Dear Mudge, Shitty Odds

Dear Mudge,

I think we mortals spend far too much time contemplating The End.

It seems as soon as our consciousness settles in, at about thirteen or fourteen, we begin to visualize, explore and worry about our final moments and the fraction of a nano-second thereafter. Here we go again with having brains far-too-big-for-our-own-good.

Dogs don’t contemplate death. Parrots, pandas, and porcupines live for the moment and the moment only. Maybe elephants and dolphins consider their future expiration, but I doubt it.

Why us? Why are we morbidly enthralled with The End?

I don’t know. But since we’re here, talking about our collective demise, I’m gonna bore you again with more big-picture pontificating… Namely: Fermi’s Paradox and how humanity’s end, or at least its technological collapse, is preordained.

The Holocene is ending. The window for humanity’s bloom was brief and frankly anomalous in the epoch-spanning scheme of things: CO2vsTemp_Holocene

That blue squiggle up there at the right, hovering around 0C, is the Holocene—an unusually long (for us), warm period in Earth’s history. During that tiny window of geological time civilization came to be.

Whether the Holocene ends and temperatures begin to drop, or the anthropogenic CO2 humanity continues to pump into the atmosphere overrides it and we head into a new PETM (Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maxima) the Holocene is toast, in a manner of speaking. But while it lasted, the Holocene was one of a long line of fortuitous accidents benefiting—us.

There are so many serendipitous events that undergird the existence of life, first of all, and secondly, humanity and humanity’s technological position in the Universe, that, just being here is a fucking miracle. The factors that make up our “luck” are mind-blowingly extensive. Here’s my go-to mind-trick for explaining this miraculous streak of good fortune: Imagine flipping a coin 70 times and every flip lands up heads.

That’s 1 / 2^70 = 2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·
2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2·2 =
1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424 = 1 SEXTILLION

The odds of us (technologically existing) are 1 out of 1 sextillion.

I’ll not bore you further with the source of all these coin flips, but things like: Goldilocks zone, distance from galactic center, our G2V sun, Theia/Moon, rocky planet, ice comet bombardment, 3 billion years of biological life cleansing the seas and depositing vast stores of carbon (oil/coal/nat.gas), trees, grass, livestock—are all factors from which these flips are derived.

Now that I’ve got you crying for The End…

Given all the “luck” we’ve had getting here, and it’s been a stunning chain of events, that luck can’t possibly hold. The party is most definitely coming to an end.

As we know, there are a couple of dozen excellent ways for that to happen. Will it end in an instant or a tortuous dwindling of resources; a massive calamitous extinguishing BANG! Or a crippling thwack against our infrastructure leaving ragged remnants to piddle along for millennia? Who’s to know?

But, the odds are against us. So, toot your horn, raise a glass, sing a song, love the one you’re with…

Then again, who fuckin’ cares how it all ends? None of us make it out of here alive.

Stewie the Stoic would remind us however, that…

[Addendum: The Fermi Paradox tie-in? Humanity enjoyed a string of incredible luck. Any other intelligent life, arising in the Universe, would require an equally improbable run of happy coincidences. Therefore, the question regarding the absence of life we see in the Universe (Fermi’s Paradox) can be answered by our own improbable existence. We are a most outrageous cosmic accident.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fermi’s Paradox: Space Crap

Did you know the FCC is one of the agencies that governs satellites and the potential for them to turn into space crap. That’s a technical term: everyone knows aliens empty their sewage lines and dump their garbage before they streak off at FTL speeds.

Starlink

The more humans shoot stuff into LEO (low earth orbit) the higher the probability that eventually, that stuff smacks into other stuff and then game over. Millions of itty-bitty specs, screaming around the planet, that will fuck-you-up if they hit you. No more space access for humanity for centuries. Not at least until they find a way to launch a Jedi laser garbageman to clean up the mess.

But more than this, the fact that space crap (rocks, pebbles, dust, astrophysical-shrapnel) circling in quantity any habitable planet, will pretty much preclude any intelligent species from ever getting off the surface and up into orbit.

Add this to the reasons Fermi’s Paradox is not a conundrum.

Earth is 2^70 unique—a coin, flipped 70 times, all landing heads—unique.

 

Intelligent alien life does not exist

Fermi’s paradox poses the following simplified question: if the universe is full of life then where is it?

First off, is the universe really full of life?

Secondly,  a group of answers to this question run like this:
Earth is a zoo and we, the aliens, are protecting it.
Earthlings are not ready yet to deal with alien contact.
Earthlings are not cool enough yet to join our club.
Earthlings must transcend beyond their self destructive natures first.
Interference in planetary cultures not capable of interstellar travel is verboten!

I group all of the above into what I call “standoffishness.” Aliens are standoffish.

To respond to Fermi’s question I pose two conjoined ideas that refute both the idea that the universe is full of life and that such life, when sufficiently advanced, is standoffish.

The first of these ideas is the following: Earth has been emitting signs of life for more than three billions years. The “There is LIFE here!” neon sign has been blaring for eons. The O2 and CH4 (methane) signature that Earth emits and has been emitting for as long as bacteria and photosynthetic algaes have existed, are defacto signs of life. These signs of active life, O2 and CH4, are exactly what human astrophysicists are now focused on in our own search for life in the galaxy. We’ve found extremely strong evidence for the existence of exoplanets and now we’re looking to see if any of them emit these telltale signs of life.

If this technique is one humanity has adopted, a simple method I’ll agree, but one that would mark Earth as have been harboring life — for billions of years — then one would assume highly intelligent exo-life would also use these techniques. No doubt Earth emits other obvious signs of life and has done so for, again, eons. Signs that we may ourselves start to use in our own search for ETs. Signs that ETs would have employed.

If there is intelligent life out there in the galaxy, looking for its own version of exo-life then it should have found Earth at some time in the past. I would conclude that Earth’s life signature, as a beacon for the existence of life, could not be ignored by life searching for life in the galaxy and the universe.

Having established the fact that life would have found us by now, if there is life out there, then why haven’t they contacted us? Here we get to discuss the standoff philosophy of alien life.

Without relying upon complete conjecture (what does an alien life form ‘think’ like), we need only look into the mirror to determine if ‘standoffishness’ is really how aliens would treat the discovery of alter-alien life. The answer I come up with is a resounding NO. Let’s face it, humans just want to say “Hi!”

Explorers of every culture throughout recorded human history have never held the philosophy, “Hey, there’s a new type of people on that island. Let’s just leave them alone for now because they look really primitive.” What cross-country expedition or ship’s captain would ever think that way? We explore. We are driven to it. And in exploring we want to discover, to meet, to engage, to exchange. A space faring human species would never travel for trillions of miles and when finally arriving at a location that shows a thriving alien culture sit back and say, “You know, they don’t look ready for us just yet. We better turn back.” Humans, as alien travelers, would never be considered standoffish. Can we assume anything but for other intelligent alien peoples? Explorers want to connect.

Let’s also not forget that most explorers of humanity’s past have been conquerors. Not satisfied with simply saying ‘Hi!” they wanted to step down from their ships and own the places they discovered. If this is true of alien space travelers — where are they? Where are our en-slavers? Our oppressors? One answer, they don’t exist.

Earth is a life discoverable target and has been so for billions of years. Humans, non-star traveling species that we are, are already seeking planets just like ours using characteristics we know exhibit signs of life. Intelligent alien life, were it to exist, would be as curious and invasive as humans would under the same conditions.

If there was curious life out there, looking for life like us, we would have been found by now. Becase we haven’t, we can assume that the universe is not full of life. That more than likely, Humanity is alone.