I couldn’t resist posting this today after reading it at Centauri Dreams. It’s extremely mainstream, by which the papers Paul Gilster discusses uses geological travel times for interstellar travel and the effects on the Fermi Paradox.
But he talks about the “zoo” hypothesis for our supposed lack of contact with ETIs ( no discussion of UFOs what-so-ever of course ) and I find that fascinating:
Many explanations for the Fermi paradox exist, but Hair and Hedman want to look at the possibility that starflight is so long and difficult that it takes vast amounts of time (measured in geologic epochs) to colonize on the galactic scale. Given that scenario, large voids within the colonized regions may still persist and remain uninhabited. If the Earth were located inside one of these voids we would not be aware of the extraterrestrial expansion. A second possibility is that starflight is so hard to achieve that other civilizations have simply not had time to reach us despite having, by some calculations, as much as 5 billion years to have done so (the latter figure comes from Charles Lineweaver, and I’ll have more to say about it in a moment).
Image: A detailed view of part of the disc of the spiral galaxy NGC 4565. Have technological civilizations had time enough to spread through an entire galaxy, and if so, would they be detectable? Credit: ESA/NASA.
The authors work with an algorithm that allows modeling of the expansion from the original star, running through iterations that allow emigration patterns to be analyzed in light of these prospects. It turns out that in 250 iterations, covering 250,000 years, a civilization most likely to emigrate will travel about 500 light years, for a rate of expansion that is approximately one-fourth of the maximum travel speed of one percent of the speed of light, the conservative figure chosen for this investigation. A civilization would spread through the galaxy in less than 50 million years.
These are striking numbers. Given five billion years to work with, the first civilization to develop starfaring capabilities could have colonized the Milky Way not one but 100 times. The idea that it takes billions of years to accomplish a galaxy-wide expansion fails the test of this modeling. Moreover, the idea of voids inside colonized space fails to explain the Fermi paradox as well:
…while interior voids exist at lower values of c initially, most large interior voids become colonized after long periods regardless of the cardinal value chosen, leaving behind only relatively small voids. In an examination of several 250 Kyr models with a wide range of parameters, the largest interior void encountered was roughly 30 light years in diameter. Since humans have been broadcasting radio since the early 20th century and actively listening to radio signals from space since 1960 (Time 1960), it is highly unlikely that the Earth is located in a void large enough to remain undiscovered to the present day. It follows that the second explanation of Fermi’s Paradox (Landis 1998) is not supported by the model presented.
There are mitigating factors that can slow down what the authors call the ‘explosively exponential nature’ of expansion, in which a parent colony produces daughter colonies and the daughters continue to do the same ad infinitum. The paper’s model suggests that intense competition for new worlds can spring up in the expanding wavefront of colonization. At the same time, moving into interior voids to fill them with colonies slows the outward expansion. But even models set up to reduce competition between colonies present the same result: Fermi’s lunchtime calculations seem to be valid, and the fact that we do not see evidence of other civilizations suggests that this kind of galactic expansion has not yet taken place.
Temporal Dispersion into the Galaxy
I can’t discuss Hair and Hedman’s work without reference to Hair’s earlier paper on the expansion of extraterrestrial civilizations over time. Tom had sent me this one in 2011 and I worked it into the Centauri Dreams queue before getting sidetracked by preparations for the 100 Year Starship symposium in Orlando. If I had been on the ball, I would have run an analysis of Tom’s paper at the time, but the delay gives me the opportunity to consider the two papers together, which turns out to work because they are a natural fit.
For you can see that Hair’s spatial analysis goes hand in glove with the question of why an extraterrestrial intelligence might avoid making its presence known. Given that models of expansion point to a galaxy that can be colonized many times over before humans ever emerged on our planet, let’s take up a classic answer to the Fermi paradox, that the ‘zoo hypothesis’ is in effect, a policy of non-interference in local affairs for whatever reason. Initially compelling, the idea seems to break down under close examination, given that it only takes one civilization to act contrary to it.
But there is one plausible scenario that allows the zoo hypothesis to work: The influence of a particularly distinguished civilization. Call it the first civilization. What sort of temporal head start would this first civilization have over later arrivals?
Hair uses Monte Carlo simulations, drawing on the work of Charles Lineweaver and the latter’s estimate that planets began forming approximately 9.3 billion years ago. Using Earth as a model and assuming that life emerged here about 600 million years after formation, we get an estimate of 8.7 billion years ago for the appearance of the first life in the Milky Way. Factoring in how long it took for complex land-dwelling organisms to evolve (3.7 billion years), Lineweaver concludes that the conditions necessary to support intelligent life in the universe could have been present for at least 5.0 billion years. At some point in that 5 billion years, if other intelligent species exist, the first civilization arose. Hair’s modeling goes to work on how long this civilization would have had to itself before other intelligence emerged. The question thus has Fermi implications:
…even if this ﬁrst grand civilization is long gone . . . could their initial legacy live on in the form of a passed down tradition? Beyond this, it does not even have to be the ﬁrst civilization, but simply the ﬁrst to spread its doctrine and control over a large volume of the galaxy. If just one civilization gained this hegemony in the distant past, it could form an unbroken chain of taboo against rapacious colonization in favour of non-interference in those civilizations that follow. The uniformity of motive concept previously mentioned would become moot in such a situation.
Thus the Zoo Hypothesis begins to look a bit more plausible if we have each subsequent civilization emerging into a galaxy monitored by a vastly more ancient predecessor who has established the basic rules for interaction between intelligent species. The details of Hair’s modeling are found in the paper, but the conclusions are startling, at least to me:
The time between the emergence of the ﬁrst civilization within the Milky Way and all subsequent civilizations could be enormous. The Monte Carlo data show that even using a crowded galaxy scenario the ﬁrst few inter-arrival times are similar in length to geologic epochs on Earth. Just what could a civilization do with a ten million, one hundred million, or half billion year head start (Kardashev 1964)? If, for example, civilizations uniformly arise within the Galactic Habitable Zone, then on these timescales the ﬁrst civilization would be able to reach the solar system of the second civilization long before it evolved even travelling at a very modest fraction of light speed (Bracewell 1974, 1982; Freitas 1980). What impact would the arrival of the ﬁrst civilization have on the future evolution of the second civilization? Would the second civilization even be allowed to evolve? Attempting to answer these questions leads to one of two basic conclusions, the ﬁrst is that we are alone in the Galaxy and thus no one has passed this way, and the second is that we are not alone in the Galaxy and someone has passed this way and then deliberately left us alone.
