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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. Angilion

    Man of Honour

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    I listed solutions to the most important problem, the only one that doesn't have a more obvious solution. I provided a reference to a scientific paper on one solution to the most important problem.

    You demanded compliance to your unfounded belief that it is impossible, made up silly names and had a tantrum when I did the above.

    People will very easily be able to tell who is who.
     
  2. JRS

    Capodecina

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    Quite. @BlueMerle - is there a specific problem that you have with manned space exploration? 'cause it sure seems like it.

    Shifting back somewhat closer to the original topic...

    If we genuinely are the only sentient life in this galaxy, if life as complex as us is such an incredible long shot and us being around at all was so fantastically unlikely that this long shot wasn't repeated elsewhere, then do we not owe it to the galaxy to get off this rock and out of this solar system to ensure that vaguely intelligent life continues after Earth is gone? Sure, it's going to take a long time to make it feasible. Certainly isn't going to be in our lifetimes. But it seems to me like that is something that humans should do one day. And going back to the Moon to plant more flags, going to Mars to grow potatoes (;)), wombling out as far as Venus to go take a look are good first steps.
     
  3. Mercenary Keyboard Warrior

    Sgarrista

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    Mars is a good plan for a few reasons.
    Its resource rich at the surface.
    Its got far lower gravity, so it would be far easier to construct and use it as the launch point for future manned missions.
    The things I saw on proposed sustained human colonisation of Mars suggested it would be subterranean initially. There are a lot of caves, believed to be quite wide ranging that would be relatively easy to make air proof.
    This helps against the radiation and potentially small asteroid risk on the surface. Doesn't sound a great place to live, but its a possibility.

    In regards the life elsewhere, well I just watched the episodes pretty much back to back and would say the programme seems a little inconsistent, seemingly saying at times the sheer scale and timeline of the universe makes the chance of some life high, then seems to make out that the low chance of a system developing like ours did means its far rarer than you would expect.

    There is absolutely no way we are going any significant distance until we master local space. Mars is clearly the one for now. The others are like 10x or more more difficult and risky.
    Small steps :)
     
  4. Angilion

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    IMO, no. I don't believe that the galaxy is a sentient being, so I don't believe the concept of debt applies to it.

    That I agree with. Not for the galaxy but for humanity. Not as a debt to be repaid but as a goal to strive for, as a challenge, as a means of finding out things that were not known before, as an adventure. I think those are things that humanity needs. It could also potentially work as a unifying project, which is something else humanity needs. Also as an insurance policy. If another naturally occuring extinction level event occurs on Earth, human civilisation will fall and maybe all humans on Earth will die. We don't have anywhere close to the power to prevent most potential causes of an extinction level event. Off the top of my head, the only cause I think we possibly could do something about is an impactor.

    I can think of a couple of others:

    Mars is accessible for humans from Earth. Not easily. Not at all easily. But it's possible. There are probably better places for human colonisation elsewhere, planets much more similar to Earth, but humans can't get there any time soon if ever. Humans could get to Mars in the near future.
    Mars is geologically stable. That removes a number of possible threats to initial bases and settlements, which would be extremely vulnerable.

    That would be easier than building adequately protected habitats on the surface. Another possible approach is to change Mars first and then send people to it. If people are going to change Mars into a more habitable place it might be prudent to not have anyone living there during the process. For example, it's impossible to be certain of all of the effects of creating an Earthlike atmosphere on Mars. It's theoretically possible, but there's a lot that isn't known about everything that would happen during the process. It might temporarily introduce even more hazards to human life on Mars.

    That's honest, since we really don't have much of a clue about how common life is in the universe.

    Yes. If humanity is going to do it at all, it's going to be Mars to begin with.
     
  5. Safetytrousers

    Wise Guy

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    But that will take a lot longer than the Earth becoming uninhabitable. I wouldn't want to be in the last generation of human descendants, assuming a continued knowledge of all history, sad that the species never found a way to live on other worlds.
     
  6. JRS

    Capodecina

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    A more than fair point, well made.
     
