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Discussion > Life on other planets

Sorry to foist this on you all but I had an idea and had to write it somewhere hehe. In the thread about where the climate is going Scottie posted some interesting facts which I have not checked but assume are correct.
Firstly our galaxy "The Milky Way" is in the process of colliding with Andromeda and that this will impact on us roughly 4.5 billion years from now. However we do not need to worry about this because.........
Secondly the increasing brightness of our sun will make the surface too hot for life within 1.4 billion years.

So what I see is that any planet in the universe probably goes through something similar with different time scales. It has taken 4.5 billion years for Earth to produce a species that probably has the capability to develop interstellar travel and we now have various windows of opportunity within which we might be able to achieve this.

First we may enter a new ice age which would last roughly 90,000 years, humans have survived ice ages before but would our civilization and technology survive?

Second we have 1.4 billion years to make inter stellar travel easy and affordable (for the planet and even for individuals), if we fail to do this humanity is finished.

Third we have 4.5 billion years to make inter galactic travel easily possible or again humanity is finished.

I suspect that many planets in the universe produce intelligent species with the potential that we have but perhaps most of them fail to escape from their planet in time to avoid the many possible causes of extinction.

As Scottie pointed out in the other thread (where is the climate going?) it beggars belief that we are concentrating our efforts on avoiding a possible 2 - 4 deg C increase in global temperature.

Where the human race stands right now:

1. We may be lucky and escape another ice age but we can not be certain.

2. At any time our planet could be struck by an asteroid and all life could be wiped out.

3. At any moment a super volcano could erupt (Yellowstone) and all life on Earth could be wiped out.

What I suggest is that we ditch all this bullshit about global warming and put all our available resources into getting off this planet.

Our window of opportunity to save the human race maybe as short as a thousand years.

Oct 2, 2012 at 12:10 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Second we have 1.4 billion years to make inter stellar travel easy and affordable (for the planet and even for individuals), if we fail to do this humanity is finished.
Oct 2, 2012 at 12:10 AM Dung

- Everything comes to an end.

- Interstellar travel is pretty well impossible.

However ditching the global warming bullshit remains an excellent idea.

Oct 2, 2012 at 9:27 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

We'll soon be gone from here
Year upon light year ...

(Roy Harper)

Oct 2, 2012 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

I can see this is seen as a bit of a joke but that was not my intention.

Interstellar travel is more than possible already. It is however impossible to look at the rate of increase of human knowledge and not believe that in a thousand years we can achieve anything we set our minds to.
What is required is the realisation that this must be a priority and that we need to get started.
Humans are supposed to have an instinct for survival did you not get one installed ? ^.^

Oct 2, 2012 at 11:06 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, you must be kidding. Interstellar travel "is more than possible already".

You'll have BitBucket all over you again.

Oct 3, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Porter

Both Ion Engines and Anti-Matter engines have been researched for some time, the latter being the most powerful but its fuel more valuable than diamonds. However recent developments may have changed that.
A Beamed Core Anti-Matter engine using a new magnetic exhaust is said to be capable of speeds in excess of 0.7 c.
A belt of stable anti-matter has been discovered around the earth "coating" the Van Allen Belt. Therefore interstellar travel is possible and will happen well inside the 1.000 year window that we have available.

Oct 3, 2012 at 1:10 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, which comic do you read?

Oct 3, 2012 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Porter

Tsk Tsk

David Porter is now a troll in my discussion ^.^

Everything I said is true, google it.

Oct 3, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Registered CommenterDung

What do you mean by "interstellar travel"?

Maybe you have something different in mind from me.

Oct 3, 2012 at 7:30 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A


Do I really come over as being that thick?
I hate to have to ask that question.
Why dont you just explain which parts of what I said are a problem?
The instinct of survival is for the species, not just the individual; you have children and they have children you are supposed to want to make sure that they survive.

Oct 3, 2012 at 7:32 PM | Registered CommenterDung

"Humans are supposed to have an instinct for survival did you not get one installed ? "

I certainly have one - I would not still be around without it. But no matter how powerful my instinct for survival, I won't be around a moderate number of decades from now.

Oct 3, 2012 at 7:34 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Do I really come over as being that thick?
I hate to have to ask that question.
Why dont you just explain which parts of what I said are a problem?

If I said something implying you were thick, that was not my intention.

The "instinct for survival" is adapted (by the probability calculations performed by evolution) so that we protect those [See "The Selfish Gene"] whose survival is most likely to ensure the survival of our own genes - our own children, each one if which has 50% of our genes (and 50% of the other parent). We also protect nephews etc, who carry a lesser proportion of our own genes - but to a proportionally lesser extent. I don't know of any evidence we harbour an instinct to protect our distant descendants; is there any?

When I said I won't be around a few decades from now, I imagined that the analogy would be apparent - that also, at some time in the future, the human race (or its successor) won't be around, possibly for reasons that neither we nor our descendents could do anything about. But that's not a reason for not getting on with life in the meantime.

You may enjoy reading "Last and First Men" by Olaf Stapleton if you have not come across it. I read it as a kid and it left an impression.

I had imagined that by "interstellar travel" you meant people getting into some kind of machine, pressing some buttons and, eventually, having the passengers arrive, in reasonable health, in orbit around some distant star, or even arrive on the surface of its planets. And then coming back to tell the tale.

Is that what you meant, or did you mean something different from that?

Oct 3, 2012 at 10:53 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Thanks for the reply :)

By interstellar travel I mean transporting a quantity of human beings safely to another solar system which we believe has planets that could support us and yes to land them on one of those planets, return journey not required. I am a science fiction fan but this is not science fiction :)
I am aware of the fact that many threats that we know of and certainly some that we have no knowledge of, may destroy the human race at some point. However if the human race exists on multiple planets in multiple solar systems and eventually multiple galaxies then just maybe your genes may survive for much longer than they deserve hehe.

