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back to article Galaxy is CRAMMED with EARTH-LIKE WORLDS – also ALIENS (probably)

Fresh data from the Kepler space telescope shows at least a fifth of stars surveyed have Earth-like planets in a "Goldilocks" orbit – a habitable sweet spot that's not too hot or too cold for liquid water – and that's just the stars we can see. Planets in the Goldilocks zone Planets need to be not too hot and not too cold Of …

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Cool..but also oddly disturbing

I've been a lifelong fan of science-fiction and long term believer in alien life (though I doubt any has ever visited us). On the one hand that 20% figure is really exciting..but on the other hand somehow it's a little unsettling. Something along the lines of 'be careful what you wish for'?

Still it's a stunning achievement by the Kepler team. The next generation of equipment is going to make some awesome discoveries.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Careful that you don't conflate life with intelligence and technology. There's plenty of life on Earth but apart from dolphins and mice, no real sign of intelligence ..

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Nicho makes an important point. Life != intelligence. There's been life on Earth for 3.5 billion years but H. sapiens only appeared 200,000 years ago.

It's also important to note that conditions suitable for life != life. It's true that life on Earth began pretty much as soon as conditions were right, but for all we know this is the only place in the universe where that happened.

However, I'm optimistic that the galaxy is actually teeming with life. Hopefully some of it has better TV than us too.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

If there's a chance of life, it will happen IMO. How that develops will depend on many factors, but intelligent life will depend on a long development trail under favorable conditions. I agree that, given the number of stars in our local galaxy it will be teeming with life. Some of it might be even beyond TV ;)

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Alien

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

I think the resolution of the Fermi Paradox is that even though there appears to be billions of planets that could support life, and possibly many of them do support some form of life, the sequence of events that lead to intelligent life capable and willing to create technology that can communicate over astronomical distances is so extremely rare that we really are alone, or at most there is one other civilizations in the galaxy, perhaps on the other side and who has emerged at about the same time, give or take a 100 000 years.

Perhaps we are living in the cosmic era where the first civilizations start appearing.

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Pint

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"There's plenty of life on Earth but apart from dolphins and mice, no real sign of intelligence.."

Ain't that the truth!

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Why? Just because you have a feeling that's so?

Until recently most scientists thought Earth like planets in the habitable zone would be fairly rare. Now we found out there are billions in just our own galaxy. We don't know whether life arising is common or not, or how likely it is that intelligent life will eventually arise given a long enough period for evolution to take its course. The only way we'll find out the answer is to go look, so unfortunately we won't get an answer in our lifetimes unless some friendly alien comes along and tells us of the million civilizations out there or how we're the only other civilization he's seen in millennia of searching.

While it is possible we're "living in the cosmic era where the first civilizations start appearing", that's exceedingly unlikely given the number of planets out that capable of potentially supporting life as we know it.

The "if we're not alone why haven't we heard from anyone" could simply be that we haven't discovered the technology that civilizations typically use to communicate just yet. If we wanted to communicate off planet 120 years ago, our best bet would have been to use a lighthouse, because we didn't have radio. 50 years ago we'd have used AM or FM analog radio. Now we'd use some sort of digital transmission, which would sound like mere noise to someone who heard it a century ago.

Life has existed on this planet for 3.5 billion years, humans for several hundred thousand, and we've had the means to send radio signals strong enough to leave the solar system for barely one hundred. If we discover something new that obsoletes radio, why would we bother to continue to broadcast and listen for radio signals "out there"? We'd assume they'd use the technology that replaced it, because it is better. If the average civilization replaces radio after a couple centuries, then never listens to it again, the odds of us hearing back from anyone via SETI even if there are millions of civilizations out there is very nearly zero.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Try also cephalopods, insects and birds! Octopuses are extremely capable problem solvers. Bees and ants have extremely advanced social structures. Crows have been known to use tools to get at food. The diversity of intelligent life on our planet is impressive but what we have here was only able to evolve under the conditions our planet had. We can only speculate as to what other possibilities there may be if conditions were only slightly different here. Given that conditions on many other planets were likely quite different but perhaps suitable for life to evolve, the diversity of intelligent life elsewhere could be extreme. Perhaps there are forms of life that are neither plants nor animals? Our imaginations are limited by our experience here. We would only know if or when we see first hand for ourselves in the next several thousands of years...

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Go

Re: neither plants nor animals?

like hyper intelligent shades of the colour blue?

