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Thread: Would we know if we were in a "Startrekverse"?

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    Would we know if we were in a "Startrekverse"?

    On the TV show, every star seems to have at least one planet technologically equal to c2000 AD Earth. If this were reality, would we know it?
    I have heard it said that our TV shows fade into invisibility within a couple light years. Our DEW radar can be picked up by Arecibo to something like 100 light years, but only if we are looking at that point, on that frequency, at that instant. And even then we would just get a WOW! signal or a TYC 1220-91-1.
    So have we ruled out a Startrekverse? Not that I believe it, but have we looked at the universe deeply enough to PROVE it false?

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    Let us not confuse fact and fantasy. Star Trek is fantasy. Nothing from SETI for many years now is fact.
    I'm not a hardnosed mainstreamer; I just like the observations, theories, predictions, and results to match.

    "Mainstream isn’t a faith system. It is a verified body of work that must be taken into account if you wish to add to that body of work, or if you want to change the conclusions of that body of work." - korjik

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    I don't think what we currently know is even remotely conclusive enough to rule out 20th century Earth level civilizations around any other stars, except, just maybe, from the very closest few. I wouldn't argue that it is therefore probable that there are any though. But it looks like we might be able to begin gathering evidence that would allow us to definitively answer that question, at least for nearby stars, sometime in the next 25 to 100 years.

    It is likely that a 20th century level civilization would result in atmospheric signatures that may be detectable by telescope from Earth and we are pretty close to being capable of building telescopes to do that routinely and reliably.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Mendenhall View Post
    Let us not confuse fact and fantasy. Star Trek is fantasy. Nothing from SETI for many years now is fact.
    The point is that we have hardly tested the hypothesis that ETI is at all common. I am tired of reading skeptics say we have looked extensively and seen nobody, when all we have done is examine 1*10^-50 of the search space for a ETI signal.

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    Does a Startrekverse even need to be proved false?
    Surely it's the sort of extraordinary hypothesis that requires extraordinary evidence before we accept it as a possibility, and can safely ignore in the meantime.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    ...and can safely ignore in the meantime.
    One simply cannot "safely" ignore a Klingon, sir.

    Okay, more seriously:

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    So have we ruled out a Startrekverse? Not that I believe it, but have we looked at the universe deeply enough to PROVE it false?
    You tried taking this approach in your Planet Nine thread and in light of the responses there, you should now know that this isn't the way science works. Science doesn't "prove" things...especially negatives. Even if you don't like the extent of it, the evidence we have so far does not suggest that we live in anything resembling a "Startrekverse" and nothing to the contrary can be inferred from the evidence we do not yet have.
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    Observations are consistent with N=1 in the Drake equation. But they are also consistent, as far as I can tell, with N=10^11.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Observations are consistent with N=1 in the Drake equation. But they are also consistent, as far as I can tell, with N=10^11.
    And the significance of that is what? You could plug all sorts of values in for fl , fi , fc and L but without evidence to support those values, you're doing little more than guessing, aren't you?
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    And the significance of that is what? You could plug all sorts of values in for fl , fi , fc and L but without evidence to support those values, you're doing little more than guessing, aren't you?
    That's all we're doing to a large extent, guessing.
    Personally, I think Sol b is the only planet in the observable universe with life, but that's just me...I may be wrong.
    SETI has pretty much ruled out a Milky Way that looks like the OAUP. But it has not come close to ruling out a hundred thousand million civilizations in the Milky Way if they are similar to ours. I do not know if a Kardashev 2.00 civilization is possible. Heck, I don't know if a Kardashev 1.00 civilization is possible. But I know a Kardashev 0.73 civilization is possible (for an existence proof, look around you).
    Not that SETI has come up with nothing. Carl Sagan mentioned a number of signals coming from the Milky Way in Pale Blue Dot. The only reason they were not First Contact is that they did not repeat. SOMETHING made those signals, natural or artificial. I would like to know what. So SETI hasn't been a total waste. And the negative result is important. For all we knew in 1960, there could have been a billion Dyson Spheres in the Milky Way transmitting astronomically noticeable signals. Now we can be sure there are not.

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    There is plenty of evidence that Star Trek and your 'Startrekverse' are fantasies (or purely fictional) fabrications.

    There is no need to prove otherwise unless delusions have become our default worldview.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    There is plenty of evidence that Star Trek and your 'Startrekverse' are fantasies (or purely fictional) fabrications.

