Earth might be one of the universe’s first habitable planets

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The uncertainty of science: An analysis of data from the Hubble Space Telescope and Kepler suggests that the Earth might be one of the first planets in the universe to harbor life.

I label this result uncertain because it is based on what I consider to be a very poor sampling of exoplanets as seen by Kepler. Kepler might have found a lot of exoplanets, but the numbers are still small and skewed by the limited types of suns observed and the short time frame of its observations. Moreover, the data from Hubble is rich, but also quite small, leaving great uncertainties for all of these conclusions.

At the same time, this conclusion might help explain why, after almost a half century of looking, we have yet to detect any evidence of radio communications from any other civilizations. You would think we would have detected something by now. Maybe they don’t exist, and we are the first.


  • D.K. Williams

    That would be very disappointing.

  • Pzatchok

    Not really.

    it just means we have a better chance of becoming a multi planet dominate species in the galaxy before we are taken over by some other aggressive species.

    We still have the chance to travel to other planets. A short trillion years into the future they will be to far apart for that possibility to exist.

    We had better get a move on. We had better decide on what type of society we want to spread out into space. And that society should be the one to press for the opportunity and do all it can short of starvation to reach that goal.
    Do we really want Islam and sharia law to be the first to spread through out our solar system and then the stars? Or Chinese or Russian communism?

    If the western nations do nothing for the next ten years the rest of the world will pass us up and we would stand a good chance of never catching back up.

  • Cotour

    Tell that to this woman:

    What ever the actual answer to the question “Are we alone?”, human beings may not have the ability to detect or understand what we detect even if we were to detect it. Any advanced civilization that is only say a mere 1 million years more advanced then we are, and that is very well within the realm of possibility, these civilizations Im pretty sure would be invisible to us anyway.

    When you look at the vast numbers, vast amount of time and vast distances relative to our perspective our solar system has only existed in the last 1/3rd of the universes existence, more than 2/3rds of the current universes time has passed before our sun was even formed. Pretty mind blowing.

    Think about it: Humanity lives like dust mites in the detritus of the result of the conversion of pure energy into matter, for what ever reason that happened. Is the dust mite aware of the activities of the human race? If dust mites could develop technology would they be able to detect humanity? Understand humanity?

  • Pzatchok

    If they were even a thousand years ahead of us we would never have a chance to detect them at a distance. Their light would not reach us yet.

    If they were just a thousand years ahead of us we would never stand a chance of defending against them if they were aggressive.

    If they were just a thousand years ahead of us they would have the technology to never let us detect them if they visited Earth.

    So unless they are a band of intergalactic teenagers on a scare the Earthling kick we would never know they ever came by.

    Hell they wouldn’t even need to be a thousand years ahead of us in technology. Just a hundred would do it.

    Think about it this way.
    If they found the tech to break light speed they would quickly populate the universe.
    If they just found a way to make a sub light ship but have a form of hibernation they would populate their local area of space.
    If they just used generational ships they would never have to land on a planet again. They would be able to harvest all the low gravity objects in the galaxy for materials and fuel. Landing on a planet only to establish a colony. They would have evolved into a space based race at that point.

  • Pzatchok

    We have no need to find a way to talk to aliens.

    If they are that advanced they know how to talk to us. If they wanted to.

    In fact if we reach out to them and they are to far more advanced than us, then just like every indigenous group on earth that was contacted by a higher tech group, our society would be wiped out. Either by death of its members or we would be so changed as to resemble nothing like we are now.

  • Cotour

    But like the dust mite we might be something of interest to study and catalog but communicate with? Would we be able to understand what was studying / cataloging us? I think probably not, not if they were 1 or more million years more advanced. And that spread of years IMO is very much more likely then not likely. Given the age of the universe that we perceive that is an easy argument to make.

    For that matter it might be more likely that 1 million civilizations have already existed in the first 2/3rds of our universes existence and have either destroyed themselves or have moved on from this universe into another dimension or “else where” (where ever that might be) than not. Is it really likely that we alone through time and space are the only ones to enjoy existence? In a universe littered with all of the building blocks of life flying around within it? That is hard for me to believe.

  • mike shupp

    Or maybe the heavens are filled with entities with appearances we wouldn’t recognize, doing things we would not understand, with goals we could not understand. I’m thinking of Fred Hoyle’s THE BLACK CLOUD. Given thirteen billion years in which to evolve, with all sorts of mixtures of elements and flows of energy, there ought to be something out there other than mindless dust and rocks and glowing gases.

    Star Trek and much other science fiction has spoiled us by portraying aliens as ordinary people in Holloween costumes, and even NASA scientists have not been immune to that influence. We need to be more imaginative.

    Granted … I’d not like to be the guy asking Congress to spend a few billion dollars to look for aliens which look like algae hundreds of light years away daydreaming philosophes which cannot be expressed to us in a million years. It’s a whole lot easier if you can say “Just like Star Trek, Senator.”

  • Joe

    The search is a bit quixotic. We have to point an antenna at the exact right place in the sky and hope that millions of years ago (or however far away the star system is) the alien species is transmitting radio waves that we can discern from ambient radio waves in space at us.