The zoo hypothesis indeed. A galactic model of non-interference is a tough sell because of the assumed diversity between cultures emerging on a vast array of worlds over time. But Hair’s ‘modified zoo hypothesis’ has great appeal. It assumes that the oldest civilization in the galaxy has a 100 million year head start, allowing it to become hugely influential in monitoring or perhaps controlling emerging civilizations. We would thus be talking about the possibility of evolving similar cultural standards with regard to contact as civilizations follow the lead of this assumed first intelligence when expanding into the galaxy. It’s an answer to Fermi that holds out hope we are not alone, and I’ll count that as still another encouraging thought on the day the world didn’t end.
I have a problem with this simply because of the economics involved; what is the motivation for ETIs to expand into the Universe to begin with?
Like, are they like humans in the sense that we go because “it’s there?”
Or are there more practical impulses involved like “can we make money” on these endeavors?
A commentor to this particular post wrote that before we colonize ( if we ever do ) the Moon, Mars and other planets in this Solar System ( and perhaps the closer stars ) that it’ll be cheaper to shoot small probes with micro cameras to these places ( NASA is already proposing sending tele-operated probes to the Lunar surface instead of astronauts ) and sell virtual reality tours. Expanded versions of Google Earth and Google Mars!
In other words, it’s cheaper to build Universes that have Star Trek and upload your mind into it than actually building such things as star-ships!
Could this be an answer to the Fermi Paradox?
Like many geeks of the post-Sputnik generation, I grew up hoping that space travel would be common by the time I reached middle age. Weaned on a youthful diet of speculative fiction by the likes of Ray Bradbury and Arthur Clarke, raised on Star Trek and The Outer Limits, and thrilled by real-life hero Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” onto the gravelly surface of the Moon when I was in elementary school, it never occurred to me that humankind’s manifest destiny in the stars would be undone by changing political winds, disasters like the Challenger explosion, and a mountain of debt to pay for misguided military adventures like the War in Iraq.
It’s true that, in some ways, we’re living in a new golden age for space nerds. Bard Canning’s gorgeously enhanced footage of Curiosity’s descent to Mars — made instantly available by the global network we built instead of a Hilton on the Moon — certainly beats grainy snippets beamed down from Tranquility Base. A newly discovered exoplanet that “may be capable of supporting life” seems tomake headlines every few months. Cassini’s ravishing closeups of Saturnregularly put the fever dreams of ILM’s animators to shame. But wasn’t I supposed to be “strolling on the deck of a starship” by now, as Paul Kantner’s acid-fueled hippie space epic Blows Against the Empire promised me when it was nominated for a Hugo award in 1971?
The problem, it turns out, isn’t just a loss of political will to finance manned space flight. Rocket science turns out to be rocket science — not easy, and constrained by some very real limitations dictated by material science, the physics of acceleration, and the unwieldy economics of interstellar propulsion. Until a real-life Zefram Cochrane comes along to invent a practical warp drive, I may not be sightseeing on any Class M planets anytime soon.
One of the best briefings on the state of the art of interstellar exploration is Lee Billings’ essay “Incredible Journey,” recently reprinted in a wonderful new anthology called The Best Science Writing Online 2012, edited by Scientific American’s Bora Zivkovic and Jennifer Ouellette. I’m very honored to have a piece in the anthology myself: my NeuroTribes interview with John Elder Robison, author of the bestselling memoir of growing up with autism, Look Me in The Eye, and other books. When SciAm’s editors suggested that each author in the book interview one of the other authors, I jumped at the chance to interview Billings about his gracefully written and informative article about the practical challenges of space flight. Billings is a freelance journalist who has written forNature, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, and Seed. He lives outside New York City with his wife, Melissa.
Steve Silberman: Before we even get into the meat of your piece, I want to mention how impressed I was by the power and lyricism of your writing. Phrases like “the cosmos suddenly becomes less lonely” and “the easiest way the Daedalus volunteers found to fuel their starship was, in effect, the industrialization of the outer solar system” make vast and highly abstract concepts immediately comprehensible and visceral to lay readers. What made you want to become a science writer, and who are your role models for writing, in any genre?
Lee Billings: My attraction to science preceded my attraction to the act of writing, perhaps because, like every child, I was intensely curious about the world around me. Science, more so than any other source of knowledge I could find, seemed to change the world into something at once eminently understandable and endlessly mysterious.
I became interested in science writing, science journalism, at approximately the same time I realized I would make a poor scientist. I was midway through my college prerequisites, thinking I was on a path to a career in neuroscience. I’d been having a lot of trouble with the more quantitative courses — calculus, organic chemistry, and so on. Many of my friends would ace their assignments and tests after sleeping through lectures and rarely cracking a book. I would study hard, only to receive poor grades. Meanwhile I was breezing through courses in English, literature, history, and art. After a particularly fervent all-night cram-session for a final exam that I still almost flunked, I decided if I wasn’t destined to excel within science itself, perhaps I could instead try to make my mark by helping communicate the world-changing discoveries scientists were making. So I switched my academic emphasis from neuroscience to journalism, and became something of a camp follower, scavenging and trailing behind the gifted few at the front lines of research. I’ve never looked back, and have no regrets. The job never gets old: Rather than being at best a mediocre, hyper-specialized bench worker, being a science writer lets me parachute in to varied fields on a whim, and invariably the brilliant individuals I find upon landing are welcoming and happy to talk to me.
As for influences… I still have a long way to go, but if my writing ever comes to possess a fraction of Carl Sagan’s charisma and elegance, John McPhee’s structure and eye for detail, Richard Preston’s depth of focus and cinematic flair, Stanislaw Lem’s imagination and analytic insight, or Ray Bradbury’s lyrical beauty, I will be a happy man.
Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”
Silberman: Several times a year now, we hear about the discovery of a new exoplanet in the “Goldilocks zone” that could “potentially support life.” For example, soon after he helped discover Gliese 581g, astronomer Steven Vogt sparked a storm of media hype by claiming that “the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.” Even setting aside the fact that the excitement of discovering a planet in the habitable zone understandably seems to have gone to Vogt’s head at that press conference, why are such calculations of the probability of life harder to perform accurately than they seem?
Billings: The question of habitability is a second-order consideration when it comes to Gliese 581g, and that fact in itself reveals where so much of this uncertainty comes from. As of right now, the most interesting thing about the “discovery” of Gliese 581g is that not everyone is convinced the planet actually exists. That’s basically because this particular detection is very much indirect — the planet’s existence is being inferred from periodic meter-per-second shifts in the position of its host star. The period of that shift corresponds to the planet’s orbit as it whips from one side of the star to the other; the meter-per-second magnitude of the shift places a lower limit on the planet’s mass, but can’t pin down the mass exactly. So that’s all this detection gives you — an orbit and a minimum mass. That’s not a lot to go on in determining what a planet’s environment might actually be like, is it?
Now, get up and walk around the room. You’re moving at about a meter per second. Imagine discerning that same rate of change in the motion of a million-kilometer-wide ball of plasma, a star many light-years away. Keep in mind this star’s surface is always moving, in pounding waves and swirling eddies, in rising and falling convection cells, in vast plasmatic prominences arcing above the surface, often at many kilometers per second. At any particular moment, all that stellar noise can swamp the faint planetary signal. Only by building up hundreds or thousands of careful measurements over time can you get that crucial periodicity that tells you what you’re seeing might be a planet. So the measurement is quite statistical in nature, and its interpretation can change based on the statistical assumptions being used. This is further complicated by the fact that planets are rarely singletons, so that any given stellar motion may be the product of many planets rather than one, requiring careful long-term study to tease apart each world’s contribution to the bulk signal. It’s also complicated by the instability of astronomical instruments, which must be kept carefully, constantly calibrated and stabilized lest they introduce spurious noise into the measurements. In the case of Gliese 581g, not everyone agrees on the putative planetary signal actually being caused by a planet, or even being real at all — the signal doesn’t seem to manifest equally in the handful of instruments purportedly capable of detecting it.
So it’s very difficult to just detect these things, and actually determining whether they are much like Earth is a task orders of magnitude more difficult still. Notice how I’m being anthropocentric here: “much like Earth.” Astrobiology has been derisively called a science without a subject. But, of course, it does have at least one subject: our own living planet and its containing solar system. We are forced to start from what we know, planting our feet in the familiar before we push out into the alien. That’s why we, as a species, are looking for other Earth-like planets — they probably offer us the best hope of recognizing anything we might consider alive. It’s not the strongest position to be in, but it’s the best we’ve got. Calculating the probability of life on an utterly alien world outside the solar system for which we know only the most basic information — its mass, its orbit, maybe its radius — is at this stage a very crude guess. The fact is, we still don’t know that much about how abiogenesis occurred on Earth, how life emerged from inanimate matter. There are very good physical, chemical, thermodynamic reasons to believe that life arose here because our planet was warm, wet, and rocky, but we really don’t yet know all the cogent occurrences that added up to build the Earth’s earliest organisms, let alone our modern living world. A warm, wet, rocky planet may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for life as we know it to form and flourish.
Lee Billings with planet hunter Geoff Marcy
This is really a chicken-and-egg problem: To know the limits of life in planetary systems, we need to find life beyond the Earth. To find life beyond Earth, it would be very helpful to know the limits of life in planetary systems. Several independent groups are trying to circumvent this problem by studying abiogenesis in the lab — trying to in effect create life, alien or otherwise, in a test tube. If they manage to replicate Earth life, the achievement could constrain just how life emerged on our own planet. If they somehow manage to make some single-celled organism that doesn’t use DNA, or that relies on silicon instead of carbon to build its body, or that prefers to swim in liquid ethane rather than liquid water, that gives us a hint that “Earth-style” biologies may only be one branch in a much larger and more diverse cosmic Tree of Life.
Silberman: Going deeper than the notion of the cosmos feeling “less lonely” – as well as the fact that we all grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars and thinking that aliens are frickin’ cool (as long as they’re not the mama alien fromAlien) — why do you think people are so motivated to daydream about extraterrestrial life? What need in us do those dreams fulfill?
Billings: I don’t really think most people are necessarily motivated to daydream about just any sort of extraterrestrial life. It will probably take more than a microbe or a clam to excite most of our imaginations, even if that microbe happens to be on Venus or that clam happens to be on Mars.
I do think humans are motivated to daydream about extraterrestrial intelligence, and, to put a finer point on it, extraterrestrial “people.” They are motivated to dream about beings very much like them, things tantalizingly exotic but not so alien as to be totally incomprehensible and discomforting. Maybe those imagined beings have more appendages or sense organs, different body plans and surface coverings, but they typically possess qualities we recognize within ourselves: They are sentient, they have language, they use tools, they are curious explorers, they are biological, they are mortal — just like humans. Perhaps that’s a collective failure of imagination, because it’s certainly not very easy to envision intelligent aliens that are entirely divergent from our own anthropocentric preconceptions. Or perhaps it’s more diagnostic of the human need for context, affirmation, and familiarity. Why are people fascinated by their distorted reflections in funhouse mirrors? Maybe it’s because when they recognize their warped image, at a subconscious level that recognition reinforces their actual true appearance and identity.
More broadly, speculating about extraterrestrial intelligence is an extension of three timeless existential questions: What are we, where do we come from, and where are we going? The late physicist Philip Morrison considered SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, to be the “archaeology of the future,” because any galactic civilizations we could presently detect from our tiny planet would almost certainly be well more advanced than our own. It’s unlikely that we would ever receive a radio message from an alien civilization in the equivalent of our past Stone Age, and it’s unlikely Earth would ever be visited by a crewed starship that powered its voyage using engines fueled by coal or gasoline. Optimists consider this, and say that making contact with a superior alien civilization could augur a bright future for humanity, as it would suggest there are in fact solutions to be found for all the current seemingly intractable problems that threaten to destroy or diminish our species. It’s my opinion that most people think about aliens as a way of pondering our own spectrum of possible futures.
