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Exoplanet Count Tops 700

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the earth-count-is-still-one dept.

Space 128

astroengine writes "On Friday, the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia registered more than 700 confirmed exoplanets. Although this is an amazing milestone, it won't be long until the 'first thousand' are confirmed. Only two months ago, the encyclopedia — administered by astrobiologist Jean Schneider of the Paris-Meudon Observatory — registered 600 confirmed alien worlds. Since then, there has been a slew of announcements including the addition of a batch of 50 exoplanets by the European Southern Observatory's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (or HARPS) in September."

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First Post count tops 100 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119440)

I am very good at what I do here.

who will annouce #1000 (1)

beernutmark (1274132) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119468)

I wonder if there will be some announcing strategy to try and be the one to announce planet #1000.

Re:who will annouce #1000 (4, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119474)

And 1024, and 1337

Re:who will annouce #1000 (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119532)

I call dibs on ownership of planet #1337.

Re:who will annouce #1000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121142)

No problem. Just make sure you are the person whom discovers it. You could of course try to put a flag on it, but that didn't work with the moon.

Re:who will annouce #1000 (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 2 years ago | (#38121480)

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.

Re:who will annouce #1000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121916)

Even if it is a gas giant?

Re:who will annouce #1000 (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about 2 years ago | (#38122446)

Easier said than done. You know how hard it is to alter the orbits of moons? Getting 2 to crash into each other is tricky business.

Re:who will annouce #1000 (2)

William Robinson (875390) | about 2 years ago | (#38122334)

I will announce it when it reaches 81680085

Re:who will annouce #1000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119502)

Good point. If you strategically save your finds, and announce them in a group when the total reaches (1000-GroupSize), you could claim #1000. Of course, if everyone did this, then it'd really just turn into a race to 300. Unless certain groups collaborated, maybe group A could give group B a certain sum of money or prostitutes or beer if group B announced theirs first with less than 300, allowing group A to announce second and take the glory. This is getting too complicated...

Re:who will annouce #1000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119704)

1000 GET should be named "millhouse" for great justice.

Geeks! Unite! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119476)

We must buy 3D printers to print out warp drives and colonize those planets, as our Holy Leader Hawking has commanded! All hail the Holy Musk and Blessed Pettis, who will lead us off this Mud Ball, for ever and ever, amen.

"confirmed" my ass. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119484)

They may reasonably believe there are 700 identified exoplanets but there's no confirmation of any meaningful sort. "Confirmation" is two separate people observing a star and noticing the same wiggle. Yet the observations don't match up with any known models of planet formation or simulations. Now, these models are based on our own planetary system which may be an outlier (or other planetary systems could have different physics). But if you look at the data with no pre-conceptions, it matches up with the electric universe theory!

Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (3, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119494)

could've sworn it was there a few months ago... anyone know what happened to it?

Re:Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (3, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119578)

Well, in a galaxy far far away ...

Re:Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119796)

a b-grade spaghetti western was filmed

Re:Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119940)

You sir, have just lost your geek card.

Giving a Star Wars response to a Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan reference...

"Khan: Captain, Captain, Captain... save your strength. These people have sworn to live and die at my command two hundred years before you were born. Do you mean he never told you the tale? To amuse your Captain, no? Never told you how the Enterprise picked up the Botany Bay, lost in space from the year 1996 with myself and the ship's company in cryogenic freeze?
Capt. Terrell: I never even met Admiral Kirk.

Khan: 'Admiral?' 'Admiral!' 'Admiral'... Never told you how 'Admiral' Kirk sent seventy of us into exile in this barren sandheap with only the contents of these cargo bays to sustain us?

Chekov: You lie! On Ceti Alpha Five there was life! A fair chance...

Khan: [shouts] THIS IS CETI ALPHA FIVE! Ceti Alpha Six exploded six months after we were left here. The shock shifted the orbit of this planet and everything was laid waste. 'Admiral' Kirk never bothered to check on our progress. It was only the fact of my genetically-engineered intellect that allowed us to survive. On Earth, two hundred years ago, I was a prince with power over millions... "

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084726/quotes?qt0454870

Re:Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#38121642)

YHBT.
YHL.
HAND.

Re:Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121984)

GFY.

Re:Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (3, Funny)

mark_elf (2009518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119722)

I cannot confirm the existence of Praxis.

Re:Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119764)

I have an away mission to Ceti Alpha 5 tomorrow. I'll check it out on the way.

Re:Ceti Alpha 6 is missing from the list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120334)

Ceti Alpha 6 has checked out.

Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientists? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119498)

I just spend the weekend at a family gathering. Many of my relatives are doctors, scientists, and professors. The topic of alien life came up, and almost all of them laughed it off! Now I'm merely a computer programmer so I didn't say much, but when I hear about there being hundreds of exoplants out there in space I can't help but think that there may be life on at least some of them. After all, these are only the planets that we know about so far! There are probably millions upon millions of other similar planets out there that we just haven't discovered yet.

