×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

11 New Multi-Planet Star Systems Discovered

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the ok-now-sort-on-forest-moon dept.

Space 109

astroengine writes "The number of known multi-planetary star systems has just tripled. What's more, the Kepler space telescope science team has just announced that they have doubled the number of confirmed exoplanetary sightings made by the observatory. Some of the newly discovered worlds are only 1.5 times the size of Earth, while others are bigger than Jupiter. Fifteen exoplanets are between Earth and Neptune in size, but further observations will be needed to determine if any have a rocky surface like Earth, or a gaseous consistency like Neptune."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

109 comments

More of them? (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834445)

This isn't going well. Every month there are new planets, new solar systems.

Soon we'll be surrounded!

Re:More of them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834529)

We should organize them into some sort of federation.

Re:More of them? (4, Funny)

X10 (186866) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834805)

We should organize them into some sort of federation.

Good plan. I'll be the emp^H^H^Hcongresperson.

Re:More of them? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38836107)

I'll be the emp^H^H^Hcongresperson.

Not until you get some decent encryption and learn how to address more than 256 devices.

Re:More of them? (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835267)

We should organize them into some sort of federation.

What if they organize us into one of their colonies?

Re:More of them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835583)

I, for one, welcome our blue-skinned three-breasted overladies, and wish to remind them that as a human, I can be bought cheaply on the sex-and-breakfast-making slave market.

(I make a mean omelette, blue space ladies. Also I snuggle.)

Re:More of them? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38836119)

I make a mean omelette, blue space ladies

Blue space ladies are more likely to prefer you filleted and served with a nice herb garnish.

Re:More of them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38836737)

Obviously you've never played Star Control II.

Re:More of them? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#38837105)

We should organize them into some sort of federation.

Time for a good Reclaiming! :D

Re:More of them? (1)

Fusselwurm (1033286) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834557)

:D

All these planet discoveries. It kind of gets boring, after a while.

But then: how friggin cool is that?
When I was a kid, Science fiction was about all those worlds that maybe could be out there. Now we know they are there.

Re:More of them? (1)

allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834745)

I was a little surprised that everyone got excited when the first exoplanets were discovered. I've had the conviction that there must be millions of other planets out there since childhood. The main reason is that it's a logical assumption. Since there are so many planets in our own solar system, why should other stars systems be different? The other reason is probably Star Wars.

But yes, I do realize it's nice that we now have actual proof that they are really there.

Re:More of them? (0)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834853)

I was a little surprised that everyone got excited when the first exoplanets were discovered. I've had the conviction that there must be millions of other planets out there since childhood. The main reason is that it's a logical assumption. Since there are so many planets in our own solar system, why should other stars systems be different? The other reason is probably Star Wars.

But yes, I do realize it's nice that we now have actual proof that they are really there.

And that's good enough .. until such time as we make contact (or are made contact with.) Inhabitants of those planets could come here and say, "Wow! Let's take some of that water, they don't need it all!" Yep. Careful wishing for alien contact.

Re:More of them? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838433)

"You don't invite your neighbors over for dinner until you know whether they are cannibals or not" was that Asimov or Clarke that said that? I think if aliens ever bothered to show up frankly it wouldn't be close encounters OR ID4, simply because any race with technology so far advanced that FTL travel was possible could have all the resources they could ever desire at their fingertips. nope most likely what we'd get is tourists doing their own Gorillas in the mist.

as for TFA frankly i'm more curious about what we have in our backyard myself. With Ganymede and Europa both looking like there might be liquid water they are probably the best chance at non terrestrial life we are gonna see in several lifetimes so personally i'd love to see some probes sent to take samples and see what's out there. Sadly the USA is broke and NASA has their budget slashed every time we turn around so its up to the EU, India, or China to take that next step. C'mon China, you're flush with cash, wouldn't a Chinese flag look good on Europa?

Re:More of them? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38840485)

Since they will have evolved in a completely different way, it's unlikely they would think we were very tasty. Think about how nasty spiders and scorpions would taste, we could even be a deadly poison to them. They may not even be made out of meat! [baetzler.de]

Re:More of them? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835087)

From a science perspective, it was certain other planets were out there - what wasn't certain was whether we could see them, what they'd be like or how common they were. All of those were completely up-in-the-air. (Plenty of stars with accretion disks had been observed, so we knew that the pre-requisites for planet formation were commonplace, but we had no idea how many disks formed just rubble - as with Alpha Centauri - and how many formed actual planets. As it turned out, almost everything theorized about what planets would form where has now been overturned.)

