An extrapolation of the genetic complexity of organisms to earlier times suggests that life began before the Earth was formed. Life may have started from systems with single heritable elements that are functionally equivalent to a nucleotide. The genetic complexity, roughly measured by the number of non-redundant functional nucleotides, is expected to have grown exponentially due to several positive feedback factors: gene cooperation, duplication of genes with their subsequent specialization, and emergence of novel functional niches associated with existing genes. Linear regression of genetic complexity on a log scale extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life 9.7 billion years ago. This cosmic time scale for the evolution of life has important consequences: life took ca. 5 billion years to reach the complexity of bacteria; the environments in which life originated and evolved to the prokaryote stage may have been quite different from those envisaged on Earth; there was no intelligent life in our universe prior to the origin of Earth, thus Earth could not have been deliberately seeded with life by intelligent aliens; Earth was seeded by panspermia; experimental replication of the origin of life from scratch may have to emulate many cumulative rare events; and the Drake equation for guesstimating the number of civilizations in the universe is likely wrong, as intelligent life has just begun appearing in our universe. Evolution of advanced organisms has accelerated via development of additional information-processing systems: epigenetic memory, primitive mind, multicellular brain, language, books, computers, and Internet. As a result the doubling time of complexity has reached ca. 20 years. Finally, we discuss the issue of the predicted technological singularity and give a biosemiotics perspective on the increase of complexity.
A very fine paper, except for one thing.
The authors only use one data-set to reach their conclusions.
And I believe they are wrong unless they can prove we live in a simulated universe.
Gary S. Bekkum, government researcher and author of Lies, Spies and Polygraph Tape, posts quite frequently about his special brand of UFO, alien threat theories and government involvement. Lately Robert Bigelow, the Skinwalker Ranch and U.S. government alphabet soup agencies have been items of interest on his site. I find his special brand of UFO/Alien theories refreshing and provide just enough out-of-this-world science to maintain plausibility:
(Spies, Lies and Polygraph Tape) — In the 1990s, aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow purchased a remote ranch in Utah where strange paranormal experiences had become a way of life. Bigelow’s National Institute Discovery Science (NIDS) team soon descended on the ranch in search of an alleged source behind the strange stories told by the previous owner.
The attack, although not unexpected, was intense if brief.
According to sources, one of Bigelow’s scientists experienced a close encounter of the most unnerving kind.
Like the smoke monster on the fictional ABC TV series “Lost,” an eerie fog had appeared, described as “a multiple intelligence manifested in the form of a dark shadow or cloud-type effect which had an unusual turbulence effect when it shrunk to a point and disappeared.”
We approached Bigelow adviser Dr. Eric Davis, a physicist who had, in 2001-2003, surveyed the field of teleportation, including reports of supernatural teleportation, while under contract by the U.S. Air Force.
With regard to Skinwalker-like reports of anomalous mind-matter interactions, Davis advised the Air Force, “We will need a physics theory of consciousness and psychotronics, along with more experimental data, in order to test … and discover the physical mechanisms that lay behind the psychotronic manipulation of matter. [Psychic] P-Teleportation, if verified, would represent a phenomenon that could offer potential high-payoff military, intelligence and commercial applications. This phenomenon could generate a dramatic revolution in technology, which would result from a dramatic paradigm shift in science. Anomalies are the key to all paradigm shifts!”
Davis told us, “NIDS folded in October 2004 and ceased routine intensive staff visits to the ranch back in 2001. I was the team leader from 1999-2001.”
“There were multiple voices that spoke in unison telepathically,” Davis candidly explained, regarding the Skinwalker attack, “The voices were monotone males with a very terse, threatening tone … Four senses were in their control so there was no odor, sound, smell, or touch, and overall body motion was frozen (as in the muscles that would not respond). Afterwards, when completely freed from this event — after the dark shadow disappeared — there was no lingering or residual odors, sounds, etc. in the immediate environment.”
Was Bob Bigelow’s remote ranch possessed by an evil supernatural entity?