Why do well-educated scientists consider alien life, even if it's very simple or nothing like life here on earth, to be such an absurd idea? Why do they have so much trouble considering it with any seriousness?

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (4, Insightful)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119528)

Because if what we've found so far is at least a somewhat representative sample, the overwhelming majority of planets tend to be either gas giants, frozen balls of rock and ice, or roasted balls of rock and lava. You have to be terribly imaginative to see life coming up on worlds like that.

Of course, even if we go by 1 in 700, or 1 in a million for that matter, the Milky way ought to be positively teeming with life. We simply don't have enough data to make a meaningful conclusion either way yet.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (5, Insightful)

Ragondux (2034126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119652)

But we know that what we've found so far is NOT a representative sample, because the methods are biasied towards finding jupiter-sized planets?

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119694)

The problem is that many of those gas giants are close to their stars, and that doesn't bode well for finding habitable terrestrial planets. Gas giants can't form close to stars, they have to migrate towards them.

Disclosure: I am not an astronomer

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (4, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119956)

We can restate the original premise. Our methods are biased towards finding large planets close to stars.

Given the limits of our current techniques, it should be possible to quantify the limits of their resolution. Put this together with some models of solar system formation and we can extrapolate our observations using a model that says X% of all planetary discs tend to evolve into systems with large planets that migrate in toward their sun. So 1-X remain in some other state. perhaps one we can't detect (yet).

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120800)

Gas giants can't form close to stars, they have to migrate towards them.

That too is in question. To understand why we see so many Jupiter-sized planets you really need to understand the techniques we use to detect them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methods_of_detecting_extrasolar_planets#Established_detection_methods [wikipedia.org]

For some methods fully confirming a planet requires more than one orbit. Their orbit may be measured in years, decades or centuries. For other methods it's a one off event and we can't confirm the existence of the planet. The first confirmed planets were detected around a pulsar (a kind of dead star) only in 1992. And the method used only worked for pulsars. It took until 1995 to detect a planet around a main sequence star.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extrasolar_planet [wikipedia.org]

Then it took years to get dedicated space instruments up. Effectively we've been at this only for 17 years. Given the difficulty that's nothing. Give it time! Perhaps your grandkids will grow up with earth sized planets confirmed.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38122724)

This one is pretty close:

http://184.72.55.19/kepler/detail/157.05

And this one

http://184.72.55.19/kepler/detail/268.01

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (4, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120510)

Not to mention objects with really short orbits, which means much more rapid observations. Any planet will only pass between the star and us once per cycle (assuming it's in the plane) which makes it much easier to find orbits measures in weeks or months instead of years and decades. Like for example our Jupiter has an orbit of almost 12 years. They need two measurements to get a period and want three for confirmation, that's 36 years. How long have we been searching for exoplanets again? Oh right, we wouldn't have found our own solar system yet.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2)

sunzoomspark (1960660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119734)

"Because if what we've found so far is at least a somewhat representative sample, the overwhelming majority of planets tend to be either gas giants, frozen balls of rock and ice, or roasted balls of rock and lava. You have to be terribly imaginative to see life coming up on worlds like that."

There are plenty of life forms that live in unusual environments right here on this planet. Geothermal vent ecosystems for example:

Deep-sea bacteria form the base of a varied food chain that includes shrimp, tubeworms, clams, fish, crabs, and octopi. All of these animals must be adapted to endure the extreme environment of the vents -- complete darkness; water temperatures ranging from 2C (in ambient seawater) to about 400C (at the vent openings); pressures hundreds of times that at sea level; and high concentrations of sulfides and other noxious chemicals.

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2001/ast13apr_1/ [nasa.gov]
There are also bacteria that live in sulphuric acid in caves.
http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/planet-earth/guide/caves.html [discovery.com]
It isn't unreasonable to think that life may have evolved in unusual environments elsewhere.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (5, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119746)

Not really. Basically, as soon as our methods allow to detect lower-mass planets we immediately detect them.

It's just that now our tools are not yet good enough to detect Earth-sized planets in habitable zone.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2)

TxRv (1662461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119750)

Where do you get the idea that scientists don't believe in extraterrestrial life?

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

TxRv (1662461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120654)

just realised I responded to a response to the question. Such are the dangers of posting from the feed reader view...

Mod parent up! (1)

openfrog (897716) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120950)

I just spent my last mod point 30 seconds ago...
This guy got modded up telling an anecdote implying that scientists laugh off the idea of alien life?
Parents answer is most concise: this is just not the case. ...
Sigh...

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119938)

"You have to be terribly imaginative to see life coming up on worlds like that."