    There is no need to prove otherwise unless delusions have become our default worldview.
    There is proof that FTL is impossible, so that rules out a literal, complete 'Startrekverse'. But what evidence (as opposed to theoretical arguments) do we have that most stars do not have an Earthlike civilization orbiting them?

  12. 2017-Apr-20, 10:44 PM

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    There is proof that FTL is impossible, so that rules out a literal, complete 'Startrekverse'.
    No, there is not proof that FTL travel is impossible. I think there are a number of reasons that make it very unlikely, but they don't make a proof.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    There is proof that FTL is impossible, so that rules out a literal, complete 'Startrekverse'.
    In fact, the existence of FTL travel is yet another fantasy, so there is no objective evidence that it is 'impossible' ... nor is there any need for evidence that it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec
    But what evidence (as opposed to theoretical arguments) do we have that most stars do not have an Earthlike civilization orbiting them?
    None .. nor is there a need for any.

    Why would any scientist dismiss theoretical arguments in a conversation involving FTL travel and 'Earthlike civilisations'?

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    What if alien civilizations created a network of communication that did not broadcast its signal in all directions such as the internet or found a way of using alternate dimensions to communicate?
    ...I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Personally, I think Sol b is the only planet in the observable universe with life, but that's just me...I may be wrong.
    Wouldn't that be Sol g? Given that we identified Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as planets before we realized Earth was the same thing? Or at least Sol d, assuming the heliocentric view suddenly promoted all the then-known planets to a uniform "in orbit around the sun" category?

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    On the TV show, every star seems to have at least one planet technologically equal to c2000 AD Earth. If this were reality, would we know it?
    I have heard it said that our TV shows fade into invisibility within a couple light years. Our DEW radar can be picked up by Arecibo to something like 100 light years, but only if we are looking at that point, on that frequency, at that instant. And even then we would just get a WOW! signal or a TYC 1220-91-1.
    So have we ruled out a Startrekverse? Not that I believe it, but have we looked at the universe deeply enough to PROVE it false?
    I don't think we have.

    Our ability to observe exoplanets is increasing fast, but we still know much less about them than about the planets of this solar system. The planet Proxima Centauri b was confirmed as existing only last year, for example...

    We know quite enough about Mars (for instance) to exclude the presence of flourishing cities on its surface. It's another question whether we know enough about Proxima Centauri b to exclude the presence of flourishing cities there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Mendenhall View Post
    Nothing from SETI for many years now is fact.
    The SETI project has been testing for signals actively beamed out. While it is conceivable that a civilisation with technology comparable to ours (or more advanced) might choose to beam out messages, it is also conceivable that they might not choose to do that. So far, we ourselves have made only token efforts to send out messages...
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2017-Apr-22 at 12:18 AM.

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    I think anyone who says there aren't as many planets that humanoids could do well on as Star Trek requires must be unaware of or forgetting how many stars are out there.

    First, how many good planets do we need? The Federation is said to have "over 150 member planets" and "thousands of colonies" that are in some way affiliated with some of those "member planets". How many is "thousands"? I'd call it 4 digits, because if it were 5 or 6, it would have gotten a different verbal description. But we must also multiply that to include the Romulan, Klingon, and Cardassian empires, and include some planets that aren't in any of those big groups, which would put us up into the low 5-digit range. Just to make it as difficult as could be considered reasonable to find enough planets, let's call that 50,000. Much of the Star Trek galaxy is unexplored: possibly inhabited, but not by anybody we know of. Other than the Dominion, the Borg, and anybody the Voyager met, all of the familiar political entities from Star Trek stories occupy about a fourth of the galaxy. So a fourth of the galaxy needs to fit 50,000 good planets in it.

    That might sound like a lot, but the galaxy has 100-400 billion stars, so, even using the low end to cut it as close as possible, that's still 25 billion in a fourth of it. So Star Trek only needs at least 1 star out of every 500,000 to have a good planet around it. I believe we've reasonably checked a few hundred. That gives us no indication how much lower the odds are than 1 in a few hundred. (And that was choosing estimates to make the inhabited planets take up as much of the galaxy as I could; with a lower required planet count like 10,000 needing to fit in a quadrant with the upper limit of up to 100 billion stars, we could have said Star Trek could get by on as few as 1 star out of every 10 million!)

