Wednesday, May 5, 2010



Mike Robertson writes: Stephen Hawking said that if we ever meet ETs, they'll most likely be hostile and we shouldn't look for contact... because looking back on our own history, whenever a superior culture met a less advanced one, [the latter] have been eliminated.

First of all, from a scientific point of view, he can't make that comparison because we don't know if the ETs are going to be like us. Second, if they've reached the technology to travel thousands of light years from one galaxy to another, that means can go anywhere they like, and resources we may have here on earth, they can find in many other planets as well.

Also, since we don't know ANYTHING about them, the chances of them being nice are just as much as being hostile. I was surprised but more angry to hear Hawking say that, because people listen to him. You may argue that it's just HIS opinion, but when one is so high up the food chain, with virtually the whole world as his audience, he has to be more responsible.

Well, we could say the same a thousand times over about performers, athletes or political figures who influence people with their comments and behavior (don't get me started on Charlie Sheen). At least Hawking is getting people to THINK!

Here's my take —
What if intelligence itself actually kills planets? Maybe spheres are better off with instinctual life forms and none that become self-aware. Perhaps one pack of clever, aggressive, territorial warriors with guns & iPods per solar system is enough, and the universe is deliberately set up in such a way as to keep us in separate cages.

Spock and Kirk
Spock, you were saying something about friendly aliens?

Like Buzz Aldrin, Hawking probably wants people off the "Hollywood Diet" and embracing a higher dose of reality. Since he possesses what is likely one of the highest known IQs in human history, no one demands that he qualify his statements.

These issues have been debated among such esteemed, medaled, accomplished, published people as Einstein, von Braun, Enrico Fermi, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Carl Sagan. Most thought actual contact with intelligent aliens is exceedingly improbable, given the sheer distances between possible habitable planets, and the nature of intelligence as we know it.

Can we HOPE? Sure, we like hoping. Some might argue that Hawking is not opening his mind to "wild possibilities," but his brain operates in a more practical, mathematical way.

I still run into people all the time who do not understand the difference between science and science fiction. Alien contact, if it ever occurs, isn't going to be like our movies, whether benevolent (E.T.) or hostile (Independence Day). Those are the valuations of our desires or fears as a species. We invent those stories to comment on our own nature. In that sense, Hawking's brand of pragmatism is definitely more responsible than the average film director.

Stephen Hawking also pointed out: "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet."

I thought that was his most interesting quote. He didn't mention the Drake Equation by name, but this comment refers to the variable "L" : the length of time civilizations are able to transmit detectable signals into space.

Drake Equation / Green Bank Formula
In light of Scientific Determinism, we have no reason to believe any technological alien species aren't grappling with similar challenges on their own floating rock: crafts, life support, budgets, and the laws of physics. We may kill ourselves with our own intelligence before we reach off-world status and so might they. Maybe no one gets off before a techie society collapses.

Can intelligent civilizations survive a technological age where they develop the means to destroy themselves, as we are currently doing? Life may arise constantly everywhere, but if the duration of "intelligence" proves tragically short, visitation is unlikely. In the mere 10-billion year lifespan of our little yellow star, no one may detect our signals anyway. But, that's just my opinion ;)

I think it goes without saying that Hawking is well versed in all the "famous" alien arguments: the Fermi Paradox, Green Bank Formula, the Galactic Habitable Zone, the pros & cons of SETI, and the Paleocontact Hypothesis. Spend some time comparing those, and let me know if it still makes you angry. I'd be very curious to know if that's still the case after you see the research on which he may be basing his opinions... :)


Kuday said...

I can sense that the abundance of life in universe is like vapor on the earth. It ends somewhere and starts somewhere else OR travels by comets, planets, stars..etc.

Drake equation is not that hard to calculate. So it should have been calculated as N>1 before universe has been created by creator. Otherwise the whole creation would be in vain. I'm on the side of optimists. It should be something like that;

R* = 7/year, fp = 0.5, ne = 2, fl = 0.33, fi = 0.01, fc = 0.01, and L = 10,000 years
N = 7 × 0.5 × 2 × 0.33 × 0.01 × 0.01 × 10,000 = 2.1 (so two communicative civilizations exist in our galaxy at any given time, on average, plus two hundred more that are not trying to communicate).

PillowNaut said...

I love a man who can DO THE MATH ;)

Kuday said...

So am i qualified for being astronaut now??