It seems plausible that extraterrestrial intelligent beings would be no more advanced than us, given the time needed for intelligent beings to evolve.
Therefore, they would be no more able to make contact than us.
Our planet is 4.5 billion years old, we have existed as a civilisation for ~12,000 years and we have had radio technology for about a century. The oldest star in our Galaxy is 13.2 billion years old. We are occupying one small Epoch in history, and it is not plainly obvious that there is anything too special about it. There will have been earlier stable stars and long lived planets. Perhaps high technology civilisations burn themselves out after a few millennia. Maybe we missed the party?
One possibility is that alien civilizations have decided not to reveal themselves. Firstly, a contact will shake our world, less due to the then fact that aliens exist, but more by raising all kind of fears on our side. Secondly, what's in for them. So in summary, little to learn, but shaking up a world. Doesn't seem to be a goal to pursue.
Or maybe we haven't looked in the right places at the right time yet.
I personally think that we will have nothing to fear from the detection of an alien message, or transmission leakage detection. In order to 'attack' us any alien would need faster than light space travel, and if it has that - why is it communicating using EM radiation? Rather like sending a letter by snail mail telling someone you are leaving by Jet aircraft in 10 minutes.
My own worry is that of culture shock, as A.C. Clarke pointed out that the basis of many religions sits a time bomb that God made man in his own image. How with this stand up when we start communicating with (to quote Patrick Moore) our equal who looks like a beetle and quacks like a duck.
Pinging a big number of worlds with EM radiation to see if any of them are alive may still be a lot cheaper than FTL travel to each of them.
But yes, very interesting point regarding religion. Won't that lead theists to look upon the aliens as a form of animals? That's not going to be conducive to interstellar diplomacy :/
Cheaper for sure, but slower as EM travels at the speed of light...
About religion. Reading the history of Astronomy/Astrodynamics from the ancient times to today, I think that people's beliefs did a good job at keeping them partially blind! I am talking about the obsession with the "divine" and "perfect" of the circular orbits.
Although to be fair I find that beliefs can be beneficial in some areas of human psychology. After all, religions address matters that does not conflict with science and politics.
"Or maybe we haven't looked in the right places at the right time yet."
There are two factors that affect our efforts: Time and Distance.
For example given enough time, you could "scan" all the galactic stars (hypothetical, since there is no so large timeframe available, given that Milky Way has about 400 billion stars).
The following image is the reason that we haven't heard anyone yet:
We live in a remote region of our galaxy!
P.S. Looking at this image the Carina-Sagittarius arm, especially the section near us, looks fine for hosting life. Not too far from the center, not too close either. And since we know for sure that in our place life exists, possibilities are good for that region...
It could well be that an advanced alien race would carry an attitude that new or simply something/anything merits inspection. To seek and inspect, rather than expand. After a civilisation reaches a certain level of expansion, what keeps them from simply forgeting what it means to have the simple impulses of a creature not far from its primal origines.
Would to act out of aggression or goodwill be as alien to an alien as the concept that we might carry out our hereditary legacy by dividing into 2 cells?
That's a possibility. Or, maybe there exists a group of galactic civilization (an interstellar UN, per se) that have rules against making contact with a civilization before they discover X technology (if you refer to Star Trek canon, the X technology in that case was warp drive, as demonstrated in Star Trek: First Contact). Or, if you think of a more new-age, spiritually-based interstellar UN, maybe we need to reach a certain level of consciousness, and end all wars on Earth before we can be "contacted".
I'm betting on (and hoping on) us ending all wars, not just for the sake of making first contact, but for the sake of humanity surviving long enough for us to get contacted.
i like the idea that there may be an organization which guides the introduction of evolving societies. But if there's not, I would say we have better odds of running across someone like ourselves - using their first glimpses of technology to detect signals or send out pings to try and connect with them - rather than some aggressive race "sneaking up on us". It certainly seems likely that we would obtain significant detection and transmission technologies before we are able to actually transit multiple light years in a reasonable amount of time, and I would think the same would go for most civilizations that evolve.
With the results coming in from the Kepler Mission, and the numerous Earth bound exo-planet detection systems showing that planetary systems are beginning to like more like the rule than the exception, is it time to re-evaluate Fermi's Paradox of “Where is everybody”.
Right now if we consider the technological requirements to mount an exponential exploration mission, whereby we build say 10 interstellar space craft, and send them to relatively local stars, where they use local material mined from the star systems equivalent of the asteroid belt to build a further 10 craft which get launched further on; we can see that we have many of the capabilities available now; or can serious visualize how they would work with a straight forward extrapolation of what we have already achieved.