    Maybe that many other advanced civilizations aren't out there at all, because the actual ratio is even lower than any of these ratios I just gave. But we don't know it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    I think anyone who says there aren't as many planets that humanoids could do well on as Star Trek requires must be unaware of or forgetting how many stars are out there.

    First, how many good planets do we need? The Federation is said to have "over 150 member planets" and "thousands of colonies" that are in some way affiliated with some of those "member planets". How many is "thousands"? I'd call it 4 digits, because if it were 5 or 6, it would have gotten a different verbal description. But we must also multiply that to include the Romulan, Klingon, and Cardassian empires, and include some planets that aren't in any of those big groups, which would put us up into the low 5-digit range. Just to make it as difficult as could be considered reasonable to find enough planets, let's call that 50,000. Much of the Star Trek galaxy is unexplored: possibly inhabited, but not by anybody we know of. Other than the Dominion, the Borg, and anybody the Voyager met, all of the familiar political entities from Star Trek stories occupy about a fourth of the galaxy. So a fourth of the galaxy needs to fit 50,000 good planets in it.

    That might sound like a lot, but the galaxy has 100-400 billion stars, so, even using the low end to cut it as close as possible, that's still 25 billion in a fourth of it. So Star Trek only needs at least 1 star out of every 500,000 to have a good planet around it. I believe we've reasonably checked a few hundred.
    "Reasonably checked" meaning what? That we have a full inventory of planets and large natural satellites around the "Goldilocks zone" of those stars? How can that be right, if a planet of the closest other star (Proxima) wasn't confirmed till last year?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    I think anyone who says there aren't as many planets that humanoids could do well on as Star Trek requires must be unaware of or forgetting how many stars are out there.
    ...
    Maybe that many other advanced civilizations aren't out there at all, because the actual ratio is even lower than any of these ratios I just gave. But we don't know it.
    Well, if 'we don't know it', then what possible difference does it make whether anyone is 'unaware of how many stars are out there', (or not)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    "Reasonably checked" meaning what? That we have a full inventory of planets and large natural satellites around the "Goldilocks zone" of those stars? How can that be right, if a planet of the closest other star (Proxima) wasn't confirmed till last year?
    Project Phoenix maybe?:
    Quote Originally Posted by Wiki
    Between September 1996 and April 1998, the Project used the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, USA. Rather than attempting to scan the whole sky for messages, the Project concentrated on nearby systems that are similar to our own. Project Phoenix's targets comprised about 800 stars with a 200 light-year range.
    The Project searched for radio signals as narrow as 1 Hz between 1,000 and 3,000 MHz: a broad bandwidth compared with most SETI searches.
    In March 2004 the Project announced that after checking the 800 stars on its list, it had failed to find any evidence of extraterrestrial signals. Project leader Peter Backus remarked that they had been forced to conclude that "we live in a quiet neighborhood".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    Project Phoenix was a project of the SETI institute to detect radio signals. The methods it uses would only detect signals from a planet whose artificial radio brightness is significantly greater than ours generally is.

    It is possible to use current Earth technology to send out a signal that would be detectable by others with similar technology, but we inhabitants of Earth have not made a sustained effort to do that.

    There have been some token efforts, such as the Arecibo message of 1974, which lasted just 3 minutes. If another civilisation sent out a three-minute message like that, we would only detect them if we happened to have a radio telescope aimed at exactly the right star at exactly the three-minute interval when their message was reaching Earth... Which would be highly unlikely.

    See the SETI Institute's FAQ.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    That's all we're doing to a large extent, guessing.
    Personally, I think Sol b is the only planet in the observable universe with life, but that's just me...I may be wrong.
    How much life there is, and how many technological civilisations there are, are two very different questions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    Project Phoenix was a project of the SETI institute to detect radio signals. The methods it uses would only detect signals from a planet whose artificial radio brightness is significantly greater than ours generally is.

    It is possible to use current Earth technology to send out a signal that would be detectable by others with similar technology, but we inhabitants of Earth have not made a sustained effort to do that.

    There have been some token efforts, such as the Arecibo message of 1974, which lasted just 3 minutes. If another civilisation sent out a three-minute message like that, we would only detect them if we happened to have a radio telescope aimed at exactly the right star at exactly the three-minute interval when their message was reaching Earth... Which would be highly unlikely.

