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This Lonely Planet
by Jan Sand
2007-05-07 08:54:00
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No doubt Photoshop or similar creative graphic procedures have been quite busy these latter years popping alien extraterrestrial visitors into YouTube for general perusal but the actual thing seems yet to genuinely appear. The universe is well supplied with galaxies each of which contains millions of stars each of which has planetary potential. Planet spotting has become a general sport amongst astronomers. Consequentially there is a general unease at not coming across some definite indications that life and intellect that is not unique for this particular location in the cosmos.

Scientists and mathematicians and psychologists have come up with various reasons for the lack of evidence of universal companionship.

Since we have no evidence otherwise most life is assumed to be planetary based. There is lots of matter out there between planets and no doubt much energy that could be tricked into some form of life but even speculation in that area is almost non-existent. The only science fiction story I have read involving space-based life was "The Black Cloud" by the astrophysicist Fred Hoyle and it was not encouraging in the matter of humanity discovering an extraterrestrial buddy.

One of the prime obstacles in this mission is determining how an intelligence might manifest itself. It has only within these latest few decades that humans have been willing to concede that intellect might be possessed by any of our fellow animals. Since then dolphins, bonobos and chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants and, most recently, ravens have been admitted to our select class and even rats and mice have been conceded to exhibit something of this exclusive talent. There is an undercurrent of resistance to these admissions by a good many people, as humans, by this, seem to be gradually submerging into the class of animal life in general.

Part of this resistance is due to the dilemma that keeps cropping up in human morality wherein humans (or at least some humans) feel uncomfortable in chopping up and chomping down a fellow intelligent creature. Alice, in one of Lewis Carroll's books, brought out this difficulty nicely in her refusal to consume the meat dish at a dinner once she had been introduced to it.

Opportunities are non-existent in our search for cosmic intellect to prompt it to jump through psychological hoops or solve puzzles or even knock down a banana with a stick. Intercommunication is not possible since our fastest transmissions would take thousands or millions of years and stable cultures, insofar as we have seen them on Earth, are not that persistent. So we have to be satisfied with merely detecting patterns in electromagnetic emissions coming our way from outer space. Several of the very large parabolic antennas have, at one time or another, at the behest of the SETI Institute, been devoted to filtering these emissions to discover if any of them possess the regularity that could signify an intelligent origin. There have been a few false alarms when astrophysical phenomena seemed to exhibit artificial patterns but inevitably the sources have been discovered to be entirely without intellect.

If intelligent life elsewhere is as evanescent as it seems to be here on Earth it could be it is a very transient phenomenon and, as here, its capabilities may inevitably generate totally self-destructive forces. Considering the violent nature of life on Earth at present it may be that other life is forewarned by our communications that freely radiate into space and steer very clear of our vicinity.

Both Mars and Titan, the satellite of Saturn, present evidence of methane gas which is at least one of the components of cow farts. At this point, no other evidence of interplanetary cows has been detected no matter how loud the little dog laughed or where ever the dish ran with the spoon.

Perhaps humankind will eventually find solace with a field of fungus on one of the other planets but intelligent conversation seems unlikely.

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Asa2007-05-07 11:19:10
Nice article.

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