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

They could have visited, but just not been that interested in us. Perhaps the alien dudes would be more impressed with, for example, the biomass of the ant population, the size of the blue whales, or the age of the Redwood trees or coral reefs. Because we are vain and stupid, we would be most impressed with things that are like us. A different culture might think very differently. They might even look on us as an infestation thats ruining the place.

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Thumb Up

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Or, in the words of Monthy Python,

"pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space 'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth"

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"Perhaps there are forms of life that are neither plants nor animals?"

Fungi?

Amoebas?

Bacteria?

Viruses?

Or were you thinking of something less Earth-bound?

That said, the idea of hyper-intelligent mushrooms gives me pause, a bit.

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Re: Hopefully some of it has better TV than us too.

I can just picture the euphoria at SETI when they start detecting the first extra-terrestrial television signals, only to be deflated when they receive the subscription bill from Sky the next day.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Why? Just because you have a feeling that's so?

No. But because we are here.

The argument in the Fermi paradox does not depend on being able to listen to alien radio. Cleverer people than me have calculated that a space-faring civilization could colonize the entire galaxy in a matter of a few million years, even in the absence of any faster-than-light travel. We also known from the history of the Earth that there isn't space for multiple sentient species. Homo Sapiens out-competed and possibly annihilated other hominids.

So if there were ancient aliens, they would have colonized the galaxy, Earth included, and there would have not been space for us to evolve.

Therefore we are the first, or among the first.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Whatever the case, planets that contain life like ours are going to be rare.

So this rare beacon called Earth has been around for hundreds of millions of years before we existed and yet no-one has touched it? I think we will die out soon and I think that's what happens to most intelligent species and that's why the universe isn't teeming with life.

Intelligent life would be motivated to spread life, but we don't see any megastructures like dyson spheres. No-one has terraformed Mars.

The lack of any trace of creator species out there is glaring.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Maybe they're hiding from us.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

@ MacroRodent

"Therefore we are the first, or among the first."

Maybe in this region of galaxy, but I wonder why they apparently, came here to stack stone for ancients, just good sports, with a flying Ute ?

I suppose if your Tech is good enough, a near invisible Drone would answer, saves having to help build monuments, I suppose ...

The reason that they may listen to radio (if they know about using Radio waves like that), is that if it is a "evolutionary" step in tech, then they will know who is about, and you gotta keep a eye on youngsters ....

Anyway some close ones should be getting broadcasts of Radio, I Love Lucy, Flash Gordon, soon Godzilla Movies, maybe they will stay away & or the other side of Independance Day, where advanced civilisation move to get away from us ...

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Coat

Re: Maybe they're hiding from us.

Of course they are. We play cricket. Bad form, that, very bad form

OK, OK!! I'll get me coat

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

You walk down a path. You see a snail, slowly crawling across the concrete. Lost. Unaware of where it is going. So you pick it up and place it down on the far side.

You are passing a planetary system on a routine survey when you find some strange creatures erecting monuments. Odd things. The monuments are meaningless, but they seem important to the creatures, so you spend a few days out from your travel to help them.

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Pint

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

There may be another intelligent species here on Earth, but based on it's tendency to attempt to kill itself off, and be controlled by some form of box that shows images of Simon Cowell, the jury is still out. However, it has proved itself capable of drawing a good pint from time to time, so there is hope...

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Alien

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

@Izates

Reminds me of the short story of The Ruum.

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Re: neither plants nor animals?

More an indifferent mauve sludge

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Trollface

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Or if you are French, you eat the snail...

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Angel

Re: Maybe they're hiding from us.

This of course would be the clearest possible indication that they are intelligent.........

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"So if there were ancient aliens, they would have colonized the galaxy, Earth included, and there would have not been space for us to evolve."

Maybe they did and are leaving us alone because to them, we're stupid and boring knuckle-draggers.

Or maybe they're quietly influencing us in invisible ways.

Or maybe the conspiracy theorists are right and Earth is already being run by and for the benefit of trans-dimensional lizard creatures from Planet Lovecraft.

Some of those are more likely than others. But point is, when you're dealing with much older civs, the idea they're going to land a saucer in DC and say 'Take me to your leader' is nonsensical.

Aliens will be alien, with unknown morals, ethics, and technological abilities.

Expecting them to be like us, but with ethics from 1813 and technology from 2113 is very, very naive.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Or maybe the Xists know that ... our tiny heads will explode if they say hello?

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Alert

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

You walk down a path. You see a snail, slowly crawling across the concrete. Lost. Unaware of where it is going. So you pick it up and place it down on the far side.

I'm a gardener. I am not going to help a snail cross a path. I suppose we just have to hope there aren't any alien gardeners out there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Indeed, something like in Roadside Picnic, but more subtle.

