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Article  Alone in the Cosmos? (book review)

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: We live in a world that is increasingly at ease with the concept of intelligent extraterrestrial life. The evidence for this is all around us, but I’ll cite what Louis Friedman says in his new book Alone But Not Lonely: Exploring for Extraterrestrial Life (University of Arizona Press, 2023). When it polled in the United States on the question in 2020, CBS News found that fully two-thirds of the citizenry believe not only that life exists on other planets, but that it is intelligent. That this number is surging is shown by the fact that in polling 10 years ago, the result was below 50 percent.

[...] The silence of the universe in terms of intelligent signals is thus disappointing. That’s certainly my sentiment. I wrote my first article on SETI back in the early 1980s for The Review of International Broadcasting, rather confident that by the end of the 20th Century we would have more than one signal to decipher from another civilization. Today, each new report from our active SETI efforts at various wavelengths and in varying modes creates a sense of wonder that a galaxy as vast as ours has yet to reveal a single extraterrestrial.

[...] These are matters that are still in vigorous debate among scientists, of course, so I don’t lean too heavily on the precise numbers. The point is simply to cast something as evidently evanescent as our human culture against the inexorable backdrop of geological time. And to contrast even that with a galaxy that is over 13 billion years old, where processes like these presumably occurred in multitudes of stellar systems. What are the odds that, if intelligence is rare, two civilizations would emerge at the same time and live long enough to become aware of each other? And does the lack of hard evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations not make this point emphatic?

[...] Friedman is of the belief that interstellar flight is simply too daunting to be a path forward for human crews, noting instead the power of unmanned payloads, an idea that fits with his current work with Breakthrough Starshot. I won’t go into all the reasons for his pessimism on this – as the book makes clear, he’s well aware of all the concepts that have been floated to make fast interstellar travel possible, but skeptical they can be adapted for humans. Rather than Star Trek, he thinks in terms of robotic exploration. And even there, the idea of a flyby does not satisfy, even if it demonstrates that some kind of interstellar payload can be delivered. What he’s angling for beyond physical payloads is a virtual (VR) model in which AI techniques like tensor holography can be wrapped around data to construct 3D holograms that can be explored immersively even if remotely. Thus the beauty of the SGL [Solar Gravitational Lens] mission:

We can get data using Nature’s telescope, the solar gravity lens, to image exoplanets identified from Earth-based and Earth-orbit telescopes as the most promising to harbor life. It also would use modern information technology to create immersive and participatory methods for scientists to explore the data—with the same definition of exploration I used at the beginning of this book: an opportunity for adventure and discovery. The ability to observe multiple interesting exoplanets for long times, with high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy with one hundred billion times magnification, and then immerse oneself in those observations is “real” exploration. VR with real data should allow us to use all our senses to experience the conditions on exoplanets—maybe not instantly, but a lot more quickly than we could ever get to one.

[...] Such virtual exploration does not, of course, rule out SETI itself, including the search for other forms of technosignature than radio or optical emissions... (MORE - missing details)
Zinjanthropos Offline
Does Earth possess that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, some special indescribable quality that the universe placed here for intelligence to emerge. Just add heat, water, some turf, then set the time. Other planets may possess it also but because they’re part of the majority of orbs that aren’t in a Goldilocks Zone, it sits on ice.

Perhaps an ingredient Earth has, like salt. Not sure how common salt is in the universe or if life can survive without it. It’s the only rock I like on my food. Earth might be a gigantic salt lick, attracting visitors from all
Magical Realist Offline
Quote:Does Earth possess that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, some special indescribable quality that the universe placed here for intelligence to emerge.

[Image: 7mUgeJO.jpeg]
[Image: 7mUgeJO.jpeg]

Zinjanthropos Offline
(Feb 6, 2024 11:25 PM)Magical Realist Wrote:
Quote:Does Earth possess that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, some special indescribable quality that the universe placed here for intelligence to emerge.

[Image: 7mUgeJO.jpeg]
[Image: 7mUgeJO.jpeg]

What did I tell ya? It's even in there thrice Big Grin


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