December 31, 2012

Humans first advanced civilization in Milky Way?


[Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astrophysics and director of Harvard University’s Origins of Life Initiative] believes that life is probably common in the universe. He said that he believes life is a natural “planetary phenomenon” that occurs easily on planets with the right conditions. “It takes a long time to do this,” Sasselov said at a 2011 Harvard conference. “It may be that we are the first generation in this galaxy.”

Though it may be hard to think of it this way, at roughly 14 billion years old, the universe is quite young, he said. The heavy elements that make up planets like Earth were not available in the early universe; instead, they are formed by the stars. Enough of these materials were available to begin forming rocky planets like Earth just 7 billion or 8 billion years ago. When one considers that it took nearly 4 billion years for intelligent life to evolve on Earth, it would perhaps not be surprising if intelligence is still rare.

Which would really suck for outfits like SETI.

Insty points to this article, which posits that aliens would be too much like us -- meaning they'd probably want to destroy us. That'd suck for us all. Though one thing I found as a head-scratcher in the article is Stephen Hawking noting that aliens would probably be more interested in "mining our planet for vital resources than in getting to know us." Mining our planet? I've said this many times previously, but here it is again: If aliens are advanced enough to travel here and meet us, why would they want to mine a planet that is highly likely to have been stripped of most of its resources already? Not to mention that said mining would be much more economically feasible in space.

Insty mentions The Forge of God as a good treatment of alien invasion. I though it was OK; I never could concretely wrap my head around the "reasons" for the desire among the mysterious machines to eradicate humanity. It's sort of analogous to Fred Saberhagen's "Berserkers." Its sequel, Anvil of Stars, features the remnants of humanity seeking out its destroyers with the help of the highly advanced Benefactors. It's ultra-hard scifi, a novel of immense scope that'll blow your mind.

Posted by Hube at December 31, 2012 03:39 PM | TrackBack

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Actually, I'm pretty open to the idea of there being other advanced civilizations in the universe myself.

Posted by: Carl at December 31, 2012 03:44 PM

I loved Anvil of Stars (Forge of God was OK). The idea that we should be among the first intelligence races with a technical society has been around, both among astrophysicists and SF writers for a long time, but I have to say that it would be profoundly disappointing.

If WE are the Elder Race or the Forerunners, then the galaxy is in deep f--king doo-doo.

Posted by: Steve Newton at December 31, 2012 11:38 PM