Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence

ATTP points to another pontification by the good Roger Pielke Jr., which as usual misses the point,
however, in fairness ATTP hisself also whiffs a bit.

Today a self proclaimed expert on football and FIFA (it is corrupt, something that Eli agrees with), Roger wanders into the SETI world.  However, there too, Ethon's food group betrays his lacks with the Pielke like set-up
Upon hearing of the new project, called Breakthrough Listen
Eli thought about this a bit.  Does anybunny associated with the Breakthrough Institute take time out from ceaseless self promotion to listen?  Sadly no, but it turns out that the Listeners are another bunch what has snagged them a rich Russian to fund a SETI project to the dismay of Shellenberger, Nordhaus the Lesser and Pielke the Jr. fudraising being the major industry of the Breakthrough types.

Jr. continues
I was reminded, of all things, of a recent prison break. Last month two convicted murders escaped from a New York prison. They had spent months carefully planning and executing their escape, which involved cutting and digging their way through walls, pipes and concrete. Remarkably, however, the pair gave little thought to what they would do if they actually succeeded in their plans. The consequence of the lack of planning was a short effort to flee from authorities followed by the death of one prisoner and re-capture of the other by authorities.
Well, no.  They suborned a prison worker to be waiting there on the outside with an automobile which would whisk them away.  Unfortunately for them, she got cold feet and was not waiting outside the manhole cover they popped out of.

Having taken literary license, Roger then draws the ill logical conclusion
The search for extra-terrestrial life shares some similarities. We are investing considerable attention and resources into the search, but little into thinking about the consequences of success.
But, of course, in the scheme of things relatively little resources have been spent on SETI, much of which has been analyzing astronomical radio telescope signals taken for and funded by astronomers for their purposes while bootlegging time on personal computers. And yes, people have thought of the consequences from early times as any reader of science fiction or the scientific literature would know. Tailoring of reality to fit one's needs is good sport in Boulder

Roger Jr. uses his fabrication view of the world as an introduction to a puff piece on an old science fiction theme, e.g. we should not shout out into the universe because things like Willard Anthony and Mark Morano, e.g. the deeply evil looking for an opportunity to take the fish, might be listening.

ATTP takes this up.  Discussion ensues about how to do SETI, is there a risk in listening, etc.

However all parties appear (Eli has not read all the comments) not to have noticed that in the last few years the SETI game has changed.  We no longer have to search everywhere.  Planet finding technology will allow those SETI bucks to be burned listening to or beaming out to stars that have earth like planets, today in the sense of being in the habitable zone and being rocky, and coming real soon having an atmosphere, even an oxygen rich one.  Maybe more.


Neven said...

Fudraising? :-D

afeman said...

Nordhaus the Lesser

Good idea. I'm reminded of references to "Robert (No Relation to Paul) Samuelson".

I share the Ubiquitous JM's puzzlement on how that got published. Pielke Jr. seems to have broke his moorings.

andthentheresphysics said...

Planet finding technology will allow those SETI bucks to be burned listening to or beaming out to stars that have earth like planets, today in the sense of being in the habitable zone and being rocky, and coming real soon having an atmosphere, even an oxygen rich one.
Well, there's kind of a reason I didn't go there, part of which was simply space, but part was because of Roger's article. I agree that we'll soon have a sample of actual targets that may well be habitable. However, I don't think "beaming out" really qualifies as searching. Since Roger's article was about the risk of searching, I didn't really cover this issue. Certainly beaming a signal to a potentially habitable planet would carry a different risk to using a radio interferometer to listen to potential signal from such a planet.

However, when we do get a list of possible targets, I still think the most likely scenario is that we'll focus on spetroscopic analysis of these planets's atmospheres in the hope of finding biosignatures, rather than investing in technology to listen for possible signals from these planets.

Gingerbaker said...

And here I sat, thinking all along that "shouting" and "listening" were different things.

John said...

