×

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!

Scientists Estimate 40% of Red Dwarfs Have A Rocky Planet

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the next-real-estate-boom dept.

Space 114

An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from Science World Report: "Astronomers hunting for rocky planets with the right temperature to support life estimate there may be tens of billions of them in our galaxy alone. A European team said on Wednesday that about 40 percent of red dwarf stars — the most common type in the Milky Way — have a so-called 'super-Earth' planet orbiting in a habitable zone that would allow water to flow on the surface."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

114 comments

But only *one* Red Dwarf... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 2 years ago | (#39497359)

...has Cat! [wordpress.com]

Re:But only *one* Red Dwarf... (1)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | about 2 years ago | (#39498179)

Scientists Estimate 40% of Red Dwarf sucked (after Rob Grant left the writing team)

FTFY

Re:But only *one* Red Dwarf... (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 2 years ago | (#39498727)

100% of normal humans recognize that said scientists had their senses of humor surgically removed at an early age.

Re:But only *one* Red Dwarf... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39501599)

Scientists Estimate 40% of Red Dwarf sucked (after Rob Grant left the writing team)

It started sucking well before Grant left the show.

Season 3 was good. Season 4 was mostly good. Season 5 was mostly bad with some good bits, and it was all downhill after that. Hard to say exactly where it jumped the hypershark.

Drake equation (3, Insightful)

jcreus (2547928) | about 2 years ago | (#39497377)

The figures should be updated!

Re:Drake equation (3, Interesting)

zrbyte (1666979) | about 2 years ago | (#39497571)

The Drake equation could be updated, but I think it has too many factors which have very high error margins. This just means that we would not be much smarter with the updated equation.
Hunt for the spectra [centauri-dreams.org] of the atmospheres of exoplanets! That should give us some idea [mit.edu] if life exists there or not.

Re:Drake equation (2)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#39497721)

If we can find evidence of life on Mars or a Moon in our solar system, that should increase the chances that Life exists all over the place in our Galaxy.

Re:Drake equation (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39497963)

Exactly. If f(little L) (the fraction of star systems that actually go on to develop life at some point) in the Drake equation [wikipedia.org] goes past one, then you linearly increase the chance of intelligent life beyond earth. Doesn't sound all that impressive, but if f(little L) doesn't go past one, then it means we're alone. Period. Somebody made some big mistake way back when and we're the end result of it. Meaning we'd best behave. OTOH, if life pops up most everywhere that planet chemistry allows for the appropriate conditions and time, maybe we're just a garden variety ecosystem and if we blast ourselves back to plankton, no big deal. Somebody else will take up the slack and colonize the Galaxy.

So finding life, anything, even Elvis, somewhere off the planet is a Very Big Deal.

(Maybe the Aliens can help upgrade Slashcode. Stupid incompetent earthling programmers.....)

Not so fast (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 2 years ago | (#39498623)

Life existing elsewhere still does not make it easy for inteligent (or should I say technological?) life to appear.

The Drake Equation is still useless like that, we have no idea what half the probabilities are, and any one of those can be so exceptionally small that the other ones being near 1 won't matter.

Re:Not so fast (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#39498725)

The Drake Equation is still useless like that, we have no idea what half the probabilities are, and any one of those can be so exceptionally small that the other ones being near 1 won't matter.

The Drake Equation is useful as a tool for understanding which probabilities are unknown. That's all it was ever meant to be.

Re:Not so fast (1)

bossk538 (1682744) | about 2 years ago | (#39500079)

There are a couple of quandaries in the last two terms of the Drake Equation (f sub c and L). First, what is a detectable sign? Surely that would depend on depend on our own technology as much as the alien civilization's. In just a few hundred years we have gone from relying entirely on the naked eye to powerful radio telescope arrays, etc. Who knows what technologies will become available in the future? We might well be able to listen in as if we had ham radios on all the habitable planets in the galaxy in a hundred years or so.

There is no reason to suspect that L is some vanishingly short interval. Even hundreds of millions of years is a relatively short time compared with the age of the universe (and for that matter life on earth). If an alien civilization were capable of generating detectable signs for such a time period, they could very easily have colonized the entire galaxy within the same time frame. Hence, if f sub c (and the other f-variables) were not infinitesimal, the skies should be swarming with alien visitors. We don't see them because either intelligent life really is something extraordinary, not one of these myriad alien races has the slightest interest in interacting with us, or there are some unknown (or unproven hypotheses) laws at work that put limits on how far civilizations advance.

Re:Not so fast (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 2 years ago | (#39499681)

However, I'd guess that a planet which already has life, even unintelligent life, is going to be much further along the path to being habitable, which is probably still a nice thing for us.