Until very recently, direct observation has been impossible. We've relied on star wobble and variation in the frequencies being observed from the star. Even now, direct observation is extremely hard and extremely rare.

Re:More of them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835809)

Nope. I knew as a kid and I suspect a few of you reading this did too. No, we didn't have "proof", but do you really need proof of the obvious? I mean, come on. It's obvious. I bet there's less than 10 people reading this that "get it" and none of them need telescopes to explain what the universe is or what's in it. The problem with Science is that it spreads ignorance at an alarming speed and 9 of those 10 people have convinced themselves that what they know is the truth can't possibly be real because it contradicts "Scientific Theory".

Re:More of them? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834831)

This isn't going well. Every month there are new planets, new solar systems.

Soon we'll be surrounded!

Hollywood must be salivating at the prospect of forcing SOPA upon each and every one of them, too.

Rocky? (3, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834467)

rocky surface like Earth

More like a liquid surface, statistically speaking.

Re:Rocky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834621)

Last I checked, 100% of the surface of the earth was covered with gas.

Re:Rocky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835157)

Sounds cooler to say "fluid" instead of gas. It may confuse Kevin Costner.

Re:Rocky? (1)

SingleShot (952042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834671)

rocky surface like Earth

More like a liquid surface, statistically speaking.

When you pick up the Earth in your hands it feels like a damp rock.

Re:Rocky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834751)

Put that down!

Do you know where that planet has been?

--
Mom

phuck phil plait (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834501)

i'm glad someone else got to this story before phucking phil plait whored himself out some more on slashdot.
 
phuck you, phil plait, phuck you!

Re:phuck phil plait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834615)

Butthurt science denier detected. Engage troll mode 17.

Re:phuck phil plait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835033)

phucking phil plait, is that you? i'm far from a science denier. the fact that this is your kneejerk reaction shows who's more unscientific here.

With all due respect to Fermi.... (4, Interesting)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834569)

... one of the following appears to be at least probable:

1. There really is something weird about our dual-planet system (tides, etc) that makes life truly rare.

2. It really is impossible to go FTL, meaning we're stuck in our system, and had probably stop treating it more like a sewer than not. (Also: 50 generations to Motie-hood!)

3. Intelligent life has a propensity to kill itself off.

Doesn't look so good for us.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (4, Interesting)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834631)

I'd consider the fourth option, that we've only had human history for 6,000 years, good records for less than probably 2,000, and that we're in the boondocks. If we had been visited, the chance is that there just isn't evidence of it, and that we'll either have to wait to be visited again, hope that other civilizations see our radio transmissions and see it as worthwhile to come here, or go out there on our own and see what's out there. The problem is that our technology is young, we are young, and there really isn't anything that interesting about us.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

MoldySpore (1280634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834711)

If there IS intelligent life out there, I have serious doubts that they consider us being under the same umbrella as them. As nerdy as it sounds, I think something like what is presented in Star Trek would need to happen first. Either the development of FTL travel, the cleaning up of our planet to a degree where we aren't killing it or each other anymore would need to take place before any alien life wants anything to do with us. Probably all that and even more.

Either that or we could get lucky and just discover some alien tech on one of the planets in our solar system. Here's to wishful thinking!

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (4, Interesting)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834779)

Maybe they took a look at how we treat the rest of the planet's people.

We don't help the thousands of people dying of thirst in Africa. Unemployed drug addicts are put in prison instead of rehab. We'll dump our waste where our kids will find it. We use slave labour to make our toys.

Then they decided that our overall planetary mores are to not help, and they are respecting the wishes of our species.

Or maybe we're the equivalent of goldfish, except not as cute and we can't be housebroken.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835533)

We don't help the thousands of people dying of thirst in Africa.

And despite all the deaths in Africa, they still have the fastest growing population on the planet...

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

hazah (807503) | more than 2 years ago | (#38841121)

Of all the things to respond to in that comment you say this? Who said anything about population growth? That they deliberatly prevented from getting birth control isn't the same problem as the rampant starvation attributed in large to politics, rather than ability or capacity.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (2)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 2 years ago | (#38837073)

Every civilization and population has to evolve. To evolve we need competition.