“How do you interpret that?” I asked Davis. “Sounds like the Exorcist?”
“It does sound like it,” Davis responded, “But it wasn’t in the category of demonic possession. More like an intelligence giving a warning to the staff by announcing its presence and that they (the staff) were being watched by this presence. Demonic possessions are not short lived nor as benign as this, and they always have a religious context.”
What, exactly, was behind the reported experiences at Skinwalker Ranch? Was an unknown and highly capable and intelligent entity guarding its territory?
This is extremely interesting, because as I was perusing the InnerTubes this morning, I ran across various things DARPA was working on and some of them were telepathic research ideas. I wonder if Bekkum’s “Core Story” theory of government involvement in aliens and UFOs are an influence on such researches?
I’d like to open up a discussion talking about manipulating the mind & body using genetic engineering & cybernetic implants (FACT VS FICTION). This may sound a bit far fetch as there are many fiction stories regarding this type of subject, although fiction can reveal truth that reality obscures.
What does the encyclopaedia tell us about Supersoldiers?
Supersoldier is a term often used to describe a soldier that operates beyond normal human limits or abilities. Supersoldiers are usually heavily augmented, either through eugenics (especially selective breeding), genetic engineering, cybernetic implants, drugs, brainwashing, traumatic events, an extreme training regimen (usually with high casualty rates, and often starting from birth or a young age), or other scientific and pseudoscientific means. Occasionally, some instances also use paranormal methods, such as black magic, and/or technology and science of extraterrestrial origin. The creators of such programs are viewed often as mad scientists or stern military men, depending on the emphasis, as their programs will typically go past ethical boundaries in the pursuit of science and/or military might.
In the Past
Has any anyone/organization tried to create a program dedicated towards creating SuperSoldiers?Yes. From what history has told us with regarding groups/organizations creating a super soldier program the first well known groups that had interest in this were the Nazi’s. In 1935 they set up the spring life, as a sort of breeding /child-rearing program. The objective of the “spring life” was to create an everlasting Aryan race that would serve its purpose as the new super-soldiers of the future. Fact –The average Nazi soldier received a regular intake of pills designed to help them fight longer and without rest although these days it is now common for troops battling in war that take pills.
Modern day What Super soldier Projects are in progress in this time & day? DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is currently working on projects from what today’s news tells us.
What does the encyclopaedia tell us about DARPA?
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies which have had a major effect on the world, including computer networking, as well as NLS, which was both the first hypertext system, and an important precursor to the contemporary ubiquitous graphical user interface.
A daily mail article around 13, 2012 talked about DARPA currently working on a Super-Solider program as of this moment, it is surprising that DARPA is becoming more open towards the public perhaps to become more acceptable within the public. Article explains:
Tomorrow’s soldiers could be able to run at Olympic speeds and will be able to go for days without food or sleep, if new research into gene manipulation is successful. According to the U.S. Army’s plans for the future, their soldiers will be able to carry huge weights, live off their fat stores for extended periods and even regrow limbs blown apart by bombs. The plans were revealed by novelist Simon Conway, who was granted behind-the-scenes access to the Pentagon’s high-tech Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Although these sources are from the conspiracy site Above Top Secret and the information is three months old, this ties in with Bekkum’s story and not only would super soldiers be formidable against regular Earth armies, they mind prove good cannon fodder against alien invaders who are pure telepathy, for a while maybe.
There is no way to prove this as truth of course, but I’m providing just enough info so you can research this on your own and come to your own conclusion.
What do you think?
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?
Freeman Dyson hypothesized the vast structures over fifty years ago that could ring or completely enclose their parent star. Such structures, the work of a Kardashev Type II civilization — one capable of drawing on the entire energy output of its star — would power the most power-hungry society and offer up reserves of energy that would support its continuing expansion into the cosmos, if it so chose.
Marcy’s plan is to look at a thousand Kepler systems for telltale evidence of such structures by examining changes in light levels around the parent star.