It doesn't take to much of a step to see us actually mining these tiny rocks for the minerals we require to build our craft.
Once again we see that if we can build a power station using this technology, making a space based propulsion system is likely to be not long behind – I am of course seriously neglecting consideration of the other perfectly feasible propulsion systems, such as Ion drives, which propelled Dawn into orbit around Vesta, and other systems such as Photon Drives.
We could go one with this list , but this isn't the right place to consider a proposal for us to launch such a mission, but the point I am trying to make is that within a short period of time from launching our first satellite, we can see how we can make a robot exploration fleet that could theoretically increase by a order of magnitude at every stage, and what should please the accountants be virtually free once the first generation has been launched (this ignores the point that the first stage of the fleet could be automatically assembled here around Sol, and so would also be very cost effective).
Now if we can do it then exactly the same applies for our (possibly) friendly ET. Now the Statistics for a race having the capability to launch such a mission will follow an equation almost identical to Frank Drakes equation; and with the probability of them having launched such a mission being directly proportional to the number of star systems with planets, then does this mean that the fact we haven't seen any evidence of such a mission reaching Sol, mean that the probability for such a race's existence is falling just as fast as the probability for exo-planets is rising?
I don't see that a rising number of found exo-planets at the same time reduces the likelihood of ETI to exist. If we took the development of a self-replicated exploration-robots for granted, I don't think it mattered, whether there are 10, 1000, or even 1,000,000 worlds in our galaxyharboring intelligent life because we could have noted the existence of these crafts anyway.
My best guess is that these robots maybe are (or have been) here but aren't detectable by us. Or that ETI doesn't use such craft as means for exploration for whatever reason.
By tthe way: In case you didn't know - there's a book called "If the Universe is teeming with aliens - where is everybody? Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the problem of extraterrestrial life" by Stephen Webb. I found it to be an interesting read.
Thanks for your response to my posting. The point I was trying to make is that the probability function that an alien species has launched an exponential search of their environment is virtually identical to Drakes equation. This has one parameter which is the probability of a star having a planetary system. What the Kepler spacecraft, and Earth based observations are showing is that this probability is rapidly climbing towards unity. This in turn makes the probability that a relatively nearby star has launched such an exploratory mission that much more likely. If this is so, then Fermi's Paradox becomes even more pertinent. There appears to be at least 3 solutions to this
1) They have been here, and we have yet to find the evidence, because we are looking in the wrong place
2) They have left a sign, but we can't recognize it (e.g. they tipped over a gas giant planet, so its axis of rotation differs from all the others;-)
3) They haven't arrived yet
If it is the latter, this means that the probability of there being intelligent life in our vicinity is pretty low; thus my comment about the probability of a space faring ET and probability of stars having planets being inversely related. If the probability of a star having a planet goes up, yet the probability of there being a space faring alien species still remains low, then one of the other factors in the modified Drake equation must go down.
What has amazed me is how much of the technology required to launch such an exponential exploration is beginning to fall in place already, in such a short time after our first forays into space, although we couldn't mount a mission immediately, it won't be more than a few hundreds of years before we can (providing we can stop the accountants deciding it is a waste of resources). Ok the craft might take 100's of years to reach their destination, but as I pointed out in one of my other post's, using the successor to the cloud as a data analyser, the length of a mission need not be related to a single researchers life span.
Thanks for the book reference I will look it up
Following my last note in this thread, where I commented on the amazing amount of technical progress we had made, allowing us to at least consider what is required to mount a robotic exponential exploration mission to the stars; I was suprised, and mind boggled at an artical in the British Interplanetary Society's Spaceflight publication (Brave new future worlds by Kevin F. Long, Pat Galea & Adrian Mann Spaceflight Vol 53 No 11 November 2011) where they were considering not Robotic missions, but manned missions, using what they called World Ships, containing populations of 100000 people in a self contained society.
One of their arguments was very persuasive, basically you can prototype such a self contained system in earth orbit, in the form of O'Neil colonies. The World ship then is then generated by essentially fitting such a colony with a Daedelus style fusion engine. Their calculations suggest it would be possible to get these World ships up to a speed of about 12% of the speed of light. They could refuel at any star system having a Gas Giant, where its atmosphere could be mined for He3.
They estimate that such a mission could be mounted in approximately 800 years.