So Pielke Jr. is concerned about too "little into thinking about the consequences of our success" re searching for extraterrestrial intelligence while making a career of denying the urgent warnings of those who have done great deal of "thinking about the consequences of our success" during the cheap energy era of humankind. (ATT GMOs)

Let's hope the extraterrestrials that arrive are ruled by a version of our dung beetles and are here specifically to detect and harvest mindless, hypocritical shit balls.

John Puma

JohnMashey said...

1) Detecting biosignature
2) Detecting signals
3) Building transmitter, dedicating serious energy capacity to beaming to them, compute bandwidth
4) Consider how many ekection cycles this takes before signal gets there and they're listening.

EliRabett said...

Neven: Well certainly uncertainty and doubt. Eli guesses fear of the hippies works too.

jrkrideau said...

Can anyone explain to me why researchers are looking in the 'liquid water' arena?

I have never (well since about when I was 14 and reading my first 100 or so science fiction stories) understood why we expect only human clones to appear (even if they have seven tentacles and five eyes).

Barton Paul Levenson said...


There has already been an effort to detect signals from Kepler 186f. It was unsuccessful.

andthentheresphysics said...

I'm not quite sure what you mean. We do tend to define the habitable zone as the region where liquid water could exist, but there are many who are uncomfortable with that as it may well be that being outside this zone does not mean that a planet would not be habitable and being inside it would not guarantee that a suitable planet is habited.

In practice, however, it is probably sensible to at least start looking for bio-signatures that we might be confident were indicative of life, rather than starting with exotic possibilities.

Thanks, I didn't know that. I'm certainly not suggesting that we won't continue listening, but I would suspect that most funding would go towards spectroscopic analysis of planetary atmospheres, rather than SETI-like searches.

EliRabett said...

jk, if nothing else water regulates the temperature of a rotating planet. Think of the extreme difference in temperatures between the dark and light sides of the moon. Arthur Smith wrote a nice piece on this for arXiv.

Fernando Leanme said...

Expecting a middle aged married woman to come pick you up and let you sit in her car after you pop up out of a sewer shows a serious lack of planning.

David B. Benson said...

SETI waste of time and money.

Tom said...

You actually criticize somebody--anybody--else for not listening?

Andrew said...


If intelligence arises elsewhere, it will probably involve habitable-zone stuff. But look at us - humans have gone no further than the moon. We could go further, colonize parts of the solar system (and we should, for self preservation if nothing else). But Further expansion almost certainly involves some form of AI/robots; the timescales, distance and environments of space are not wetware-friendly. So intelligence or its artifacts could be anywhere - I suggested at aTTP that a communications network based around KBOs and expanded via a von-Neuman style process could actually be achievable.

So if we art looking for life, especially photosynthetic life - then habitable zone planets are a good place to look, since we can fairly easily test for free oxygen. But intelligence.. could be already lurking in our system.

Russell Seitz said...

If SETI proves fruitless because alien civilations and economies have evolved beyond NASA's bureaucratic culture, grantmakers should switch to the Search for Extraterrestrial Foundation Grants to Assist Space Travel

As interstellartrade and colonization seem non-starters, SEFGAS assumes instead that interstellar travelers are folks who like what they do and are rich enough to do it Some may therefore already belong to interstellar yacht clubs

Areceibo should therefore be beaming out invitations from those organizations terresrtrial counterparts offering reciprocal privleges and free mooring orbits to attact visitors from to drop in on Earth. How coud an invasion by the Cruising Club of Aldebaran be more traumatic than the aftermath of Race Week in Marblehead ?

cRR Kampen said...

Have the correct number of all letters.
Throw out and around your letters every nanosecond.
Wait until 'War and Peace' by Leon Tolstoi gives.

This is how I feel chance of as such recognizable life exists elsewhere in the universe.
Forget it.

cRR Kampen said...

"SETI waste of time and money." - but not at all. Of course it's useless but at least it's no money for mines, cruise missiles and cluster bombs.

