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zugzwang

Nothing Obvious In 100,000 Galaxies

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Homo sapiens sapiens the summit of Mount Improbable?

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-04/14/wise-alien-empire-search-100000-galaxies

One of the largest-ever searches for distant alien empires has scoured 100,000 galaxies for signs of suspicious infrared activity and found... nothing.

The study by Penn State used data from Nasa's Wise ("Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer") orbiting observatory to scour far-off galaxies for radiation which, astronomers theorise, would likely be produced if a civilisation were powerful enough to colonise thousands of stars.

The theory that aliens might be visible on a galactic scale is based on the ideas of physicist Freeman Dyson, who suggested in the 1960s that galactic civilisations would almost by definition use most of the starlight in their galaxy for their own ends. This should be detectable using mid-infrared telescopes. That wasn't possible when Dyson's theory emerged, but Nasa's Wise telescope does have the ability to make close measurements for thousands of galaxies, and so allow scientists to study the data for telltale signs of life.

No, they didn't find it. But scientists have found 50 galaxies with unusual radiation signatures, indicating something strange is happening inside many distant collections of stars -- even if it's nothing to do with aliens at all.

Jason T. Wright, who is an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Centre for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, believes that the sort of tech required by such a monumentally successful species would be visible at extreme distances across the universe. He initiated the new research, known as the Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies Survey (G-HAT), to test the theory.

"The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonised by an advanced spacefaring civilisation, the energy produced by that civilisation's technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths --exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes," said Wright in a press release. "Whether an advanced spacefaring civilisation uses the large amounts of energy from its galaxy's stars to power computers, space flight, communication, or something we can't yet imagine, fundamental thermodynamics tells us that this energy must be radiated away as heat in the mid-infrared wavelengths."

The study will be published on 15 April in the Astrophysical Journal, and while it hasn't found clear evidence of space-faring aliens, there are some new phenomena that deserve further work. In particular lead author Roger Griffith identified 50 galaxies out of the 100 million catalogued by Wise, and the 100,000 studied in more detail, which had "unusually high levels of mid-infrared radiation". "Our follow-up studies of those galaxies may reveal if the origin of their radiation results from natural astronomical processes, or if it could indicate the presence of a highly advanced civilisation," Griffith said.

After searching 100,000 galaxies for signs of highly advanced extraterrestrial life, a team of scientists using observations from NASA's WISE orbiting observatory has found no evidence of advanced civilizations in them. "The idea behind our research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced spacefaring civilization, the energy produced by that civilization's technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths—exactly the radiation that the WISE satellite was designed to detect for other astronomical purposes," said Jason T. Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, who conceived of and initiated the research.

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Its all very presumptuous.

Who is to say the way/form energy is produced billions of miles away by some completely different species is not totally different to ourselves ?

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Maybe these aliens had the sense to realise that once you have piped water, vaccination and obstetrics, sufficient food for the population, renewable energy, automated mass production, the internet, a basic income and land reform you might as well slack off and spend your days cycling in the sun and eating home-cooked food with your loved ones.

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All life on earth is related. All photosynthetic processes are related implying this complex two stage process may have only ever developed once.

These events, in conjunction with ideal planet sizes, distances from suns, chemical and physical make up may imply that we cannot possibly be in commutable if not communicable distance with other forms of higher life.

(Unless there is a great architect of course)

The value of fi, the chance that a suitable planet will develop life, in the Drake Equation could be anything from 0 to 1. We haven't observed any life beyond this planet and we haven't even figured out how life on this planet got started.

Our ability to quantify the other parameters isn't much better. We haven't a clue what's going on out there.

Yet somehow, in some quarters, the likelihood that the universe is teeming with life is presented as more or less a statistical certainty.

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Its all very presumptuous.

Who is to say the way/form energy is produced billions of miles away by some completely different species is not totally different to ourselves ?

Yes, I don't think it's really proven anything except that maybe any civilisations there don't use energy sources that use/produce infrared.

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Yes, I don't think it's really proven anything except that maybe any civilisations there don't use energy sources that use/produce infrared.

Or they produce it and then reuse it in a regenerative braking sort of way.