Interestingly, the grant of $200,000 goes beyond the Dyson sphere search to look into possible laser traffic among extraterrestrial civilizations. Says Marcy:
Technological civilizations may communicate with their space probes located throughout the galaxy by using laser beams, either in visible light or infrared light. Laser light is detectable from other civilizations because the power is concentrated into a narrow beam and the light is all at one specific color or frequency. The lasers outshine the host star at the color of the laser.
The topic of Dyson spheres calls Richard Carrigan to mind. The retired Fermilab physicist has studied data from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) to identify objects that radiate waste heat in ways that imply a star completely enclosed by a Dyson sphere. This is unconventional SETI in that it presumes no beacons deliberately announcing themselves to the cosmos, but instead looks for signs of civilization that are the natural consequences of physics.
Carrigan has estimated that a star like the Sun, if enclosed with a shell at the radius of the Earth, would re-radiate its energies at approximately 300 Kelvin. Marcy will turn some of the thinking behind what Carrigan calls ‘cosmic archaeology’ toward stellar systems we now know to have planets, thanks to the work of Kepler. Ultimately, Carrigan’s ‘archaeology’ could extend to planetary atmospheres possibly marked by industrial activity, or perhaps forms of large-scale engineering other than Dyson spheres that may be acquired through astronomical surveys and remain waiting in our data to be discovered. All this reminds us once again how the model for SETI is changing.
For more, see two Richard Carrigan papers: “IRAS-based Whole-Sky Upper Limit on Dyson Spheres,” Journal of Astrophysics 698 (2009), pp. 2075-2086 (preprint), and “Starry Messages: Searching for Signatures of Interstellar Archaeology,” JBIS 63 (2010), p. 90 (preprint). Also see James Annis, “Placing a limit on star-fed Kardashev type III civilisations,” JBIS 52, pp.33-36 (1999).
The Dyson Sphere Hypothesis is an extrapolation of 1950s technologies and theories that claim that advanced societies will need more and more energy, spouting radiation and radio waves all over the place. Dyson theorized that civilizations as they grew should be detectable in the infrared radiation range, the waste heat being the thing that is the signature of a Kardashev II civilization.
Little did we realize then that as our technology advanced, it required less and less energy to supply it, and that’s not counting digital technology that doesn’t broadcast out into the Cosmos!
So is looking for Dyson Spheres/Swarms a waste of time? I don’t think so. Simply because of the fact that aliens by large might not think like humans and some might prefer a brute force approach of providing their civilizations the energy they require.
Plus stellar archaeology is cool!
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?
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.
Following incubation at 121oC for 1 hour and longer, a marked change occurs in the internal appearance of the Red Rain cells (Fig.4 c (i) and d (i)), as small cells appear in the original larger cells. These small cells can be regarded as “daughter cells” having the same morphology as their “mother cells”. The size of the daughter cells ,after 1h exposure to 121oC, ranges from 30 nm to 120 nm in size (Fig 4 c (i), (ii) and b (i), (ii)). The cell wall of these daughter cells is seen to thicken following incubation for 2hours (Fig.5 (i) and (ii)).In conclusion, the results of the present study clearly establishes that red cells discovered in the Kerala rain, replicate at 121oC and that there is a significant increase in the number of cells after incubation at 121oC. Furthermore, optical microscopy and electron microscopy of post-incubated red cells confirms that these cells are hyperthermophiles. The formation of daughter cells having the same morphology as the mother cells clearly shows that Red Rain Cells are not single endospores, such as those seen in bacteria, such as species of Bacillus and Clostridium.The optimum growth conditions and upper temperature limit of these cells is yet to be determined. Although autoclaving at 121oC for 20 mins kills most microorganims, some spores of Bacillus and Clsotridium species can resist this treatment and germinate to form vegetative cells when incubated at lower temperatures (Hyum et al,1983,Vessoni,et al.1996). Here, however, we have shown that, unlike heat resistant bacterial spores, Red Rain cells grow and produce daughter calls when incubated at 121oC for 2 hours. The results of these experiments show the remarkable ability of Red Rain cells to grow and replicate at 121oC and thereby supports the hyperthermostability of red cells, as reported by Louis and Kumar (2003); no attempt however, was made to confirm their claims that Red Rain cells grow at 300oC.The origin of Red Rain, and the cells that it contains, has yet to be discovered, although the results of this study suggest that, since such cells are adapted to growth and reproduction at high temperatures, they likely originate in an extreme environment which is at times exposed to high temperatures; whether such environments occur on Earth, or elsewhere, has yet to be determined. (Emphasis mine).