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Gav

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"So if there were ancient aliens, they would have colonized the galaxy, Earth included"

That involves a number of rather unsafe assumptions;

- They're interested in colonising the galaxy. This "colonizing" thing could be just a human compulsion.

- They're interested in the Earth. For all we know the Earth, on a galactic scale, may be considered a total dump.

- The galaxy is all there is and there's nothing bigger and better to move onto.

You might think you are safe to assume these things, but really we're in the realm of such huge unknowns, it would be foolish to.

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Alien

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Therefore we are the first, or among the first.

Says you, buddy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"The "if we're not alone why haven't we heard from anyone" could simply be that we haven't discovered the technology that civilizations typically use to communicate just yet."

Wouldn't it be cool if somewhere down the line we got a new protocol and all of a sudden started decoding "white noise" like... look, the first "802.15.4edn" wi-fi card! Hey, what's this "milkywayfreewi-fi" network?

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

The switch to low power cellular spread spectrum with a range of only a few miles has taken about 100 years we are nearly invisible from background noise now soon we will be. if we never send a beacon to the planets that might be listening it is unlikely that they will ever notice we are here. Maybe good maybe bad. I still believe that any society that develops interstellar space travel must develop technology that would free them from physical want. In other words if you can feed yourself and keep all your equipment running for the time it takes to reach another star you will have the ability to convert matter into energy and back at will and therefore can make anything needed when needed and recycle everything. With that kind of technology the only thing that matters is art and society. No one needs a job because the machines can make anything and everything.

Probably not as wonderful as it might sound, With no challenges left most people would die of boredom.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"You are passing a planetary system on a routine survey when you find some strange creatures erecting monuments. Odd things. The monuments are meaningless, but they seem important to the creatures, so you spend a few days out from your travel to help them."

You are passing a planetary system on a routine survey when you find some strange creatures erecting monuments. Odd things. The monuments are meaningless, but they seem important to the creatures, so you spend a few days out from your travel to anal probe them.

There, fixed it for you.....

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

My conclusion or belief is that they are out there, but after evolving into machine intelligences, they are basically just amused by watching the various solutions of the natural intelligences. In other words, I strongly suspect the evolution of the machine intelligences is convergent, but that they leave us alone, either because they don't care or because they are gambling on whether or not we will exterminate ourselves. I suppose another possibility is that they might occasionally intervene to prevent us from exterminating ourselves. (Maybe that's what happened when we almost went extinct about 50,000 years ago...)

In more detail, some of my old ramblings on the topic:

http://eco-epistemology.blogspot.jp/2007/08/resolution-of-fermi-paradox.html

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"No. But because we are here."

So by the same logic, there should be multiple Eiffel Towers.

There are billions of people on Earth, a few million of whom have the capability of designing a tower. Eiffel managed to build one, therefore other people must have too.....

But there is only one (well apart from Vegas etc).

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

- They're interested in colonising the galaxy. This "colonizing" thing could be just a human compulsion.

Like us, the aliens would be a product of evolution. They would not be top dogs on their own planet if they did not have a similar drive to expand as humans do. Even if that is not true of all alien species (assuming there are several of them), it takes just one with an urge to colonize.

You might think you are safe to assume these things, but really we're in the realm of such huge unknowns, it would be foolish to.

Of course. I was advancing a theory that to me seems reasonable, but it is quite likely to be incorrect. However, I don't really expect to know it for sure in my lifetime. Possibly we will never know if there really are aliens in our galaxy. That makes the issue fun to discuss...

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Eloquently written post, but could you further explain why you think the evolution of the Earth can be applied to what has happened in our entire galaxy? Not enough room for multiple sentient species? Are you joking?

The nearest livable planet they have found is 274,000 years away for us at our current capability. And that is only 12 light years away. The galaxy is over 90000 light years across, probably more.

Based on these latest stats the Milky Way alone likely has over 40 billion earth like planets. That's one of billions of galaxies! The number of planets approaches infinite. The odds of there not being other sentients are nearly impossible. And humans should not assume that planets that are not considered livable based on our narrow knowledge of the universe are not livable to the likely many other types of life in our universe. There is almost certainly every form of life we could imagine and then many forms we cannot begin to imagine. We are small, very small.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

And the one in China, and the one in Blackpool...

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Note that it's 20% of Sol-like G type stars, which only make up around 5% of the stars in the galaxy, and that's not taking into account things like binary systems, where the 'habitable zone' is quite different, if there at all. So really, it;s 20% of 5%, which works out neatly as around 1% of stars in the galaxy. It's still a decent number, though.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space 'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth"

Can we have your liver then?

