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View Diary: Who can own the future? (262 comments)

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  •  1 key Fermi factor not discussed in the diary (22+ / 1-)

    OK, the STAR TREK galaxy of people evolving on every freakin planet in the galaxy who look just like us except they have funny ears or noses or their skin is a different color is a 5 yr olds fantasy.
    But now we know (except for folks in Iowa) there are more planets just in our galaxy than grains of sand on  the beach, possibly more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world.
    And life of some kind is also likely pretty common.
    Because chemistry is the same everywhere.
    But how likely is it that life, even complex life, produces a species like us capable of real technology?
    The history of our own planet, all we've got to go on, suggests the probability may be low, maybe very very low.
    The Age of Dinos went on for a lot longer than the Age of Mammals, and would probably still be going on if not for that darn asteroid, possibly abetted by other events.
    Theres no indication whatsoever any of those diverse lines of wonderful animals was trending in the direction of evolving a race of Fascist humanoid lizards who'd visit other planets in flying saucers to eat the inhabitants.

    •   (except for folks in Iowa)?? (1+ / 0-)
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      I don't get the reference.  Is it because it is James T. Kirk's fictional future birthplace?  Or is it something one of our politicians said?

      Either way, the gratuitous insult adds nothing of value to the conversation.

    •  an OT view on this: (18+ / 0-)
      OK, the STAR TREK galaxy of people evolving on every freakin planet in the galaxy who look just like us except they have funny ears or noses or their skin is a different color is a 5 yr olds fantasy.
      The real reason for the "rubber forehead" aliens in virtually all sci-fi TV shows is, of course, economic-----their usually limited budgets don't allow for more elaborate costumes, so they get just enough to look different and make us accept the premise "OK, this is an alien".

      But it is interesting to note that even in today's big-budget movies, when CGI has the ability to make a space alien look literally any way we can imagine, we still have essentially humanoids, with arms, legs, eyes, a head--essentially we still make movie aliens out of humans with rubber foreheads, though we use CGI instead of actual rubber now (consider the space aliens in District 9, for example). That is done because if the aliens are too "alien", human movie-watchers can no longer relate to them. Humans are biologically programmed to respond emotionally to things that are like us, that have eyes and heads and legs. We have no emotional involvement at all with things that are too different from us. Monkeys and apes evoke emotional relationships from us; slugs and slime molds do not. That is why virtually all movie aliens are essentially humans. In movie-land, aliens that are really "alien", don't work. They don't produce the emotional involvement from the audience that is needed to carry a movie.

      (There is an exception to this---when it is INTENDED that the audience have a negative reaction to an alien. A good example of that is the "facehugger" in the Alien franchise, which is intended to look like some sort of spiderlike crab thing which gives a visceral negative emotional response in the audience.)

      •  Ive wondered if radial or bilateral symmetry is (6+ / 0-)

        more 'popular' 'out there'.
        After all, some octopi species are highly intelligent, probably as smart as your pet parrot, and have binocular vision to boot.

      •  Actually Star Trek had MANY aliens that did NOT (14+ / 0-)

        look humanoid. The rock like Horta from the TOS episode The Devil in the Dark. The creatures from the TOS episode The Savage Curtain. The "Prophets" in DS9. Species 8472 in Voyager. The space jellyfish creature in the TNG pilot Encounter at Farpoint. The large whale like space creatures in TNG episodes Tin Man and Galaxy's Child. Those are just to name a few. Of course some of these aliens disguised themselves to LOOK like us (as did many others not mentioned here) so they could interact with us (The Organians from TOS' Errand of Mercy & the Q Continuum from TNG, DS9, and Voyager).

        I agree that the reason why producers depicted aliens that look like us was for budget reasons and "empathy" (for lack of a better word). The "Star Trek" reason is because our galaxy (and most of the action in ST takes place in the Milky Way Galaxy) was seeded by an ancient humanoid race called "the Preservers" IIRC (see TNG episode The Chase).

        Just saying, since I'm a huge Star Trek fan.

        Other than that, I really like this diary & its ensuing discussion. Interesting stuff,

        A village can not reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.

        by METAL TREK on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 07:10:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually I think humans would find aliens who (6+ / 0-)

        are radically different to be monstrous rather then entertaining. Hell we can't even get past differences in skin color or eye shapes much less getting into tentacles or slime except in horror movies. We are stuck in the animal we started from in many of our responses or even in our ability to get beyond all the built in stuff.

        Maybe the reason they aren't dropping by is that it would be seriously expensive and what would all the effort gain us as a species. You can bankrupt countries and civilizations in efforts that do nothing to feed or house people except in the work they provide. But those efforts also eat up resources which leads to enviro problems.

        I don't like to get into primate poo fights but I think that nuclear has too bad a rep because like many scientific discoveries, quickly are moved into production to make profits... We are our own lab very often and maybe a lot of other planets, if they develop life capable of interstellar travel had lab experiments blow up or kill everyone with some chemical spill.

