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Thread: What do you think is the most likely explanation for the Fermi paradox?

  1. #1261
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    That would a strong argument, IF it was an established fact that self-sufficient space habitats can be built at minimal cost relative to a planetary economy. But is that an established fact?
    I would think the question itself may be a bit off. I don't think it would be that great a cost compared to the planetary economy itself, but the problem is that we really have to compare it to the amount of money that can be spent on projects like that. It has to be funded either by government budgets or by private companies or by philanthropy of some sort, so the question is whether stockholders and taxpayers and philanthropists would be willing to do it, regardless of how expensive it is compared to the economy itself. And paradoxically, it's possible (I don't mean probable just a slight possibility) that moving money away from technology to prevent asteroid collisions into colonization scheme could doom us because an asteroid that we might have prevented with new technology wipes us out before we get a working colony in place).

    I also don't really like the metaphor of lifeboats. I think lifeboats are made to assist in the survival of the actually people on the boat in case of a disaster, whereas in this case we are not talking about something that would save us but rather some other people (who we might not even know) on some planet. I think it would be better to think of it as a kind of life insurance policy, where you invest money to helping your family survive if you die prematurely.

    I'm personally not an opponent of colonizing outer space, either on a planet or elsewhere, but I don't find the idea of using it as a "lifeboat for the human race" to be that compelling.
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    'Library of the Great Silence' invites E.T. to share long-term survival strategies
    https://www.space.com/library-of-gre...-fermi-paradox

    We could detect alien civilizations through their interstellar quantum communication
    https://phys.org/news/2021-04-alien-...r-quantum.html

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    A paper suggesting that crude photosynthesis happened very early in the history of Earth life, which has implications for the potential timelines of complex life elsewhere. Just because we took a long time to reach human intelligence does not mean it's an unavoidable imitation; some world with different conditions might have accelerated development relative to us.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...05272821000335
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    That would a strong argument, IF it was an established fact that self-sufficient space habitats can be built at minimal cost relative to a planetary economy. But is that an established fact?
    Only one way to find out!
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Exactly! We have Earth habitats that are scientifically interesting and resource rich. Antartica, deep oceans, deserts, mountains. Yet we do not colonise them. It would be technically possible but the costs outweigh the benefits. Once you add in the travel costs , it becomes very unlikely. Unlikely as in unsustainable .
    So you keep asserting. Got numbers to back that up?


    Also, deserts and mountains have had human inhabitants for literally thousands of years.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    So you keep asserting. Got numbers to back that up?


    Also, deserts and mountains have had human inhabitants for literally thousands of years.
    I noticed we are in the Fermi paradox thread , where different arguments apply. Although the costs of colonising I guess apply to hypothetical alien civilisations. In that area I beLieve the combination of distance and self destructive tendencies are the explanation for an absence of both signals and flying saucers. I did not mean to argue costs in this thread.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Exactly! We have Earth habitats that are scientifically interesting and resource rich. Antartica, deep oceans, deserts, mountains. Yet we do not colonise them. It would be technically possible but the costs outweigh the benefits. Once you add in the travel costs , it becomes very unlikely. Unlikely as in unsustainable .
    Hi profloater,

    What would attract a technologically advanced species to space is the free radiant energy from its Sun. Not to mention other resources available. And, even if local planetary resources were sufficient and clean, they regardless would encounter climactic heating related to cumulative effects of technological activity. This might also be impetus to move to space.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    Hi profloater,