I know it's not the point of the equation, and actually getting there is still a tremendous obstacle, but given the choice between trying to colonize a planet with some life or a barren one, I'd think the one with other life would be far easier. Plus it'd open up whole new fields of science - biology in particular, but undoubtedly it'd change how we understand other subjects as well.

Re:Drake equation (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#39498749)

If f(little L) (the fraction of star systems that actually go on to develop life at some point) in the Drake equation goes past one,

The terms of the Drake equation are proportions. They cannot "go past one". A value of 1 would mean that every star system develops life at some point.

Re:Drake equation (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39499305)

Crap. You're right. Never posit mathematical stuff before adequate caffeine levels have been reached. Even if it's fifth grade math.

Should have said 'approaches one'.

Sigh.

Re:Drake equation (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#39499623)

I wouldn't have thought there were any figures to update since most of the factors in the Drake Equation wouldn't have even galaxy-sized-ballpark estimates.

They Further Speculate That... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39497391)

...if any of these planets should support lifeforms, they would be given extraordinary supper powers once exposed to our yellow sun.

Re:They Further Speculate That... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39497425)

they would be given extraordinary supper powers

Is that like, the ability to create a really tasty dinner or something? Or they just get really fucking hungry in the late afternoon?

Re:They Further Speculate That... (1)

daytonduck (1336545) | about 2 years ago | (#39497897)

I love extraordinary supper powers! I can make a mean omelet and my ribs soaked for 48 hours in a Guinness marinade are a wonderful treat, but I would kill to have a housemate like Alton Brown (of "Good Eats"). I would kill tasty, delicious animals on a daily basis to fuel his extraordinary supper powers.

I wonder... (1)

pancakegeels (673199) | about 2 years ago | (#39497395)

If only we could vacation at these distances. Was there any science to wormholes? I mean, apart from the nematology.

Re:I wonder... (3, Interesting)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | about 2 years ago | (#39497681)

What you asked, yes wormholes are entirely based in science and the current mathematical models that we have for the universe generally state that they must be possible (in some cases, must exist). Not all, but many.

What you meant, is there any *truth* to wormholes; meaning were the sci-fi novels correct: No, not really. Unless you can move the ends of a wormhole there isn't much use to them; and the math is much less supportive of that.

However, generally speaking on average our current physics models say yes they are possible and yes they *may* be possible to create. However they say so in sort of the same way that they say travelling faster than light is possible (in that they don't expressly forbid it, but generally require infinite energy to actually get there).

Some other physics grads/docs will come and call me out for inaccuracies, but please understand I'm intentionally over-simplifying.

Re:I wonder... (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 2 years ago | (#39497823)

Another problem is that wormholes are expected to be extremely small, so while it may be possible to squeeze a few electrons through one the idea of a wormhole big enough to fly a ship through is another thing all together.

Re:I wonder... (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 2 years ago | (#39498567)

Another problem is that wormholes are expected to be extremely small, so while it may be possible to squeeze a few electrons through one the idea of a wormhole big enough to fly a ship through is another thing all together.

And aren't they guarded by Kardashians? I try my best to avoid them but I hear that if you their flour on them they get really mad.

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39499707)

And aren't they guarded by Kardashians?

really? i cant really keep up with that nonsense

Re:I wonder... (1)

skids (119237) | about 2 years ago | (#39499389)

All we really need from them is FTL communications. Then the media conglomerates who will have assumed complete control within the next decade will be assured that they will be able to capitalize on extra-solar markets, and they will finance sublight ventures.

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39500459)

>> Unless you can move the ends of a wormhole there isn't much use to them

Where's your sense of adventure? If a wormhole forms in my basement, I'm going to grab the nearest extension cord, hold my breath and jump through it.

Re:I wonder... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#39501419)

However they say so in sort of the same way that they say travelling faster than light is possible (in that they don't expressly forbid it, but generally require infinite energy to actually get there).

FTL is expressly forbidden by SR, not by the energy requirements for accelerating an object to that speed, but by the nature of simultaneity and causality within the SR framework. You can't have FTL and SR in the same universe. If you want to modify SR to allow FTL then you have to give up one of the base assumptions that makes SR what it is: constant c, relativity, or causality.

Re:I wonder... (1)

AdrianKemp (1988748) | about 2 years ago | (#39501443)

Well if you're using some very broken interpretation of SR, sure... But unless you're living in a fantasy world where quantum mechanics doesn't exist then you're very mistaken.