Bernard J. said...

jrkrideau, it's basically a physical chemistry thing. There aren't that many multivalent elements in the periodic table that provide the structural utility that carbon does, and there aren't too many liquids that provide the universal solvent properties that water offers, and if there are such alternative systems they probably don't operate at temperatures that are amenable to rates of chemical reaction that would facilitate biochemical evolution such that intelligent life would be selected for. At least, nothing's been demonstrated yet that I am aware of.

That's not to say that it's impossible, but my overall impression is that if there's life, it's probably operating on a basic variant of our water/carbon system.

Whether any extraterrestrial life is actually intelligent would probably depend in large part on whether those ecosystems have given rise to social carnivory.

Which then actually goes some way to touching on Jr's concerns...

For mine, if intelligent carbon-based life has evolved within the last hundred million years or so, and within interstellar reach*, they may well actually be deliberately or unintentionally (eg, microbiologicall) dangerous. Why? If they're intelligent and space-capable they quite likely to be at least omnivorous, and also resource suckers, which would suggest a particular motivation for travelling between stars. And even if they're all heart-lighty and big-eyed, one or both of them/us would likely be a hotbed for pandemic of the others' commensal micro-organisms. That wouldn't end well.

The trouble is that I doubt that anything we do from here on forward would make any difference with respect to contact: if they're far away and relatively old as a species, but determined, they may well be on the way because of our oxygen signature, and if they're closer/younger and didn't notice our O2 they may still wake up because of all the electromagnetic noise we've been making for the last century or so. Deliberate transmissions are not likely to make too much difference at this point unless we start to go targetting proven distant alien civilisations.

If anything in the vein of a possible conversation turns up on the scopes in the next century or several it'll probably be on the basis of our oxygen having been spotted by distant aliens. Close civilations would likely have made enough noise of their own that we'd have spotted their proximity, so more distant ones that come to visit would probably not have done so because they noticed ours.

If our electromagnetic shouting is the cause of future visitation we may well be extinct before they get here, but the species to which we bequeath the planet might have cause to rue our exuberant partying. Whatever happens I doubt that humans would have much control of the situation - we're just not that evolutionarily or technologically advanced.

I suspect that any extraterrestrial intelligent species that has made it to the point of space travel will either be voracious resource consumers like Homo sapiens, in which case they'll probably burn out before they can figure out how to go interstellar, or they'll have evolved with a greater awareness of ecosystem balance, in which case they may well not have the instinct to travel/conquer new territories, so overall I think the actual risk is low.

It galls me to have some concurrence with RPJ, but in this I would at least make the distinction that he is somewhat more alarmist...

[*As many know I am sceptical of interstellar travel but I am always open to anyone who can provide both the physics and the energy budgets - hint...]

Russell Seitz said...

Campen :

The compactness of genetic encoding suggests it would be less demanding to transmit instructions for one reprint of Leo Tolstoi than all randomized versions of War and Peace

Nosmo said...

OMG a foolish commentary in a newspaper! (breaking news someone is wrong on the internet)

Yeah I know it is RPJ, but really why does anyone still care about what he has to say.

Jim Eager said...

Tom, note that Eli commented on something that RP Jr. wrote in the media.

Wake us when he comments on something you write.

Andrew said...

cRR Kampen -

There is a very good chance that the emergence of life is a very high probability event where you have black smokers - hot silicate rocks in contact with a suitable ocean. On the one example we have, life emerged effectively instantly.

The two 'bookends' of the process for producing intelligence - starting life in the first place (<200ma), and going from primitive chordates to Daily Mail readers (<500ma) are, geologically, fast for the example we have. It's the intermediate stage that seems hard. I suspect a lot of bacteria-only planets out there.

Bernard -

Once you have sufficient space capability, Earth sized planets become unattractive from a resource POV - a deep gravity well and no materials that can't be more easily obtained from asteroids or KBOs. They could be voracious consumers - but most of the resources of the solar system are outside of Earth.