Ever since the first RNA molecules started grabbing nucleotides off each other to duplicate there has been competition. There's always finite resources, and those that can take them can survive (and reproduce) better.

Any successful person, and any successful population, always has some advantage that gets resources in the current environment. No species survives if they don't have competitive strategies. An alien is not going to have some completely egalitarian civilization - they wouldn't evolve if they did.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (2)

Jappus (1177563) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838683)

Any successful person, and any successful population, always has some advantage that gets resources in the current environment. No species survives if they don't have competitive strategies. An alien is not going to have some completely egalitarian civilization - they wouldn't evolve if they did.

Who ever said, that it is only the body that needs to evolve? Maybe, to be a long term resident of the Universe, the average collection of meatbags have to first grasp the concept and accept the full consequences of the fact that they also need to allow their minds, mores and intelligence to evolve.

After all, just like you inherit your genetic code, society at large inherits its cultural, moral and intellectual signature. If that signature is not on par with surviving for a long time as a society/species, then that can be just as bad as -- or even worse than -- having evolved a disadvantageous physical makeup.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (5, Interesting)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834843)

If there IS intelligent life out there, I have serious doubts that they consider us being under the same umbrella as them

Actually, that's my least favorite Star Trek cliche - the benevolent, highly-evolved, omnipotent alien race that sees humans as mere children, either unworthy of their time, or in need of friendly guidance (and hectoring lectures about killing each other). I would say exactly the opposite is more likely to be true: any alien species aggressive and inventive enough to explore space is guaranteed to have endured warfare and ecological destruction in recent memory. Species that lose their aggression will stay at home smoking pot, eating takeout, and watching cartoons until they all die of boredom and/or congestive heart failure. That doesn't mean that they'll find our behavior at all intelligible; if a space-faring race was highly collectivist (either by evolution or by engineering), they might find our individuality and the violence that it often leads to incomprehensible. But I doubt they'll have managed to avoid strip mining, fossil fuels, or nuclear fission in the course of their technological development, and they'll probably engage in practices that we would find abhorrent, like compulsory euthanasia.

That doesn't necessarily mean that they'll advertise their presence to us - there are a number of good reasons to avoid doing so, which would apply even if we were a pacifistic agrarian species. But I absolutely think they would study us, because they won't even be exploring interstellar space unless they were either exceptionally curious, or exceptionally desperate. I personally find it more likely that intelligent life rarely makes it out of their home solar system in person - although I'd wager that there are a few scattered derelicts full of cryogenically frozen alien colonists drifting for centuries.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

MoldySpore (1280634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834893)

Maybe. But you'd have to think that any species at that point where they have left their planet and are exploring space would have strict rules about interfering with species that aren't at their level yet. Study? I can see that. But I don't think they would be studying us with a smile on their face and nostalgia in their hearts about our possibly similar pasts. If anything, they'd want to keep an eye on us to make sure we don't go down the wrong road with the technology necessary to be able to start effecting the universe around us. I don't think they would consider the possibility of contact, especially with how militaristic our world is (especially from an outside view).

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835865)

But you'd have to think that any species at that point where they have left their planet and are exploring space would have strict rules about interfering with species that aren't at their level yet

Sure, but those strict rules wouldn't necessarily be an enlightened policy of non-interference and remote observation - they could just as well be "Nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." I guess this is Stephen Hawking's scenario, and it seems at least as probable to me as the sanctimonious higher beings from Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry wasn't much of a realist.

(On that note, I'm eagerly waiting for someone to do the Battlestar Galactica treatment of Star Trek - throw out the absurd elements and technobabble, and make it much more morally ambiguous. The original series did occasionally hint at the darker side of interstellar empire, such as resource wars and frequent interference in planetary civilizations, but I'd like to see this played up, especially the Cold War metaphors.)

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38836067)

And yet we interfere with countless different species on a daily basis here on Earth. Trust me, we like touching thing and when the day comes, we WILL touch them.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835131)

Well, we are still here. I mean, during those 4 billions of years of Earth's history, nobody strip-mined it into a wasteland.