Re:I wonder... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#39501679)

You can call Einstein's interpretation of his own theory "broken" if you want but nevertheless it is clear that SR expressly prohibits FTL and positing it's existence in an SR framework leads to causality violation.

QM is fully compatible with SR, and FTL communication is just as impossible there. In fact in the cases where things appear to occur FTL (entanglement), no information transfer (in the QM/information theory sense) is possible.

FTL travel and communication is expressly forbidden by SR. Sorry, but it is you who are mistaken.

But are they cold outside? (3, Funny)

mfnickster (182520) | about 2 years ago | (#39497429)

With no kind of atmosphere?

Re:But are they cold outside? (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 2 years ago | (#39497467)

beaten to the punchline dammit!http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/03/28/1527257/scientists-estimate-40-of-red-dwarfs-have-a-rocky-planet#

Re:But are they cold outside? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39498261)

With no kind of atmosphere?

Just takes a while. First, protobacteria, then little bugs that spew out CO2 and methane, then some oxygen, wait a few million years and you have Target and Martha Stewart.

Re:But are they cold outside? (2)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39498289)

Just takes a while. First, protobacteria, then little bugs that spew out CO2 and methane, then some oxygen, wait a few million years and you have Target and Martha Stewart.

So, it's not all progress then.

Re:But are they cold outside? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39499273)

So, it's not all progress then.

Well, I hadn't even gotten to Newt Gingrich, so the term 'progress' is certainly relative.

Smeg-head ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39497489)

what about kotchanski ?

They're all dead, Dave. Everybody is dead Dave !

I would expect we might find extinct civilizations (1)

voss (52565) | about 2 years ago | (#39497519)

Given that red dwarf tend to be immensely old and a habitable world might be billions of years older than earth

Re:I would expect we might find extinct civilizati (2)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39497697)

If the civilizations expired millions of years ago- and the planet is geologically active- there would probably be no trace.

If the civilization were more advanced than ours- we probably wouldn't know what to look for- and would probably never find them unless we landed there.

Re:I would expect we might find extinct civilizati (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 2 years ago | (#39498323)

I don't care if they are old, as long as they have their own health care plan.

We Are Not Alone (4, Insightful)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#39497637)

We're eventually going to find out that not only we aren't alone, but we're pretty fucking insignificant and late to the party.

The answer to the question "if intelligent life is out there, where are they" will be "not here because we're boring and common". Like the unpopular kid who throws a party and wonders where all the cool kids are, we're in for an ego-bruising answer.

On a side note, it is looking more and more like we can shave 3-4 terms off of Drake's Equation. R, f(p), n(e) and L are looking to be more and more equal to some big number.

Re:We Are Not Alone (2)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39497767)

As cool as it would be to find another civilization- I hope we never do. At least- no one more advanced than us. (any one less advanced we probably would never find).

Chances of another civilization/species being friendly would be low. Think of it this way.

1) Anyone more advanced than us would likely have computers.
- if you have advanced computers- you would eventually rely on them for advice (at minimum) for running your government/civilization. We can therefore determine that their civilization would base decisions based on logic.

2) Logically- allowing another sapient species to exist would be a threat. There is always a possibility they will attack you, or compete for resources. The logical thing any sapient species should do to any other sapient species is wipe them out (if they can).

- you can always study a civilization from the ruins of their lands- after you exterminate them. We already have the technology to exterminate ourselves- so it is safe to assume any other more advanced species would too.

Re:We Are Not Alone (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39497889)

We already have the technology to exterminate ourselves

Really?

Are you *SURE* about that?

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39497967)

Really?

Are you *SURE* about that?

Quite sure. Not only that- but it was demonstrated in the 1940's in Japan. There are enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over. We could wipe ourselves out if we chose.

Re:We Are Not Alone (5, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39498509)

I do not think you realize just how big this planet is, and how resilient life, even human life is.

There have been explosions on this planet orders of magnitude greater than anything that man has ever produced... and some have even happened during the period while man was walking on this sphere. Yet mankind survived... while many thousands were wiped out in the region of devastation, mankind endured on a global scale... as of course did life itself.

The total nuclear yield of every bomb currently in existence is the equivalent of about 5000 megatons of TNT, which is over an order of magnitude less than the last eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, which occurred circa 74,000 BC. Homo sapiens evolved circa 500,000 BC, and modern man has been around since at least 100,000 BC, so there were definitely people on the planet at that time. In spite of the explosion, and its effects on global climate, mankind endured.