The only possibility is that some sort of generation/sleeper ship turns up with the intention of colonizing Earth as such planets are rare.. but it would be an absolute freak event. They could have arrived at any time in the last few hundred million years, and they haven't. And they certainly would not expect to find us - they would have had to have traveled hundreds or thousands of light years minimum, perhaps setting out a million years ago.

A robot probe of some kind is more likely, which would be no threat at all.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Bernard J,

I sincerely doubt we and aliens could give each other germs. The number of possible (carbon/water-based) functionally equivalent biochemicals is so high, the chance of life from planet A being edible on planet B must be near-zero. I know we have the example of how Iberian smallpox hit the Mesoamericans, but both the humans and the smallpox evolved on the same planet and used the same genetic code.

Bernard J. said...

BPL, although the number of possible biochemical permutations is high, the process of efficient energy storage and transfer is generally mediated by smaller molecules, which limits the permutations somewhat. Further, there are a huge range of enzymes that have evolved to break many/most of the atomic bond combinations within these smaller energy-related molecules, especially if micro-organisms are considered, and it would be very likely that there'd be at least some cross-over between separately evolved carbon/water systems.

And for efficiency's sake it's likely that there would be convergent evolution in the more complex molecules of the two systems, so vulnerability could well be found there too. Generally biochemistry (which could be assumed to follow universal principles) follows a parsimonious track to evolving greater efficiency.

Over the years I've cultured bacteria, fungi, and mammalian cells in tissue culture, and it's astonishing what organic ingredients are vulnerable to the diversity of life. I am not convinced that biochemically we'd have evolved in a manner that would make us completely - or even largely - enzymatically incompatible with a carbon-based alien ecology.

One of the big things that would determine the risk of micro-organism infectivity/vulnerability would be the nature of the antigenic epitope expressions between the two systems, and the nature of immunity (and immunity avoidance)in alien species.

Bernard J. said...

Andrew, one thing that asteroids and Kuiper belt objects do not provide is a habitable zone, and any alien species that found their way here would likely want to camp for a while...

Further, if they want to use any appreciable quantity of the newly found inorganic space resources they'd not likely be hauling them back through interstellar space, which would suggest that colonisation would be a better strategy for them - if they come for the resources, they'd likely use them in situ.

Of course, if they have a fantastical free energy/warp drive locomotion system perhaps the energy penalty for interstellar transport might be insignificant to them, but if that was the case they'd likely have clocked up lots of frequent flier points already, and motored their way through this oxygenated part of the galaxy long before now...

cRR Kampen said...

Russel - "The compactness of genetic encoding", first we need genes.

Andrew - "On the one example we have, life emerged effectively instantly."
You mean, we actually know life emerged there?

I have to add two small hints to my reasoning.
- it never came even remotely close in any laboratory.
- a self-replicating molecule has to emerge only exactly once - after which event (whose likelihood seems to be very minute) the universe has changed fundamentally forever already.

Another detail: ever tried to think about the astounding coincidences happened on earth after and because of which mammals took over from reptiles and a certain kind of intelligence arised - only very late in evolution and only exactly once?

Even the smallest look at combinatorial processes demands a love of great heights, no fear whatsoever. Enjoy.

cRR Kampen said...

" It's the intermediate stage that seems hard." - if you look closely at evolution you'll find a lot of such stages, and sort of 'miracles' ending them in some quasirandom way.

What I think is really the hard thing is the very first instance of what we call life. There's not a clue to what happened, when it happened, how it happened and where it happened.
If I'm correct and it took only that single peculiar molecule (whose exact nature we don't even know) to emerge we'll simply never find answers to those questions. Untill and unless, perhaps, we become able to replicate that process.

Russell Seitz said...

The surest defense against alien invaders is the Strategic Watts Initiative, in which half of Earth's energy production and broadcast bandwidth is devoted to beaming every word of Watts Up With That Heavenward .

The prospect of encountering 240,345, 212 terminally counterfactual climate bores will persuade the bug-eyed bean counters to seek a better return on exploration by diverting the invasion fleet into the nearest balck hole.

cRR Kampen said...