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The value of fi, the chance that a suitable planet will develop life, in the Drake Equation could be anything from 0 to 1. We haven't observed any life beyond this planet and we haven't even figured out how life on this planet got started.

Our ability to quantify the other parameters isn't much better. We haven't a clue what's going on out there.

Yet somehow, in some quarters, the likelihood that the universe is teeming with life is presented as more or less a statistical certainty.

Even if we were to find life on Mars and a couple of the moons of Jupiter and it was very similar to life on Earth (sameish DNA bases), we would still be none the wiser as we wouldn't be able to rule out transference.

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I've often thought that the only way 'we' would survive if an asteroid were heading towards us, would be to send up a load of hardy viruses and bacteria in rocket pods to try and seed the universe and to allow the magic of evolution to work its magic when it finds a fertile place on a journey that perhaps a higher life form could not survive.

And maybe that's how we washed up.

EDIT: And indeed that is maybe what we're inadvertently doing when we send all that junk into space.

Star Trek used that as a somewhat clever cop-out as to why all the aliens are basically human shaped. An ancient civilisation seeded the universe with DNA that eventually produces hominid type body architecture.

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I've often thought that the only way 'we' would survive if an asteroid were heading towards us, would be to send up a load of hardy viruses and bacteria in rocket pods to try and seed the universe and to allow the magic of evolution to work its magic when it finds a fertile place on a journey that perhaps a higher life form could not survive.

And maybe that's how we washed up.

EDIT: And indeed that is maybe what we're inadvertently doing when we send all that junk into space.

Does it really matter?

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Are you feeling down today Bruce?

No, but if a comet were predicted to hit the Earth in two years I wouldn't be concerned with whether or not the human race will be reborn on some distant planet in a billion years, I'd be launching Bruce Willis with his drill.

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Its all very presumptuous.

Who is to say the way/form energy is produced billions of miles away by some completely different species is not totally different to ourselves ?

Because that doesn't stack up with what we do know.

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The value of fi, the chance that a suitable planet will develop life, in the Drake Equation could be anything from 0 to 1. We haven't observed any life beyond this planet and we haven't even figured out how life on this planet got started.

Our ability to quantify the other parameters isn't much better. We haven't a clue what's going on out there.

Yet somehow, in some quarters, the likelihood that the universe is teeming with life is presented as more or less a statistical certainty.

Totally agree with that, we come out with these odds without knowing the variables.

I was recently reading a book by an economists that said if you provided enough chimps with a typewriter ( ie. trilions to the power of trillions) then at least one would replicate a great novel exactly.Very unlikely imo......too many unknown variables like fat fingers or the chimp getting bored even if someone was good enough to keep putting new paper in.

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Until you've got more information to tell you otherwise your best guess is that whatever you can see is fairly common. There's therefore reason to think that life is fairly common although with large uncertainties on that. What we know these days about the history of life on Earth and how it works would suggest that where there is life it's not likely to be very complex.

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I've often thought that the only way 'we' would survive if an asteroid were heading towards us, would be to send up a load of hardy viruses and bacteria in rocket pods to try and seed the universe and to allow the magic of evolution to work its magic when it finds a fertile place on a journey that perhaps a higher life form could not survive.

And maybe that's how we washed up.

EDIT: And indeed that is maybe what we're inadvertently doing when we send all that junk into space.

As I guess you know, it's an idea that's been kicked about in various forms since at least 1930...

wiki: Directed Panspermia

If someone were clever enough they might even be able to code pathways for higher life forms to develop into the microbes' DNA.

I suspect the scariest thought, and one that many folk, religious and non religious, seem to recoil from is the possibility that we are a product of a fantastically improbable conjunction of events which took place in a fantastically improbable universe and that we are, to all intents and purposes alone. No gods, no aliens as proxy gods, no-one.

If you believed that life and consciousness are worth perpetuating the implied responsibility would be huge.

otoh if you believe the universe is without purpose and just happened maybe you'd see no reason to give a f**k about the ultimate fate of any of its little quirks and curiosities.

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If someone were clever enough they might might even be able to code pathways for higher life forms to develop into the microbes' DNA.

Or failing that, if someone were clever enough they might might even be able to code pathways for higher life forms to develop into their simulation.

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Totally agree with that, we come out with these odds without knowing the variables.