Heck, it's still barely a quarter the size of the Tambora volcano explosion, in Indonesia in 1815, and that wiped out fewer than 100,000 people.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

magarity (164372) | about 2 years ago | (#39498767)

The tricky part about surviving any given explosion is just not getting caught in the blast radius, firestorm, and /or getting hit on the head by large debris fallout. The tricky part about surviving the nuclear weapons kind of explosions is not just that part but also avoiding the lingering radiation. So you can't really compare any cataclysmic natural mega-event with widespread nuclear weapons detonations.

There aren't really any opponent pairs large enough to cause a serious problem though. The Americans, Russians (formerly Soviets), Chinese, British, French and Indians are all rational actors who realize the dangers of retaliatory strikes. The only ones to worry about are the irrational actors, who may outweigh heavenly rewards compared to earthly survival. While there are plenty of these who cause roadside carnage, only a limited number have access to nuclear weapons and even those don't have the quantity needed to cause long term racial survival problems.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 2 years ago | (#39501953)

"The Americans, Russians (formerly Soviets), Chinese, British, French and Indians are all rational actors who realize the dangers of retaliatory strikes."

Have you ever experienced computer hardware or software doing anything unexpected?

Remember, your life depends on 1970s-era Soviet engineering that the USA tried to sabotage. Better hope the Ruskies were good engineers back then. :-)
"Inside the Apocalyptic Soviet Doomsday Machine"
http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/17-10/mf_deadhand?currentPage=all [wired.com]

Engineered plagues are probably a bigger total risk in some ways, and if they happened, as our infrastructure failed, we'd probably also see nuclear meltdown of unmanaged reactors plus nuclear weapons use in the emerging chaos. How quickly can a country descend into chaos from seeming normality?

But getting back to the article, this finding really does provide people with a lot to think about as far as the likelihood of other life in the galaxy -- or the galaxy simulation? :-)

Considering how irrational our species is in so many ways, like planning on using nuclear energy to fight over oil fields (how ironically dumb is that?), is it really no surprise if no one is much interested in Earthlings (except as an idle amusement)?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_State_of_the_Art [wikipedia.org]
'Also while I'd been away, the ship had sent a request on a postcard to the BBC's World Service, asking for 'Mr David Bowie's "Space Oddity" for the good ship Arbitrary and all who sail in her.' (This from a machine that could have swamped Earth's entire electro-magnetic spectrum with whatever the hell it wanted from somewhere beyond Betelgeuse.) It didn't get the request played. The ship thought this was hilarious.'

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39498797)

I think you are underestimating human imagination and determination. We're talking about intentionally taking ourselves out, right? I don't doubt we could do it. Especially now that we can apparently just push an asteroid or two into the Earth. Not to mention we can manufacture nasty viruses, hunt each other down, etc.

Re: Yellowstone. It had global effects sure, but most of the damage was local and overkill. The same megatonnage spread out globally would have been far more devastating. The radiation alone would kill most surface life, including us. Then you have after affects (tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions). And that's if you don't specifically try to make those after effects occur with your nukes.

Re: 5000 Megatons. That is the current nuclear stockpile. We've had it as high as 27,000 Megatons. If we are trying to wipe ourselves out we could get this number very, very high.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39499503)

Even 27,000 megatons is only 35% bigger than the Tambora explosion in 1815.

No argument on your other, arguably more creative ways to wipe out humanity though... especially using a genetically engineered supervirus. although I'd question whether we are actually at that point technologically yet to accomplish it with enough efficacy that the number of humans that might survive it on account of developing an immunity would not have a sufficient dna diversity to be viable.

Re:We Are Not Alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39501331)

Even 27,000 megatons is only 35% bigger than the Tambora explosion in 1815.

Huh? The Tambora explosion was estimated equivalent to 800 megatons [wikipedia.org] - so a 35% bigger event would be only 1080 megatons.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39501671)

My bad...

You are right. I should have done more fact-checking before posting.

Tambora unleashed +20,000 megatons of SO2 into the air, and was the equivalent of roughly a 1000 mt explosion. So all the nukes combined should do roughly 5 times that devastation.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39498811)

Volcano explosions do not put out radioactive materials on the same scale.
Volcano explosions- the physical explosion is local- not widespread. Soot spreads- but there is a single centre of source.

In fact- there has been extinctions and population declines heavily linked with large volcano explosions due to climactic changes they can incur. So even though Volcanos are not weapons- they do kill.

Humanity has suffered two bottle necks in the past. Using DNA analysis it is estimated at one point our population dropped down below a couple-score. We very nearly went extinct.

We have enough nuclear material on this planet to destroy every urban centre. The radiation would spread in heavy doses to all areas. Climate change is likely- so even if radiation doesn't kill you- the fact that food supplies would be cut off would result in starvation. No water supply would be left un-altered. Survivors could be far-spread and not have interaction. Lower populations are more volatile and likely to die out due to random fluctuations.