    What would attract a technologically advanced species to space is the free radiant energy from its Sun. Not to mention other resources available. And, even if local planetary resources were sufficient and clean, they regardless would encounter climactic heating related to cumulative effects of technological activity. This might also be impetus to move to space.
    Hi 7cscb,,
    Are you postulating that a long lived species will eventually need a new sun? That seems to be true and new suns form. If we are any guide, then next you need a goldilocks planet. It would seem to be easier to build a suitable artificial planet and move its orbit as your star progresses, after all you have time unimaginable to human timescales. But then we have a Mars ambition many millions of years ahead of our sun becoming a problem. So the drive to find other planets might run way ahead of necessity for aliens too. That takes us back to the scale factor of stellar travel versus planetary travel. Evolution of life on planets seems to produce planetary life forms that will find it hard to reach another star. That may well be the strong filter. Personally I feel self destruction is the major limit, I think intelligent life is unstable and naturally oscillates between primitive and advanced states. Another possibility is that intelligent life becomes wise and long lasting and then very circumspect about colonisation. That might lead to broadcasting DNA like seeds into the cosmos, and that is rather untestable at the moment. If Voyager had been equipped with DNA detectors, maybe ? DNA in outer space might be the next stage of research. Of course there are other ways the genetic material could be coded, we might not recognise those.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Hi 7cscb,,
    Are you postulating that a long lived species will eventually need a new sun? That seems to be true and new suns form. If we are any guide, then next you need a goldilocks planet. It would seem to be easier to build a suitable artificial planet and move its orbit as your star progresses, after all you have time unimaginable to human timescales. But then we have a Mars ambition many millions of years ahead of our sun becoming a problem. So the drive to find other planets might run way ahead of necessity for aliens too. That takes us back to the scale factor of stellar travel versus planetary travel. Evolution of life on planets seems to produce planetary life forms that will find it hard to reach another star. That may well be the strong filter. Personally I feel self destruction is the major limit, I think intelligent life is unstable and naturally oscillates between primitive and advanced states. Another possibility is that intelligent life becomes wise and long lasting and then very circumspect about colonisation. That might lead to broadcasting DNA like seeds into the cosmos, and that is rather untestable at the moment. If Voyager had been equipped with DNA detectors, maybe ? DNA in outer space might be the next stage of research. Of course there are other ways the genetic material could be coded, we might not recognise those.
    Life, and humanity exceptionally, craves energy. Given that stars radiate energy into the universe it seems natural an advanced civilization would want to tap into this free source of energy with massive collector arrays. To your original point, Antarctica does not offer this. We may develop cheap and safe fusion as a source of energy, which would seem to obviate the need for arrays. But regardless of how clean the energy source is, the long term thermodynamics of an advanced technological civilization will cause its planet to heat up. The LHC uses power in quantities unimaginable 100 years ago. Likely, future projects will require unheard of power. Moving these into space and much other activity would slow the planetary thermodynamics issues.

    None of the above would precipitate the demise of the star. Any energy not captured is wasted away. Needing another Sun would be in an unimaginable future millions or billions of years down the road.

    As far as moving to other planets, they are gravitationally uncomfortable. A Dyson swarm could support unheard of numbers of people and every imaginable life form.

    I'm not sure if I clarified my original response.

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    Well I agree, a star can wax and wane and mess up a perfectly good planet. A technological shield, not as grand as a Dyson sphere, but adjusting the incoming and outgoing radiation by means we can already imagine, seems a good step. I guess it would be hard at present to detect such a shield as it looks from here like just a planet. Its evolution from space stations even seems plausible. I wonder what the ideal radius is?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Not sure about your assumption about energy needs. The planet needs energy for plants. Advanced civilisations should cut their energy use by avoiding cryptocurrencies and working on insulation. Travel is a zero net energy concept once you conquer friction. So balancing radiation in and out is the long term issue. We might even demonstrate it one day.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I noticed we are in the Fermi paradox thread , where different arguments apply. Although the costs of colonising I guess apply to hypothetical alien civilisations. In that area I beLieve the combination of distance and self destructive tendencies are the explanation for an absence of both signals and flying saucers. I did not mean to argue costs in this thread.
    OK. I believe the distances and rarity of complex intelligence are the main causes. But I'm not sure our own self destructive tendencies would also be applicable to nonhumans with unknown traits and practices.

    All it would take is one intelligence bucking the trend and having higher-than-average self preservation, or surviving by sheer luck or grit, to then become interstellar colonizers. (Although one could then argue devil's advocate that self preservation prevents them from developing powerful ballistic missile technology leading to orbital rockets, or risking the dangers of spaceflight. Depends on if their sense of self protection is individual or socially oriented.)
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    Hi profloater,

    What would attract a technologically advanced species to space is the free radiant energy from its Sun. Not to mention other resources available. And, even if local planetary resources were sufficient and clean, they regardless would encounter climactic heating related to cumulative effects of technological activity. This might also be impetus to move to space.