        I have read about small compact nuclear and it sounds good. We seriously can not rely just on solar to maintain systems... especially our agricultural system at the very least without a huge die back. Farmers in the US have power because they sell a lot of what they grow to others helping our balance of trade and feeding them at the same time. Populations grow when food is plentiful.

        I want to go to Europe for a few years and maybe Asia but the cost and the hassle to do it dragging oxygen (life support) is a barrier. I think it would be the same thing for any other planets considering space travel. I do think we should get out in our own system at the very least... the old "don't put all your eggs in one basket" idea. But the cost may be too big and actually harm us more.

        I like sci fi because it helps to step out of ones own framework defined by biology to see some truths.

        Fear is the Mind Killer...

        by boophus on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 07:29:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And if you want a superb counterexample... (4+ / 0-) Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge.

        The aliens in this particular book are giant spiders, which have a very odd vision system in that they can see across almost the entire spectrum of light - not just visible, but infared, ultraviolet, and even beyond.  They develop on an accelerated technological curve because they have one Thomas Edison style genius, and for other reasons it would spoil the book to reveal.

        The humans in the book study them by replacing their visage with computer-generated extrapolations, including replacing the spiders themselves with human avatars, and the entire book is written on that narrative.  Only very late in the book do you get to see the spider world as it REALLY is, and it's quite an eye-opener.

      •  The reason so many Aliens on ST looked human... (1+ / 0-)
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        Subterranean Gene Roddenberry demanded it.

        Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

        by Alumbrados on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 09:32:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually there are some qualities like (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        neoteny that tend to make any creature more attractive to humans (see puppies and kittens, not to mention ET and Yoda). A non-humanoid alien could be visualized with those features and then created with CGI. Maybe it's just lack of imagination or the force of habit that keeps our 'aliens' looking human?

        OTOH, wolves are more attractive to people than they were historically, and have you seen all those YouTube videos of octopuses acting far smarter than people have thought of them?  Maybe eventually films will catch up.

        Help us to save free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw. ~John Donne

        by ohiolibrarian on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 07:35:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Volcanoes,Gamma ray bursts, rouge planets... (8+ / 0-)

      The Universe is a pretty dangerous place.  The odds of life evolving an intelligent species without getting crushed by the same laws of physics and chemistry that created us, are pretty thin.

      It took nearly a half billion years for one cell life to evolve into multiple cells.  There have been 10's of millions of different life forms on earth, and yet only one evolved a high level of intelligence, and it is yet to be determined whether it is an evolutionary asset, or something that will lead to just another extinction.

      We like to play the odds games and say there are so many billions of stars and billions of galaxies, there has to be intelligent life out there.  But we can just as easily turn those tables and describe the incredible odds that led to intelligent life evolving on earth, and the even more incredible odds that it will continue to survive into the future.

      •  However, other stars in our neighborhood... (2+ / 0-)
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        pollwatcher, cotterperson

        ...are about the same age as our Sol, so sensibly we could guess that stars farther out on the limb might have older life forms, if they have made it further than us & survived, while stars closer to the galactic core would not have planetary systems as old as ours, so might not be to the "one cell" stage yet.

        I do not demand tolerance, I demand equal rights. --Anna Grodzka

        by VeggiElaine on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 07:10:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Ive been to a couple of rouge planets (1+ / 0-)
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        and I can tell you the floor shows are highly overrated. Esp the drag acts. Just how many Cher impersonators can you stand to listen to?

    •  I agree. I've felt for some years like we're the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, GussieFN


      Only possible caveat is this one:

      The universe (12-14 billion years) is at least 3 times as old as the earth (4.5 billion years). That gives intelligent life more time to evolve.

      But even so, intelligent life is likely to be very rare. Organic life, especially bacteria or something resembling bacteria, is likely pretty common in our galaxy.

      It might even be genetically related to earthly bacteria, if
      panspermia is real.

      Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here:

      by Kimball Cross on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 07:55:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  BUT ST TNG did deal with ^ at a point :-) (4+ / 0-)

      yeah yeah at 1st with the original series and on......humanoid aliens is the cheapest easiest way to go for a show due to budgetary constraints

      BUT ST TNG out of all sci fi tv series actually came up with a good explanation for such humanoid aliens

      season 6 episode 20
      "THE CHASE"


      a single/ only sentient life to develop in the milk way billions of years ago was a humanoid species and in their explorations found themselves alone.....they decided to seed all primitive worlds with primordial soups with bits of their DNA to stimulate sentient life development as well as leave something of themselves behind for posterity

      everyone from human, to vulcan, to klingon, to cardassian etc all have bits of this ancient precursor species DNA in them.

      all the species react against such knowledge even our klingon friends....only humanity and in the end the romulans (enemies) accept / embrace the knowledge of a shared genetic heritage

    •  actually, we don't even know (1+ / 0-)
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      how "smart" the dinosaurs got.  Every one of them might have been a freakin Shakespeare or Mozart, and their Opera productions may have been spectacular.  They didn't leave "eternal relics" (at least none that we recognize as such), but we know (at least a little) about human cultures in the past ten thousand years that left little more than piles of stone and potshards in a museum (and those disappearing fast), so what can we expect after ten million?