Um... no you don't. There are even theories out there for life that could exist inside a stars corona.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

Ruie (30480) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120802)

Well, actually, at the latest AAS meeting there was a talk by an expert who said that they now have enough statistics to know that one in ten stars has a gas giant and one in three has a rocky planet similar to Earth or Mars. This is from memory so excuse me if I am slightly off or swapped the numbers. They openly said that they are looking for methods to detect planets capable of having life (i.e. water, CO2, etc).

I guess we are at the point in time where an expert on exoplanet searches knows that finding life in outer space is hard, but achievable, while an expert in another area thinks it is still too difficult.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121358)

ok so my question is this.. Whats the point? We can't communicate with them and certainatly can't travel there. perhaps they could travel to us but see point A. so whats the point?

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (5, Insightful)

chebucto (992517) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119588)

Why do well-educated scientists consider alien life, even if it's very simple or nothing like life here on earth, to be such an absurd idea? Why do they have so much trouble considering it with any seriousness?

The scientists in your family may not be representative of scientists in general.

I've always assumed that most people who know the numbers involved think that alien life must exist (with a hundred billion stars per galaxy and hundred billion galaxies, it seem like there are pretty good odds).

Whether we'll communicate with, travel to, or be visited by aliens is an entirely different question with a lot more scope for doubt.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119608)

I've always assumed that most people who know the numbers involved think that alien life must exist (with a hundred billion stars per galaxy and hundred billion galaxies, it seem like there are pretty good odds).

Part of the problem is that some people use 'alien life' to mean anything from microbe-sized upwards while others use it to mean 'little grey men in flying saucers'. The former is almost certain to exist, but there's no evidence for the latter and good reason to believe that they don't exist; technology merely a few thousand years ahead of ours should be visible across much of the galaxy.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (5, Insightful)

xigxag (167441) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119678)

That's not really good reason to believe they don't exist. A galactic spanning civilization, for one, would only be visible, as you say, across the galaxy. Not across the entire universe. And secondly, as of right now it is only a pipe dream that a couple thousand more years of history will spread us across the stars. We might just as easily blow ourselves up, retreat into a cyber-singularity, or just run out of gas, so to speak.

But anyway, I agree that it's likely that microbial life of various sorts is abundant. And on the other end, I've always felt that it is only a kind of cellular chauvinism that prevents us from thinking of stellar objects as life forms. They grow, they mantain homeostasis, they sometimes reproduce in a fashion, they consume, they die.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119744)

That's not really good reason to believe they don't exist. A galactic spanning civilization, for one, would only be visible, as you say, across the galaxy.

That's not obviously the case. Largescale stellar engineering is something we might notice. Dyson Spheres and Ringworlds for example are both things that we'd be able to see in nearby galaxies. Similar remarks apply to other big engineering projects.

But anyway, I agree that it's likely that microbial life of various sorts is abundant. And on the other end, I've always felt that it is only a kind of cellular chauvinism that prevents us from thinking of stellar objects as life forms. They grow, they mantain homeostasis, they sometimes reproduce in a fashion, they consume, they die.

By this logic fire would be alive also. Stars don't seem to do much of the things that life does, in particular, stars don't reproduce in a way that makes stars more similar to themselves than not so (except in so far as high metal content supernova lead to even higher metalicity).

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2, Insightful)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119846)

How would we see a Dyson Sphere if it's capturing all the output from their star? It would be just another patch of blackness against the inky black of space. Our small slice of space we can view at any given time is very tiny, frequently changing, and we can't actually see most of these exoplanets, just their effect causing their stars to wobble. We'd have no hope of seeing satellites around a planet, or space shuttles, or even a space ship the size of one of the Alliance citadel style things in Firefly, with current technology, unless they were within the inner solar system, or buzzed a probe in the outer system. We might see something very large if it deliberately silhouetted itself against Jupiter, for us.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120042)

We would see it somewhat like when we see a exoplanet today. When it transits in front of a - in this case second - star.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

akh (240886) | about 2 years ago | (#38121290)

IANAA but as I understand it a Dyson Sphere should have a pretty big infrared signature and (probably) not much in the way of other emissions. This is because if all of the contained star's energy output is being captured and used then the waste product (i.e. heat) has to be dumped somewhere (namely outside the sphere). Not sure how one would detect a ringworld though...

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121998)

How would we see a Dyson Sphere if it's capturing all the output from their star?

Captures and then does what with it? None can fool Second Law of Thermodynamics. In order to use some, you have to let some go, or else there is no flow of energy. A Dyson Sphere would most certainly shine with brightness comparable to its star.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120046)

"Dyson Spheres and Ringworlds for example are both things that we'd be able to see"

I think you meant "are both things that are make-believe."

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

Opyros (1153335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120238)

Isn't Ringworld unstable, though?