    Energy and resource use IMO is a reason to send robots to space, to build collectors and factories in space, but not necessarily to settle living beings in space, especially not interstellar expansion. The resources at one star are going to be pretty similar to another star and not worth shipping costs across light years. So no trade, no profits across the void. Non-economic motives have to be examined instead.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Well I agree, a star can wax and wane and mess up a perfectly good planet. A technological shield, not as grand as a Dyson sphere, but adjusting the incoming and outgoing radiation by means we can already imagine, seems a good step. I guess it would be hard at present to detect such a shield as it looks from here like just a planet. Its evolution from space stations even seems plausible. I wonder what the ideal radius is?
    Theoretically we could detect it by optical telescope. A sun shade would likely be a disk shape instead of a sphere, so as it revolves around the primary it would appear to change shape as the angle of view changes.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Theoretically we could detect it by optical telescope. A sun shade would likely be a disk shape instead of a sphere, so as it revolves around the primary it would appear to change shape as the angle of view changes.
    I imagine that despite the distance, stationery wrt spin is a good choice but is it enough to just control the incoming energy with a ring?
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I imagine that despite the distance, stationery wrt spin is a good choice but is it enough to just control the incoming energy with a ring?
    I’m not sure what you mean about a ring, but a common idea for (part of) terraforming Venus or cooling Earth is to put a roughly planet diameter thin sunshade at the Sun/Venus or Sun/Earth L1 point. Actually, it would probably be placed somewhat closer to the sun than the L1 point to account for acceleration caused be sunlight radiating off of it. It could be a single structure or billions of independent sun shades. Such a shade could keep the Earth (or Venus) at a comfortable temperature up until the sun goes heavily into the red giant stage. Presumably with somewhat more advanced technology than we have now one could be maintained with automation over geological time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    I imagine that despite the distance, stationery wrt spin is a good choice but is it enough to just control the incoming energy with a ring?
    I don't understand the question.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    I suppose if you are planning a ring just to block the sun it can be at any height, but then there is the case where the sun fades, that leads to a spherical cage to control outgoing radiation, or you learn how to make clouds just where needed. I think the latter will be part of the solution for Earth. And if that is the case elsewhere, we will not easily detect it.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I don't understand the question.
    Neither do I.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I don't understand the question.
    A sunshade has to move to track the sun apparent motion. A ring can be passive and orbiting. A clever ring can both adjust sun input and planet radiation to space, to set up the delicate balance. Maybe a full spherical shield is not necessary. The band can be gossamer thin with adjustable reflectance.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    A sunshade has to move to track the sun apparent motion. A ring can be passive and orbiting. A clever ring can both adjust sun input and planet radiation to space, to set up the delicate balance. Maybe a full spherical shield is not necessary. The band can be gossamer thin with adjustable reflectance.
    You can’t have a spherical orbiting structure around a planet, either you need many structures in different orbits or some kind of support. Ditto with a wide ring. An L1 shade is easier, no tracking needed, and if you want to let some light through it, you put holes in it, or otherwise only cover some fraction of the area (for instance, an idea for cooling the Earth has billions of small shades that only block a percent or so of the sunlight).

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." Abraham Lincoln

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    A sunshade has to move to track the sun apparent motion. A ring can be passive and orbiting. A clever ring can both adjust sun input and planet radiation to space, to set up the delicate balance. Maybe a full spherical shield is not necessary. The band can be gossamer thin with adjustable reflectance.
    A solid ring cannot be passive. Its orbit is inherently unstable, just ask Larry Niven. Maybe a ring shaped swarm around a planet could work if they can all move aside for spacecraft to reach the planet.

    A disk would also have to be actively under movement, probably using solar sails to maintain its position. It cannot orbit freely and keep the planet in its shadow.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    You can’t have a spherical orbiting structure around a planet, either you need many structures in different orbits or some kind of support. Ditto with a wide ring. An L1 shade is easier, no tracking needed, and if you want to let some light through it, you put holes in it, or otherwise only cover some fraction of the area (for instance, an idea for cooling the Earth has billions of small shades that only block a percent or so of the sunlight).
    Fair enough, the thread here is to guess whether a sensible planet stabiliser would be detectable, at least I thought that was the point. I am taking the view that life and intelligent life seems possible but long duration interstellar species , improbable. An advanced species would first seek to stabilise their planet from sun changes and planet changes by taking control of the energy budget.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Fair enough, the thread here is to guess whether a sensible planet stabiliser would be detectable, at least I thought that was the point. I am taking the view that life and intelligent life seems possible but long duration interstellar species , improbable. An advanced species would first seek to stabilise their planet from sun changes and planet changes by taking control of the energy budget.
    Of course life is possible (see Earth). Intelligent life I almost said the same thing (we are an existence proof), then thought better of it.
    SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Fair enough, the thread here is to guess whether a sensible planet stabiliser would be detectable, at least I thought that was the point. I am taking the view that life and intelligent life seems possible but long duration interstellar species , improbable. An advanced species would first seek to stabilise their planet from sun changes and planet changes by taking control of the energy budget.
    You mentioned a shield in post #1270. We're just discussing how such a shield would be arranged.