The 'Balk Hole'. But indeed aliens 'd go voluntarily even.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

cRRK: a certain kind of intelligence arised - only very late in evolution and only exactly once?

BPL: If you graph encephalization against time, you find a steady rise over the last 700 million years. Life in the mesozoic was more encephalized than in the paleozoic, and in the cenozoic more than in the mesozoic. If humans hadn't arisen, something else intelligent eventually would have. Intelligence is a generally useful survival trait.

Let me know if you want the numbers.

afeman said...

Intelligence is a generally useful survival trait.

We'll see in 200 years.

Andrew said...

cRR Kampen

All the combinatorial stuff says is that it was not a case of free floating molecules randomly linking up, because this is as close to impossible as it's possible for an event to be.

Try looking at some stuff about the hydrothermal vent origin-of-life hypothesis. There isn't any probability stuff in there, for fairly obvious reasons, and if true than the Fe-S cores of many of the earliest proteins are a relic of that era. Also, if true then the implication is that life will originate wherever you get undersea volcanoes.

If the OOL of life was a geologically low-probability event, then it's surprising that it happened effectively instantly. We'd expect to see the Earth sterile for billions of years, and we don't. And in a similar vein, if intelligence was hard [given the pre-reqs] then we'd expect to see billions of years of animals before we cam along; again, we don't- we are only c. 315ma. on from the first full land dwelling animal.

We do see billions of years of bacteria performing what looks like a very slow terra forming process.

Basically, what evidence we do have suggests that it's easy to get life, and that if the conditions are correct (Stable O2 atmosphere, I suspect, but there's a lot going on..) for life to become macroscopic and waddle out of the oceans, then intelligence is fairly easy too. The stalling point seems to be the microscopic-macroscopic transition. So I expect that we'll find bio-signatures on exoplanets, and quite possibly in our solar system. But not anything we cal talk to, sadly..

Andrew said...

Bernard J -

The Kupier belt is a perfect habitable zone for self-replicating exploration probes. Although I've heard that the Jupiter Trojans are better. Deep gravity wells are a no-no.

Although this could be one answer for the 'No aliens' question - our Kupier Belt has lost a huge amount of mass due to planetary migration (>99%). Assuming that the Alien Probes (tm) have seen our system and noted that Neptune has basically cleared the outer system, they could be avoiding us. (Fermi Paradox answer #174, you heard it here first.)

Barton Paul Levenson said...

A: All the combinatorial stuff says is that it was not a case of free floating molecules randomly linking up, because this is as close to impossible as it's possible for an event to be.

BPL: All the combinatorial stuff is usually phrased wrongly. The answers are not just, as you note, that non-random processes were involved, but also that the target set is invariably too narrowly defined. It is always assumed that a particular combination is needed, and there is no basis, theoretical or empirical, for assuming that.

Robert Jones said...

I just don't understand the supposed danger of making contact.

We aren't going to encounter a civilization of comparable technological ability. The odds are just too short. They're either going to be far behind us (in which case they don't even have radio so contact is impossible) or they are going to be very far ahead of us, in which case they will already know we are here.

You can't have a high advanced civilization nearby that is surprised to detect our signals. That just makes no sense. They'll have known we are here before we even developed radio or agriculture even.

The idea that we could trigger some war for our planet is ridiculous. Our planet has been broadcasting the existence of life for billions of years. Alien civilizations have had billions of years to take our planet for resources or whatever. If you think about it though there's nothing on this planet that any advanced civilization would need or want. They can just fabricate any element, any material. Not even that, they could simulate realities why build a giant city out of real materials when you can just create a virtual city to live in? Yeah I don't think other alien life is even really living in the physical universe anymore, I think alien civilizations are just plugged into virtual reality. I mean that makes sense, why physically travel through the real universe with all it's physical limitations when you can make and live in a virtual reality where anything is possible? That's why we see nothing and hear nothing, because they just aren't interested in us.

Russell Seitz said...