The thought that if the aliens do come our way, it might not be a robot, wanting to clone itself say 10 time, but a complete population of aliens surely gives food for thought. I recommend the artical as a really good read. An interest comment was that it should be easily possible to detect the exhaust of such vehicles at many light years distance with current technology; however of course this pre-supposes that the aliens are flying away from us - who can blame them;-)
A later addition, they might also be reverse thrusting in order to deaccelerate to enter solar orbit!
Sometimes I believe that the human race is doomed to fail in its quest for the search for life, not because they are not there but because we are not ready. Firstly our race of humans is so hostile towards each other that I can not see for the life of me how any other race would benefit for meeting us.
We are a race of haters and killers. The need to survive has been replaced with the greed of need. Drugs, gold, possessions and power, have sent men’s minds crazy with lust and left us as no more better than when we was first putting our heads outside of caves to look for food.
I once heard a SETI talk where they suggested that we could give an alien race our Google servers and let them learn all they can from us there. I was struck with what a great idea this was and then came crashing down to the ground when I remembered who our Race was. The internet which is the most powerful agent of good for the world has been turned dark by the demons of our race. I recently watched a video of two men having there heads cut off with chainsaws and although shocked I was not surprised at what base animals we truly are. This is one example of a long list of atrocities that are labelled and catalogued on our internet, a list of videos and photos that our children view daily, also hardening their resolve towards base desire and further tipping our race into the hole of the dammed.
But that is just one example, a second example would be that Carl Sagan, once spoke of our race being intelligent and doomed to destroy itself with the use of our technologies and then many years later he did an update speaking of hope that America and Russia had stepped down in there nuclear game of chess. But here we are in 2013; North Korea rattles their sabre with nuclear intent while Iran races to build the bomb that they believe will get them respect, while terrorists who hate change kill to make their point.
On a smaller less obvious example, I listen nightly while I work in my multicultural job to the mindless behind back talk of racial hatred. If we are so hatful that a mans need to build a life in a safe country where his family will not be persecuted is to much for us to take, how will we ever be able to handle the fact that we are not alone.
Alien life which I know in my heart is as wide spread as life on every corner of our earth would be better of never meeting us. Imagine in simple terms, your family was born in the ruff end of town and you moved to a more up market area, would you believe you had no neighbours because they never came out to greet you or would you look at your behaviour and see all a long that a change would be needed to fit in first.
How could we make ETI search more targeted? It is all a probability game. Let’s make a few assumptions.
Assuming that if ‘goldilocks’ conditions exist elsewhere life will develop and a percentage of that life will develop detectable intelligence (i.e . use technology that will leave a detectable signature)
There is a good probability this will occur in each galaxy at least once
If we are the first ones in this galaxy and hence the most advanced then stop SETI search – there is nothing to discover in this galaxy and we do not possess the technology to search for ETI in other galaxies
If we are NOT the most advanced and they possess an intellectual curiosity anywhere close to ours then it is highly likely they already discovered us
If they discovered that Earth harbors life – they likely have been observing and possibly studying it for as long as they had the technological capability (keep in mind we have only had that capability for less than 100 years)
If you are observing – first rule of a good science observer is not to disturb the observed – it messes up your observations!
So when might they chose to contact us?
We reach a level of knowledge where there is greater value to interact with us than to observe us. The earliest that will occur is when we harness Fusion Power on Earth – making our civilization independent from the star that spawned life on Earth. (perhaps in this century?)
We become a (potential) threat to them. The earliest that will occur is when we sustainably demonstrate we can leave this solar system. (probably not in this century) [Note being perceived as a threat to ETI is a bad way to get their attention. They possess the option to eliminate the potential threat long before it ever gets there. Even we have the technology to accomplish that – a large enough boulder out of the Asteroid Belt in the right trajectory will do the trick].
We detect being observed
So how would you observe Earth without being detected?
Have a local observation post that is hidden. Possible candidates are in the Asteroid Belt, the dark side of the moon, etc. Do we need to start looking there?
Approach Earth periodically for observations by sampling in 1 or 10 or 100 or 1000 or N year intervals. One could approach undetected from behind the moon. Again – do we need a listening post there?
Do we think there is evidence on Earth of past encounters? Transmitting that information to them might indicate that we detected their presence. Possible candidates are
If rumors of US harboring a crashed UFO are true then transmitting insignia or writing found on the object or photo proof of the object might do the trick.
Some archeologists postulate evidence of ETI visitors in ancient artifacts or constructions because of a far advanced technology for it’s time and in some cases even for today’s technology. Broadcast that evidence.
