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“It opens the door just a crack that maybe, just maybe, there might be more to the story than we realize.”  – Wait But Why?

This is something to start your week off on a lighter different note. It is something not normally shared here, something that is a minor hobby of mine; using hard science fiction to think about what may come next.  I love looking at “what is possible.” It is very, very important to us all. This is one of the things that have led me to preparedness by answering the question “…what is possible.” A lot of what is possible is not that good. A lot is, but even though I plan for a vacation next year, I still buy home insurance, and car insurance, and life insurance… All of this by asking the question of what is possible.  However I think only thinking about what bad may happen makes you an unhealthy person.  I like to also think about what could come next or what is possible in other areas not just preparedness.

This is one of the best articles written about the various thoughts on why we cannot detect other intelligent life.  This essay makes points like the following “…So there are 100 Earth-like planets (in the universe) for every grain of sand in the world. Think about that next time you’re on the beach.” That is amazing to me to think about. It continues “Moving back to just our galaxy, and doing the same math on the lowest estimate for stars in the Milky Way (100 billion), we’d estimate that there are 1 billion Earth-like planets and 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy. It like God built this massive universe and then … didn’t fill it with anything but us? Why in the Lord’s name would He do that? The earth is filled with his creations.  Why not the universe?

Milky-Way-1023x1024Anyway this well written essay (but some harsh cursing in it) ask the question. If anything modern science understands about the Universe is correct, why have we not detected any other intelligent life? Which to me is an interesting mental exercise to me. Like a cross word puzzle it takes my mind off our current troubles a bit.  The answer is obviously we do not know, however the guesses by educated men is pretty interesting to review. In the end, the “learned” men suggest if some of their theories are accurate, it may suggest “…there might be more to the story than we realize.”   He does not come out and say it, but he appears to be referring to something like a Biblical creator. We may be very unique, that we are either the first species to advance to our level of technology, or we are one of the few that made it at all, or scarier (to me at least) we may be the the only intelligent species in our detectable Universe. If any of these are true, something “else” must be at work for us to make it this far. Too me it helps ground me to understand how unique every human life is. How unique our planet is. If you like reading about such puzzles enjoy. Again warning it has some harsh language apparently just for shock value.

When confronted with the topic of stars and galaxies, a question that tantalizes most humans is, “Is there other intelligent life out there?” Let’s put some numbers to it (if you don’t like numbers, just read the bold)—

As many stars as there are in our galaxy (100 – 400 billion), there are roughly an equal number of galaxies in the observable universe—so for every star in the colossal Milky Way, there’s a whole galaxy out there. All together, that comes out to the typically quoted range of between 1022 and 1024 total stars, which means that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.

Great-Filter1-1024x727The science world isn’t in total agreement about what percentage of those stars are “sun-like” (similar in size, temperature, and luminosity)—opinions typically range from 5% to 20%. Going with the most conservative side of that (5%), and the lower end for the number of total stars (1022), gives us 500 quintillion, or 500 billion billion sun-like stars.

There’s also a debate over what percentage of those sun-like stars might be orbited by an Earth-like planet (one with similar temperature conditions that could have liquid water and potentially support life similar to that on Earth). Some say it’s as high as 50%, but let’s go with the more conservative 22% that came out of a recent PNAS study. That suggests that there’s a potentially-habitable Earth-like planet orbiting at least 1% of the total stars in the universe—a total of 100 billion billion Earth-like planets.

So there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world. Think about that next time you’re on the beach.

Moving forward, we have no choice but to get completely speculative. Let’s imagine that after billions of years in existence, 1% of Earth-like planets develop life (if that’s true, every grain of sand would represent one planet with life on it). And imagine that on 1% of those planets, the life advances to an intelligent level like it did here on Earth. That would mean there were 10 quadrillion, or 10 million billion intelligent civilizations in the observable universe.

Moving back to just our galaxy, and doing the same math on the lowest estimate for stars in the Milky Way (100 billion), we’d estimate that there are 1 billion Earth-like planets and 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.[1]

SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is an organization dedicated to listening for signals from other intelligent life. If we’re right that there are 100,000 or more intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, and even a fraction of them are sending out radio waves or laser beams or other modes of attempting to contact others, shouldn’t SETI’s satellite array pick up all kinds of signals?

But it hasn’t. Not one. Ever.

Where is everybody?

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