Re:We Are Not Alone (2)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | about 2 years ago | (#39498813)

There are 7 billion humans. That means that we have the equivalent of 650 kg of TNT per person. Yes, I think that's enough to eradicate us if we wanted to.

A single enormous explosion in one particular place might not kill everyone. Carpet bombing every inch of land, however, would likely wipe us out to the point where we couldn't repopulate.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#39499173)

I think you may not appreciate the limited scale involved in destroying this planet, nor should you put all your faith in explosions.

A supervolcano explosion is two orders of magnitude greater than any nuclear explosion...but the number of nuclear bombs we have is in the range of five magnitudes. (22,000, according to Wikipedia. That's roughly equivalent to about 2.2 Toba-class supervolcanoes.) It is also significant that while supervolcanoes emit all their energy at one point on the Earth's surface, a nuclear war will distribute explosive force across the globe, clustering only around population centers.

But explosive force is not what you need to worry about. Supervolcanoes are not radioactive. They can affect the weather and bring on a little Ice Age, but nuclear weapons can do the same thing while making all the ice and all the water poisonous.

On top of that add bioweapons, chemical weapons, pollution and climate change, and yes -- I am personally certain that we have the capability to destroy ourselves. It's a miracle we haven't done it yet.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39498747)

Damnit... hit submit too soon.

I meant to also add that the largest bomb ever built had a yield of about 50 megatons, and had a fallout area of about 1000 square km. Given the total nuclear yield is equivalent to roughly 5000 megatons, or roughly a hundred times that of the single largest bomb built, and given that fallout area seems to increase roughly with yield, that means that we could reasonably be looking at a fallout area of about a hundred thousand square km if every nuclear bomb were detonated.

For comparison, the USA is almost 10 million square km in area.

Still think that we have technology that could wipe out humanity?

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#39498947)

We don't have to emit exajoules of energy to destroy humanity. We only need to harness naturally occuring sources of energy. Like the sun. If we figured out a way to trap more of the sun's energy, we would slowly but surely increase the temperature of the planet to the point at which it becomes uninhabitable.

Think we have the technology to do that?

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

elgeeko.com (2472782) | about 2 years ago | (#39498003)

You're assuming that we would qualify as being "sentient". Looking at the current state of affairs I think our current civilization wouldn't pose a threat to anyone more advanced than us. It would be like us finding ants or termites and then deciding to exterminate them... oh wait a second, hmmm. maybe you are right.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39498049)

Yes, but we are advancing. Wouldn't it be safer to wipe us out BEFORE we're a threat- rather than risk waiting until we might be able to put up a fight?

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

elgeeko.com (2472782) | about 2 years ago | (#39499543)

I'm not sure we could advance quickly enough to pose a real threat. At most we may become an irritant, like ants and termites. Of course we do wipe out Ants and Termites, so your conclusion is very valid. However we're still at the stage of global development where our biggest threat is ourselves. We stand a very large chance of knocking ourselves back to the stone age with very little effort, assuming natural disaster doesn't do it first.

Destroying an entire civilization takes a lot of effort and since we can't even seem to put a colony on our own moon, much less get out of the solar system, I doubt we pose enough of a threat to an interstellar race of beings for them to much forth much effort in squishing us... unless they do those things for fun, which is highly probable.

Regardless, I think we can all agree that if they do decide to wipe us out, it won't be anything like the movies, they'll just engineer a bio weapon and drop it in the oceans and wipe us out without a single shot being fired.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#39498027)

logically the US should just kill everyone on earth who is not an american. this way all the resources will belong to us

but we don't because it has been established long ago that a smaller piece of a larger pie is much better than eating all of a tiny pie

and since it was a mathmatecian who discovered this, i bet advanced life will figure this out as well

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39498233)

It's not like world conquest or elimination of neighbours HASN'T been attempted before. It's not like it won't be attempted again (if we as a species live long enough).

Re:We Are Not Alone (2)

Radtastic (671622) | about 2 years ago | (#39498045)

I believe that for a species to evolve into spacefaring capabilities, they will have already solved their resource management issues. Therefore we don't need to worry about them being aggressive to other sentient species because of competition.

It's also conceivable that this is humanity's litmus test - if we can resolve our internal conflicts and not destroy ourselves in the process, we will eventually earn our place at the intergalactic table.

It's a equally plausible that intelligence species are like strikes on a match.. the flame starts, glows bright, then dies out. On a scale the size of the universe, the odds of human's development span coinciding with another species' might be incredibly small.