[…]While the origin of the red rain cells remains uncertain, the possibility of their astronomical relevance has been suggested in several papers (Louis and Kumar, 2003, 2006). In this connection, the hyperthermophile properties discussed in the present paper and the unusual fluorescence behaviour are worthy of note.We conclude this section by comparing spectra in Fig 7 with astronomical spectra of a fluorescnence phenomenon (ERE emission) for which no convincing abiotic model is still available, Fig 9 shows normalised ERE emission in several astronomical objects and Fig 10 shows the same emission in the famous Red Rectangle, a nebulosity associated with a planetary nebula (Witt and Boronson, 1990; Furton and Witt, 1992, Perrin et al, 1995, Hoyle and Wickramsinghe, 1996). Although non-biological PAH explanations are still being attempted their success has so far been minimal.[…]A spectrum of starlight from a blue star could provide the range of excitaton wavelengths that corresponds to those involved in Fig. . The correspondence of profile and peak fluorescence wavelength between the red rain spectra and the ERE spectrum of the red rectangle is impressive. We conclude this paper with a recollection of an earlier comment published by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe:“Once again the Universe gives the appearance of being biologically constructed, and on this occasion on a truly vast scale. Once again those who consider such thoughts to be too outlandish to be taken seriously will continue to do so. While we ourselves shall continue to take the view that those who believe they can match the complexities of the Universe by simple experiments in their laboratories will continue to be disappointed.” (Emphasis mine).
Dr. Sam Vaknin, a columnist for various European publications, has written ten misconceptions that science-fiction authors generally use when writing about possible ET life.
Most make sense.
But like all things, it’s one person’s opinion.
In all works of science fiction, there are ten hidden assumptions regarding alien races. None of these assumptions is a necessity. None of them makes immanent or inevitable sense. Yet, when we read a sci-fi novel or watch a sci-fi movie we tend to accept all of them as inescapable. They amount to a frame of reference and to a language without which we seem to be unable to relate to all manner of exobiology. We evidently believe that life on Earth is a representative sample and that we can extrapolate its properties and mechanisms of action wide and far across the Universe. The principles of symmetry, isotropy, and homogeneity apply to the physical cosmos: Hydrogen behaves identically in our local galactic neighbourhood as it does in the furthest reaches of the Cosmos. Why shouldn’t life be the same?
Which leads us to the first fallacy:
1. Life in the Universe
Alien beings may not be alive in any sense of this ambiguous and loaded word. They may not eat, drink, excrete, reproduce, grow, die, process information, or move. Even here, on Earth, we have examples of such entities (viruses, for instance). Why assume that extrasolar creatures must be endowed with a biology of some kind?
But isn’t life as we know it an unavoidable outcome of the growing complexity of organisms? This is begging the question. Multi-cellular entities on Earth are manifestations of Carbon-based biology. We cannot imagine beings whose complexity does not spring from some material (or energy) lattice. But our inability to imagine something, even in principle, is no proof that it cannot or does not exist.
2. The Concept of Structure
Aliens in science fiction are typically anthropomorphic in body and in psyche. They sport a central trunk out of which protrude extremities and a head that rests on a variant of our neck. They possess and are possessed by emotions. They reason and debate exactly as we do. The rare few who bear no resemblance to Homo sapiens are usually pure energy. But, even these are arranged in a matrix that is in principle visible or otherwise measurable. We cannot conceive of entities that completely lack organisation.