    I agree that a planet with a habitable species needs some sort of climate control to dampen the positive feedback. This would reduce the risk of existential self-destruction implied by an industrial society. But a sunshade is a mitigating factor, a bandage for the symptoms not a cure. To cure would require developing a civilization that can dynamically sustain its environment indefinitely under changing conditions. It requires more than technological solutions.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    A disk would also have to be actively under movement, probably using solar sails to maintain its position. It cannot orbit freely and keep the planet in its shadow.
    A disk at (or more likely a bit closer to the sun than) L1 is in solar orbit like the planet, and can keep the planet in its shadow. It doesn’t need to be actively under movement. However, L1 is unstable, so it would need correction to stay in place. I expect sunlight would be used for that, as you mentioned. Parts can change angle with respect to the sun (like slats in a window shade) or can change reflectivity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    But a sunshade is a mitigating factor, a bandage for the symptoms not a cure. To cure would require developing a civilization that can dynamically sustain its environment indefinitely under changing conditions. It requires more than technological solutions.
    I see a sunshade being more likely to be used for terraforming too hot planets, or if a civilization is truly long lived, or wants to help a planet remain habitable for the very long term whether or not they remain. Or if they live in or move to a system with a relatively short lived star. (If you are in a system with a K dwarf you have much longer than we do, but less with an F dwarf).

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

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    In this context, we seem to be discussing the "great filter" hypothesis without using that name. The idea that industrial societies inevitable self destruct.

    I agree that survival becomes riskier the more ways a species has to endanger itself. But it's entirely plausible that a species like us could indeed survive such a period long enough to establish ourselves elsewhere. We'd have to really work at it to eliminate all of the human species on Earth. Granted, some humans seem to be actively pursuing that goal, but that's not the topic here.

    A climate disaster, for instance, would still be a disaster but not a universally fatal one (barring runaway Greenhouse which Earth does not seem to have done in its entire existence of climate changes.) Millions would suffer but billions would still live. We're too tenacious a pest to go gently into that good night; I give similar credit for stubbornness to any other beings who have reached space. They've got to be survivors or they would not have reached that tech level.

    So I assume nothing short of global thermonuclear war could wipe out intelligent [sic] beings. On the lower side of that threat, natural pandemics, pollution, climate, and non-nuclear war threats that would cause suffering but not total extinction. On the higher side, asteroid strikes, supervolcanoes, Grey Goo and omnicidal bioweapons. In the middle, a medium scale GTNW could severely damage the ozone layer of an Earthlike planet, perhaps enough to render food production impossible.

    So we and they are passing through a perilous stage, but I do not believe the results are fixed. We could very well survive this period and so could extraterrestrial intelligence.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    In this context, we seem to be discussing the "great filter" hypothesis without using that name. The idea that industrial societies inevitable self destruct.
    Rather than a great filter, I think more in terms of a multitude of filters. Filters that limit life, other filters that limit complex life, then technological life, then civilization and length of civilization (we may have needed fairly stable climate for long enough for civilization to develop). Then over the long run of a technological civilization I expect there are many things that could put it in a position where it would fall and couldn’t rise again, and the species could evolve out of its technological ability.

    It seems straightforward to me that if you want the species to last you should spread out into space when you can, but it still isn’t obvious to me that becoming an interstellar civilization would confer immortality, though it probably would extend longevity over staying on one planet.

    "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity." Abraham Lincoln

    I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove that I am wrong?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Rather than a great filter, I think more in terms of a multitude of filters. Filters that limit life, other filters that limit complex life, then technological life, then civilization and length of civilization (we may have needed fairly stable climate for long enough for civilization to develop).
    Well, yes, but Great Filter as a term specifically refers to self induced self destruction through technological capability. The phrase originated for nuclear war during the Cold War decades, but we can now think of broader examples.

    Then over the long run of a technological civilization I expect there are many things that could put it in a position where it would fall and couldn’t rise again, and the species could evolve out of its technological ability.
    It's hard to imagine "evolving out of" such a universally useful trait. Inventive tool use is just too applicable to any changes in environment. In our species, it's one of the defining traits beside social organization and complex communication. Certainly our own Stone Age ancestors have been creating technology since before Homo Sapiens became a defined species. It's what let us colonize almost every continent on our own world.


    It seems straightforward to me that if you want the species to last you should spread out into space when you can, but it still isn’t obvious to me that becoming an interstellar civilization would confer immortality, though it probably would extend longevity over staying on one planet.
    A single species would evolve in many different directions if it colonized a Galaxy's worth of worlds separated by vast gulfs of time and space. Some might be wiped out, others might become new kinds of beings entirely. What they won't do is stay a unified species. Is that immortality? I don't know. Would they all die off? Barring a galactic-scale destructive event, probably not.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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