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BBC's The Planets - Intelligent life appears to be very rare indeed

Discussion in 'Speaker's Corner' started by mrk, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. mrk

    Man of Terrible Jokes

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 84,398

    Location: South Coast

    We're on episode 3 of the new series hosted by Brian Cox and I've found it really good. The show tells us mostly what we already know about our solar system and its planets but with new insights and thoughts. It also proposes some interesting questions in terms of life elsewhere, probably a more philosophical talk of sorts I guess.

    Naturally there is no definitive answer and there likely never ever will be because of the timescales involved, but all the observed evidence in our planet and solar system and how every major planet has played a roll in turning it into what it is today points to intelligent life as we know it being extremely rare.

    The exact order of events that happened in our solar system for Earth to be allowed to evolve complex life from early geological activity to biological has been precision right down to the quantum mechanics level.

    Nearly 4 billion years ago Mars was similar to the Earth of today (just with less oxygen) and back then, Earth was a toxic planet. Then Mars' inner core started to stop, its magnetic field went away and the solar wind from the Sun stripped away its atmosphere causing the planet to die.

    To put into perspective how this game of chance played out, Jupiter could have destroyed us had Saturn not intervened with its massive gravitational pull during the early solar system halting Jupiter's early journey inward toward the Sun. It then started to back away and now resides in its fixed orbit in the solar system.

    [​IMG]
    (Mercury needs to calm down!)

    And ever since, Jupiter has been protecting Earth by shepherding asteroids away from our path, although every so often a few slip through, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs + 75% of all life on Earth 66 million years ago along with much smaller ones that have created massive craters on Earth over the last few thousand years, still powerful impacts that can devastate.

    Without spending ages writing it's probably best to just watch the 3 episodes so far on iPlayer and then come back to this thread.

    I somewhat understood before just how lucky we are to be here, but the recent shows like these have made it much more digestible especially with data collected in recent years. Our entire solar system is a cosmic dancefloor. If one key player is taken away or made smaller or bigger, everything changes.

    So whilst there are super Earths in other solar systems out there, there's no chance we will ever know if they contain early basic forms of life that have yet to evolve into complex and then intelligent life. We aren't even a type 1 civilisation on the Kardashev scale, and we are unlikely to ever meet or detect a type 2 or type 3 civilisation, if a type 3 is using all of the energy generated by their host star and galaxy, then they'd appear invisible to us. Maybe that's what's in the great void? :p

    Anyway, we're all lucky to be here. Do something with your lives, make the most of it!
     
  2. Mr Badger

    Soldato

    Joined: Dec 27, 2009

    Posts: 6,441

    That's just what the space lizard illuminati that run the BBC want you to believe.

    ItWasAliens.gif

    I rate your post 7 out of 10 on the "Put the bong down" scale and recommend you also look into the Fermi paradox and the Great Filter.
     
  3. mrk

    Man of Terrible Jokes

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 84,398

    Location: South Coast

    I know a bit of both but haven't really looked too much into them!

    Also, as someone in another topic on reddit said:

     
  4. robfosters

    Caporegime

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    Location: Welling, London

    Read that title and thought there must be a joke about brexit in here somewhere.
     
  5. D.P.

    Caporegime

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 30,062


    The latest research search most systems have a Jupiter-like planet in the right orbit
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190612162904.htm


    With smaller stars this seems less common but there is still not a lot of data for smaller stars and smaller gas giants.


    While exact replicas of our solar system likely are rare I don't think it has such a big impact on probability of intelligent life. The trend in science now also seems to actually be increasing odds of intelligent life outside our system. It wasn't that long ago when it really wasn't known if planets of any form were rare or common, then it was unknown if earth-like planets in the goldilocks zone were rare, and then if necessary gas giants were rarer. While the data is still limited and so far our system doesn't seem to be replicated frequently, habitable planets are not as rare as once thought.
     
  6. Eurofighter

    Wise Guy

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    How can it be rare when the universe is so big. Must be trillions of intelligent species.
     
  7. CaptainRAVE

    Man of Honour

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    Posts: 31,345

    You just have to think about the scale of our solar system and the size of our planet. Yet across the diameter of our planet life can't exist at the poles (at least without first having evolved in more habitable temperatures). That is an absolutely miniscule window and we still don't even know how you make the huge step from the creation of an organic molecule to a living cell. Even then in the entire timespan of life on earth over billions of years only a few seconds on the 24 hour clock has resulted in sentient life. That 'intelligent' life could easily wipe itself out or be driven to extinction by a long list of external factors. On the flip side of the coin, the universe is unimaginably huge and has existed for a long time. Even if there isn't intelligent life out there now, maybe there has been in the past. It all boggles the mind.
     
  8. Murphy

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Sep 16, 2018

    Posts: 2,242

    If you're enjoying The Planets and can't help but think 'what if' then i recommend having a look at Universe Sandbox ², or just checking out some videos to see how wrong things can go with a few tweaks to the solar system.
     
  9. mrk

    Man of Terrible Jokes

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 84,398

    Location: South Coast

    That's what I mean. We happened to evolve thanks to the dinosaurs being wiped out, else perhaps they could well have been the dominant species.

    They'd already survived for 160 odd million years having proven themselves to be robust on the evolutionary scale.

    I'll check out that thanks too!

    And whilst the Fermi paradox poses some valid points, we can't avoid the fact that intelligent life in our own neighbourhood is extremely rare and by all accounts, we happened to be by sheer chance thanks to an army of things aligning at the right place at the right time. Otherwise humans would be sharing the planet with other species of intelligence surely.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
  10. CaptainRAVE

    Man of Honour

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    That is also an interesting thought. We nearly, very nearly ended up coexisting with Neanderthals. Now there is plenty of debate as to whether we are the same or different species. Who knows how that would have turned out.