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2)

PwnzerDragoon (2014464) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120974)

Yes. Niven addressed this in the sequel by adding massive engines to the ring that stabilizes it.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119778)

I'm glad someone is maintaining the vanguard of traditional scientific thought regarding life, especially e.t. life.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2)

k2p (2512666) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120066)

The existence of extraterrestrial life is completely philosophical and hypothetical. Saying that such-a-such scientist does or does not think there is otherworldly life is not proof one way or another, even if that scientist is decorated or the great Hawking, whom I admire. We can discuss the size of the universe, the number of stars and discuss it from a statistical point of view. The math involved does lead to the probable conclusion that extraterrestrial life must exist, but this is again not proof. As for the idea that "galactic spanning civilizations" must be seen from our small rock is human arrogance. There is a strong possibility that such a civilization exists and our current technology simply cannot detect it. As for question of celestial bodies and stellar objects being life forms, we don't know that they are non-sentient. that is a philosophical question of another kind. What definition of life do we use?

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120422)

...as of right now it is only a pipe dream that a couple thousand more years of history will spread us across the stars. We might just as easily blow ourselves up, retreat into a cyber-singularity, or just run out of gas, so to speak.

yep. Who says colonizing other worlds or having some kind of interstellar fleet it worth doing? If a civilization has advanced a few thousand (or even a few hundred) years beyond ours, I'd imagine they would have an amazing understanding of how their environment works, how to manage and recycle resources, how to generate power, and environmental reclamation, all with maximum sustainability. Methods of education and information dissemination would also have advanced to the point where even the general populace has a sufficient understanding of these areas, which I assume would include cultural values that consider voluntary birth control, or whatever the equivalent would be called in reference to their method of reproduction, to be as important as environmental protection. Perhaps the only reasons for many advanced civilizations to travel beyond their own solar system would be for resources they couldn't otherwise access, scientific exploration, or a catastrophe or threat of one. The first two probably could be mostly automated, leaving catastrophe as the remaining driver of massive colonization. Although, given they are of such an advanced state, some of the things we would consider a catastrophe might conceivably be dealt with technologically (ie. asteroids/comets, climate change). All this assumes they don't blow themselves up, or become Terminators or something.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120622)

the sun's gotta die eventually.

actually, i can imagine the "cold death" scenario making for some interesting interstellar turf wars - fighting for mass to keep a home star burning while all the stars slowly go out.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120466)

There are more practical issues - our technological age of reason isn't actually very old yet.

Take SETI and radio transmissions - we've only been emitting radio for 200 years, and we're rapidly confining the emissions or ditching them entirely (fiber optics). Who's to say that within the next, 50 years or so we won't discover some alternate broadcast technology which dispenses with radio entirely? (entangled particles come to mind, if communications by that route were ever to be possible).

The course of future technological development is always unclear - especially when you get to considering speculative technology like interstellar travel. Maybe it's only possible between star gravity wells or maybe future civilization trends towards virtual reality (i.e. cities and artificial illumination stop being used because constructs are just giant computing substrates).

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119904)

that assumes

1) aliens would have similar technology / uses of that technology which probably isn't true (specifically the usage part)

2) a few thousands years is across the board; while it's true you may have a time frame of a few thousand years to detect the technology, add dealing with the speed of light *and* the fact that a few thousand years is minuscule in comparison to the distances involved. That simply means our ability to detect progressively beyonds the past as we reach further out and not our current time frame. Saying that they don't exists because we can't see them within this time frame is not a good argument since they may have existed in the past (before this timeframe) or after the time frame (which could be up to right now).

But it's true, microbial life is much much easier to be developed rather then intelligent life, especially one that has self awareness and can use tools.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (3, Interesting)

gronofer (838299) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120064)

It's also possible that numerous civilisations with a similar level of technology to ours exist, but it's simply impossible in practice to "colonise the galazy". Inter-stellar travel may simply require too much energy/resources, or it may turn out to be infeasible to survive in space for long enough for anybody to reach another star.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38122382)

Unless you assume that any civilization "advanced" enough creates computers, and that once the computers become complex enough they're indistiguishable from life and sentient beings -- Personally I believe the answer is clear...

Floating just beyond our Oort cloud is a large becon beaming out a warning the message to the Pan-Universal Mechanoid Civilizations:
"Quarantine Zone - Organic Human Infestation"
or in English: "Primitive Wild Life Habitat"

I mean COME ON! Would YOU trust US with a WARP DRIVE?!!?! I wouldn't!

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

martas (1439879) | about 2 years ago | (#38122408)

This. I think the conclusion that any sufficiently advanced civilization is fully "computerized" is inevitable; once you have the technology, there's simply no (rational) reason not to abandon your meatbag and migrate to a more robust and easily maintained container.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#38122398)

The Fermi paradox though is that it would only take one bug eyed monster with the stubbornness (and longevity) to hop on the slow boat to Proxima Centauri, then it's just a matter of time before the Milky Way gets colonised. Even at sublight speeds, the BEM could do it in under a billion years.

Scott Adams explains it away in The Dilbert Principle though - the holodeck will be our last invention ever. If you can simulate it, why go to the expense and risk of actually doing it?