  • pzatchok

    I do not believe in any life form other than organic.

    If any alien race is a million years beyond us then we are of no consequence in any way to it. They have seen it all before.

    And the building blocks of life might be spread all over the universe but that stuff has to get swept into some very specific piles under some very specific circumstances in order for sentient life to evolve out of it.
    Just because it might have happened doesn’t mean it did. I might have won the lottery, but I didn’t.

    If you believe in an alien who has evolved to a godlike state with god like powers. Then at some point came to Earth and started the spark of life. Then came back and fiddled with our genome to bring about a higher intelligence and thus self awareness. Then taught man how to use tools and build things.

    For all of that to happen there must have only been one race of intelligent being out there who have made it to here. Otherwise were are all the bad aliens?

    You say there could be millions of other races out there but we have not yet seen evidence of even one other than our own. Not one has stopped by to say hello, or at least to take us over.
    Out of millions of possibilities nothing.

    We are either alone or very close to the first intelligent species. Be happy for that.

  • Cotour

    That life can happen is self evident, we are here having this conversation, what is more of a question is how those other civilizations overlap. A little more advanced in time one way or the other and one civilization is the naive dust mite and the other civilization is looking down the microscope at the dust mite and is invisible.

    The very extreme numbers indicate that 1. life is possible even likely in this universe, again we are here, and 2. the statistics related to overlap favor never being able to detect another civilization because the civilizations related to time are more likely to be out of phase rather than in phase and of similar technical ability and in addition within reasonable distance. Just a bit of time (1,000 years? 1,000,000 years?) either way and there is invisibility, time and distance in the universe is deep and there is plenty of both.

    Remember, our solar system, never mind life on earth has only existed for about 1/3rd of the age of the universe. Nine or Ten billion or so years passed before the material in our solar system even began to form, how many civilizations came and went in that time? 1? 1,000,000?

    We are more likely being observed and unknowingly under the microscope rather peering down it doing the observing.

    Q: Is the search for other intelligent life limited more specifically to this, our galaxy, or the 100 billion or how ever many billions of other galaxy’s?

  • D.K. Williams

    Actually, I am writing a story about this possibility.

  • mike shupp

    Cotour — there are 100s of billions of other galaxies out there, maybe as many galaxies as there are stars in our galaxy. A lot, in other words.

    NASA just announced recently that somebody had done a study of several thousand galaxies and had not seen evidence of a Kardashev III civilization — i.e., one that utilized most of the energy in its entire galaxy in some consistant fashion. Nothing out there with the mass of a 100 billion suns radiating in a single narrow frequency band. Not terribly surprising — I seriously doubt that ANY species will ever be so dedicated and so powerful that they seek to control all the energy of an entire galaxy. But I doubt if we could see any less extraordinary evidence of life at such differences.

    We might imagine a galaxy with 100 million intelligent spacefaring civilizations busily colonizing 100 billion stars, creating empires and shifting suns about to use as navigational beacons and seeding evolving stars with tailored clouds of gases to create living planets for cultures which might arise only after billions of years. A busy place certainly, but it wouldn’t have risen to the level of a Kardashev Type III civilization, and if it were far enough distant — beyond the millions of light years that separate us from the Andromeda Galaxy let’s say — likely we could stare at it with our astronomical instruments for centuries and never ever see signs of anything but normal stellar behavior.

    In fact such a galaxy might be filled with active lifeforms, but still have none that rise to Kardashev Type II status, in which a species commands the entire energy output of its star, or even a Kardyshev Type I civilization which commands the energy output of its home planet. We ourselves barely consume a few thousands of the energy which impinges upon our world or is released in thunderstorms or earthquakes or continental drift. The gamma rays released in our atomic weapons tests might reach the ends of the universe eventually, but likely not in such numbers that they can be unambiguously assigned to our star, and our powerful radio and TV and radar signals will spread out and be so attenuated that several hundred light years from us they will essentially be invisible.

    We’re pretty much limited to looking for life in our galaxy, I’m trying to say. Maybe we can add on the Magellanic Clouds, they’re close enough. But with the sorts of astronomical tools we use, and the time periods we’re willing to spend on making observations, we’re unlikely to see — or understand — anything but the most extraordinary signals at galactic distances.

    Bummer, isn’t it?

    Other hand, maybe just as well. Suppose we did have unambiguous evidence of something extraordinary. Suppose ten billion light years away, all the suns on one side of a distant galaxy were yellow dwarfs like our own and all the suns on the opposite side were a mixture of solar types, and observation over several decades suggested that giant swaths of the yellow dwarfs were being transformed to red or blue giants. Would we on earth view this as a powerful alien species just doing its thing, or as signs of an interstellar war, or evidence for a God intentionally creating a galaxy? Would we choose to signal our existence to such distant beings. or hide from them? Should we modify our religious beliefs to accommodate the new “information”?

    Given the ambiguity that can arise in assessing alien civilizations, we might be happier in ignorance.

  • Cotour

    So, invisible it is!

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