Thus we can conclude that if some species similar to us is out there, either it is growing way too slowly (slower than we could grow with fission powered rockets if we decide to make them), it is a very recent species (like we), or we got extemely (or, should I say astronomicaly) lucky. Anyway that goes, it is an argument for rare Earth, just not as rare as stating that we are alone on the galaxy, but still very rare.

Otherwise, we can also postulate that any civilization that goes into space is more interested on something else and wouldn't even think about going into a planet like ours. Seems even more likely than postulating that they all self destroy at some point.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835287)

Well, we are still here. I mean, during those 4 billions of years of Earth's history, nobody strip-mined it into a wasteland.

We know nothing about how long it takes for a planet to evolve a technological species capable of starflight. Not knowing that, puts a BIG crimp into the Drake Equation.

There's always the possibility that we are amongst the first to evolve to close to that point. Alternately, starflight is so hard, few species manage it. Either would explain the lack of a strip-mined planet . . .

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838245)

Half of the Sun-like (later generation ones, borned from a planetary nebula with a big concentration of heavy elements) stars on our galaxy have a 2 billion or more headstart compared to us. That is roughly half of the time it took for technological life to appear here. lots of them had an entire 4 billions years of headstart already, and are at the end of their lifes.

If it takes so much time for developping a technological civilization that the life cycle of a star is too short, the Earth is rare.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38836685)

I think that self-destruction (or simply destruction due to natural/cosmic events) is actually much more likely.

Since resources are always infinite, life only succeeds when it can succesfully outcompete other life. The same traits that make us top of the food chain here are the same traits that have led to most of the wrong-doing that we achieve as well. Eliminating such traits would make us fairly non-viable as a species, the best that evolution can do is to keep those traits at a more or less balanced level.

I have quite a hard time believing that an alien race would have developed the knowledge of interplanetary travel, along with an economy to make the development and implementation viable, without having those same traits.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838325)

I don't think self destruction is compelling at all. Besides nuclear war I have a hard time getting into a scenario where it happens and we don't leave any kind of descendents*. And Nuclear war is quite iffy on that. There is always the possibility of some technology completely differente from what we know, but it must also not leave any trace that we could detect from a telescope...

And remember, if life is common that self destruct mode must have killed hundreds of thousands of civilizations on the Milk Way already, with no one of them escaping from destruction. That happening at the relatively small window between our technological level and the level needed for interplanetary colonization... And remember, we don't really know that interplanetary colonization is impossible at our technological level.

* Forget about things like grey goo, or a malevolent AI killing us. The AI or the goo would likely continue what we started and colonize the galaxy.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

fremsley471 (792813) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839387)

Well, we are still here. I mean, during those 4 billions of years of Earth's history, nobody strip-mined it into a wasteland.

Are you sure?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/extinction_events [bbc.co.uk]

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38840997)

You're right. I can't be sure.

Yet, none of those events compare in intensity to what we are currently making with Earth, so I can be suspicious... But not sure.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (3, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835291)

I don't see why so many people equate aggression with the thirst for discovery. Aggressive societies don't always do much in the way of exploration (several of the Andeman Island cultures being examples) and have a propensity to self-destruct when they expand too far (the Romans, the Norse, the British and the Americans being examples).

True, passive societies don't always do much in the way of expansion either, but to assume that this is a purely linear spectrum just doesn't match what we know of societies or indeed people.

Even the simplest models of individual behavior need four independent variables (Briggs-Meyers) and these clearly differentiate between tendencies to discover vs. tendencies to control. Politics is usually defined along three additional axes which do not equate to any of the behavioral axes. Aggression-Passivity isn't amongst any of the axes so far, so we need to add that as well. So societies require at least 8 parameters to describe them, probably a great deal more.

We aren't remotely advanced enough to know what ranges of values within what parameters would make for safe vs unsafe contact. 95% of the problems between cultures on Earth are down to that fact alone - and that's with us being 99.5% identical. We certainly can't begin to figure out what the requirements are for safe contact with life that evolved along totally independent paths.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835791)

We aren't remotely advanced enough to know what ranges of values within what parameters would make for safe vs unsafe contact

I mostly agree - but as with any other discussion of extraterrestrial life, we can make informed guesses based on observation of life here on Earth. At any rate, my comment wasn't so much trying to posit "this is the way things must be" as it was a reaction to the common supposition that any life intelligent and sophisticated enough for interstellar travel would also be ethically more advanced, and would be repelled by our violence and pollution. The history of the 20th century shows that technological achievement and superior ethics, or environmental consciousness, do not necessarily go hand in hand where humans are concerned. Why assume otherwise for aliens?