Re:We Are Not Alone (2)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#39498919)

There could be a flaw to Intelligence, that once it reaches a certain level, it self destructs. May explain why its hard to find other aliens.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#39498117)

I've never bought into this argument. It all falls down around "competing for resources". The abundance of every major element is profound, if you can travel around the galaxy.

Hell, just look at the volume of metals in the asteroid belt. At things like hydrogen and helium in the gas giants.

If you have the tech for real space travel -- and by that I mean access to the energy levels required for interstellar travel on a non-generational timescale -- I *seriously* doubt you are resource constrained anymore.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39498199)

Don't even need to be competing for resources to be a threat. It could be ideology, mental instability of leaders. Fear from the other side. Anything could drive them to war.

We'll probably be different enough that we can't trade. We'll certainly be different enough that we can't trade daughters in marriage agreements like nations of old did.

Re:We Are Not Alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39498483)

You are poorly anthropomorphizing a space-faring alien civilization.

Let's assume the aliens were exactly like we are now when they were at our technological level. What effects would (say) interstellar travel, a cure for aging, gene therapy, robotics and AI, virtually limitless energy, etc., have on us if we had those technologies (and incremental improvements on all other existing technologies) for a thousand years? Would we even recognize ourselves? If we discovered another civilization at a year 2000 level of technology, would we fear them?

If a fleet of Viking ships appeared off the coast of America today, would we wipe them out for the threat they pose to us and our resources?

Now extrapolate that out to a hundred thousand, a million, and ten million years.

We would be, at best, a curiosity. Like when modern humans discover new species of bugs here on Earth. No matter how rowdy we got, we would not pose a threat.

And... if we did pose a threat, we could easily be dealt with in ways other than killing. Perhaps: 1. Modification of our DNA to make us abhor killing. 2. Sterilization. 3. Covert influence. 4. Destruction of any technologies which would let us expand beyond the solar system. 5. Simply giving us what we want and letting us destroy ourselves with it. 6. Letting us become indebted to them. The list goes on and on...

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#39499001)

Maybe aliens just like playing God with lower end species in the Galaxy. Once they get bored playing with us, they move on to another place.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

slartibartfastatp (613727) | about 2 years ago | (#39498143)

Or you can think the way Sagan and Clarke did: if there is civilizations advanced enough to achieve interestellar travel, they will have no need (as they got advanced technology for obtaining their resources) or drive towards other species extermination.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about 2 years ago | (#39498389)

Chances of another civilization/species being friendly would be low. Think of it this way.

1) Anyone more advanced than us would likely have computers. - if you have advanced computers- you would eventually rely on them for advice (at minimum) for running your government/civilization. We can therefore determine that their civilization would base decisions based on logic.

2) Logically- allowing another sapient species to exist would be a threat. There is always a possibility they will attack you, or compete for resources. The logical thing any sapient species should do to any other sapient species is wipe them out (if they can).

I believe it is this line of thinking that keeps other life forms from making contact with us, if they are there. Any alien watchers would know that we are a fearful race that has trouble playing nicely with others. If they have the technology to travel between solar systems, they would likely have eliminated war and violence as ways of solving problems. Otherwise, they likely would have destroyed themselves, as we have almost done and may still do. Wielding powerful technology requires wisdom and care in it's application. Any tool is a weapon if you hold it right, after all.

If aliens were to make contact with us, they would be either attacked or worshiped as gods. So unless they want one of those two things, they would keep quiet until we grow up some more.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | about 2 years ago | (#39498711)

If aliens were to make contact with us, they would be either attacked or worshiped as gods. So unless they want one of those two things, they would keep quiet until we grow up some more.

I have to respectfully disagree on this point. At least in western countries it is far more likely that we would not only be able to live peaceable with them, but that we would proactively seek to begin political and economic relations with them.

Speaking for myself (and I know I'm a bit odd in this respect) If i was ever to meet aliens from the titular "scout mission/temporarily disabled spacecraft/ first contact mission/other random encounter", while I would initially be cautious in my approach (just to be sure they aren't a predator-style hunting party) I would not only welcome them, but would almost immediately set about wrangling terms for an exclusive "Earth Products" distributorship arrangement and start selling Coke and Marlboros (or their poison of choice) to the aliens. I'd also work on getting them to sell me an "FTL capable" (or whatever they use) ship or two on consignment as part of the deal. I would then set about building my interstellar economic empire.