Yet, structure and organization are mere language elements. They are “in our head” so to speak. They do not exist in reality. They are the results of our limitations: our inability to grasp the whole at once. We use time, space, and form to cope with the immense amount of information that constitutes the Universe. Our minds slice the world and shape it into manageable bits that can be classified and catalogued. We then postulate the existence of interactions to account for our sense of inexorable time. Other inhabitants of the Cosmos may be completely shapeless, lack boundaries or size, be devoid of structure, and be totally inert.
But isn’t structure a precondition for complexity? The answer is a resounding no (see my article “The Complexity of Simplicity”). Additionally, why assume that sentient beings must be complex? Complexity is one solution. Simplicity is another. Our evolution “chose” the former. Processes in other corners of the Galaxy may prefer the latter.
Even the concept of “race” or “species” is doubtful. Why would aliens have to belong to such taxonomic categories? Why can’t we imagine a group of astrobiological specimen, each one constituting a distinct species, sui generis, “custom-made”? Why presume that they all must share the same genetic heritage? For that matter, why should they have a genetic make-up at all? Is our DNA the most efficient method of propagating data across time? This is an extremely chauvinistic supposition.
3. Communication and Interaction
Slaves to our (false) sensation of time, we deny the possibility of simultaneity and require that information travels a finite distance in any given period. This precondition requires us to communicate and interact in order to affect changes in our environment and in our interlocutors: we are forced to transfer and transport information by a variety of means from one point in spacetime to another.
Certain sci-fi works introduce “telepathy” into their imaginary worlds: the instant evocation of content in one mind by another’s brain acting on it. But telepathy still assumes some kind of transport mechanism and the separateness of sender and recipient in space and, sometimes in time. No matter how imaginative and creative our literary and scientific endeavours, we are unable to convincingly describe a truly timeless, eventless ecosystem where things don’t happen and information is immediately available everywhere, vitiating the need for communication and interaction.
Yet, modern Quantum Mechanics provides us with exactly this insight: that time and space are illusions, linguistic conventions that are the outcomes of our idiosyncratic (not to say inferior) mental apparatus. The foundations of our reality at the particle level are such that simultaneity is common (entanglement) and even the concept of location is gravely challenged (the Uncertainty Principles; tunnelling and other quantum phenomena). Superior beings may not have to communicate or interact at all.
In sci-fi works, aliens are always somewhere, in a given location. Granted, some of them project their image. Others can be in multiple places at the same moment or be part of a colony-like hive. But all extraterrestrial life forms occupy space and time and can be pinpointed to a reasonable degree using scientific instrumentation or human sense organs.
Yet, location – like space and time themselves – is a mere convention. At the particle level, knowing one’s location is a tricky business as it precludes information about other properties of the object being observed. Embryonic quantum machines and quantum computers already make use of this fact: that the building blocks of our world cannot be effectively located in either space or time (a phenomenon known as entanglement).
ET may not have a “home”. His “place” may be everywhere and nowhere at the same “time”. We can’t wrap our head around these possibilities because our cerebral computer comes equipped (at least according to Kant) with software that limits us to its parameters and procedures. Moreover: location is an essential component of our sense of identity and individuality.
It is impossible for us to deny our separation – physical, temporal, and psychological – from other people. We are individuals with a specific mindset, needs, fears, emotions, priorities, personal history, wishes, and place in the world. Our language is ill-equipped to cope with a different reality. We cannot conceive of sharing a body – let alone a mind – with someone else. Even when we discuss multi-organism coordinated and directional hyperstructures, such as ant or bee colonies, we still distinguish between the components comprising them in terms of individuals. We (at least in the West) insist that we not illusory manifestations of an underlying and more fundamental whole.
Yet, as Eastern philosophy and modern physics tell us our separateness may indeed by nothing more than an illusion, a convenient organizing principle and an operational unit, akin to the cell in a human body. Aliens may have long discarded such amenity, if they availed themselves of it to start with. Non-terrestrials may have dispensed with the notions of individuals and separateness, “whole” and “parts” and may have supplanted them with the – to us – unimaginable.