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38837999)

The history of the 20th century shows that technological achievement and superior ethics, or environmental consciousness, do not necessarily go hand in hand where humans are concerned. Why assume otherwise for aliens?

I'd say there are two possible outcomes as technology advances.

1) As weapons become ever more advanced, we suddenly realise that we are all in the same boat and using said weapons is really a stupid idea. Not ethics as such, but hopefully a more cooperative approach.
2) We use the weapons... The End.

That period of cooperation could form the seed of a more collective approach to problem solving which carries forward as as part of the culture as technology improves. See Western and Eastern European relations post cold war.

Of course, the counter argument to that is that we are cooperating with balancing miltary/political power blocks but we are still waging war on anyone who does roll over and who can't put up much of a fight. So maybe that hope of a cooperative approach is just a day dream.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835873)

exceptionally curious, or exceptionally desperate

There're plenty of reasons to leave a planet and eventually a solar system besides curiosity and desperation. I expect that should math win over dogma and we do find other life out there, greed will be the foremost reason we're encountering them.

Or to quote Queen Elizabeth I, upon the founding of the East India Company, "Bitches love exotic spices."

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38838199)

Actually, that's my least favorite Star Trek cliche - the benevolent, highly-evolved, omnipotent alien race that sees humans as mere children, either unworthy of their time, or in need of friendly guidance (and hectoring lectures about killing each other).

Good for you. But I don't see why your false dictonomy needed to be pushed onto the rest of us.

any alien species aggressive and inventive enough to explore space is guaranteed to have endured warfare and ecological destruction in recent memory.

Hello? This is reality. Stop reading and living in scifi. Such an assertion is literally rediculas. There exists absolutely no basis for such an assumption one way or the other. And in fact, its actually more reasonably and logically likely your assumption is completely false.

Species that lose their aggression will stay at home smoking pot, eating takeout, and watching cartoons until they all die of boredom and/or congestive heart failure. Species that lose their aggression will stay at home smoking pot, eating takeout, and watching cartoons until they all die of boredom and/or congestive heart failure.

Complete bullshit. Absolutely no reason to even entertain such a statement. Even in humanity we know this to be complete bullshit. You're confusing agression with a desire for knowledge and exploration. They are two completely different things though in human history they are often conflated.

Realistically, any intersteller space faring race more or less has infinite resources available. The need to even visit another world outside of intellectual curiosity or compassion is significantly reduced if not completely abated.

Is it possible there are warfaring aliens out there? Sure. But frankly, if there are aliens out there and they come here, its far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far more likely they are here looking to learn and explore (or even experiment) than to wage war. Period.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835927)

If FTL travel were possible, we should have been invaded and colonized millions of years ago.

One species could colonize the whole galaxy in a few thousand years.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38836611)

If FTL travel were possible, we should have been invaded and colonized millions of years ago.

One species could colonize the whole galaxy in a few thousand years.

Not necessarily. What happens if FTL travel is possible, but is limited in some sense such as cost, danger or another hazard that we cannot even guess at? What would happen if the best you can do with FTL technology is stuff some fungi through a wormhole? Maybe you could only send mechanical probes?

FTL transport, if it exists at all, is not likely going to look like some Star Trek rerun. We might not even be able to comprehend what it looks or acts like.

We're the martians now (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38837733)

If FTL travel were possible, we should have been invaded and colonized millions of years ago.

Perhaps we were.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834713)

If they're anything like us I hope they're not interested in stopping by. Quoth the Hawking: "That didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (4, Insightful)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834765)

I'd consider the fourth option, that we've only had human history for 6,000 years, good records for less than probably 2,000, and that we're in the boondocks. If we had been visited, the chance is that there just isn't evidence of it, and that we'll either have to wait to be visited again, hope that other civilizations see our radio transmissions and see it as worthwhile to come here, or go out there on our own and see what's out there. The problem is that our technology is young, we are young, and there really isn't anything that interesting about us.