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

Frequency Domain (601421) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120548)

technology merely a few thousand years ahead of ours should be visible across much of the galaxy.

Why do you assume that? Maybe other forms of life don't use technology the way we do. Maybe they choose to use non-broadcast forms of technology. Maybe their communications tech has moved well beyond anything we've yet discovered, i.e., people using radios are going to be invisible to people looking for smoke signals. Maybe the galaxy is populated by planet-eating space goats that are attracted to coherent electromagnetic transmissions, and wise civilizations have learned not to broadcast. There can be lots of reasons why we don't see other's technology.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121372)

Best probable solution to the "Fermi Paradox": we don't see signs of advanced civilizations because there are no advanced civilizations currently interacting with our level of reality. This could be for a number of reasons:

1. civilizations tend to destroy themselves
2. technology accelerates and reaches such a degree of sophistication that it allows transcendence, escape from the bounds of spacetime that we are familiar with
3. there is no practical faster-than-light travel so civilizations give up on star travel
4. something is destroying all advanced civilizations
5. we're the first

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120006)

I've always assumed that most people who know the numbers involved think that alien life must exist (with a hundred billion stars per galaxy and hundred billion galaxies, it seem like there are pretty good odds).

You can't say that seems like pretty good odds because your information regarding the problem is incomplete. In order to determine whether you actually have good odds you need to know the number of planets in the universe, n, and the probability of life existing on a randomly chosen planet, p. The only information available for n is ballpark figures, and there is absolutely no information about p, except that it's non-zero. From a mathematical point of view, it's impossible to say that alien life must exist.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120638)

The scientists in your family may not be representative of scientists in general.

Homeopathy doctors, creation scientists, humanities professors... ah yes, I'm starting to see what the problem is.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2)

kangsterizer (1698322) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119632)

If you consider how many times the scientists have been wrong in history, you'll have a pretty good guess.
Now non-scientists have been wrong too, so it's closer to say "humans have been wrong".

Bottom line: we actually don't know. There may, or may not be alien life. Heck, we don't understand the universe either.

We often pretend to be the best specie there is, because we kill all the other ones we've found so far (which makes it fun as we are afraid another specie from space would do that to us lol). And that therefore, we'd know a lot already. The thing is, we don't have really a scale of things, or if any, we're meaningless compared to the universe.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

Opyros (1153335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120268)

Actually, krugerrands are the best specie. <ducks and runs>

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119712)

They're not scientists - they're sciencists. Scientism is a belief system much like religion, but its adherents delude themselves into thinking they are different. Superior, even. Don't believe me? Just ask your relatives...

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119864)

Small-minded people. Unable to connect facts in their mind. Astronomy is based on studying light from "out there". Based on the fact that we assume all matter to be the same elements that we see on Earth, otherwise, what are we looking at? So, if everything in the universe is made of the same chemical elements we have here, it's not a big leap to believe that life can pop up anywhere.

The only problem is that if you think the universe contains the same elements as on earth, the same limits on energy sources and technology apply. Steel is steel no matter where in the universe. Those lifeforms aren't able to come here any more than we are able to go there.

The scale of the universe simply doesn't mesh with the short life-span of humans. The universe is billions of years old, billions of light-years in size. People live what, 10, 20 years of useful life span were their brains and bodies work well? And what do we do with that time? We spend most of it going to school so we can go to work just to survive, then our kids put us in retirement homes and wait for us to die so they can collect the inheritance.

There's just not much to be gained by the average person to spend the time to understand these things.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119890)

Were they laughing off the idea of extraterrestrial life itself, or the stuff you commonly see in popular culture...you know, the people who treat Roswell like a Mecca, go on about grays and abductions and crop circles, anyone who agrees with Ancient Aliens Guy [youtube.com] , ect.? It is one thing to speculate that, out of countless stars, it is possible that there exists more than one planet with some sort of life (while admitting that there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that that is the case and acknowledging our general lack data), and it is hard to say that such an idea deserves to be dismissed outright, however the idea has certainty attracted more than its fair share of things to be rightly laughed off. I never really noticed that scientists completely dismiss the notion of non-terrestrial life, if anything, I'd have assumed just the opposite is true. I'd guess that either your relatives are not representative of scientists as a whole for one reason or another, just chose to go with what evidence is actually verifiable rather than get into the whole 'billions of stars times non-zero possibility of life equals...' thing, were thinking not of the concept itself but of of the nonsense various spacey nutters go on about, or just didn't want to look like said nutters in front of everyone else by acknowledging the possibility.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119892)

Human conceit primarily. There is still the belief, even among the supposedly well educated, that alien life doesn't really exist even if they think it's a mathematical certainty because of the number of solar systems in the galaxy.