If location and separateness are deceptive, what need there is of transportation? Of what use are spaceships? Even if location and separateness are real, why would advanced species need to travel anywhere? Why not simply project themselves or induce action at a distance? We don’t travel to our bank – we use online banking. We remote control our televisions, power stations, cranes, and numerous other machines. We videoconference. Why reduce supposedly superior races to the travails of physical, galaxy-hopping missions? The classical answer is: in order to manipulate the environment and control it one needs to be physically present there. But why presuppose that Aliens are interested in manipulating or controlling their surroundings (nature)? Even more fundamentally: why think that Aliens have a will at all?
7. Will and Intention
In all sci-fi works, extraterrestrials want something, desire it, or wish for it. They form intentions and act directionally to achieve their goals. These literary devices pose two related problems: (a) we cannot be sure that the actions of alien beings signify – let alone prove – the existence of volition; and (b) we cannot be sure that aliens lack will and intent even if they do not act at all. Put concisely: actions teach us nothing about the existence or absence of intelligence, volition, intent, planning, foresight, and utilitarian thinking. We don’t know if and cannot prove that animals (such as pets) are possessed of a will even when they are acting wilfully. Imagine how much more difficult it would be with visitors from outer space. Attributing will and directionality to ET is a prime example of teleology (the belief that causes are preceded by their effects) and anthropomorphosis (attributing human qualities, motives, emotions, and conduct to non-humans).
Throughout this discussion, it would seem that a goal necessarily implies the existence of an intention (to realize it). A lack of intent leaves only one plausible course of action: automatism. Any action taken in the absence of a manifest intention to act is, by definition, an automatic action.
The converse is also true: automatism prescribes the existence of a sole possible mode of action, a sole possible Nature. With an automatic action, no choice is available, there are no degrees of freedom, or freedom of action. Automatic actions are, ipso facto, deterministic.
Still, the distinction between volitional and automatic actions is not clear-cut.
Consider, for instance, house pets. They engage in a variety of acts. They are goal oriented (seek food, drink, etc.). Are they possessed of a conscious, directional, volition (intent)? Many philosophers argued against such a supposition. Moreover, sometimes end-results and by-products are mistaken for goals. Is the goal of objects to fall down? Gravity is a function of the structure of space-time. When we roll a ball down a slope (which is really what gravitation is all about, according to the General Theory of Relativity) is its “goal” to come to a rest at the bottom? Evidently not. Natural processes are considered to be witless reactions. No intent can be attributed to them because no intelligence can be ascribed to them. Yet, this is true but only at times.
We cannot safely deduce that Aliens are intelligent from merely observing their behaviour. It is a fallacy to insist that technology and collaboration are predicated on intelligence. Even on Earth, with a limited sample of Life, we have examples of directional (goal-oriented) and technology-empowered behaviour by non-sentient entities (computers, for instance). Intelligence as we understand it requires introspection and self-awareness and, probably a concept of “self” (see item 5 above: “Separateness”).
Still, Aliens – like us – are part of Nature. Is Nature as a whole intelligent (as we humans understand intelligence)? Was it designed by an intelligent being (the “watchmaker” hypothesis)? If it was, is each and every part of Nature endowed with this “watchmaker” intelligence?
Intelligence is hard to define. Still, the most comprehensive approach would be to describe it as the synergetic sum of a host of mental processes (some conscious, some not). These mental processes are concerned with information: its gathering, its accumulation, classification, inter-relation, association, analysis, synthesis, integration, and all other modes of processing and manipulation.
But is this manipulation of information not what natural processes are all about? And if nature is the sum total of all natural processes, aren’t we forced to admit that nature is (intrinsically, inherently, of itself) intelligent? The intuitive reaction to these suggestions is bound to be negative. When we use the term “intelligence”, we seem not to be concerned with just any kind of intelligence – but with intelligence that is separate from and external to what has to be explained. If both the intelligence and the item that needs explaining are members of the same set, we tend to disregard the intelligence involved and label it as “natural” and, therefore, irrelevant.