  7. Freakbro

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    A physics lecture I attended recently was about the sun and as an aside a discussion about space travel came up. The lecturer was saying one of the biggest problems we have, that hardly gets mentioned, is how we would protect the astronauts from solar flares. With the journey time to Mars, it's unlikely they wouldn't be fatally irradiated by the time they got there.
     
  8. Angilion

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    That's a good point. We've been focusing on the problems of making a colony on Mars and mostly ignoring the problems of getting there.

    I just found out something I had no idea would be the case - the inside of anything with a robust enough hull experiences less harmful radiation exposure during a solar flare. That's the opposite of what I had assumed. It's called the Forbush decrease and it has been reliably shown both inside and outside the protection of Earth. So much so that one potential plan is to deliberately schedule manned missions during periods of time when solar flares are more likely.

    https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/07oct_afraid/

    Harmful radiation in general is going to be a problem, though. Shielding is heavy and heavy is a problem and some of the radiation can't really be shielded against anyway. High energy stuff will sail through any feasible shielding we have at the moment. A quick look shows (a) we don't have enough information and (b) estimates are that with current technology the exposure wouldn't be rapidly fatal but would cause a significant increase in cancer risk.

    http://mathscinotes.com/2015/01/radiation-exposure-on-a-trip-to-mars/ as an example.
     
  9. BlueMerle

    Gangster

    Joined: Jul 21, 2016

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    Not at all. I'd love nothing more than a robust manned space exploration. My hand to God!

    I'm simply pointing out the realities of the situation. Nothing more.

    It was 60 years ago this month that we put a man on the moon. And we haven't even tried to put a man on Mars. I think we can all agree that there has been a technological revolution since then. There's a reason for that.

    No one is willing to sign off on a failure. The odds of a successful manned Mars mission are minuscule. By successful I mean returning all members to the Earth alive. Some models suggest that even if they were able to survive the entire trip, re-entry into Earth's atmosphere and a 1 G environment would kill them after such a prolonged exposure to zero G.

    The fact is that even if we are able to successfully complete a manned mission to Mars that is as far as we'll ever go. Full Stop!

    The effects of prolonged exposure to zero G are debilitating to the human body, and the radiation exposure is as well. And we haven't even discussed the psychological impact of a long space voyage, confined in a small area having to deal with the same people for years on end. (not referring to a Mars mission here, but an interstellar mission.)

    I just have no tolerance for the wishful thinking that seems to permeate this discussion. The complete denial of the facts already established, and a naive insistence that we won't know for sure unless we go and try. Seriously? Do we need to put somebody inside of an operating blast furnace to find out if we can tolerate that? I don't think so. We know the answer, and that's why we're not sending out manned missions beyond the moon.

    To further illustrate the point, a dead planet, like Mars, is one that's core has cooled and solidified and stopped spinning. Thus there is no magnetic field. Without a magnetic field no atmosphere will ever stay on the planet. The solar winds will blow it away. Teraforming is a fun theory, but not one that can be applied to any planet in our solar system. There's no place to go. We're stuck here. Deal with it.
     
  10. Angilion

    Man of Honour

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    We know for certain that is wrong. People have already been in a zero g environment for longer than it would take to get to Mars and back. Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov spent 14 months in 0g and then returned to Earth, specifically to be a test subject for the effects on humans of long term 0g.

    You are not "simply pointing out the realities of the situation". You are decreeing that it is impossible because you say so, with no evidence or argument to support your claim and ignoring all evidence and argument contradicting it. Your comments on gravity are a good example - first you claimed that long term exposure to 0.38g is "very significant and detrimental for humans". Neither you nor anyone else knows that. When that was pointed out, you dropped it. Now you're claiming that a long enough exposure to 0g to get to Mars and back might make it fatal for a person to return to 1g despite the fact that it has already been done and the long-term effects of 0g on humans has been quite extensively studied with a non-trivial number of test subjects.

    Some people said that the odds of a successful manned moon mission were miniscule. Some people still say that a manned moon mission is impossible, despite it happening 6 times. Some people said that travel at speeds in excess of ~50 mph was inherently impossible, that it would make it impossible to breathe and everyone would die.