Furthermore, these people certainly don't follow this mathematical certainty to its logical conclusion. Namely that given the vast number of star in the galaxy (400 billion+) and the high probability of there being complex life in the galaxy, the probability of intelligent species with spacefaring capabilities should not be dismissed out of hand.

And given that in our own stellar neighborhood (e.g, within 50 light years of our own solar system) there are a number of stars at least a billion years older than our own star we should take the possibility of other intelligent life possibly exploring our own solar system seriously and also not dismiss the possibility of our own solar system being explored by other intelligences.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (2)

mark_elf (2009518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119948)

Just speculating that the context of the discussion matters a lot. Maybe they felt a lot of peer pressure to discredit the idea, since they were all together. Or it could be that they are sick of real kooks talking about aliens. "Aliens" is different than "life". Aliens is Sigourney Weaver.

A relative of mine worked at an public observatory/science center for many years in a big city. He had to deal with a lot of loonies who know what flavor of ice cream the aliens like. Many feel a very religious connection with "aliens". Perhaps they pick this up from movies. From a scientific POV this has more to do with human psychology than exobiology. It's a part of our culture, and it's a difficult place to start from if you want to get at the truth.

Earth biology is a science we know comparatively little about. Exobiology is so speculative, you could run a lot of very expensive experiments, come up empty, and not have scratched the surface or have proved anything either way. Experiments that don't prove anything unless you hit a very unlikely home run are easy to laugh off. There could be a billion planets out there, full of life, or we could be alone. It doesn't change the odds when we don't even know what we are talking about.

It kind of makes SETI look like a waste of time. I guess it's worth doing, but it's like pissing in the ocean.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120052)

I just spend the weekend at a family gathering. Many of my relatives are doctors, scientists, and professors. The topic of alien life came up, and almost all of them laughed it off! Now I'm merely a computer programmer so I didn't say much, but when I hear about there being hundreds of exoplants out there in space I can't help but think that there may be life on at least some of them. After all, these are only the planets that we know about so far! There are probably millions upon millions of other similar planets out there that we just haven't discovered yet.

Why do well-educated scientists consider alien life, even if it's very simple or nothing like life here on earth, to be such an absurd idea? Why do they have so much trouble considering it with any seriousness?

Do you think there's any other intelligent life out there?" "If not, it sure seems like an awful waste of space."
Carl Sagan, Contact

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120338)

"when I hear about there being hundreds of exoplants out there in space I can't help but think that there may be life on at least some of them"

Hate to state the obvious but the planets so far have been mostly gas giants. The odds of finding life as we know it on one are zero. There are proposed lifeforms that could live by drifting in the upper atmosphere of gas giants but the odds are slim that such types of life exist. They've yet to confirm an earth sized planet and it may be many years before they do. Directly imaging one is probably decades off. Having a nice close of photo of one is probably never. Without interstellar travel we probably will never confirm life on other planets just that it's possible.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120590)

The existance of alien life is not so far fetched. But the idea that we can do anything about it is about as speculative as you can get. It tends to lead to coversation with all the coherence of a bunch of stoners.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120656)

Not enough information. We have no idea what the odds are for abiogenesis to occur, even if the conditions are right. Even assuming we knew how often those conditions are present.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120724)

They aren't computer scientists, or perhaps they'd have a different attitude. It takes shockingly little in the way of logic to create the equivalent of a Turing Machine. Just NAND gates are enough. Are we a superior kind of computer? Do we possess to ability to solve some problems faster, algorithmically faster that is, than a computer could? Is a Turing Machine incapable of duplicating a living creature? I think the answer to all those questions is no. I expect that there are many environments that could support such simple logic functions. Life as we know it is based on carbon. And so, we may find life all over the place when we get better at recognizing it. However, it will probably be relatively simple stuff similar to Earthly bacteria. After all, it took approximately 3 billion years here for multicellular life to evolve from those humble beginnings.

We humans have this tendency and desire to think we're special. Today, the Middle Ages idea that the Earth is the center of the universe seems so naive and revealing. In the future, the idea that we are alone might seem similarly foolish.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121162)

Some scientists take too much to the heart: "if it can't be experimented, it doesn't exist" but most of them consider that it would be gross arrogance to even consider we are the only sentient specie in the universe.
Why we haven't encounter any other yet, is of no importance, although is a no-brainer: the sheer numbers of available planets is both a blessing and a curse.

Re:Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientist (1)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 2 years ago | (#38121710)

Why do well-educated scientists consider alien life, even if it's very simple or nothing like life here on earth, to be such an absurd idea? Why do they have so much trouble considering it with any seriousness?

They are aware that of the lack of evidence for alien life? It seems to me that your relatives understand the difference between science and science fiction while you do not.

There is a difference between putting forward a hypothesis that life "might" exist on other planets given the right conditions and believing that alien life "must" exist.

Scientists ultimately have to deal with facts and even test theories against real observations. Their rational approach is what separates scientists from science "enthusiasts".

