One of the great questions here on earth has always been, “Is there someone or something intelligent else out there in space?” The question has been in the news as of late, with even the US Congress wanting answers about supposed UFOs. So sure, why not take a look at this instead of crypto today.
Probably the most famous attempt to quantify “are we alone?” is the Drake Equation. Essentially, the equation states that if there are X number of stars formed out there, then Y number of these stars should have planets, then Z number of these planets should have an atmosphere, and so on and so on until you find out the number of possible locations that could and should support life, like earth does. The formula finds that there should be between 1000 and 100000 planets in the Milky Way galaxy with intelligent life on them. Now, the formula was mostly meant as a starting point for study and conversation, but, is often cited as proof that there must be life out there. Frank Drake came up with this formula in 1961, and since then, plenty of new information has come up. Just for one, scientist have discovered that Earth’s proximity to the gas giant Jupiter played a large role in intelligent life showing up here. The gravitation pull of the large planet has helped keep space objects from pummeling earth over the last 3 million years, helping us grow and sustain life uninterrupted. So in essence, the chances of this formula working become smaller and smaller the more we learn.
For argument, let’s just say, “Yep, life has happened elsewhere.” Why have we not run across it? The obvious reason is that it is too far from us, so we just haven’t crossed paths yet. That is a little too simple, though. We have been able to search many light years away from earth for a while now. I will link below as to how we do this to keep from bogging down here on the subject. Now factor in that along with us not finding any other life, no one has dropped in on us here on Earth, at least since we have been keeping track. What does that mean? The actual answer may be that it is not a distance issue but a time problem. Estimates put the age of the solar system at around 5 billion years, the universe at 14 billion years. Human beings have only been around with the ability to record events (with the exceptions of parents passing down information to kids before writing) for around 10,000 years, or so. Civilizations could have come and gone multiple times on one planet long before we discover that planet. At best, if we could ever get to a planet that did sustain intelligent beings, we could maybe find some remnant of previous life.
Nothing says that once intelligent beings evolve they survive forever. Aren’t we humans here to stay? There are plenty of theories on this, one of the biggest says that intelligent life will always eventually learn to master the elements and that means they will create technology/weapons capable of destroying themselves, such as the hydrogen bomb. With this knowledge, the ultimate conclusion is a massive war leading to extinction. You can Google the "Fermi Paradox" for more on this idea. The next theory says that nature, such as a virus, asteroid or volcano will reset life every few million years. The point is, with stars being created and dying out, on this huge timeline we are operating within, we just miss all the other guys out there and we might be the only intelligent life right now.
The next idea, is that we are just on a different level of communication from the aliens. Michael Crichton’s book "Sphere" is a great explanation of the idea that we just can’t communicate with other life forms. It is not just a language barrier, but, that they might not use language at all. Alien life may talk to each other using a “thought” process that we not only don’t understand, but, might be completely incapable of every possessing the ability to “hear.” Just because we see and touch and talk in a certain way, may be unique to the human race.
Finally, other life might just be existing on a different plane than humans are. Think about the Langoloiers from the Stephen King novel where beings exist just slightly out of sync in time from the rest of civilization. Might be an oversimplification, but there might be life on Mars (or here on earth) right now, we just don’t exist in a way to see or interact with them. Or the easy answer, intelligent life exist in a tiny little universe the size of an atom and we will never find it.
Who really knows? Stephen Hawking advises that if we ever reach a point to interact with other life forms, we most definitely should not do it, for our own safety. One of my favorite writers, Arthur C Clarke, said it best, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”
And, if you are looking for a book by someone actually smart on this stuff, read:
Hyperspace : A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension - by Michio Kaku