Science/DGRs Where is everybody? 


Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling

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The search for extra-terrestrials has always fascinated all of us.  It has also been of great interest to scientists.  The great Enrico Fermi once said:

"Where is everybody?"

His peers, sitting around a table, knew exactly what he meant.  With a universe so vast, it is hard for any of us to think we are alone.  It would be remarkable, if we were.

We don't have any real evidence, but the sheer size and scope of the known universe tells us that there may be others like us.  By the words 'like us', we don't mean how we look, but we do mean how we think and produce power.  Could intelligence be self-destructive before it can be known from afar by the reception of a binary message from space detected by arrays of giant radiotelescoples?

I was reading "Great Equations of Modern Science" by Graham Farmelo.  One of the chapters concerned Drake's Equation.  It is used by scientists to try to estimate the probability of intelligence in the universe.

What struck me was not the equation itself or the estimates that have been made from it, which are a bit rough..  What interested me is the idea of harnessing energy and how it defines intelligence. 

The scientists depict us as earthly humans barely living in a Type I society.  That means that we have harnessed energy to the point of controlling our planet, although haltingly.  We've really not done it efficiently, but Type 1 we seem to want to be.

The next step is to fully harness the energy of our sun in a manner that allows us to dominate the resources of the planetary system in which we dwell.  We thus become a Type II society.

Finally, the most advanced society is one that controls the galaxy in which they live.  That is a Type III intelligence.  That type is seen in Star Wars.

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It's quite a leap from basic life on earth to evolution of species to harnessing the power sources of nature.  We have the sun and we have the atom.  In between we have wind, water, coal, oil and more.  Where does our intelligence take us?  Are we doomed to extinguish ourselves before we reach a genuine Type I society?  Does anybody care?  Probably not.

Some don't like the atom, wind and solar farms.  I prefer magic, but somehow it does not produce enough photons to do much.  We have to take responsibility for the entire energy cycle.

By the way who said "Let there be light"?

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Monday, May 20, 2013