Oct 3, 2012 at 11:58 PM | Registered CommenterDung

These interstellar/intergalactic discussions cast your musings on climate science in an entirely new light...

Oct 4, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Might you say the same about someone such as Arthur C Clarke?

Oct 4, 2012 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave_G

Dave_G, not sure I follow you. I imagine that, in his writing, Sir Arthur C Clarke was aware which parts were fiction and which were fact.

Oct 5, 2012 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket


He is not worth the effort, he is just a thread wrecker and mine are his favorite hehe

Oct 5, 2012 at 12:09 AM | Registered CommenterDung

It seems to me that our planet is turning out to be like a huge box of Lego Technics, so far everything that man has needed to build his cars, planes, aircraft, rockets, drugs, missiles and skyscrapers has been found somewhere in the box. I reckon that all the parts needed for interstellar travel are in there as well, we just have not found them yet ^.^

Oct 5, 2012 at 1:57 PM | Registered CommenterDung

If you are worried that physical conditions could exterminate humanity, instead of developing interstellar travel, why not aim at the simpler/less difficult solution of electronic simulation of the entire human organism, executable on hardware hardened against any conceivable physical catastrophe?

Oct 6, 2012 at 8:26 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A


Not sure how a simulation of the human organism on hardware helps the human race survive.
No conceivable hardened container could protect a machine from some of the threats.
It is not that "physical conditions" could wipe out not just human beings but most life on the planet, it is simply a question of when and we do not know the answer to that.

Oct 6, 2012 at 10:14 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Sorry - I did not make it clear. The idea is that, if you have an accurate emulation of human beings, capable of thinking, posting messages on BH, etc etc, running on electronic hardware, you have preserved human life, even if humans (and everything else) in biological form cease to exist. Humans are still there, it would simply be the hardware platform that had been changed.

Progress in electronic hardware development has been immensely more rapid than progress in space travel.

Oct 7, 2012 at 8:49 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A


That is a truly fascinating idea although I disagree for two reasons:

Firstly I still do not believe that you could create a machine that could survive all the threats we face.

Secondly it would be a history of human existence and not an ongoing simulation of what humans would/could achieve in the future. I do not believe that many of the real drives that motivate human actions can be replicated in software; love, hate, envy, charity, hope and despair among many others.
My biggest frustration with thoughts of my death is the thought of all the wonders man will discover after I am gone and that I will never see them. I don't think your box will see them either hehe.

Oct 7, 2012 at 9:15 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I do not believe that many of the real drives that motivate human actions can be replicated in software; love, hate, envy, charity, hope and despair among many others.

Oct 7, 2012 at 9:15 PM Dung

If you believe that human thought and consciousness involve supernatural processes distinct from the physical processes that take place in the brain and nervous system then I can understand that point of view. In that case, I'd suggest reading "Conciousness Explained" by Daniel Dennett.

But if, like me, you think that human mental activity is the result of processing stored and input data in a physical system (albeit one made up of neurones and their interconnections), why should the processing not be emulated with complete accuracy in an electronic system? I'm talking about a neurone-by-neurone emulation, not some high level simulation with the same sort of relation to the real thing as the Met Office's climate model has to the real climate system.

Oct 8, 2012 at 7:51 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A


I see interstellar travel in the same way I do time travel: if either were possible then we would have visitors.

Oct 9, 2012 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat


I don't believe anyone can judge the possibility of time travel because we are at an early stage in our advancement of knowledge, my gut feel is that it will not happen.
Interstellar travel will happen I believe and I quoted some facts which I thought proved that point? NASA have built/are building anti-matter engines which at the moment are predicted to be capable of a speed of 0.7c. The problem has been that although anti-matter has been produced, it is in tiny quantities and is hugely expensive. However early this year or late last year both my sons (IT specialists in Germany) emailed me about the discovery of stable antimatter around the Van Allen Belts. This discovery brings the reality of spaceflight powered by anti-matter within reach. You are looking at 1.4 years per light year ^.^ but still it could be done.
Why have we not been visited? How the hell should I know? hehe OK I can guess:
1) When you ask that question you are actually asking "why have we not been visited in the last 10,000 years (roughly)" because only during that period might some record have been made describing such a visit. We do not have any evidence either way during the previous 4.5 billion years.

2) If the Big Bang theory is correct then ( I do not believe it personally) the universe has existed for 15 billion years so maybe that is some kind of start date before which no life existed in the universe but I think the limiter in terms of the development of intelligent life on a planet is the life cycle of stars. It has taken Earth 4.5 billion years to produce a species that is creating advanced technology, we don't know if that is fast or slow compared to other planets that support life.
I suspect all planets in all solar systems must face similar problems to those faced by earth where there have been many events that caused/could cause the extinction of many species.
For a species to have time to develop interstellar travel it requires the luck to have a period of climate that allows it to thrive and for that period to be free of extinction events (so it is a lottery).
The Lake Toba super volcano eruption about 70,000 years ago is "hypothesized" to have left as few as 1000 human breeding pairs which is damn close to goodbye human race.

3) OK a species exists on another planet that develops a technology equal to or better than ours, it is not going to be able to come visit unless it has the luck described above. It is not going to be able to come visit unless it realizes that it exists on a knife edge and could be destroyed at any minute and that it urgently needs to develop the means to travel to other stars. If the species does not do this then it dies with the planet or when the next extinction event occurs.

4) Even if another species has in fact developed interstellar travel, Earth is a needle in a haystack and its a bloody huge haystack ^.^

Oct 9, 2012 at 2:29 PM | Registered CommenterDung