As long as general realtivity remains as we find it, the only species with a personal inerest in interstellar communication and travel may be those with life spans long enough to experience it.
From our short lived perspective ot is hard to imagine how they might sustain interest in the experience despitethe transmission delays and the millennial longeurs of passage-making except by exporting it to memorialize themselves as we have done with our probes, on which our civilization spends little more than on business cards

he issue may therefore be less the distance between sentient species, than those that have grown their commerce enough to afford interplanetary postal systemes and road signs on the outskits of their Oort clouds.

How much longer is thatgoing to take us?

Gavin Cawley said...

The consequences of success in this case seem rather limited, given that any life we do detect is probably never going to visit and if they do, they are unlikely to be a threat (any civilization that has the technology for interstellar travel is likely to have resolved most of their resource problems long ago). Also as communications will have a round trip delay measured in years, we'll have plenty of time to think about the reply. Perhaps that is why there hasn't been too much discussion about consequences?

cRR Kampen said...

Andrew, Levenson - thank you for your informative comments.

"If humans hadn't arisen, something else intelligent eventually would have..."
Key phrase: 'eventually'.
But I didn't know well this trend, "If you graph encephalization against time, you find a steady rise over the last 700 million years." and I for one apply, gimme the numbers please :)

Detail, intelligence doesn't have to arise from encephalization alone. I like to speculate about two distributed kinds of 'intelligence': squids and octopuses (who also possess extremities that could handle tools like pencils), and completely different again: ant colonies viewed as single organisms.

"Try looking at some stuff about the hydrothermal vent origin-of-life hypothesis." - Well, Andrew, there is no 'try', there is just 'do'.. 10 4.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Animal What EQ* Date, kY Sources
Early insects, annelids, molluscs invertebrates 0.025 -700 Je73
Branchiostoma (from extant) lancelet 0.0012 -530 Ru83
Petromyzon (from extant) sea lamprey 0.013 -470 Ru83
Kujdanowiaspis sp. fish 0.1 -400 Je73
Latimeria (from extant) fish 0.021 -355 Ru83
Ectosteorhachis nitidus (megalichthys) fish 0.1 -300 Je73
Edops megacephalus amphibian 0.073 -280 Je73, Ru83
Thrinaxodon liorhinus therapsid 0.15 -251 Da03, Ro11
Probelesodon sp. therapsid 0.15 -241 Ro11, wiki
Exaereton sp. therapsid 0.12 -230 Ro11, wiki
Diademodon tetragonus therapsid 0.17 -225 Je73, Ro11
Probainognathus jenseni therapsid 0.14 -225 Ro11, wiki
Massetognathus sp. therapsid 0.18 -220 Ro11, wiki
Therioherpeton cargnini mammal 0.16 -214 Ro11, wiki
Morganucodon sp. mammal 0.20 -205 Ro11, wiki
Hadroconium wui mammal 0.24 -195 Ro11, wiki
Ramphorhynchus muensteri (gemmingi) pterosaur 0.13 -175 Je73
Triconodon mordax mammal 0.26 -150 Je02, Ro11
Archaeopteryx bird 0.31 -145 Ru83
Vincelestes neuquenianus mammal 0.21 -121 Ro11, wiki
Asioryctes nemegetensis mammal 0.34 -85 Ro11, wiki
Chulsanbaatar vulgaris mammal 0.33 -77 Ro11, wiki
Kennalestes gobiensis mammal 0.22 -77 Ro11, wiki
Kryptobaatar dashzevegi mammal 0.31 -77 Ro11, wiki
Zalambdalestes lechei mammal 0.45 -77 Ro11, wiki
Troodon inequalis (Stenonychosaurus) dinosaur 0.30 -76 Ru83
Ptilodus sp. mammal 0.41 -61 Ro11, wiki
Pucadelphus andinus insectivore 0.19 -61 Ro11, wiki
Plesiadapis tricuspidens prosimian 0.29 -60.2 SD00, SD10
Tetonius homunculus tarsier 0.62 -55 Co90, Fl88, Je73
Heptodon posticus tapiroid 0.66 -50.3 SD10
Smilodectes gracilis lemur-like 0.56 -50 Je73, SD10
Homacodon vagans tapiroid 0.88 -46.2 SD10
Necrolemur antiquus lemur 0.68 -42.5 Fl88, Ma90, Ru83
Leontinia gaudryi toxodont 1.12 -35 Ra81, Ru83
Aegyptopithecus zeuxis primate 0.53 -33.9 Je79, SD10
Rooneyia viejaensis tarsier 0.49 -30 Fl88, Je02, Ma90
Dryopithecus africanus ape 2.06 -28.4 SD10
Leptictis dakotensis insectivore 0.63 -28 Ro11, wiki
Argyrocetus natans toothed whale 3.13 -22.5 Ru83
Obdurodon dicksoni platypus 0.80 -19 Ro11, wiki
Ramapithecus punjabicus ape 3.09 -12 Ho83
Ardipithecus ramidus hominid 2.00 -4.4 Gi09
Australopithecus afarensis hominid 2.88 -3.8 Ho83, Kl07, Mc94
A. africanus hominid 3.24 -3.2 Ho83, Kl07, Mc94
A. robustus hominid 3.84 -2.5 Ho83, Kl07, Mc94
Homo habilis hominid 4.12 -2.3 Ho83, Kl07, Mc94
A. boisei hominid 3.39 -1.6 Kl07, Mc94
H. erectus javanicus hominid 4.29 -1.6 Ho83, Ru97
H. erectus soloensis hominid 4.64 -0.8 Ho83, Ru97
H. erectus pekinensis hominid 5.45 -0.7 Ho83, Ru97
H. europeaus pre-Wurm hominid 5.88 -0.3 Ho83, Ru97
H. neanderthalensis europaeus hominid 7.32 -0.07 Ho83, Ru97
H. sapiens europaensis Wurm hominid 6.70 -0.04 Ho83, Ru97
H. sapiens recens hominid 7.22 0 Ho83, Ru97