I’m inclined to believe some of the things Billings has to say in that it’s doubtful we’ll build anything like a starship in the near future and folks ( taxpayers ) just won’t fund those kinds of projects. Entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, James Cameron and Peter Diamandis could in the future fund projects such as starprobes and starships – only if they prove profitable.
IMO it looks like stronger telescopes both on Earth and in space will be the only human built machines exploring the closer solar systems for any signs of life and extant civilizations because they can be economically constructed – and if they found anything interesting, the items are still a safe distance away.
From YouTube via Red Ice Creations:
“Clouds of alien life forms are sweeping through outer space and infecting planets with life — it may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.”
Also tune into Red Ice Radio:
Michael Mautner – Panspermia, Seeding the Universe with Life
Lloyd Pye – Human Origins, Intervention Theory & Genetic Experimentation
Mike Bara – Dark Mission, The Occult NASA Moon Mission
Marcel Kuijsten – Julian Jaynes, the Bicameral Mind & The Origin of Consciousness
Maybe Sir Ridley Scott wasn’t too far off the beam?
In short, the treatise of the book is that UFOs and their “aliens” are not necessarily alien. They could be in fact a very ancient race of the first intelligent beings of this world, perhaps a branch of the dinosaur family, or closely related to the human race.
In Part-1 of my Saucers of Manipulation article, I noted: “The late Mac Tonnies – author of The Cryptoterrestrials and After the Martian Apocalypse – once said: ‘I find it most interesting that so many descriptions of ostensible aliens seem to reflect staged events designed to misdirect witnesses and muddle their perceptions.’ Mac was not wrong. In fact, he was right on target. One can take even the most cursory glance at ufological history and see clear signs where events of a presumed alien and UFO nature have been carefully controlled, managed and manipulated by the intelligence behind the phenomenon.”
And, I further added: “But, why would such entities – or whatever the real nature of the phenomenon may be – wish to make themselves known to us in such curious, carefully-managed fashion? Maybe it’s to try and convince us they have origins of the ET variety, when they are actually…something very different…”
So, if “they” aren’t alien, after all, then what might “they” be? And if the non-ET scenario has validity, why the desire to manipulate us and convince us of the extraterrestrial angle? Let’s take a look at a few possibilities.
Now, before people get their blood-pressure all out of control, I am the first to admit that what follows amounts to theories on the part of those that have addressed them. The fact is that when it comes to fully understanding the origin of the UFO phenomenon…well…there aren’t any facts! What we do have are ideas, theories, suggestions and beliefs. Anyone who tells you otherwise is 100 percent wrong, mistaken, deluded or lying. No-one in Ufology – ever – has offered undeniable 100 percent proof that any theory is correct beyond all doubt. And provided we understand that theorizing, postulating and suggesting do not (and cannot) equate to proving, then there’s no problem. So, with that said, read on.
Let’s first go back to Mac Tonnies and his cryptoterrestrials. Regardless of whether or not Mac was onto something with his theory that UFOs might originate with a very ancient, impoverished race that lives alongside us in stealth – and that masquerades as extraterrestrial to camouflage its real origins – at least he admitted it was just a theory. He didn’t scream in shrill tones that he was definitely correct. And he didn’t suggest that if you disagreed with him you needed to be ejected from the ufological play-pen. So many within that same play-pen – for whom, for some baffling reason, shouting louder somehow means: “I’m closer to the truth than you!” – could learn a lesson or several from Mac.
Rather than originating on far-off worlds, Tonnies carefully theorized, the cryptoterrestrials may actually be a very old and advanced terrestrial body of people, closely related to the Human Race, who have lived alongside us in secret – possibly deep underground – for countless millennia. In addition, Mac suggested that (a) today, their numbers may well be waning; (b) their science may not be too far ahead of our own – although they would dearly like us to believe they are our infinitely-advanced, technological-masters; (c) to move amongst us, and to operate in our society, they ingeniously pass themselves off as aliens; and (d) they are deeply worried by our hostile ways – hence the reason why they are always so keen to warn us of the perils of nuclear destruction and environmental collapse: they are grudgingly forced to share the planet with us, albeit in a distinctly stealthy and stage-managed fashion.
Moving on from beings of the past to entities of the future, Joshua P. Warren, investigator and author of numerous things of a paranormal nature, has addressed the highly controversial angle that the UFOnauts are our future selves: Time Travelers. And, in doing so, Josh has focused deeply on the mysterious matter of the macabre Men in Black.
Josh asks of their odd attire: “Why do the MIB dress like this? Why do we call them the Men in Black? Well, if a man puts on a black suit, with a black hat and walks down the street in 1910, and you see that man, you would probably notice him. But, would you think there was anything too extraordinary, or too out-of-place about him? No: you probably would not. And if you saw a man walking down the street in 2010 wearing a black suit and a black hat, would you notice him? Probably, yes. But, would you think you think there was necessarily anything too extraordinary? No.”
What this demonstrates, says Warren, is that the outfit of the black suit and the black hat is flexible enough to work within the social context of the culture of at least a century or more. And so, therefore, if you are someone who is in the time-travel business – and within the course of your workday, you’re going to go to 1910 to take care of some business, and then a couple of hours later you’re going to be in 1985, and then a few hours after that you’ll be heading to 2003 – you don’t want to be in a position of having to change your clothes three times. So, what do you do? In Warren’s hypothesis, you dress in an outfit that is going to allow you access to the longest period of time within which that same outfit may not draw too much unwelcome attention.
“And that’s why,” suggests Warren “in and around the whole 20th Century, it just so happens that the black suit and the black hat will work for them.”
And, if you don’t want to give away who you really are, encouraging the idea that you are extraterrestrial, goblin-like or supernatural – rather than future-terrestrial – would make a great deal of sense. If, of course, the theory has merit!