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Man has been here longer than 200,000 years. Footprints of Dinos and Man were found in Glen Rose, Texas.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

The wife was just mentioning that [some terribly smart astro-boffin] warns us against looking for aliens, because:

- they'll find us, because they have mastered interstellar travel

- they'll have mastered interstellar travel because they are looking for resources (or slaves)

- they will be taking these resources if they find them

- they won't be saying "please"

- if we get in the way, (or maybe ieven if we don't), we'll be eliminated (or enslaved)

Perhaps we should just shut up and keep a low profile?

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

There is an argument that the funghi are more advanced than we are. They have completely severed their link with the sea. They have no extracellular space, so their cells don't swim in a small piece of an ancient sea like ours do. It's also why 'shrooms are high in potassium and low in sodium. So are the interiors of our own cells.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

The evidence wrt the other hominids is rather that we fucked them and they became us. If you have any non completely African ancestry you will carry Neanderthal sequences. New Guineans carry some Denisovan DNA and there are sections of some East Asian genomes that suggests another input, perhaps another erectus descendant we haven't recognised or sequenced yet. We have Denisovan genomic sequences but only finger bones so far so we don't know that they looked like.

There may be no pure bred Neanderthals or Denisovans or Erectus left but that doesn't mean they left no descendants. Having Neanderthal sequences doesn't bother me, does it you?

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

I've never understood the attraction to uploading my intelligence to a machine, even if such were possible*. My biological body is self healing in a way no machine can be and new Biotech allied with nanotech and 'printable' organs mean eventually we can be kept going for some time. There is a promising drug that might be able to halt Alzheimers, Parkinsons and MS as well because they seem to have the same reasons for the cell dying.

Have you never heard of metal fatigue? the effects of UV on plastics? It is more likely that we will create biological machines. AI will be easier with designed and arranged neural nets than trying to replicate them in silico. We already have implants that interface with biology such as artificial retinas. Those have potential in putting biology in robotics as well as fixing us.

*As a biologist with more than a passing knowledge of neuroscience I just love it when physics/maths/compsci people talk about consciousness as though it were a digital computer that can be 'read' in any real sense of the word.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"Man has been here longer than 200,000 years. Footprints of Dinos and Man were found in Glen Rose, Texas."

Step away from the creationist magazine and logoff from answersingenesis. They are rotting your brain.

Not to mention the creatards interpret that somewhat differently. Remember the Earth is only 6k years old? so the supposed footprints indicate that dinosaurs were alive in the near past, which means they were in the Garden of Eden and the Ark, though religious opinion differs on the last point. Some suggest they didn't make the Ark and drowned in the Flood, you know the one that all the necessary water for has disappeared.

In the Genesis story there is also no information for how the platypus was categorised.

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Safe betting

One of the problems with any guess at the occurrence of life and intelligence in the galaxy is that up until the current generation of 'scopes, we had only our own planet and our own solar system as sample. The reasonable hypothesis was always that the solar system was not atypical, even if we could not see any planets out there. If that was true, was the earth atypical? No real answer, but the fact was, the earth IS atypical in the solar system. But is it atypical because life is present, or is life present because the planet is atypical? What we now know is that the most unusual aspects of earth are due to the presence of life. The evolving knowledge base suggests that life is much more likely to be common than to be rare. As regards intelligence, there are plenty of nominally intelligent species on earth. Human's stand out because we adapt through "extrasomatic" means: tools, clothes, language, etc. Now we find that not even those are strictly limited to humanity, merely the scope with which we depend upon them. Bayes theorem says, given the new data we have, that we are no more unique than earth like planets are.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

Life only evolves once it appears. You might say that the distinguishing characteristic of life is the manner in which it adapts and evolves.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

"We also known from the history of the Earth that there isn't space for multiple sentient species."

No we don't. What we know is that there does not appear to be "room" for multiple *technological* species. That is a very different kettle of fish. We occupy a singular ecological niche based upon our dependence on externals to survive. That would place us in direct, ecological competition with any other species that required tools and extracted materials for basic survival. But, there are plenty of species that are highly intelligent, yet do not need recourse to tools to survive. Some, like some crows are capable of manufacturing tools and even your common west coast scrub jay is bright enough to manipulate environmental objects to bring food into reach. I've seen them do it. They are not however dependent upon tools. Very different situation.

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Re: Cool..but also oddly disturbing

We toss ours over the fence into the county forensic science center's lot.

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