Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gliese 815c in the Goldilocks Spot

Professor McFadden of Surry Uni writes in the Guardian about Gliese 581c, a planet lying in the Goldilocks zone where it is neither too hot nor too cold, and therefore potentially able to support life. I write:

Dear Professor McFadden
I was interested to read "Hope for the alien hunters" in the Guardian today.
Contact with intelligent alien life forms would without doubt be a supremely interesting experience. The probability of contact is reduced, as you say, by a number of factors, chiefly the presence of a suitable planet in the "Goldilocks zone", provided with water, a suitable atmosphere &c.
Without any axe to grind, I would like to present another reducing factor, which might be called "Temporal Simultaneity". To communicate, two civilisation have to be active in the same period of time.
Is it safe to assume that intelligent life, once it appears on a planet, endures for an astronomically significant length of time?
The duration of human beings in relation to earth time has been likened to the thickness of a piece of cigarette paper placed on the topmost railing of the Eiffel Tower, earth time being the Eiffel tower, human history being the paper.
SETI assumes that two pieces of paper exist at exactly the same height, but the planetary towers on which we stand are in fact of hugely different temporal dimensions. Our Sun, I believe, is relatively a late-comer in the family of stars. Civilisations may have appeared on other solar systems in other star generations, but they may not still be around now.
If a civilisation capable of sending electromagnetic signals continues for hundreds of thousands of years, the paper becomes a little thicker and the likelihood that it will exist simultaneously with another transmitting/receiving civilisation is increased. If however, our civilisation destroys itself through nuclear war or as a result of uncontrolled releases of greenhouse gases and other erosions of our life support system, and if other civilisations have the same proclivities, then the probability of two competent civilisations coinciding in time and making contact with each other becomes vanishingly small.
I take no pleasure in putting this thought forward, but just suggest that it is something that we have to take into account.
Best wishes
Richard Lawson


Peter said...

It's much more likely though, that we are living in a computer simulation, than that we are living in the real world.

Consider the following:

1 - after a couple of decades of computer technology, we have been able to create fairly complex civilisations.

2 - assume that somewhere out there there are civilisations much more technologically advanced than ours, which can create extremely complex computer simulations.

3 - it is reasonable to assume that such civilisations would have set up many, many computer simulations for experimentation.

If the above is correct, then it is much more likely that we are the mere computer simulation of an advanced civilisation, than that we live in the real world...

DocRichard said...

Well, Peter, I am glad that I know that you do not really believe in what you have just written, so I do not need to respond any more than I would need to respond to a solipsist.