      We're just so full of ourselves, and how "special" we are . . .  

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 08:20:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Two million years ago, (1+ / 0-)
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        our ancestors were making stone tools.

        "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

        by cotterperson on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 08:30:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  and bees and termites (0+ / 0-)

          were making complex apartment buildings.  Still are, in fact.

          Meanwhile we, for better or for worse, are "evolving" into Borg, and building glorified hives . . .

          Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

          by Deward Hastings on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 08:44:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  and the most interesting part of that is (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mark Sumner, Subterranean

          Homo Erectus was around for a very long time, yet was still making the same crude stone tools after a million years they did at the outset. No change, no development. Something impossible to imagine among human beings. More like bird behavior. After all, noone wonders why birds havent developed the technology over millions of years to build their nests out of stainless steel.

        •  But there's the issue of surviving evidence (1+ / 0-)
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          IIRC, paleontologists are only able to date finds from the Mesozoic within ten million years. And finds of specific species are a lot less common than we non-experts believe. (For example, just how many T. Rex fossils have been recovered? A dozen? Twenty? More than 100?) And over the previous million years, a sizable share of Earth's land surface has subducted beneath the crust, destroying all evidence preserved on or in it.

          And stones shaped into tools might be hard to identify after 66 million years underground. Some paleolithic stone tools look very much like stones naturally fractured. And then there is the issue of out-of-place artifacts, although most of them are either dubious or explainable by other causes.

          All this means is that many species can come into existence & go extinct without leaving a trace in the fossil record. Sentient dinosaurs -- or amphibians -- could have come into existence then gone extinct without leaving any traces scientists might identify, let alone accept as undeniable proof of their existence.

    •  Wow, what a bogus HR (4+ / 0-)

      The question becomes, what causes intelligent life to develop?

      Did the existence of schizophrenia lead to the development of language? Did the existence of bipolar disorder lead to the development of just about everything?

      And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

      by Pale Jenova on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 10:05:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think this is wrong... (0+ / 0-)

      And I think it's a wrong assumption that everyone who believes life should be plentiful makes.  That being that life is common.  

      Given enough time, a fully working electric toaster could self assemble completely by chance.  But what are the odds of that?  Next to nothing.  In fact it's so unlikely it's actually nearly impossible.  

      And yet life is much more complex than a toaster.  

      How incredibly rare is it for inanimate matter to come together to form life which can replicate itself?  We have no idea.  I'm guessing it is much more rare than most would like to believe.  It could be rare enough that it's happened once in the entire universe.  It could be rare enough that a million universes have come and gone and it only happened once in one of them.  We really just don't know.  

      If the Fermi equations say life should be all over the place, then the question isn't "where is it?"  Actually there's no question at all: the Fermi equations are just wrong.  

      •  Yes, living things are complex (1+ / 0-)
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        But the toaster analogy isn't as as illuminating as it may seem. This kind of argument was mounted against even the earliest modern discussions of evolution, most notably by William Paley in 1802. It's "argument by design," in which the complexity of the living things supposedly precludes their "random" generation.

        The thing is, assembly of living systems isn't random. There are many apparently complex systems that arise from simple inputs, not out of randomness, but because physical and chemical properties mandate the recurrence of certain designs and patterns. Once even the very simplest replicating systems appear, they are then subject to forces of selection that drive up complexity through a number of mechanisms.

        In any replicating system, complexity demands neither design or a designer, neither does it occur from random mash ups of molecules or "luck." Complexity is in fact mandated by the pressures placed on the system and constraints built into matter.

        The "too complex for spontaneous generation" argument has been addressed any number of times (including by Darwin), but in recent years Richard Dawkins has done a fine job of demonstrating the difference between randomness and (undirected, but far from random) evolution.

        I'd recommend a quick look at the weasel program as an example.

        Paley, by the way, was not an adamant anti-evolutionist, but merely expressing what seemed to him the best argument in a world where natural selection was not yet understood.

        •  Indeed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mark Sumner

          The simple statement, z -> z² + c, applied until |z| is out of a bounding box and with the steps needed to diverge counted, yields this, and other seemingly countless depths of complexity.

          Simple rules, applied once, always lead to simple results.  However, simple rules applied iteratively can lead to all kinds of mind-bogglingly amazing complexity.

          My favorite, BTW, is the Mandelbox (examples with different parameters and render settings: 1, 2, 3, 4).  The concept that what's basically just a piecewise, 3d version of the Mandelbrot equation could produce such incredible complexity... blows the mind, doesn't?  I'd even argue that it's internal subjective beauty rivals anything that nature could produce.

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