Moreover, not everything that is created by an intelligence (however “relevant”, or external) is intelligent in itself. Some automatic products of intelligent beings are inanimate and non-intelligent. On the other hand, as any Artificial Intelligence buff would confirm, automata can become intelligent, having crossed a certain quantitative or qualitative level of complexity. The weaker form of this statement is that, beyond a certain quantitative or qualitative level of complexity, it is impossible to tell the automatic from the intelligent. Is Nature automatic, is it intelligent, or on the seam between automata and intelligence?
Nature contains everything and, therefore, contains multiple intelligences. That which contains intelligence is not necessarily intelligent, unless the intelligences contained are functional determinants of the container. Quantum Mechanics (rather, its Copenhagen interpretation) implies that this, precisely, is the case. Intelligent, conscious, observers determine the very existence of subatomic particles, the constituents of all matter-energy. Human (intelligent) activity determines the shape, contents and functioning of the habitat Earth. If other intelligent races populate the universe, this could be the rule, rather than the exception. Nature may, indeed, be intelligent in the sense that it is determined by the intelligent races it contains.
Indeed, goal-orientated behaviour (or behavior that could be explained as goal-orientated) is Nature’s hallmark. The question whether automatic or intelligent mechanisms are at work, really deals with an underlying issue, that of consciousness. Are these mechanisms self-aware, introspective? Is intelligence possible without such self-awareness, without the internalized understanding of what it is doing?
9. Artificial vs. Natural
Sci-fi authors sometimes suggest or state that “their” Aliens are natural beings, not machines or artificial entities. They tout the complexity of these life forms to prove that they have emerged naturally and are intelligent. In the apocalyptic works that depict a takeover of Earth by man-made or extraterrestrial automata, the marauders or invaders are described as artificial and, therefore, simpler than the natural species that they are challenging. In many respects, these devices are not intelligent.
Conflating the natural with the complex and the intelligent is wrong, however.
Indeed, complexity rises spontaneously in nature through processes such as self-organization. Emergent phenomena are common as are emergent traits: both are not reducible to basic components, interactions, or properties. Yet, complexity does not indicate the existence of a designer or a design. Complexity does not imply the existence of intelligence and sentient beings. On the contrary, complexity usually points towards a natural source and a random origin.
It is also true that complexity and artificiality are often incompatible. Artificial designs and objects are found only in unexpected (“unnatural”) contexts and environments. Natural objects are totally predictable and expected. Artificial creations are efficient and, therefore, simple and parsimonious. Natural objects and processes are not.
As Seth Shostak notes in his excellent essay, titled “SETI and Intelligent Design”, evolution experiments with numerous dead ends before it yields a single adapted biological entity. DNA is far from optimized: it contains inordinate amounts of junk. Our bodies come replete with dysfunctional appendages and redundant organs. Lightning bolts emit energy all over the electromagnetic spectrum. Pulsars and interstellar gas clouds spew radiation over the entire radio spectrum. The energy of the Sun is ubiquitous over the entire optical and thermal range. No intelligent engineer – human or not – would be so wasteful.
The examples he gives are pretty varied and it’s quite possible that all are valid.
Anyone want to take a trip to Bigelow’s Skinwalker Ranch to test this hypothesis?
Dr. Stephen Hawking certainly started a bru-hah-hah with his charged statements about advanced aliens on his TV show, ‘Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking.’ The good thing about it is that it has helped propel the subject into mainstream consciousness and has taken the stigma of ridicule off from it for a while.
Prominent thinkers such as Dr. Paul Davies and Lord Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, have commented on Hawking’s statements, usually counter arguments, but even these have helped push the meme of alien civilizations from the pages of science fiction into hard core scientific thought.
