired wavelength, and yet we've settled on a narrow range for communications.

You could argue that we don't understand the natural world completely yet, and so there could be other means of communication. This is absolutely true, but how would we look for something that we don't know about? Electromagnetic waves are so easy to detect and discover that any technologically advanced culture is bound to use them eventually.

The Prime Directive is Evil (5, Funny)

kylben (1008989) | about 6 years ago | (#23157498)

It begs the question of if we need to consider a Prime Directive

"Hello Mr. Alien. Welcome to our planet. Boy, you sure are more advanced than us!"

"Why, yes, we are, thank you. By the way, I couldn't help noticing that many of you still die from cancer."

"'Still die'? You mean you don't?"

"Oh, no, we cured that a long time ago. Same for that crooked politician thing you've got going. And war. Oh, and that thing you call 'Alzheimers', too. And global warming. We don't have any of that. They all turned out to be really simple to fix, in fact."

"Really? that's wonderful. Will you teach us how to solve these things."

"What? No, no, child, your culture isn't ready for all that. Besides, you're so cute the way you are. No, we'll just stay up in our ships and watch you figure it out. It will probably take several more generations, but that's OK, with our advanced medical technology, we will live long enough to see it... unless you wipe yourselves out in the process, that is. He he. You amuse us."

"Asshole"

how dare we (1)

Neuropol (665537) | about 6 years ago | (#23157500)

... assume that other life in the Universe is primitive. That way of thinking just reveals our primitive nature in thinking we are still the only form of "intelligent life" in this Great Universe filled with Billions of galaxies just like ours.

Get a big clue, Earth people. They're here and have been longer than you care to learn about.

Continue on with arrogant thinking!

Noted? (3, Informative)

Stooshie (993666) | about 6 years ago | (#23157548)

Noted astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking ...

Ahem, I suspect he is a little more tha noted. He holds the same chair as Sir Isaac Newton did at Cambridge University, worked out how black holes work and is probably the most famous scientist in the world. Even the article [yahoo.com] says:

Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking ...

Answer: no. That was easy. (2, Insightful)

bistromath007 (1253428) | about 6 years ago | (#23157570)

Honestly, the Prime Directive was the dumbest shit in the show. Any captain worth watching gave it the finger every three episodes. Programs of organized uplift would make much more sense. I mean we'd only hope for the same if somebody better ever finds us. Golden Rule and all that.

Pointless... (0, Redundant)

EddyPearson (901263) | about 6 years ago | (#23157592)

Given that we now have (to the best of our knowledge) accurate estimates as to the size and make up of the Universe, probability wise, this is common sense.

Hawking is a long way past his prime. Once your average Scientist hits 30, their mind will slow down, and it's likely you won't see much groundbreaking research from them.

Aliens are avoiding us (2, Funny)

athloi (1075845) | about 6 years ago | (#23157680)

They've seen our television.

Not only are the game shows bad, the soap operas moronic, and the news hours obviously paid advertisements, but our shopping network features declasse technology.

From what they can tell, showing up on earth and saying "I am an alien" is a quick way to get a dead-end job in food service.

They're hanging out in the horsehead nebula, periodically manipulating us with botnets comprised of compromised Windows machines.

RTFA: Hawking is actually being funny (1)

Siquo (1259368) | about 6 years ago | (#23157710)

Not going into outer space might mean not having the future version of KFC!
Hawking is a true Man of the People, he knows what the people want, vote this guy for president!


Please.

Other News (0, Offtopic)

Cctoide (923843) | about 6 years ago | (#23157726)

Scientists Prove Headline Simplification Sometimes Deleterious Headline Intelligibility.

Film 11, Tuned.

I'm so sick of the lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23157790)

Of course there is life on other planets. There is evidence of life previously existing on Mars.
UFOTV: Life On MARS-New Scientific Evidence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5u-20g7Bwdw [youtube.com]
* "The natural origin hypothesis is disproved at odds of 1000 billion billion to one."
* "The artificiality of Cydonia is established beyond a reasonable doubt."

Hawking's opinion counts for little (2, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 6 years ago | (#23157926)

Hawking is a theoretical physicist. His opinion on the subject is worth no more than mine, in fact possibly less, since I have probably done more biochemistry than he has. Disclaimer: I'm not pretending to be as intelligent as Hawking, just suggesting that any science graduate who has been to Cambridge or one of its equivalents is just as qualified, or more so, to speak on extra-terrestrial life than he is. Just as being a bishop does not make you an expert on evolution, being a physicist doesn't make you an expert on biology.

Now a couple of reasons why Hawking may be totally wrong.

  • 1. We have no evidence that we as a species will ever be able to deploy enough energy or resources to move beyond this solar system. We can already foresee the end of cheap energy, and it is all we can do to lift a few tonnes to low earth orbit. It is quite possible that the Universe is so arranged that almost every possible life form is trapped in its own solar system.
  • 2. The period in which we have emitted significant radio waves into space is barely 100 years, and more and more we are moving to very short range low power transmitters. It's quite possible that every civilisation does that and so, except for a narrow window of a hundred years or so, is effectively radio silent. You might pick up a primitive 50s and 60s AM transmitter (think Voice of America and megawatts on a narrow frequency band) but not all those Bluetooth devices.
If both of these are correct, the chance that we will detect another civilisation is extraordinarily small even if they are extremely common. In fact, the growing knowledge of carbon chemistry - graphenes and so on - and clays suggest that there are many opportunities for substrates to arise that might hold together primitive organics long enough for life to get a start. It's a subject which is getting increasingly interesting; if you take enough surface area and spread enough small molecules over it for long enough under enough variations of conditions, something is more or less bound to happen. Recent research also seems to suggest that there could be planets around smaller and so longer-lived stars which might have conditions suitable for the formation of life for much longer than the Earth will. Our own planet may be a lot less than optimal. In which case life is likely to be very common indeed, but the low energy environments in which it evolves may make it quite unsuitable for expanding from one star to another.

And why should it? The belief that there is something special about the human race which justifies its long term existence is as "religious" as any theistic religion, and no more defensible.

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