Unless they WANT to interact with us – there will be NO contact between us. Stroking their curiosity how much we know about them might prompt them to want to have contact. What do they know about how much we know about them and how do we influence that perception? This makes SETI an interesting cat & mouse game – more like a counter intelligence & espionage operation (without the misinformation!).
Just another way of thinking about the search for the ultimate discovery of our civilization.
Reading Fusion Energy's contribution started me thinking - if I was ET how would I go about observing the Earth, and reporting my findings back to a relatively distant home world, whilst maintaining secrecy until we had reached sufficient state of intelligence for them to reveal themselves to us. I think that Newton can supply the answer.
In the Earth Moon System we have 5 Lagrange points, one in the 'counter Moon' position, which is of little interest to ET, one situated between the Earth and the Moon, which is where ET would place their Earth Monitoring probe. There are two positions at the same orbital radius as the moon, one at 60 degrees lagging the Moon one at 60 degrees leading the moon (i.e. the trojan points); in one of these ET would place a data transfer module. Finally there is one behind the Moon, and this is where ET would place his main communication system.
The Lagrange points are relatively stable positions where providing your craft arrives with virtually no velocity or acceleration they will effectively remain station keeping for a long time, with very little need to adjust their position.
The system would work by the Earth observation probe communicating its findings back to the trojan data transfer module, using, perhaps a very low power Laser, no need for real powerful beasts here, as the signal is travelling a few tens of thousands of miles through a very good vacuum. The chances of us seeing such a beam is very remote. Using exactly the same technology the data can be transferred to the communication system, again with little chance of detection. The Communication System then uses a massively powerful transmitter to send this data back to the home world, safe in the knowledge that there is 3000 mile of solid rock between their antenna and ours. Even our few attempts to put Luna orbiters round the Moon would be flying under ET's transmitter, so might not detect any transmission.
We would learn about ET's existence when we get a Space Probe out to explore the Lagrange points, something that the new Orion based transport system should easily be able to accomplish.
Unfortunately I think its going to be a bit trickier.
You are right, they probably put the Lagrange point to good use as long as they could.
I however believe that like any good scientist observer who chooses (for good reason) to remain undetected they would simply retreat if they saw us approaching. I'm assuming their probes are intelligent enough for evasive maneuvers and programmed to operate undetected. They are most definitively powered craft capable of moving anywhere in the solar system. Their mother ship can remain far enough away to remain undetected. By the way we may not be detecting signs of aliens life form themselves, but rather their robotic probes!
Any contact between two intelligent species would be preceded by a period of observation. So our focus should be detection of being observed. So how would someone observe us undetected and what could we do to either detect that or believably broadcast to them we know of their actions.
Its all science fiction; however my own feeling is that if such an automatic alien system exists in the Earth - Moon system, as my previous post was suggesting, then it could well have been there for many millions of years. I doubt that it would be relatively recent, as I would have thought we would see the energy from their breaking operation, coming down from a large fraction of the speed of light down to earth orbital speed (And no - I am not proposing another hypothesis for the star of Bethlehem)
If they had been there for this sort of period of time, they may well have witnessed the demise of the dinosaurs, the Ice ages come and go, and the evolution of the Human race. With my three probe geometry, there is no need for them to 'run and hide'. The main communication portal is forever hidden behind the moon, and the other 2 probes will be small enough to probably escape observation.
It is only now when we are putting our own probes in orbit round the moon, do we have any opportunity to detect - what I guess you are describing as the Mothership -except of course all of our lunar satellites have their detectors pointing the wrong way (towards the moons surface, and not away from it. Maybe when we we eventually discover the communication station, it is obvious that life on the Earth has reached a point where it is no longer confined to the Earth. And thus worthy of communication. No the thought isn't original, as anyone who has read/seen the film 2001 will recognize the scenario.
I agree. Mother ship, relay station, base station - basically the coordination point of the system and where the main power source is that is capable of transmitting over great distances. It needs to remain hidden. Local probes at the Lagrange points or even small highly mobile probes will locally transmit back to the relay station hidden behind the moon far enough out to remain undetected by our technology. I would think we might design a similar system if we were to explore distant worlds ourselves in the future and wish to remain undetected for a while.
I think most followers of this thread right about now would dismiss this as pure science fiction.
So one good strategy for SETI certainly remains to search in the distance following right in the footsteps of discoveries of inhabitable exo-planets and investigate if any of these planets show signatures of technological intelligence.
All I'm suggesting is NOT to forget the other strategy of searching nearby as well, just in case any of these distant intelligent aliens are remotely as curious as we are!