Below is a part of an interview of anthropologist Scott Littleton, professor emeritus of anthropology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. In it is a discussion about a period in his life he has kept secret for over sixty years:
You were eight years old and growing up in Hermosa Beach, when, in the early hours of Feb. 25, 1942, you witnessed what came to be known as the “Battle of Los Angeles.” What happened?
First, remember, this was soon after Pearl Harbor, and two days after the Elwood Oil installation off Santa Barbara had been shelled by a Japanese submarine that had surfaced there. Anyway, I’m sleeping, when suddenly I heard the anti-aircraft guns going. This was about 3:15 a.m. I noticed the sky was very bright, so I look out the window and I see searchlight beams and shells exploding overhead. Something crazy was going on. My father said, “I better see what is going on, this might be the real thing.” So he threw on his air warden gear and went out. My father soon ran back in and says, “Everybody get down in the bomb shelter.” So we all go into the basement, in these old cramped quarters. And my mother was there for about 30 seconds, then she hustles out this little door and I snuck out behind her and we saw practically overhead—and I swear to this day it was hovering—this lozenge-shaped object like an elongated silver bug directly overhead. And outlined by seven or eight searchlight beams. They had it pinpointed. But it was glowing in addition to the searchlight beams. And it was surrounded by exploding shells that were falling on the beach.
How long did you and your mother observe this thing?
We were outside for ten minutes or so. It was hovering directly overhead. Then it began to lose altitude and veered inland over Rodando Beach and we lost sight of it.
If, as some people have suggested, it was a barrage balloon that had drifted, these anti-aircraft shells would have torn it to pieces. My guess is that it was surrounded by a forcefield of some sort that protected it—like something out of Star Wars.
How long did it take you to start thinking of it as a UFO and not just an unexplained phenomenon?
Decades. Not until the late ’70s. Afterwards, Frank Knox, the secretary of the Navy, held a press conference and said it was a “false alarm” due to “war nerves.” To this day that is the official interpretation. [Editors note: A Long Beach Independenteditorial put it this way:”There is a mysterious reticence about the whole affair and it appears that some form of censorship is trying to halt discussion on the matter.”]
But there is not just that one dramatic sighting, there are scores and scores of such sightings. People see things flying around in the atmosphere. And you think these are objects that have come from somewhere else. As an anthropologist, what is your explanation for this?
I wish I had an explanation. The UFO phenomenon has been around for at least 10,000 years. A case can be made that our earliest ancestors noted them on cave walls in the Late or Upper Paleolithic.
Some people are convinced that the creatures who fly the things are responsible for bioengineering the human race. That’s ridiculous. You don’t need aliens to account for the evolution of homo sapiens.
I do think that they’re probes. At the beginning of the Ice Age, they discovered creatures who were intelligent but vastly more primitive than themselves. And—here I’m projecting my thoughts into their heads—they were curious and wanted to see what would happen to these creatures.
For all we know, these creatures and their craft are the equivalent of a mechanical rabbit at a dog track. We don’t know what’s being shown to us.
I see that, but I do think that you have to pay attention to the vast amount of anecdotal evidence. Nobody to my knowledge has a real picture of an alien. Nevertheless, there seem to be several varieties. And my hunch is—using the principle of parsimony, Occam’s razor—it’s better to assume that they originate in this universe and in this galaxy and probably in this corner of this galaxy. That is, within a several hundred light-year range.
If they’re using some type of technology that allows them to travel at light speed, then one has to think that at some point in the development of the universe some race developed this technology and at some point would have propagated it so that an intergalactic civilization would be not just a few thousand years ahead of us, but a million years ahead of us.
I understand that hypothesis. But if they’re vastly superior to us, why were they having so many crashes in the late ’40s and early ’50s? Somebody that far ahead, you wouldn’t expect to have operational failures. That’s what intrigues me.
Perhaps the crashes were “staged?”
As far as that is a potentially seriously charged and theoretical statement, I can not see why advanced, camouflaged craft would crash with regularity.