Then there is probably the most controversial angle of all: UFOs are from Hell…
Again UFOs are angels and demons meme ala the Collins Elite is presented because of the seeming paranormal behavior of the phenomenon.
But I am reminded of the old Arthur C. Clarke saw that a sufficiently advanced technology of an ancient race is indistinguishable from magic ( I’m paraphrasing here ), so the supernatural theory is not a very convincing argument to me.
The battle of the UFOs and their accompanying aliens rage on.
For some reason, 60 years seems to be enough time for SETI to scan the local star neighborhood for radio signals, a sign mainstream science believes will be the way we’ll prove there’s ET intelligence in the Universe.
And as Mankind hasn’t received any radio signals from Out There yet, the famous “Fermi Paradox” is invoked.
The following abstract gives yet another possible explanation of the “silence” and one I have heard of before, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it tossed out into the mainstream:
The emerging science of evolutionary developmental (“evo devo”) biology can aid us in thinking about our universe as both an evolutionary system, where most processes are unpredictable and creative, and a developmental system, where a special few processes are predictable and constrained to produce far-future-specific emergent order, just as we see in the common developmental processes in two stars of an identical population type, or in two genetically identical twins in biology. The transcension hypothesis proposes that a universal process of evolutionary development guides all sufficiently advanced civilizations into what may be called “inner space,” a computationally optimal domain of increasingly dense, productive, miniaturized, and efficient scales of space, time, energy, and matter, and eventually, to a black-hole-like destination. Transcension as a developmental destiny might also contribute to the solution to the Fermi paradox, the question of why we have not seen evidence of or received beacons from intelligent civilizations. A few potential evolutionary, developmental, and information theoretic reasons, mechanisms, and models for constrained transcension of advanced intelligence are briefly considered. In particular, we introduce arguments that black holes may be a developmental destiny and standard attractor for all higher intelligence, as they appear to some to be ideal computing, learning, forward time travel, energy harvesting, civilization merger, natural selection, and universe replication devices. In the transcension hypothesis, simpler civilizations that succeed in resisting transcension by staying in outer (normal) space would be developmental failures, which are statistically very rare late in the life cycle of any biological developing system. If transcension is a developmental process, we may expect brief broadcasts or subtle forms of galactic engineering to occur in small portions of a few galaxies, the handiwork of young and immature civilizations, but constrained transcension should be by far the norm for all mature civilizations.
The transcension hypothesis has significant and testable implications for our current and future METI and SETI agendas. If all universal intelligence eventually transcends to black-hole-like environments, after which some form of merger and selection occurs, and if two-way messaging (a send–receive cycle) is severely limited by the great distances between neighboring and rapidly transcending civilizations, then sending one-way METI or probes prior to transcension becomes the only real communication option. But one-way messaging or probes may provably reduce the evolutionary diversity in all civilizations receiving the message, as they would then arrive at their local transcensions in a much more homogenous fashion. If true, an ethical injunction against one-way messaging or probes might emerge in the morality and sustainability systems of all sufficiently advanced civilizations, an argument known as the Zoo hypothesis in Fermi paradox literature, if all higher intelligences are subject to an evolutionary attractor to maximize their local diversity, and a developmental attractor to merge and advance universal intelligence. In any such environment, the evolutionary value of sending any interstellar message or probe may simply not be worth the cost, if transcension is an inevitable, accelerative, and testable developmental process, one that eventually will be discovered and quantitatively described by future physics. Fortunately, transcension processes may be measurable today even without good physical theory, and radio and optical SETI may each provide empirical tests. If transcension is a universal developmental constraint, then without exception all early and low-power electromagnetic leakage signals (radar, radio, television), and later, optical evidence of the exoplanets and their atmospheres should reliably cease as each civilization enters its own technological singularities (emergence of postbiological intelligence and life forms) and recognizes that they are on an optimal and accelerating path to a black-hole-like environment. Furthermore, optical SETI may soon allow us to map an expanding area of the galactic habitable zone we may call the galactic transcension zone, an inner ring that contains older transcended civilizations, and a missing planets problem as we discover that planets with life signatures occur at a much lower frequencies in this inner ring than in the remainder of the habitable zone.
The mention of inner rings or zones smacks of the Anthropic Principle, so I’m not too impressed with this abstract, but it looks like it’s a very well written hypothesis.
But my question is this; “Why does the mainstream consider 60 years enough search time for ET activity to be detected?”
Are we really that convinced we’re on top of the local Galactic food-chain?
And where does that leave the issue of UFOs? Are they possible manifestations of civilizations who have attained Technological Singularity status?
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
When the atom bomb was exploded in the Nevada desert in 1945 the world changed forever. The bomb’s co-creator, J. Robert Oppenheimer while witnessing the event quoted something out of an ancient Indian manuscript, the Mahabharata; “…now I am become death.”
Oppenheimer was also known to have read the text extensively and it was no secret he believed that ancient atomic warfare was fought in India thousands of years ago.
Esoteric author Phil Coppens weighs in on the ancient Indian ruins of Harappa, an advanced civilization on par with ancient Egypt and Sumeria, perhaps more advanced if Coppens’ observations ( and maybe Oppenheimer’s ) are close to the mark:
Another candidate for a nuclear explosion, so far left untouched by most of the “ancient astronaut proponents”, is the Indus River Valley, where towns such as Harappa and Mohenjo Daro flourished in 3000 BC, but were then quickly abandoned. One answer that has been put forward is that the ancient cities might have been irradiated by an atomic blast. If true, it would be impossible to ignore the conclusion that ancient civilisation possessed high technology.
What this candidate has in its favour is that a layer of radioactive ash was indeed found in Rajasthan, India. It covered a three-square mile area, ten miles west of Jodhpur. The research occurred after a very high rate of birth defects and cancer was discovered in the area. The levels of radiation registered so high on investigators’ gauges that the Indian government cordoned off the region. Scientists then apparently unearthed an ancient city where they found evidence of an atomic blast dating back thousands of years: from 8,000 to 12,000 years. The blast was said to have destroyed most of the buildings and probably a half-million people. So far, this story seems to have all the necessary credentials.