I have a fifth option. Maybe our level technology and scientific understanding is NOT the be all and end all of the universe, and we are looking for the wrong things. Imagine a colony of ants deciding that there is no life other than ants because no one else (humans) is reading and answering their chemical trails. The ants have no idea that we use sound to communicate, and cars to travel. Believing that radio communication and launching hunks of steal into the cosmos for travel are the only options may be very presumptuous. Give us about a million years to mature as a species, and then maybe we'll be able to "see" what's really around us.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834995)

Unlike your hypothetical ant-human, we can observe and acknowledge other forms of communication ... such as ant chemical trails... Thus we are not so naive as your analogy would suggest. Not that we couldn't be ignorant of galaxy scale communication systems, but we're better equiped than you suggest.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835667)

I suppose that since no one felt obligated to explain where this idea came from... http://www.explainxkcd.com/2009/09/18/the-search/

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835169)

I agree, but I'd to add that when people ask the question "why haven't we found them yet" they're really asking "why haven't we found them yet for the amount of time I've waited ZOMGfeelsso long we're all alone out there."

Our existence on a geologic time scale is miniscule. If the lifespan of the earth were compressed into a day, we would have been a technologically capable species for less than a second.

If an alien species came to visit the earth at any time during that 'day', what are the odds its going to encounter us at a technologically sentient point?

For an alien race to visit us, both us and them must be technologically capable. For us to have encountered them while this was true is something akin to asking a friend. Let's both press a button.

If we press the button at the same time, we win, otherwise we lose. The catch? Both of you can press the button at any time during the day. What are the odds of winning--i.e. encountering them.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835365)

I'd consider the fourth option [..] The problem is that our technology is young, we are young

Fifth option, turning your fourth option around: life on Earth is from a 'first batch', of the first appearances of life in the Universe, and beings from Earth may very well end up being the "Ancient Visitors" for other planets some 100,000 years from now, after of course the token dark age of genetic experimentation, colonization and looting.

If the Universe is indeed ~14Gy old, and Earth is ~4.5Gy old (at around a third the Universe's age), with the astronomical distances and probabilities and all, maybe there are just not enough other guys around: sentience on this planet may just be the oldest one "within range"- so keep cool on exponential growth, catastrophic events and singularities, be ready to welcome others but also keep an edge over potential competition, in case it appears.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 2 years ago | (#38837747)

I'd consider the fourth option, that we've only had human history for 6,000 years, good records for less than probably 2,000, and that we're in the boondocks. If we had been visited, the chance is that there just isn't evidence of it, and that we'll either have to wait to be visited again, hope that other civilizations see our radio transmissions and see it as worthwhile to come here, or go out there on our own and see what's out there. The problem is that our technology is young, we are young, and there really isn't anything that interesting about us.

I'd consider a different option. If they can cross interstellar space, what need would they have of anything at the bottom of a gravity well? Would they even be terribly interested in is? For all we know we might not be terribly interesting - we think we're at an impressive peak of our civilization now, but we may have hundreds of years to go before we're worth talking to. Till then we're probably more scientifically useful to another civilization remaining undisturbed and un-contacted, especially as we'd be unprepared for it.

If they have that technological level then staying hidden from us - to study us without interfering - should be trivial. We're probably being watched.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834725)

Maybe we're a galactic wildlife preserve. Or maybe an experiment...

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (3, Funny)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835387)

I believe the answer is 42 :)

Douglas Adams 6*9=42 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38837025)

I may be a pretty sad case, but I don't write jokes in base 13!

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (2)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834737)

There's the four option, namely that intelligent races quickly evolve onto some higher plane and they don't stick around their home planet or even the visible universe. Vernor Vinge's novel Marooned in Realtime [amazon.com] has some interesting speculations about the possibility of a technological singularity and how it might explain the apparent lack of other intelligent civilizations.

2. It really is impossible to go FTL, meaning we're stuck in our system, and had probably stop treating it more like a sewer than not.