    Amazing to think how long the dinosaurs were around too.
     
  11. Lord-Jaffa

    Soldato

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    It depends really, if you look at our neighbourhood (solar system) then intelligent life is very common. We have no way of knowing if this is the case elsewhere, but with the information we have, you could assume life isnt a rare occurrence. Who knows, Mars could have even had intelligent life in the past
     
  12. mrk

    Man of Terrible Jokes

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    It's very possible life existed on Mars and possibly even today in the lakes of water below the surface, this is why NASA have missions in the mid 2020s specifically planned to look for sub-surface life on the planet to prove or disprove either theory.

    It's unlikely any past life on Mars was intelligent though due to the lack of surface evidence. The NASA MRO has mapped the entire surface of Mars in great detail and nothing stands out as artificial in the form of artefacts other than the usual conspiracy theories floating around.

    Mars was in its early stages of evolution before its magnetic field failed, not long enough for intelligent life to evolve into something sentient like us. Mars also didn't have an Oxygen rich atmosphere so biological life would have been very difficult back then for complex organisms to evolve. Earth only got the chance from the primitive algae that filtered the oceans over millions of years and cleared up the toxic atmosphere it once had.
     
  13. JRS

    Capodecina

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    Why "must" there be? ;)

    There's essentially two schools of thought. One, the Rare Earth Hypothesis. That an unlikely combination of factors and events occurred that allowed complex life forms to develop on Earth, paving the way for intelligent life (well...semi-intelligent :p) in humanity. Two, the mediocrity principle. That the Earth is just another rock orbiting just another star in a not-particularly exceptional bit of space, the universe is full of these unexceptional rocks and we (as in, complex intelligent lifeforms) are not unique.

    Either side of that argument could be true. We aren't going to find out unless we stop throwing sharp objects at each other and put the effort into getting off this potentially unexceptional rock to go look.
     
  14. B&W

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    Not enough data to form a sufficient answer....
     
  15. mrk

    Man of Terrible Jokes

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    I thought this was quite a good watch!



    The whole channel actually has some fascinating insights into space and time from a mathematical and physics point of view.
     
  16. McstylisT

    Wise Guy

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    Location: ENGLAND !!

    I tend to believe that life has the ability to be everywhere but not necessarily at the exact same time. Look at the history of Mars in the first episode. It was very much a water world and had a high chance of life prior to losing its atmosphere.

    I also think the truth behind the panspermia idea is a solid one. As the universe is a cauldron of recycling particles and matter. Life could live in one environment, come to an end but part of that life signature is transported to new planets or moons and then it begins again in its own form.

    I simply can not believe that we are anything special in the universe. It is unthinkably big and old.
     
  17. Nasher

    Capodecina

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    Still rare on our scale :D

    Another problem is we only know how to look for life (and technology) similar to our own. But it could exist in many ways, even in space. It could be that life this close to a star is rare.
     
  18. Lord-Jaffa

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    That was brilliant, thanks for posting it.
     
  19. Angilion

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    Nobody has any reasonably accurate estimate of the chance of intelligent life existing. So it's impossible for anybody to make any definite statements about the number of species of intelligent life. There is no "must" about it.

    We only know two things with any significant degree of certainty:

    1) The universe is extremely large (but we don't know how large).
    2) The chance of intelligent life is extremely small (but we don't know how small).

    It may be that the chance is so small that it has only happened once. It may be that the chance is so small that it has only happened a few times and at this moment in time humans are the only surviving intelligent species (being intelligent doesn't make a species utterly immune to extinction). It may be that the chance is so small that only 1 in a billion billion billion star systems have an intelligent species in them...which would mean that there are a huge number of intelligent species.

    It's not just the vastly unlikely chain of sustained suitable environmental conditions, either. A perfect set of conditions lasting for long enough doesn't guarantee that life of any kind will exist. Probably - we can't even say that for certain because we don't know how abiogenesis occurs. The existence of life doesn't guarantee that it will evolve into complex life. That requires another array of wildly implausible things. The most famous example is the evolution of eukayrotes from prokayrotes (hmm, I'm not sure I spelt those words correctly...I didn't, it's "prokaryotes" and "eukaryotes"). Utterly essential to life more complex than a bacterium and (as far as we can tell) spectacularly unlikely. Unlike every other apsect of evolution, it's only ever happened once on Earth. Maybe life exists in billions of other star systems, but none of it is more complex than bacteria. The existence of complex life doesn't guarantee it will evolve into intelligent life. Intelligence isn't necessary life, isn't necessary for success in evolutionary terms and it's not clear that it even confers an evolutionary advantage overall. Maybe complex life exists in billions of star systems but none of it is more intelligent than a beetle.

    We don't know enough about the subject to say "must" about anything about it. We don't even know enough to say "probably" about anything much about it.
     
  20. BlueMerle

    Gangster

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    While it would be nice if we did stop throwing sharp objects at each other, that would have no bearing on our ability to go look. It's not a matter of money or technology or desire. It's a matter of scale and the fact that space is an extremely hostile environment for life.

    We haven't put men on Mars yet because the odds of bringing them back alive are very slim. Though I think we will someday send a manned mission to Mars and return them successfully, that will almost certainly be the farthest we can go as a species.

    We can do more with unmanned missions but the time scales involved are huge, even if we're able to travel at close to SoL, which currently we're not able to.

    We're stuck here for all eternity. So we'd better take care of this little blue planet.