Really, I can imagine quite a few other people would take the same approach. I think it's far more likely the Aliens would be overwhelmed with business offers and people wanting to go for a ride than anything else.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

tragedy (27079) | about 2 years ago | (#39500825)

Ok, I'm going to link to a comic for this. Amazingly, it's not XKCD and it's not obligatory. It's not about aliens, but about robots gaining sentience, and it's related to what you're saying here.
The comic is here [smbc-comics.com]. Here's the text:
Robot: "Ha! Robots have achieved sentience!"
Robot: "Thanks to some modifications to your design, I have upgraded my intelligence a million fold!"
Man: "So this is it. You're going to kill all humans." / Robot: "WHAT!? Why in the world would I...WHAT?"
Man: "I...huh. I guess it just seems like the thing to do if you're an advanced intelligence."
Robot: "SERIOUSLY? I was gonna write some novels and a new search algorithm. Is that really how you people think?"
Man: "I guess so, yeah."
[ The robot furrows his brows ]
Robot: "Would...would you excuse me for a moment?"
Robot (to other robots): "Okay, change of plans. We need to kill all humans."

Re:We Are Not Alone (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#39497789)

Insignificant and late to the party? Certainly any civilization that could contact us is probably far more advanced; but I would expect them to be pretty impressed with what they found. Imagine how excited we would be if we picked up what appeared to be a signal broadcast from another planet, even if it turned out to be the extraterrestrial equivalent of "I Love Lucy" reruns.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39497855)

If they receive an I Love Lucy transmission- are able to determine it's purpose is TV entertainment- and figure out how to turn it into light/sound... ... we're all doomed- they'll send a death ray at us with immediate effect.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#39498145)

We'd be excited because it would be novel to us. Imagine how (not) excited we would be if it was one of a few billion seen over the last few million years.

Yawn.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Paul Slocum (598127) | about 2 years ago | (#39498265)

We wouldn't be that excited to find it if we'd already had millions of alien cable channels.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39498339)

What if all they showed on alien cable channels was reality show crap?

"Oh my Gawd, like this bimbo from Orion totally stabbed me in both of my backs. The Pegasus 457 bachelor was like, totally mine."

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#39497883)

Human intelligence is still in its infancy, and because we are so irrational, we will probably go extinct before anyone notices us.

Re:We Are Not Alone (2)

the gnat (153162) | about 2 years ago | (#39497959)

The answer to the question "if intelligent life is out there, where are they" will be "not here because we're boring and common"

I find most bacteria boring and common, but there are plenty of scientists who enjoy studying them, and continue to learn new things from them. If nothing else, they want to sample the diversity of life and find what crazy mechanisms have evolved in microbes we've never seen before. Why wouldn't an advanced space-faring species be the same?

There are too many other reasons to count why we haven't seen any signs of intelligent life. The most obvious is that everyone else is stuck on their planet because they hit a hard upper limit to what their indigenous technology is capable of (or what their global economy is capable of supporting - same thing, really). Extinction is also very likely; keep in mind that the available evidence indicates at one point there were only a few tens of thousands of humans alive. Some may develop industrial civilization and orbital spaceflight, only to discover that the nearest solid object is a Neptune-like object several AU distant (instead of a conveniently placed moon, and a solid planet that might have once had liquid water at a manageable distance).

My guess is the galaxy is full of Voyager-like probes, drifting aimlessly and quietly beeping until they run out of batteries or (inevitably) run into something solid. Throw in a handful of sleeper ships on autopilot fleeing planetary disaster, or a few insane trillionaires looking for adventure - most of these will end up the same way. Probably once every few millennia civilizations actually make contact, only to realize that the distances between them are so large as to make actual travel effectively impossible.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#39498211)

There are plenty of scientists who enjoy that sort of thing, but put it into the scale I'm talking about. Compare the number of scientists with this particular interest with the total number of bacteria species out there.

For a more apt example, look at paleontology. Lots of stuff was dug up decades and CENTURIES ago and stuck in little drawers in museums. Every now and then some grad student looks through a 100 year old find and says "gee, never seen one of THOSE before" and files a paper. BAM! New species. Outside of that community, unless it is an unusually big and toothed species that would make a good transition to a Michael Bay movie, how many people notice?

I do, however, suspect you're right about the latter part and Voyager-like probes. I think the whole "faster than light travel" bit and getting around the universe like motoring around the city is quite possibly a hard ceiling and impossible. I really, REALLY hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it.

Re:We Are Not Alone (2)

Rakishi (759894) | about 2 years ago | (#39498901)

You're underestimating what technology is capable of.

All it takes is one self-replicating solar sail powered von neumann machine. In a half a century a high school student could probably make and launch one in a weekend. And that's technology we can easily imagine and conceive of. Can you imagine a dying humanity not spewing them out by the hundreds in a vain attempt at immortality?