Barton Paul Levenson said...

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cRR Kampen said...

Barton Paul Levenson, man, thanks!
Looks like some great primers on the matter on that reading list for me - and some work to do :) Thanks a lot again.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

No problem. Jerison's 1973 book is probably the best place to start.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

The naive thoughts expressed here are quite amusing and entertaining and this happens to be a subject I am interested in. We obviously live in a universe where the laws of physics not only allow, but demand, self organization and almost every level, self assembly and self reproduction, and quite obviously the mathematical basis of these phenomena is statistical and thermodynamic irreversibility. You need to start with stochastic mechanics, which is admittedly a first hack at the problem, and I can refer you to an guest blogger article by Matteo Smerlak and the subsequent discussion on John Baez's blog:

It appears to be infinitely easier to store information than it is to erase it, but the fun begins when you begin to use that easily gained knowledge to your advantage.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

So what can one (as in me) conclude from the now irrefutable inevitability of biological life and evolution in a local universe with the laws of physics and mathematical expertise we currently possess? 1) Clearly life exists (I exist). 2) Life (intelligence, i.e. bacteria are intelligent) exists pretty much everywhere where time and climate is sufficient to support it (hydrothermal vents on terrestrial planets with plate tectonics). 3) They're already here (ease of biological propagation using intelligence). 4) We're embargoed (which is why we can't and don't detect them, at least not conventionally). 5) They're embargoed (by lifeforms vastly superior to them, possibly with completely different physics by tunneling in from other universes). And finally 6) they can occasionally meddle into our affairs with impunity (possibly subject only to control from their own embargoes).

So there you have it. Get used to it. Denial is not going to change this result.

Russell Seitz said...

If the Postal Hypothesis is correct, SETI should tune its neural net filters to look for alien transmissions formatted as postal rate circulars.

The downside of this cryptographic ruse yielding results is that, given the energy cost of interstellar air mail we may be expectd to cough up a megamolemole of radium for a first class stamp

cRR Kampen said...