You wouldn't need to go faster than light to expand through the universe. Von Neumann probes for instance could bring signs of civilization throughout the galaxy even if they were moving relatively slowly.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

jcgam69 (994690) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834763)

Of all the millions of species that have lived on earth we are the only one to develop technology. We are rare.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834957)

We're not the only species that uses tools though.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#38839987)

Actually, we're not. We have observed tool use among other mammals, primates, and birds. We have a distinct advantage over a crow, in the form of an opposable thumb, but don't make the mistake of thinking we're the only species on this planet to make and use tools.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834889)

More likely, we are like your neighbor that lives 2 block down, and stays inside all the time. Sure you know they are their, but have you taken the time to go and introduce yourself? There are people and places all around us that we don't interact with. Why would that be any different when one leaves their star system.

Heck. In my first home, I had one cupboard that I looked in once when I bought the house, nailed it shut, and never saw the inside again until I remolded the kitchen 6 years later.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

pyronide (2440046) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834965)

calvin and hobbes: "The surest sign that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universes that none of it has contacted us."

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835045)

1. There really is something weird about our dual-planet system (tides, etc) that makes life truly rare.

Possibly, or maybe it's converting from natural attributes to artificial attributes that is rare. I mean, it took billions of years from the first life until we came along and humans are not particularly strong or fast or have good claws or fangs to capture pray or defend ourselves, nor the natural ability to survive most of the climates we live in. We survived by making weapons, tools, housing and clothes, but just barely. We almost went extinct 70000 years ago with only a few thousand humans left alive - if that branch had died out how many millions of years could it have been to the next potential race? You can have some very intelligent animals as such, but they wouldn't be building radio telescopes or space rockets.

2. It really is impossible to go FTL

This one alone just isn't enough though. If you look at universal time frames then just the 65 million years since the dinosaurs went extinct should be enough to populate large parts of the galaxy, even if it takes thousands of years to travel between planets.

3. Intelligent life has a propensity to kill itself off.

Possibly, or maybe life already on the grid is waiting for new life to announce itself, not go polling Earth every year or even every century when it's been silent for billions of years. If we start finding habitable-ish exoplanets and start pinging them with high powered directed radio signals, then take 2x the distance in light years and wait for replies things could be different.

Fermi took one unknown and broke it up into lots of factors that are also unknown, as long as at one of those factors is completely unknown so of course is the product. But we're making progress on some of them, like the distribution of planets in the universe. And that was the point, just breaking it down into sub-problems that could be studied individually. It was never meant to solve anything as such, maybe doesn't it even have enough unknowns. But it's way you can work towards an answer at least.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835177)

Motie-hood is not the only solution to a trapped species. It is not even the most common. The most common solution is either some kind of predation to appear or to that species reproduce slower, stabilizing the population.

Now, don't ask me about what mechanism makes evolution select individuals that reproduce slowly on top predators. I'm quite amazed they do that.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835181)

The first of those is known to be true.

Life on Earth required the tilt of the planet to lie within a very specific range, the wobble to be within an extremely narrow range, the magnetic field to be fairly intense AND come from the primary planet (the moon is almost entirely lighter elements blasted up from the original surface of Proto-Earth and the colliding planetoid, the modern core of Earth is the merging of the two proto-planet cores, and by implication both proto-planets must have been inner planets with large iron cores to start with), collision with enough comets for there to be significant water (which means the evolved body cannot form after the majority of cometary debris has been swept up, implying a very narrow time range) and collision with enough meteorites for there to be heavier elements near the surface rather than at the core. The planet ALSO had to be in the Goldilocks Zone (formerly known as the Habitable Zone), have sufficient gravity to hold an atmosphere and have sufficient background radiation to reduce the stability of complex molecules.

That's a hefty set of requirements.

The second of your points is nearly certain to be true (although I point to Fred Hoyle's "A for Andromeda" as to how to travel interstellar distances without having to use FTL).

There have been at least five hominid species, four of whom have killed themselves off already and the fifth is doing a great job at following suit. If that can be considered representative, your third point is highly likely.

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38835335)

3. Intelligent life has a propensity to kill itself off.

What makes you think that? We haven't, what other intelligent life are you talking about?

Re:With absolutely no respect towards anyone... (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38836757)

How about this option:
Would YOU trust US with a Warp Drive?!