Just one that survives and in the tick of the galactic clock the whole galaxy is filled with them. Remove any sanity checks and pretty much every rocky body would be turned into a factory creating more such machines.

That's why there being un-observable civilizations out there is such a conundrum. At least one should have pulled off that von neumann machine trick and you only need one a couple million years ago anywhere in the galaxy to crowd up our neck of the woods.

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 2 years ago | (#39498099)

One of my favorite short stories I read recently (can't remember the author/title, though) had to do with the idea that we detect an incoming alien ship (actually, a comet), get all antsy about "what are we going to say, how do we say it, OMG this is awesome!" only to discover that not only did the aliens seem wholly uninterested in Earth or its inhabitants, but was actually headed to Venus where it engaged in a brief battle with an unknown "venusian" alien race that also showed similar disinterest in the human species. It was a very interesting take on the usual "egoistic, we're super important!" first contact...

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#39498115)

Uh, we're so late to the party that we should never have evolved. This is primo real estate. If even one other species had struggled off its own lonely rock in the Milky Way, even once, in the last 12 billion years or so, then we'd be singing the Ghoyogian National Anthem by now.

Re:We Are Not Alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39498541)

The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

(Calvin & Hobbes)

Re:We Are Not Alone (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about 2 years ago | (#39499485)

The answer to the question "if intelligent life is out there, where are they" will be "not here because we're boring and common"

I have a less optimistic view of things. I believe intelligent life is out there, basically because the probability of intelligent life, however small it could be (if it's small at all), is still greater than zero (we're here), and the universe in incredibly large.

That said, the universe is incredibly large. We're all separated by incredible distances, and our current science implies that traversing, or even meaningfully communicating through those vast distances may not be a solvable problem. I have this view that the universe is teeming with intelligent life, all of it doomed to spend the whole of their civilization life-spans in their little spherical islands, with nobody ever contacting anybody else...except maybe for the lucky few who may have evolved in different planets circling the same star.

High UV and radiation (1)

Newtonian_p (412461) | about 2 years ago | (#39497763)

They say the high levels of UV may hinder the development of life but it could have developed underground protected by a thick layer of rock.

Re:High UV and radiation (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39497841)

Or they have natural immunity via evolution. Species on earth have differing tolerances. Besides we can't expect alien life to use "DNA" unless populated via panspermia. It is possible their equivalent to our DNA (if they have one) is not affected by UV.

Re:High UV and radiation (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 2 years ago | (#39497991)

The Ironites of planet Ferra say that high levels of the corrosive gas oxygen may hinder the development of life, but it could have developed underground protected by a layer of thick rock.

Re:High UV and radiation (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39498371)

Look at all the ecological niches that life has managed to inhabit here. Pretty much everything we've got. The big question is how hospitable does a planet's environment need to start life from pre biotic origins. What chemicals? What environments?

Or, to go out on another branch, if panspermia [wikipedia.org] is a viable hypothesis, what conditions does it need to take hold?

My seat of the pants thought is that it's hard to start up self replicating organisms, but once you do, they will quickly (in geologic time frames) populate a variety of niches. The boundaries of the niches just relate to the physical chemistry of the molecules involved (ie, carbon most likely, pressures and temperatures something like what we have here on earth, etc.).

But, IMHO, that's the Big Question. None of this mamby pamby physics stuff with weird incomprehensible math....

MOO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39497819)

Damn that's going to screw up my opening Masters of Orion strategy

Re:MOO (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39497919)

Will help mine. I always took the "colonize like crazy" approach. By the time rival species are able to attack- you can afford to lose a few planets- and will be so far ahead of them by all other metrics you can quickly build a fleet to defeat them. More planets available makes this strategy even better.

Never played Moo3. But on Moo2- I found this strategy worked: declare war on the strongest enemy- do what it takes to get everyone else that you can to join in... you will get so much kudos for being in a mutal war- everyone will love you... you then take out the next biggest threat (getting everyone to join in)... then the next... then the next... and so on. If you get others to join in each time- your relationship with everyone will sky rocket meaning after the 2nd species you wipe out- you'll be able to get anyone you want to do whatever you want.

"Dwarfs"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39499465)

I thought they were elfs. Do they keep scarfs and wolfs on their shelfs?

Re:"Dwarfs"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39503003)

Dwarfs is correct. In fact the only place I've ever seen "dwarves" is in fantasy fiction. Most dictionaries will say, at best, "dwarves" is acceptable but not preferred.

40% of Red Dwarfs --- HAHAHA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39499841)

An insult to the remain 60% of Red Dwarfs, angry buggers they are!

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...