I was recently reading a book by an economists that said if you provided enough chimps with a typewriter ( ie. trilions to the power of trillions) then at least one would replicate a great novel exactly.Very unlikely imo......too many unknown variables like fat fingers or the chimp getting bored even if someone was good enough to keep putting new paper in.

There's an alternate reality out there where you believe that it is very likely.

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Totally agree with that, we come out with these odds without knowing the variables.

I was recently reading a book by an economists that said if you provided enough chimps with a typewriter ( ie. trilions to the power of trillions) then at least one would replicate a great novel exactly.Very unlikely imo......too many unknown variables like fat fingers or the chimp getting bored even if someone was good enough to keep putting new paper in.

I believe one of the arguments for the spontaneous generation of life on a suitable planet being probable is that life seems to have appeared on the Earth, geologically speaking, pretty much as soon as conditions had settled down to a point where life was sustainable. Trillions and trillions of monkeys do not appear to have been required.

Aside from the fact that we haven't been able to replicate this allegedly not fantastically improbable process and that extrapolating from a sample size of one is an iffy thing to do, the apparent speedy appearance of improbable life could have been, as discussed above, the product of conscious intervention.

And then there's the, in geological terms, virtually instantaneous Cambrian explosion of complex life forms after a few billion years of sedate ticking over. A bit of an unresolved tease that one.

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As I guess you know, it's an idea that's been kicked about in various forms since at least 1930...

wiki: Directed Panspermia

If someone were clever enough they might even be able to code pathways for higher life forms to develop into the microbes' DNA.

I suspect the scariest thought, and one that many folk, religious and non religious, seem to recoil from is the possibility that we are a product of a fantastically improbable conjunction of events which took place in a fantastically improbable universe and that we are, to all intents and purposes alone. No gods, no aliens as proxy gods, no-one.

If you believed that life and consciousness are worth perpetuating the implied responsibility would be huge.

otoh if you believe the universe is without purpose and just happened maybe you'd see no reason to give a f**k about the ultimate fate of any of its little quirks and curiosities.

If we are the only "intelligent" life in the universe (and yes I'm using intelligence loosely) we have a responsibility beyond our own comprehension. However I feel it's unlikely we are the only fluke in the entire universe.

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Pointless research. If there was an advanced alien technology they could be using some form of energy shield/cloaking device to prevent other people from seeing them. Or perhaps their forms of energy or way of living are undetectable to our scanner. Perhaps we are looking for the wrong thing?

It's highly likely that any alien technology would be beyond our understanding.

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If we are the only 'Intelligent' life in the Universe - the Universe is ******ed.

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Pointless research. If there was an advanced alien technology they could be using some form of energy shield/cloaking device to prevent other people from seeing them. Or perhaps their forms of energy or way of living are undetectable to our scanner. Perhaps we are looking for the wrong thing?

It's highly likely that any alien technology would be beyond our understanding.

Appeal to ignorance there.

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Because that doesn't stack up with what we do know.

Humans are tiny things living on the Earth. The Earth is a grain of sand at one end of a 100 mile beach. We know the 100 mile beach is there. We can see it (Massively delayed) and get various sorts of readings from it. However only at our very best and putting all of our greatest minds together can we manage (And that's when they don't die en route or in training) to get 1 or 2 of our 7 billion specimens to the VERY NEXT grain of sand. Anything beyond that is just too much for us.

Conclusion - the human race doesn't know sweet FA about the Universe. Well maybe 1% or so. But that's probably being overly generous because I happen to be part of it.

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However I feel it's unlikely we are the only fluke in the entire universe.

One of the arguments I've seen used against the fine-tuned universe proposition goes that, yes, the probability of a universe capable of supporting sentient life as we know it is fantastically low. However, given that sentient life as we know it cannot exist to puzzle over these questions in any other kind of universe the fact that we are here puzzling means that that particular very long shot paid off. There could be or have been a virtually infinite number of lifeless universes, inaccessible to us, where no-one is puzzling over anything.

What allegedly applies to universes could equally apply to planets within a particular universe. The fact that we're here thinking about stuff tells us no more than that life is sustainable. Our existence tells us nothing about the probability of life coming into existence. It could be high. It could be so fantastically low as to make us unique, or at least incredibly rare.

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