    See the SETI Institute's FAQ.
    None-the-less: SETI Institute's FAQ: What is the Allen Telescope Array observing now?:
    Quote Originally Posted by SETI
    There are several observing projects currently running on the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). One is a reconnaissance of star systems found to have planets (or planet candidates) by NASA’s Kepler Mission, and especially those planets in their own stellar habitable zone. Kepler has uncovered thousands of candidate planets since its launch, and these are on the observing list for the ATA. They will be examined over a spectral range from 1 to 9 GHz (1000 – 9000 MHz).In addition, the ATA is observing a small region in the vicinity of the Milky Way’s galactic center. This is the region of highest stellar density in the galaxy, and it’s conceivable that truly advanced societies might place a “beacon” there.
    A third, and on-going effort by the ATA is to observe nearby, so-called “hab stars”. These are stellar systems less than 1,000 light-years distant that have characteristics that would make them suitable hosts (“habitable”) for planets with life. This last project is an extension of Project Phoenix, a SETI Institute effort that ran from 1995 – 2004, and used radio telescopes in Australia, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico to scrutinize one thousand nearby star systems in a hunt for radio signals.

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    While there are certainly things that we can be reasonably certain don't exist, like bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, it's premature to assume ETI does not exist, in the same way that it was premature for an early 19th Century scientist to assume that the deep benthic zones of the ocean were lifeless: the technological ability to detect life anywhere off Earth is marginal, and that to detect all but the noisiest technological civilizations outside the Solar System is non-existent. We may be able to detect atmospheric traces that could be indicative (but not diagnostic) of life using spectroscopic measurements of transiting exoplanets with large telescopes, but right now, we would be hard pressed to detect a civilization equivalent to ours at Proxima.

    Now, I'll go hunt for my lost Honda key under a street light and, not finding it, prove it doesn't exist.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2017-Apr-22 at 03:32 PM.

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    The Star Trek universe is real but I'm a holodeck character who's part of a simulation of this one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    While there are certainly things that we can be reasonably certain don't exist, like bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, it's premature to assume ETI does not exist, in the same way that it was premature for an early 19th Century scientist to assume that the deep benthic zones of the ocean were lifeless: the technological ability to detect life anywhere off Earth is marginal, and that to detect all but the noisiest technological civilizations outside the Solar System is non-existent. We may be able to detect atmospheric traces that could be indicative (but not diagnostic) of life using spectroscopic measurements of transiting exoplanets with large telescopes, but right now, we would be hard pressed to detect a civilization equivalent to ours at Proxima.
    You didn't include a quote, so I'm not sure what post you are responding to. My impression is that the OP was wondering about the possibility that every star has a technological civilization around it. While I personally agree with what you wrote and think that there probably is life outside the earth, the idea that every star has a technological civilization seems pretty far-fetched.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    You didn't include a quote, so I'm not sure what post you are responding to. My impression is that the OP was wondering about the possibility that every star has a technological civilization around it. While I personally agree with what you wrote and think that there probably is life outside the earth, the idea that every star has a technological civilization seems pretty far-fetched.
    Most of that was a general comment. Right now, 2017, not only is there no data about ET life, there is no definitive method to get data about ET life, even ETI with our technology. Like you, I think it's vanishingly unlikely every star system with habitable planets will have a civilization equivalent to ours. Of course, there's no data to refute or support that position.

    This means, as far as I'm concerned any answer not forbidden by known physical law is defensible, but the more definitive an answer, the less defensible it's likely to be.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2017-Apr-24 at 08:58 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Most of that was a general comment. Right now, 2017, not only is there no data about ET life, there is no definitive method to get data about ET life, even ETI with our technology. Like you, I think it's vanishingly unlikely every star system with habitable planets will have a civilization equivalent to ours. Of course, there's no data to refute or support that position.

    This means, as far as I'm concerned any answer not forbidden by known physical law is defensible, but the more definitive an answer, the less defensible it's likely to be.
    It's worth remembering that our very own solar system seems to have been without a technological civilisation for most of its four billion year history.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    It's worth remembering that our very own solar system seems to have been without a technological civilisation for most of its four billion year history.
    Very true. Humans have been able to produce radio noise that escapes the ionosphere for only about 80 of those years.

    Like I said, we cannot detect a human-level civilization at Proxima unless they're deliberately sending radio signals at Earth at a great enough duty cycle to be noticed. Leaping from "we can't detect it" to "it can't exist" when the methods available are unable to detect a [hypothetical, probably non-existent] civilization functionally identical to us on the closest possible extra-solar planet is logically unsupportable.
    Last edited by swampyankee; Yesterday at 01:53 AM.

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