We really, really don't know. (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | about 2 years ago | (#38122244)

But the reaction you describe reeks of closed mindedness.

Anyway, we really have no idea what's out there. The Drake equation has been criticized for being of little use; what it does very well though is point out how much we don't know. The great thing though is that we're progressing very rapidly; if life (not necessarily intelligent) is rather common, we will find out in less than 3 decades, possibly earlier. The upcoming 30m and up telescopes are getting close to the point where we could do spectral analysis on some extrasolar planets.

Scientists shouldn't dismiss the unlikely (2)

multiben (1916126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119664)

There are scientists and there are scientists. If the scientists in your family scoff at the idea of alien life then their opinions may not have been well considered. There are plenty of very credible thinkers who feel quite certain that we will one day find life off the earth - Stephen Hawking among them. People who scoff at ideas which seem far fetched just because they seem far fetched have a history of looking quite red faced when later they turn out to be wrong. The earth is flat and the centre of the universe, and the Newtonian world being just two famous examples. It goes all the way back to the earliest discussions on the nature of matter. Greek philospher Democritus was criticised for his ridiculous idea that matter consisted of 'atoms'. We may or may not find other life in the universe, but to dismiss it as impossible is just silly.

Re:Scientists shouldn't dismiss the unlikely (1)

multiben (1916126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119926)

Whoops. Meant to reply to "Why so much disbelief in aliens among scientists?". I mod myself -1 for being a n00b.

Hope they don't discover signs of intelligent life (0)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119672)

...'cuz I hate to think somebody having to rush a long-lost prequel to the Bible into print.

weird (4, Interesting)

khipu (2511498) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119754)

The more planets and potentially earth-like planets we discover, the more paradoxical the Fermi paradox becomes: "where are they?"

Re:weird (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121172)

The real paradox is: given what we know now about materials, energy sources and the distances involved, why would anyone think that any life form could make itself visible across the stars, let alone travel those distances physically? That's the real paradox. Let's not forget that the "universe" was essentially the Milky Way in Fermi's time.

Re:weird (1)

khipu (2511498) | about 2 years ago | (#38122376)

Because given what we already know about physics and the universe, the distances are not a problem. All you need is the ability to colonize objects like asteroids and comets, and even humans are close to that. Time, reproduction, and galactic rotation will do the rest. It takes maybe a few hundred million years to spread across the galaxy.

Amazing considering this doesn't include Kepler (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119782)

When Kepler's planets are confirmed (I guess when it sees 3 or more transits), I think this total will more than double.

Also, I don't know where the AC above is coming from but the scientists I know (tenured theoretical chemist who worked under a Nobel laureate, computational linguist who's father won a fields medal, A.I. expert funded by DARPA and prominent computer graphics researcher with 9 patents) all think it is very VERY likely there is life out there. (Are the AC's acquaintances in the "hard" sciences?).

After all, "it would be a tremendous waste of space!"*

*don't know if I paraphrased that right but if you saw the movie you'll know

Re:Amazing considering this doesn't include Kepler (1)

barking incoherently (2512656) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119884)

What is wrong with skepticism? What is wrong with saying " I don't know " ? I recommend reading Peter Ward's " Rare Earth " . Given the Over-abundant research and data listed in that book, i would say Khipu is rather spot on. Listing the fact that you " Know Scientists " is rather like living in LA and saying you " know some famous people". None of the ones listed in your references are specialists the Astronomical or Geological sciences. I would like to say that, yes, possibly a good chance exists when you think of the Milky Way or our Universe. but when you get into the distances involved and the actual probability of it, it becomes a bit more desolate than one would imagine.

Re:Amazing considering this doesn't include Kepler (3, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120060)

Look, my friends said it is very very likely not that it was 100% sure (they are scientists after all!). I mean that's a very reasonable stance to take considering that there are about a 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and about a trillion stars in the OBSERVABLE universe (the actual universe is likely to be MUCH larger, maybe infinite). Considering the large proportion of stars that seem to have planets and the billions of years they've been around it, doesn't it seem very VERY likely that life would have started more than once?

Flip a coin several trillion times. What's the chance that it won't come up heads more than once?

Of course I've read "Rare Earth" AND his other book "Life, But not as we know it" in which he says life could've arisen not just on earth but on Mars, Europa, Enceladus and maybe THREE TIMES on Titan! So while he is (rightfully) concerned that COMPLEX life is "rare" (but not impossible) he also seems to think that (simple) alien life is present almost everywhere!

Also, my chemist friend is in the geological sciences dept. of his university and works with experts in the fields of extremeophiles. As for the others, please realize that science is not a vacuum, at least not at the level that they practice it and they follow major developments in other fields both directly and indirectly; they, to varying degrees, have an excellent idea as to what's going on. (My computational linguist friend probably knows the details of the transit studies, he's the kind of guy who learned a difficult Asian language on his spare time while raising a couple kids while developing algorithms so sophisticated he has to give the state dept. one month advance notice before leaving the country).