Archaeologist Francis Taylor stated that etchings in some nearby temples he translated, suggested that they prayed to be spared from the great light that was coming to lay ruin to the city. “It’s so mind-boggling to imagine that some civilization had nuclear technology before we did. The radioactive ash adds credibility to the ancient Indian records that describe atomic warfare.” Furthermore, when excavations of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro reached the street level, they discovered skeletons scattered about the cities, many holding hands and sprawling in the streets as if some instant, horrible doom had killed its inhabitants. People were just lying, unburied, in the streets of the city; there seemed no-one available to bury them afterwards. What could cause such a thing? Why did the bodies not decay or get eaten by wild animals? Furthermore, there is no apparent cause of a physically violent death. Furthermore, Alexander Gorbovsky, in “Riddles of Ancient History” (published in 1966), reported the discovery of at least one human skeleton in this area with a level of radioactivity approximately fifty times greater than it should have been due to natural radiation. Furthermore, thousands of fused lumps, christened “black stones”, have been found at Mohenjo Daro. These appear to be fragments of clay vessels that melted together in extreme heat.
Another curious sign of an ancient nuclear war in India is a giant crater near Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The nearly circular 2,154-metre-diameter Lonar crater, located 400 kilometres northeast of Mumbai and dated at less than 50,000 years old, could be related to nuclear warfare of antiquity. No trace of any meteoric material, etc., has been found at the site or in the vicinity, and this is the world’s only known “impact” crater in basalt. Indications of great shock (from a pressure exceeding 600,000 atmospheres) and intense, abrupt heat (indicated by basalt glass spherules) can be ascertained from the site.
With the apparent discovery of this radiated area, parallels were quickly drawn to the Mahabharata, the Indian epic, which indeed speak of doom and destruction. It reads:
… (it was) a single projectile Charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and flame As bright as the thousand suns Rose in all its splendour…
…it was an unknown weapon, An iron thunderbolt, A gigantic messenger of death, Which reduced to ashes The entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas.
…The corpses were so burned As to be unrecognisable. The hair and nails fell out; Pottery broke without apparent cause, And the birds turned white.
After a few hours All foodstuffs were infected… ….to escape from this fire The soldiers threw themselves in streams To wash themselves and their equipment.
Whereas the story of the Mahabharata is indirect evidence, the archaeological discoveries in India pose serious problems for those trying to deny the possibility that this might indeed be evidence of ancient atomic warfare. Whereas believing in the existence of Atlantis or a highly advanced civilisation that might not have left any trace is one thing, to suggest that our ancestors might have wiped themselves out along the same lines we were in fear of accomplishing during the latter half of the 20th century is a major paradigm shift.
Is this the best evidence? One sceptic stated: “I am sick and tired of hearing this [the possibility of an atomic explosion in India], and I cannot find any debunks of this either. Anyone who can debunk this, or is this really true?” That is indeed the question… and an important one. The stakes are high, as one would expect when facing the best evidence.
I wouldn’t say that debunkers haven’t had any luck debunking ancient atomic war wiping out Harappan culture.
Tales of “climate change” have reared its ugly head and has a real good chance of becoming the “mainstream” scientific explanation of Harappan demise:
The mysterious fall of the largest of the world’s earliest urban civilizations nearly 4,000 years ago in what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh now appears to have a key culprit — ancient climate change, researchers say.
Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia may be the best known of the first great urban cultures, but the largest was the Indus or Harappan civilization. This culture once extended over more than 386,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges, and at its peak may have accounted for 10 percent of the world population. The civilization developed about 5,200 years ago, and slowly disintegrated between 3,900 and 3,000 years ago — populations largely abandoned cities, migrating toward the east.
“Antiquity knew about Egypt and Mesopotamia, but the Indus civilization, which was bigger than these two, was completely forgotten until the 1920s,” said researcher Liviu Giosan, a geologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. “There are still many things we don’t know about them.” (Photos: Life and Death of Ancient Urbanites)
Nearly a century ago, researchers began discovering numerous remains of Harappan settlements along the Indus River and its tributaries, as well as in a vast desert region at the border of India and Pakistan. Evidence was uncovered for sophisticated cities, sea links with Mesopotamia, internal trade routes, arts and crafts, and as-yet undeciphered writing.
“They had cities ordered into grids, with exquisite plumbing, which was not encountered again until the Romans,” Giosan told LiveScience. “They seem to have been a more democratic society than Mesopotamia and Egypt — no large structures were built for important personalitiess like kings or pharaohs.”
Like their contemporaries in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Harappans, who were named after one of their largest cities, lived next to rivers.
“Until now, speculations abounded about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers,” Giosan said.
Now Giosan and his colleagues have reconstructed the landscape of the plain and rivers where this long-forgotten civilization developed. Their findings now shed light on the enigmatic fate of this culture.
The researchers first analyzed satellite data of the landscape influenced by the Indus and neighboring rivers. From 2003 to 2008, the researchers then collected samples of sediment from the coast of the Arabian Sea into the fertile irrigated valleys of Punjab and the northern Thar Desert to determine the origins and ages of those sediments and develop a timeline of landscape changes.
“It was challenging working in the desert — temperatures were over 110 degrees Fahrenheit all day long (43 degrees C),” Giosan recalled.
After collecting data on geological history, “we could reexamine what we know about settlements, what crops people were planting and when, and how both agriculture and settlement patterns changed,” said researcher Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist with University College London. “This brought new insights into the process of eastward population shift, the change towards many more small farming communities, and the decline of cities during late Harappan times.”
Some had suggested that the Harappan heartland received its waters from a large glacier-fed Himalayan river, thought by some to be the Sarasvati, a sacred river of Hindu mythology. However, the researchers found that only rivers fed by monsoon rains flowed through the region.
Previous studies suggest the Ghaggar, an intermittent river that flows only during strong monsoons, may best approximate the location of the Sarasvati. Archaeological evidence suggested the river, which dissipates into the desert along the dried course of Hakra valley, was home to intensive settlement during Harappan times.