From Matteo Smerlak, "... a positive fitness flux is “an almost universal evolutionary principle of biological systems” [Mustonen2010]"

No problem there whatsoever. The problem is the primer, the 'first biological system', the first element to that specific chain, the happening that changed the nature of the universe. Once it's there, there is no mystery, just the Law of Large Numbers. This also governs the arisal of that 'first biological system', whatever it may be, of course, but so does scattering letters around to maybe one day arrive at 'War and Peace'. Days they are galore, give us that.

cRR Kampen said...

"The [comet] body is rich in organic molecules, which if delivered to a hospitable enough planet, might play a leading role in the process that turns simple chemicals into replicating molecules and ultimately rudimentary life."

So how tiny or how mighty is that 'might'?
The universe is absolutely stuffed with those organic molecules. Still it never seems to happen. Aw, okay, it happened once.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Actually on small terrestrial water covered planets with molten cores it happens over and over again, every time another large planetoid collides with it. You can't possibly be that closed minded, right?

cRR Kampen said...

Typical, anyone who tries a different take on a subject that is usually discussed thru a small set of doctrines and a large set of assumptions about utter unknows is a 'closed minded' individual.

Can your open mind come up with evidence re "Actually on small terrestrial water covered planets with molten cores it happens over and over again" and a plausible story as to why none of those suckers never managed to either divert or annihilate the asteroid or got out of its way on time?

Incidentally, would it be possible to receive radio broadcasting of, say, Lord Haw Haw about 75 lightyears away with instruments humanity possesses today?

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I really can't parse what you are trying to say. We obviously live in a self organizing, self assembling and self replicating universe and we are in possession of the math and physics now to demonstrate that with a probability of unity. A simple spectroscopic analysis of the rest of the universe demonstrates that is indeed the case as far as we can see.

Therefore, a simple analysis of our paleohistory demonstrates the probability of unity that we are under strict observation and embargo just as those (or that as the case may be) which observes us are also subject to their own strict observations and embargoes. Otherwise our universe would not exist as we know it, subject to constant external meddling above and beyond mere natural and man made catastrophes.

Molecules and bacteria don't know numbers, that requires a conscious intelligence with involves decision making using large numbers to optimize entropy production in order to use appendages or construct devices and work towards some particular goal, like grabbing fruit or slicing objects without creating a lot of unmanageable toxic debris.

Left to maximum entropy, one would expect a featureless Fermi or Bose gas and that is not what we observe, what we observe is a vast complexity and dynamics that simply astounds the mind. Therefore - stochastic mechanics, where the universe constructs this complexity in order to more efficiently maximize entropy production from a very low entropy featureless Wigner crystal like beginning, or alternatively, a featureless Fermi Bose liquid like mixture. This is a fertile area of research that will very soon be amenable to table top simulations and experiments, assuming civilization survives the planetary carbon crisis, so hold on to your seat, it could be quite a ride, either if civilization collapses and/or if it survives this.

The more plausible explanation for the lack of aliens in flying saucers landing on the white house lawn (besides embargo), is that it's far easier to tunnel into other universes than it is to migrate. I personally suspect the embargo is more related to the violence of emerging civilizations than it is with carelessness of nearby aliens.

The carbon crisis is an easily solved problem using both quantum mechanics and astrophysics and space colonization. The real problem is religion and culture and I see that exemplified in the comments.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

crrk: Typical, anyone who tries a different take on a subject that is usually discussed thru a small set of doctrines and a large set of assumptions about utter unknows is a 'closed minded' individual.

BPL: That's all you'll get from symbol salad. Disagree with him on the slightest thing, and he'll trot out the personal comments. The guy is a troll, here to bring up his personal problems with religion at every opportunity. You can bet he'll start on how religion is the root of all evil in a couple of posts.

Me, I just click him. Click to the right of his name, his post goes away, everybody's happy.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

And, of course, you think still you speak for everybody.

Religion does that to some people.