    After the initial batch of manned moon missions, none have been done. There's a reason for that. The reason isn't that it's impossible. The reason is that it's extremely expensive, serves no immediate practical purpose and has considerable risk. As you rightly point out, no one is willing to sign off on a failure. That does not prove that something is impossible. It only proves that failure is possible, not that it is certain.

    You're issuing decrees as if you are omniscient, but you aren't. Also, your decrees are changing. Carry on like this and you'll end up decreeing that human colonisation of the galaxy is a certainty.

    Yes, they are, but the fact that problems exist does not prove that failure is certain.

    Another genuine problem, but one for much further into the future if ever. Nobody's seriously talking about an interstellar mission any time soon.

    You have no tolerance for evidence, reasoning or any disagreement with your decrees. You are the one who is denying the facts already established. Your decrees are not facts. You ignore, well, everything. For example, did you read the paper I referred you to? You provide no evidence, only decrees.

    Here's my position, stated briefly:

    1) Interstellar travel may well be impossible. We're nowhere near being able to do it if it is possible. We don't even have well supported ideas about how to do it. If it is possible, it will probably be one way without even the possibility of communication after the earliest part of the trip because of the increasing effect of time dilation.
    2) Terraforming Mars seems to be theoretically possible based on current knowledge and might be barely possible with existing technology.
    3) A permanently inhabited, self-sustaining Mars colony seems to be theoretically possible based on current knowledge and might be barely possible with near future technology.
    4) Establishing such a colony, or even just trying to do so, would be dangerous and extremely expensive. Colonists would definitely face increased risks compared to staying on Earth and there would probably be a fairly high chance of at least some of them dying.

    To call that wishful thinking is silly. Wishful thinking in this context would be some benevolent alien people with superior knowledge guiding humanity, like Star Trek.

    You think you know the answer, but you don't. More reasonable people admit they don't know the answer and consider what evidence is available.

    But I can use your line of argument: Seriously? Do we need to have someone walk around the grounds of Buckingham Palace completely naked on a mild summer day to find out if a human can survive that? I don't think so. We know the answer, and that's why human colonisation of the universe is inevitable and will happen next year.

    Even in this very short thread, three different plausible solutions to that problem have been given. You have not even tried to refute them. You are just continuing to issue decrees and ignoring all evidence and reasoning.

    You are not my god. I am not bound by your decrees.
     
  11. BlueMerle

    Gangster

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    lol...
     
  12. Cern

    Mobster

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    50 years ago next month, as it happens.

    Anyway, the reason we've not been back to the Moon since 1972 and not yet sent a manned mission to Mars is more to do with politics and cost than science. If it was that important politically (as the Moon landings were originally) we'd already be doing it. Yes there's huge costs, massive risks and major obstacles, but if it truly mattered we'd find a way.

    And yes it'd probably mean failures and deaths, but it wouldn't be the first time human explorers have set out on a potentially fatal trip.

    There was a time when many parts of the Earth were seen as beyond the limits, and now we have tourists and celebs crawling all over Everest, the poles and everywhere else just to say they lived the 'dream' and satiating their narcissism in the name of 'charity' or 'journalism'. Many of these are prepared to die in the process too, so I'm sure there'd be a queue of celebs lining up for a Mars mission even if proper scientists and astronauts weren't up for taking the risks.

    Should we do it? Well that's another issue entirely. We should probably stop destroying the Earth first, before we go searching for other planets to lay waste to. But it's part of human DNA to explore, so inevitably we will.
     
  13. Rroff

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    From what I recall flares and CMEs are fairly directional and effects would be significantly reduced if not a direct hit. I'd imagine it hardly gets mentioned because it is fairly manageable - there are times when the sun is very quiet for long periods as well as apparently the potential to exploit periods of high activity.

    I can't remember the details off the top of my head and there is little info online but there is a polypropylene composite that shows good promise for shielding use.

    On another note there was recently a fairly comprehensive survey of nearby stars that have found no evidence of intelligent life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kJ68zq0pC8 with the ability to detect even personal use of radio emissive devices if they had been directed vaguely towards earth at the right time to be picked up when being surveyed.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
  14. BlueMerle

    Gangster

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    I stand corrected. Thank you.