“We think we settled a long controversy about the mythic Sarasvati River,” Giosan said.
Initially, the monsoon-drenched rivers the researchers identified were prone to devastating floods. Over time, monsoons weakened, enabling agriculture and civilization to flourish along flood-fed riverbanks for nearly 2,000 years.
“The insolation — the solar energy received by the Earth from the sun — varies in cycles, which can impact monsoons,” Giosan said. “In the last 10,000 years, the Northern Hemisphere had the highest insolation from 7,000 to 5,000 years ago, and since then insolation there decreased. All climate on Earth is driven by the sun, and so the monsoons were affected by the lower insolation, decreasing in force. This meant less rain got into continental regions affected by monsoons over time.” (50 Amazing Facts About Earth)
Eventually, these monsoon-based rivers held too little water and dried, making them unfavorable for civilization.
Of course this explanation does not address the issue of radioactive skeletons or melted silicon coated pottery, although I could buy the explanation of volcanic explosions contributing to this.
All in all, the possibilities of civilization being a cyclical event instead of a linear one are starting to add up in spite of mainstream caterwalling and debunking.
And I think the US Government believes this also.
Why wouldn’t they’ve been constructing underground bases underneath the Western deserts since the 1950s?
But that’s a discussion for another day.
Again a hat tip to Daily Grail.
As this blog enters its sixth anniversary this month, I have never given much thought of it lasting this long. In fact, it almost ended last year when I took a long hiatus due to health issues; both for myself and my wife.
But as time went on and both my wife and I slowly recovered, I discovered I still had some things to say. And I realized the world never stopped turning in the meanwhile.
As I started to post again, the personal site Facebook became a semi-intelligent force unto itself. I say ‘semi-intelligent’ because it is spreading exponentially due to its posting of its games and constant proliferation of personal info unannounced and unapproved by individuals. And people, especially young folks don’t care this happens.
Distributed networks, mainly Facebook, Google and the World Wide Web in general are forms of distributed Artificial Intelligence. Does that mean we are in the early throes of the Technological Singularity?
I think we are IMO.
And if we are in the early upward curve of the Technological Singularity, how would that affect our theories of ancient intelligence in the Universe?
Well, I think we should seriously rethink our theories and consider how the Fermi Paradox might figure into this. Thinkers such as George Dyvorsky have written a few treatises on the subject and I believe they should be given due consideration by mainstream science. (The Fermi Paradox: Back With a Vengeance).
Speaking of mainstream science, it is slowly, but surely accepting the fact the Universe is filled with ancient stars and worlds. And if there’s a possibility the Universe has ancient worlds, there’s a chance there might be anicent Intelligences inhabiting these worlds:
The announcement of a pair of planets orbiting a 12.5 billion-year old star flies in the face of conventional wisdom that the earliest stars to be born in the Universe shouldn’t possess planets at all.
12.5 billion years ago, the primeval universe was just beginning to make heavier elements beyond hydrogen and helium, in the fusion furnace cores of the first stars. It follows that there was very little if any material for fabricating terrestrial worlds or the rocky seed cores of gas giant planets.
This argument has been used to automatically rule out the ancient and majestic globular star clusters that orbit our galaxy as intriguing homes for extraterrestrials.
The star that was announced to have two planets is not in a globular cluster (it lives inside the Milky Way, although it was most likely a part of a globular cluster that was cannibalized by our galaxy), but it is similarly anemic as the globular cluster stars because it is so old.
This discovery dovetails nicely with last year’s announcement of carbon found in a distant, ancient radio galaxy. These findings both suggest that there were enough heavy elements in the early universe to make planets around stars, and therefore life.
However, a Hubble Space Telescope search for planets in the globular star cluster 47 Tucanae in 1999 came up empty-handed. Hubble astronomers monitored 34,000 stars over a period of eight days. The prediction was that some fraction of these stars should have “hot Jupiters” that whirl around their star over a period of days (pictured here in an artist’s rendition). They would be detected if their orbits were tilted edge-on to Earth so the stars would briefly grow dimmer during each transit of a planet.
A similar survey of the galactic center by Hubble in 2006 came up with 16 hot Jupiter planet candidates. This discovery was proof of concept and helped pave the way for the Kepler space telescope planet-hunting mission.
Why no planets in a globular cluster? For a start, globular clusters are more crowded with stars than our Milky Way — as is evident in the observation of the dwarf galaxy M9 below. “It may be that the environment in a globular was too harsh for planets to form,” said Harvey Richer of the University of British Columbia. “Planetary disks are pretty fragile things and could be easily disrupted in such an environment with a high stellar density.”
However, in 2007 Hubble found a 2.7 Jupiter mass planet inside the globular cluster M4. The planet is in a very distant orbit around a pulsar and a white dwarf. This could really be a post-apocalypse planet that formed much later in a disk of debris that followed the collapse of the companion star into a white dwarf, or the supernova explosion itself.
Hubble is now being used to look for the infrared glow of protoplanetary disks in 47 Tucanae. The disks would be so faint that the infrared sensitivity of the planned James Webb Space Telescope would be needed to carry out a more robust survey.
If planets did form in the very early in the universe, life would have made use of carbon and other common elements as it did on Earth billions of years ago. Life around a solar-type star, or better yet a red dwarf, would have a huge jump-start on Earth’s biological evolution. The earliest life forms would have had the opportunity to evolve for billions of years longer than us.
This inevitably leads to speculation that there should be super-aliens who are vastly more evolved than us. So… where are they? My guess is that if they existed, they evolved to the point where they abandoned bodies of flesh and blood and transformed themselves into something else — be it a machine or something wildly unimaginable.
However, it’s clear that despite (or, because of) their super-intelligence, they have not done anything to draw attention to themselves. The absence of evidence may set an upper limit on just how far advanced a technological civilization may progress — even over billions of years.
Keep in mind that most of the universe would be hidden from beings living inside of a globular star cluster. The sky would be ablaze with so many stars that it would take a long time for alien astronomers to simply stumble across the universe of external galaxies — including our Milky Way.