Actually I'm beginning to think that the people who claim that their educated brethren say that we are unique have their own, belief based, agenda to push. Whatever.

Re:Amazing considering this doesn't include Kepler (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120816)

The main problem is all the other potential life in the Sol system is still speculative.

We have a lot of good targets - but we need to actually go and look and find something.

Currently, we have a sample size of precisely 1.

But I do agree: if we were to find that life had independently evolved on another planet or moon in the solar system, then we could start thinking about commonality in the universe.

Re:Amazing considering this doesn't include Kepler (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38121422)

If you believe the geological models of the rise of life on Earth, I find it very telling that life came about so rapidly.

3.8 billion years ago, the earth was probably still molten rock.

Sometime after that, water started to condense on the surface.

3.5 billion years ago, we find fossils for single cellular life. The surface temperature was still high, there was still much exposed molten lava, the day was only 15 hours, radiation blasted the surface incessantly... but life existed in only the first 0.5% of the wet Earth's lifespan.

The odds of life being extraordinarily unique on Earth, yet popping up within the first 0.5% of the time that there was water on the surface leads me to believe that life is almost inevitable when given the right circumstances.

That really lends more credence to the idea that it might eventually happen elsewhere.

Now, complex life... no idea. There's no way to know how rare that actually is.

Re:Amazing considering this doesn't include Kepler (1)

LordNacho (1909280) | about 2 years ago | (#38122502)

Now, complex life... no idea. There's no way to know how rare that actually is.

Well, going with the same logic, didn't the cambrian explosion happen about 500Mya? And couldn't you combine that with a model of how long a planet stays habitable for? Still only one somewhat tenuous data point though. Wonder what other approaches one could take.

Re:Amazing considering this doesn't include Kepler (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120198)

Upon reading some other posts I realize that maybe you are not as literal minded as I am (scientists tend to also be very literal minded).

I hope you'll agree that simple life is likely in the cosmos. That may not be what you meant.

Complex life, like Peter Ward said, may be very rare (though I think he's backed off a bit if only because, as he says, simple life may be everywhere). I hope he's wrong but what can I say? Reasonable people may disagree.

INTELLIGENT life, detectable (one way or the other including visits) over light years is something else entirely. Many scientists seem to be concerned about the "Fermi Paradox". Again, I'm hoping one day (soon!) we'll be picking up an unambiguous extra-solar signal but really who knows? On the flip side (and almost contradictorily) I doubt we've been visited yet.

Re:Amazing considering this doesn't include Kepler (1)

barking incoherently (2512656) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120540)

oh i am with you on this. The fact that i plugged Ward's book suggests that i agree with his ideas and hypothesis concerning microbial life being relatively abundant. Getting back to the main topic- Discovery of Exo-planets- it is useful in the sense of mapping charts but the usefulness and need to somehow relate this toward life elsewhere in the universe is rather moot as we possess not the means to travel to or instruments to measure it with what we currently possess and where we are located in the cosmos. Now a discovery of a planet via Radio Astronomy due to a signature or signal- now that is something else entirely and most welcome- Cheers-

This only underlines that Jesus didn't pork (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120176)

The meaning is clear.

Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120340)

When do we go there?

when you can't cut it as a terrestial biologist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120358)

administered by astrobiologist Jean Schneider of the Paris-Meudon Observatory

Seriously what does Jean Schneider really do?

Re:when you can't cut it as a terrestial biologist (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#38121824)

administered by astrobiologist Jean Schneider of the Paris-Meudon Observatory

Seriously what does Jean Schneider really do?

compare charts of found planets to chart of the habitable zone.

awsome (1)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120524)

Younger Slashdot readers cannot imagine what the discovery of exoplanets means to those of us who have been reading science fiction since the 1950s. We dreamed of traveling to the moon, and we managed that thanks to a martyred President. With that milestone accomplished, we looked forward to the planets and the stars.

Somehow, we lost the will to explore space. The Space Shuttle, which should have preceded the exploration of the Moon, was funded only after many compromises, and the program is now ended. The Russians still have their 1960s-era space capability, and the Chinese are moving forward, but the exploration of the Solar System is being done by robots.

We thought we would have to travel to the stars to see if they had planets, but the astronomers have managed to see them from a distance. It now appears certain that most stars have planets, and it is only a matter of time before we start detecting the habitable ones. There is no longer any chance that we can ignore the challenge of interstellar travel. It may be a century or two before the probes are launched, but launched they will be. The dreams of the science fiction fans of the 1950s are being realized.

Di3k (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120770)

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Distributions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38122098)

Anyone publish any decent statistics of how densely stars have exoplanets? I presume most have been found from nearby. I'd like to know what percentage of stars have or don't have exoplanets.
Suppose this could be calculated from the data of nearest stars and planets thusfar.

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