    On the surface it seems as though there's some truth in that. But when you understand that every political leader since 1970, US and European, has been told it's not possible.... well, now you understand the political resistance. And if you actually think it's money, then you don't really know the US or European multi-nationals.

    Not since the middle ages at least.

    No doubt. I've never claimed that there weren't people willing to try, there are. And they rank in the thousands if not millions. Problem is there is no government or private entity willing to pay for it. Why? Because it will almost certainly fail.

    Explore? Yes. We will continue to explore. But human exploration will be limited to the Earth and space exploration will be the domain of unmanned robots. Not humans.
     
  15. Rroff

    Man of Honour

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    What kind of education have you had where you've not heard of the likes of Edmund Hillary, Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton and so on?
     
  16. Cern

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    Far more recently than this. Plenty of 20th Century explorers died too. Some still do, but most of the time these days it's down to people trying ever more extreme methods to explore what's already been explored, because it's now as much about narcissism as it is about genuine discovery (perhaps it always was).

    Governments probably won't fund it, because it's going to be hard to justify the massive cost to the taxpayer when there's so much that needs fixing in most countries. Private funding, quite possibly. A lot of exploration in the past was funded by private money, sometimes with government or royal assistance but not always.

    There's already been private investment in space programmes - Virgin, SpaceX etc. Yes, some of this is driven by profit motives (satellites, space tourism etc) but some of it is pure vanity. How soon before some billionaire or other decides to send some willing suckers off to Mars? Obviously not if it'll be certain death, there's no good publicity in that, but if it can be a calculated risk with a 'reasonable' chance of success?

    I agree that most future space exploration will be using robots, it makes sense to not endanger anyone needlessly and the costs will usually be lower (easier to keep a robot functioning than a human, particularly in transit). But eventually the pressure to put a human on Mars will grow too strong, because that's how it is. Do you think explorers of the past would have been happy to send a robot to the top of Everest or to the Poles instead? Of course not. And so it will be with Mars and beyond, eventually.
     
  17. Mr Badger

    Soldato

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    Russia was first into space and the USA first to the moon. I can imagine China wanting their place in history and spending the money to put the ffirst people on Mars once the risks and challenges seem manageable.
     
  18. Freakbro

    Capodecina

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    Very interesting and as you say quite counter intuitive. Good find :)
     
  19. Mercenary Keyboard Warrior

    Sgarrista

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    An American one it would seem. Once the Americas were found it was job done ;)
     
  20. Mercenary Keyboard Warrior

    Sgarrista

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    So I figure the Mars issue is three things.
    1) Getting there, this isn't going to be a challenge, we can get people into space and move the distance and keep them alive in space for that period.
    2) Landing. This is still pretty risky, I would say of the three still the most risky. It will be easier in a way than sending just vehicles since the astronauts will have the ability to directly control things. Landers sent to Mars on their own have to be fully automated and no opportunity to "control" the landing due to the distance. It still remains risky though, but I see that as reduced from experience we now have, and with options added that the astronauts can control.
    3) The "base". Now a lot can be sent in advance. Either directly to the surface, or to my mind maybe more logically into a holding pattern near Mars. Why not land, well to give more control as the astronaughts are closer, reality you would probably want to drop some and keep some in orbit. Keeping the base running safely is the biggest issue I think. As I said before one proposal was to initially do this underground, that pretty much eliminates the meterorites risk.
    Things like 3D printers have moved some of the risks down the scale. Assuming they would function 100% then small components etc can be manufactured there, so the requirement for lots of spare parts can be reduced.

    Based on everything I have seen I would say the chances of getting a small team to mars, to land safely, and to setup a base that lasts a year is better then 50%. Its the sustainability of the base in to years 2+ that is more the issue to me.
    There would be nothing to stop them coming back, but its going to require a pretty considerable amount of extra resources if thats a target. IIRC they do believe they can manufacture a fuel source there but its not really suitable for rocket type fuel, so we would need to transport it all there in order to come back. I suspect the space station would need to expand and become more of a way point as well if Mars was to be really open, with a few transports that go backwards and forwards, but not actually land on Mars nor the earth, working like mules in effect, slowly ferrying stuff backwards and forwards.