I think the answer is very very simple: Just beyond the Oort Cloud, sits a Universally Translatable Sign:
"Quarantine Zone - Human Infestation.
We apologize for the inconvenience."
-God

Re:With all due respect to Fermi.... (1)

Xenophon Fenderson, (1469) | more than 2 years ago | (#38836977)

Here's my guess:

Nothing intelligent enough to capture our EM emissions lives close enough to have somehow replied by now. By "close enough" I mean within 50 or 60 light-years of us, although the limit might be smaller than that. (I wonder how strong some of our earliest radio and TV signals are, from the perspective of some alien's SETI program.) Smart/wealthy aliens living closer than about 5 to 10 ly could have visited us by now without requiring novel physics (e.g., nuclear pulse propulsion).

Each planet we find orbiting a star's habitable zone increases the likelihood of alien life, or at least alien life that uses biochemistry familiar to us - very exciting!

If intelligent life lives nearby, it might be really difficult to talk to it even after ignoring (or handwaving) the physical communications limits. I suspect that our ability to communicate with one another (or even with other species here on Earth) has much to do with having biochemistry and neural biology in common. That won't be true for species with a wholly separate evolutionary heritage. (Hell, it's hard enough to figure out how to talk with other smart species here on Earth, like dolphins or elephants.) Still, we could at least signal back and forth.

"Gaseous consistency like Neptune" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834613)

Or like me after eating pizza.

Dr. Evil attacks Planet X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38834803)

Could we fire one nuke after another in order to destroy one of our neighboring planets? At least one should be enough to piss off any fake space aliens inhabiting the planet(s) and demand a response.

What effect would it have on the universe if we destroyed one useless planet after another? After all, they're just there without any purpose, right? What real purpose do they serve us?

fuzz: nsa, cia, fbi, dia, dod, kgb, rfid, smartwater, nuclear, detain,mind,control,guantanamo,cuba,missile,icbm

my bet (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#38834869)

If there's life out there and life's possible to detect from a distance, then I'd bet we've already been spotted.

Granted, I don't mean humans, but the existence of life on our planet. Depending on how prevalent life is, that may or may not be interesting at all, in and of itself.

Re:my bet (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38835213)

If there is some technological civilization out there that is a bit more advanced than we are, they probably already know that there is an unexplainable amount of oxygen and methane in our athmosphere. That means, yes, life like us is detectable from a distance, and we even know how to do that.

The only reason that we aren't trying yet to detect it is because we aren't in space yet. If we start building things in space, that becomes trivial.

Pascal's Triangle? (2)

segwonk (1064462) | more than 2 years ago | (#38836499)

I wish that someone knowledgeable about planetary formation could help me out here...

I seem to recall reading a theory many years ago (circa mid 1990s) about the expected/predicted pattern of planetary formation. That is, it was thought that planets would form from an accretion disc around a star in a mass-pattern that approximated a horizontal line from a Pascal Triangle. e.g.:

1 6 15 20 15 6 1

Translated to our solar system, you have the big gas giants Jupiter & Saturn in the middle, and smaller bodies Pluto and Mercury at the extremes. It's not a perfect model, but I've always felt that these gas giants that have been detected around other stars should also have a number of smaller planets in their systems.

But I have not seen reference to that idea again since then. I'm beginning to wonder if I imagined it, but I'm not that smart.

Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

- jw

Re:Pascal's Triangle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38837557)

You might try reading up on the history of the Titius-Bode Law [wikipedia.org], which sounds very similar (but much older than the 1990s).

Any without...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38836985)

Now that exoplanets are found to be more common than imagined 20 years ago, wouldn't it be time to check if there are stars *without* planets? And I don't mean those that might have devoured them whilst going nova.

Re:Any without...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38839263)

If you can think of a better way to detect stares without exo-planets than finding all the exo-planets, I'd like to hear it.

eNtroPy (1)

BarryChuckle (2562093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38838183)

My boss has asked me to visit each of these planets to sell some crap on their doorsteps. Can anyone tell me the most efficient route between theme all that will take the least amount of space fuel? It would also help if you could tell me how many parsecs of time it would take, I'm hoping no more than 12

What is this, a video game update? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38840143)

It's like a video game update.

Patch update, Earth 1.2, new features:
Space resolution increased through the activation of "Kepler" imaging
Exoplanet density doubled
Exoplanet conformation defined, mix of rock/water planets added to existing gas giants
Information transfer speed defined
Bug Fixes:
Gravity no longer reversed in certain locations
Particles can no longer travel faster than light in a particle accelerator

 
It is the Matrix

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...