There will be other searches for planets in globular clusters. But our present understanding makes the question of a Methuselah civilization even more perplexing. If the universe made carbon so early, then ancient minds should be out there, somewhere.
Methuselah civilizations eh?
Sure. If there are such civilizations out there, it is because they wish to remain in the physical realm and not cross over to the inner places of shear mental and god-like powers.
As with all things ‘Future’, the answer could come crashing down upon us faster than we are prepared for.
As usual, thanks to the Daily Grail.
Dr. Beachcoming, that eccentric collector of all things of an exotic historical nature, reviews The Codex Seraphinianus, a book written by Luigi Serafini that is purportedly about an alien world complete with language, customs, architecture, flora and fauna.
Luigi Serafini, Codex Seraphinianus (numerous editions…)
Beachcombing has Ricardo R. to thank for an introduction to the Codex Seraphinianus, a guide to another world. First published in 1981, a copy from the original series now runs at about 8000 dollars. Beachcombing, who is a bit strapped for cash, did the barbaric thing and read it in pdf. He can’t for the life of him work out how a reputable internet site can justify putting up this relatively recent work: but he is glad that the Codex Seraphinianus, a guidebook to an alien world, slipped through the copyright net. Go feed, reader…
As to what world the Codex Seraphinanus describes no one is quite sure for the very good reason that it is not written in a human language. Whether or not the language is just scrawl, as the author recently claimed – memories of the Voynich manuscript? Or whether it is, Tolkien-style, an attempt to create a language is debated. What terrified Beachcombing was that the page numbers can be deciphered and they have been written using a twenty-one base numerical system. Gulp…
Beachcombing, on first looking at what LS created back in the fevered late 1970s, when Italy was in terrorist-induced meltdown, thought ‘bad Salvador Dali’. But Salvador Dali is a surrealist where nothing makes sense but dissolution and entropy. The Codex does have its own internal logic though: it is just not our logic. Perhaps to find a kindred spirit you would have to go and knock on Bosch’s or Escher’s door? In comics you would be best advised to learn French and read Le Cycle de Cyann by François Bourgeon and Claude Lacroix. Bourgeon must have read the Codex, there are some striking similarities.
Many of the pages read to Beachcombing like an IQ question where a series of symbols or pictures denote a pattern that needs to be deduced. Yet as there is no chance of fully understanding the pattern the reader can relax over it without any fear of losing a percentile or two. Think a Rubik’s cube with each of the fifty four panels a different colour, then imagine ‘solving’ the cube in a scented bath.
But if the hints of a foreign system of logic are not enough, there is also something more, something very inhuman.
The antique Christians used to place the order of heaven against the chaos of hell. The devil spawned anarchy.
Well, any human guide book or history of a foreign place is heaven sent, preferring order. It takes the new animals, plants, buildings, people and pins them to the page like a moth in a collector’s cabinet. The Codex seems obsessed with change: everything is always moving, nothing is taped down. Whether this is a cycle of Ovid or the flux of the diabolus is anyone’s guess. But it is impressive and rather frightening to get up close to… A couple make love on a white bed, become an alligator that then (singular) hops off the bed.
Whoa, that last statement was real weird…sounds like a bad acid trip!
Or maybe the author entered a world through the help of Ayahuasca , like ancient or modern Amazon shaman(s) use to talk to the gods.
I don’t think Dr. Beachcoming considered that. Maybe I could suggest that we should do a session or two?
From Paranormal Utopia:
Zecharia Sitchin was an author famous for “The Earth Chronicles” series of books about the writings of the ancient Sumerians (circa 5,000 years ago) as he interpreted them. He was one of perhaps 200 people in the world, if that many, who could translate cuneiform, the symbolic language of the Sumerians. His work has been very influential on my own.
A Message From Lloyd Pye
Since the death of Zecharia Sitchin on Oct. 9, 2010, his critics have come out in droves on the internet to try to trash his work and his legacy. Because of my well-known regard for his work, which I heavily incorporated in Part IV of my book Everything You Know Is Wrong, several people have asked me to come to Zecharia’s defense now that he can no longer do it himself in the vigorous way he was known for. With that said, here is my nutshell defense of his work against any and all criticisms. It is simple and it is true. Please feel free to share it with others on the internet, and/or use it to respond to any critic you care to address:
Anyone who says Zecharia Sitchin is a fraud or mistaken in his translations of Sumerian texts, or anything in that vein, is busily grinding a heavily worn axe. They base all of their complaints on the fact that in certain key areas of the Sumerian writings, he deviates markedly from the “classical” translations, the vast majority of which were completed before 1947, before the terms “UFO” or “alien” came into common usage.
When the early translators came upon passages that could have been and should have been interpreted the way Sitchin interpreted them, they had no conceivable frame of reference for such terminology. Thus, they shoehorned it to fit into their own restricted world views, and because this nonsense was created by “experts” of that time, modern experts are inevitably brainwashed by their education process to believe no other translation is needed, much less preferable.
This intellectual claptrap has become established as the “preferred” and “accepted” translations that critics claim Stichin should have respected and stuck with in the way they are obligated to do. Sitchin rightly jettisoned the nonsense and translated the texts more like they were actually written, calling an alien an alien, so to speak, and this gross offense to modern academic sensibilities is what classic scholars consider a sacrilege to their mindset.
I have no doubt that, in the fullness of time, historians will consider Zecharia Sitchin vastly more correct than any mainstream pundit alive at this moment. Why? Because modern scholars endure years of intense training that forces them to consider the work of prior scholars sacrosanct, which produces a virtual army of close-minded sycophants who, ultimately, will be dismissed as laughably wrong.
Sitchin, who passed away October 9th of this year, was a major promoter of a version of “Ancient Astronaut Theory” that centered on the ancient Sumerian civilization in what is now Iraq.
Because of his work, whether one believes in his theory or not, the global interest in the Sumerians has increased to the point where their culture is regarded on par with the ancient Egyptians (In fact Sumerian culture was older).
I hope Pye’s kind words about Sitchin are prophetic. But I think he’ll have to wait for the current mainstreamers die off first.