Are we Alone in the Universe…..?

24 Dec

Next to ‘How did the Universe Begin?’ and ‘Can any politicians tell the truth?’, ‘Are we Alone in the Universe?’ is probably the biggest question we can ask.  It is surprisingly easy to answer but there are some important things to consider……

 

So, Are we Alone in the Universe…..?

No, probably not.  The universe is very big and very old so, when considering the existence of life in another part of the universe, the numbers are important.  You’ve probably heard it said that the chances of winning the lottery are 14 million to 1.  To reach this statistic the mathematics is relatively simple.  The chance of your first number coming up is 50 – 1, the second 49 -1, the third 48 – 1 and so on until the bonus ball, which has a probability of 45 – 1.  Multiply each together and you’ll get close to 14 million to 1.  Even though this appears to be a fairly low probability and, you have more chance of dying before the draw takes place, it pales into insignificance when compared with the probability of life existing somewhere else in the universe due to the size of the numbers involved.  It’s what we physicists describe as absolutely cala-fraga-licstic-expeala-fucking-dosingly bastard big……

How Big is the Universe and What’s in it…..?

 

The observable universe is 93 billion light years across.  The distance light travels in one year is 5,865,696,000,000 miles (nearly as far as Hilary Clinton flies).  Multiply this by 93 billion and you get the scale we are dealing with here; it is literally astro-fuckinomical!

The observable universe (I’ll refer to it as ‘the universe’ from here on) contains approximately 100 billion galaxies.  Galaxies vary considerably in size, from 100 times the mass of our own Milky Way galaxy, to Ultra-Compact Dwarf galaxies with only a few tens of millions of stars but as an average each of the 100 billion galaxies contain between 1 and 2 hundred billion stars and 4 celebrities.  So, again we are dealing with an enormous number of stars and, therefore, potential solar systems devoid of any talent.

That’s about it for the numbers (I promise) but now we need to take into account practicalities and philosophical questions……

The Drake Equation……

In the early 1960s as scientists began to give serious consideration to the proposal that we may not be alone in the universe and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was established.  One of the founding members of the project, Frank Drake, began to lay out the ‘requirements’ for finding intelligent life.  His work led to the famous ‘Drake Equation’ which defines some logical search parameters such as the number of stars which are liable to have planets capable of sustaining life, whether that life would then develop intelligence and the length of time an intelligent civilisation may have been ‘broadcasting’ detectable signals.

It is at this point that the philosophical question of what defines ‘intelligent’ life arises?  For example; I happen to think that Dolphins and Gorillas are pretty intelligent but neither has the capability or desire to broadcast signals into space.  So the Drake Equation works on the assumption that the life they were seeking is something not dissimilar to us.  Even with this proviso, Drake calculated that there could be between 1000 and 100 million intelligent civilisations in the universe with 250,000 celebrities, 500,000 fake breasts and 5.2 Simon Cowells……

Why hasn’t ET Phoned Home…..?

If Drakes estimates are to be believed one might have expected some signs of life out there in the depths of space, yet so far despite having scanned the skies over a large spectrum of wavelengths we have found nothing, nada, jack.  This does not mean that Drake was wrong or that intelligence similar to our own doesn’t or hasn’t existed.  However, take a look at our own civilisation and it took over 100,000 years of evolution before Marconi began to pump decipherable signals into the ether.  In the 100 or so year since, those signals have barely made it off the estate and into town in astronomical terms.  Then, taking into account the age of the universe, an intelligent civilisation may have existed before we crawled out of the sea and, assuming they are as ‘intelligent’ as we are, may have destroyed themselves or the planet they lived on due to differences about whose imaginary best friend created the universe, and any decipherable signal went whistling past the earth just before Copernicus worked out that the Earth wasn’t at the centre of the universe.

It is a catch 22.  The enormous numbers relating to size, time and possibilities may be the very thing that will stop two intelligent civilisations ever communicating, let alone meeting each other on a mutually convenient planet and ‘NGC3370’s Got Talent’ will never be scheduled to coincide with the Christmas number 1 by a purely editorial quirk of corruption……

Other Possibilities……

For this exercise in philosophical pondering we’ll assume that we are not the most intelligent thing in the universe.  If there are 13 dimensions of space, which the Nobel prize winners for extreme cleverness have suggested, is it possible that entities are able to pop in and out of our dimensions at will?  We’ve all seen those donut shaped ‘ice crystals’ that buzz the space shuttle and reports of alien abductions from people in institutions  across the planet, though the fact that they always seem to abduct ‘red neck’ hill billies from Montana is beyond me.  One has to wonder why a civilisation with the capability of inter-dimensional space travel doesn’t abduct David Cameron or President Obama unless they are carrying out experiments into inter-dimensional lying and need a baseline from which to work.  Perhaps David Icke is right and the Queen, Prince Philip & Martin Jackson are really lizards in human clothing.  Many questions remain unanswered but for now one can only hope that the matter version of Simon Cowell meets up with his anti-matter counter parts and they annihilate completely with the blinding power of a hundred David Dickinson’s fake tans……

Until Stephen Hawking finds a way to cross the space-time continuum at will we’ll just have to accept that the only ‘intelligent’ life we are likely to encounter is at the check out in Tesco’s which, let’s face it is unlikely as they don’t even know the difference between ’Ten Items or Less’ and ‘Ten Items or Fewer’……

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