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Space Aliens Are Ignoring Us

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Another sad example of the lack of media/public understanding of science.

Science is trustworthy, authoritative, and definitive like nothing else. It intellectually enlightens, spiritually uplifts, and is never anything less than glorious. So why the hell did Ayn Rand doubt evolution, relativity, and the Big Bang?

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That's a far more interesting question, Wotan. With respect to evolution, I think she just hadn't troubled to look into it. Science was not an especial interest of hers though she appreciated many of the results. She didn't believe she knew enough about it to judge. Relativity and the Big Bang are trickier; I don't know _specifically_ what she thought about them. Perhaps similar to her attitude on evolution, perhaps not. But many Objectivists today don't merely doubt them, but vehemently deny them on philosophic grounds (also true of quantum mechanics).

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[so why the hell did Ayn Rand doubt evolution, relativity, and the Big Bang?]

With respect to evolution, I think she just hadn't troubled to look into it. Science was not an especial interest of hers though she appreciated many of the results. She didn't believe she knew enough about it to judge. Relativity and the Big Bang are trickier; I don't know _specifically_ what she thought about them. Perhaps similar to her attitude on evolution, perhaps not.

I think it's a considerable failure of the '60s and '70s Objectivist Movement that she wasn't more closely questioned on this. We desperately needed a fuller, richer discussion and debate about these three -- in order to better pass judgment as to what's true and what isn't on these seminal scientific issues.

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[so why the hell did Ayn Rand doubt evolution, relativity, and the Big Bang?]

I think it's a considerable failure of the '60s and '70s Objectivist Movement that she wasn't more closely questioned on this. We desperately needed a fuller, richer discussion and debate about these three -- in order to better pass judgment as to what's true and what isn't on these seminal scientific issues.

Harriman wraps up his book, "The Logical Leap", touching on some of the errors encompassed in the approach to Quantam Mechanics, Big Bang, and String Theory.

Evolution, as posited by Darwin is quite a read, as he seeks to integrate his observations of various plant and animal phenomenon. National Geographic did a study recently on the domestication of foxes done in what appears to be a similar vein.

The theory of relativity simply asks to shift the readers persepective and describes the different appearances given from the different perspectives of the same phenomenon. It really doesn't explain the phenomenon, just how it appears.

Einstein's errors are in his treatment of space, according to one of Harriman's lectures given on physics, "Physicist, Lost in Space."

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That's news to me. I've heard all those TV, radio and other transmissions -- which can only come from sentient beings, not nature -- make earth and our sun as easy to spot as a hundred foot bonfire on the 50-yard line of a darkened football stadium. All the nearby stars look like fireflies. (I got this long ago from some decent-quality, science-type TV show.)

For some perspective http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1ECrLO/jackadam.net/misc/radio_broadcasts/radio_broadcasts.jpg/

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You say something this absolutely silly and wonder why I think you are full of it. A photon is approximately the size of a handful of atoms. How are you going to pack something capable of intelligent thought into a few atoms?

I haven't finished reading your comment (let alone this thread) yet, but I feel the need to point out this error. A photon is an elementary force carrying particle with exactly zero mass. On the other hand, any type of atom has measurable mass, making even a humble hydrogen ion (effectively a proton) literally, not figuratively, infinitely more massive than a photon. So, although your statement was incorrect, the assertion that intelligent life could exist with a body the size of a photon is still utterly ridiculous (unless you want to assert a fundamental mind-body dichotomy, which may be true for extraterrestrial life, in which case a consciousness could theoretically exist independently of any massive particles such as the atoms of which we are made. I find the idea of a consciousness evolving without any sort of mater physically binding it to the universe akin to the idea of a god though, as it is almost certainly 100% unprovable).

While I'm writing, I would like to address one more issue. Most of the conjecture so far has assumed that "life" consists only of carbon-based organisms such as ourselves, and that the basic requisites for life in the universe will be similar to ours. This is fallacious, because we have no evidence to suggest that ours is the only viable form of life that can exist. When I talk about this I tend to point people toward the episode of Star Trek (the original series) in which the Enterprise discovers a planet that is inhabited by silicon-based life forms (silicon was chosen because it is chemically quite similar to carbon). To understand that this is true, we first need to acknowledge that life, ultimately, is chemically based.

While it is true a substance such as water is helpful in forming life, it is in no way a requisite. The reason water is so commonly cited as a requirement for the beginnings of life is that is is a polar substance, meaning that ionic compounds disassociate when dissolved in it, forming various aqueous solutions (a term you may recall from high school chemistry) which are very conducive to various chemical reactions. However, water is not the only substance which acts in this way. Ionic and polar compounds will dissolve in any polar solvent, such as acetic acid, isopropanol, methanol, acetone, or dichloromethane (CH2Cl2). Some of these, notably methanol, have been found to exist in vast quantities in the universe (a cloud of methanol billions of kilometers wide was discovered relatively recently (2006): http://www.bitsofnew...tent/view/3559/). Additionally, non-polar compounds will dissolve in non-polar solvents, such as benzene, chloroform, and cyclopentane (C5H10). What I'm getting at here is that even a condition that is commonly viewed as a requirement of life (water) may not actually be needed at all.

The same holds true for all of our other assumptions about the conditions needed to form life: solutions form in gasses just as they do in liquids (for example, our air consists of oxygen and other gasses dissolved in a nitrogen solvent), so very hot planets can't be ruled out; chemical reactions will take place on very massive (or very slightly massive) planets as they do on an Earth-sized planet (although exact conditions, such as melting and boiling points, will vary), so very large and very small planets cannot be ruled out... The possibilities to form something that we would classify as life are nearly endless, although our ability to recognize it when we find it may be severely limited. And even if we do identify it as life, there is no guarantee that we would ever be able to communicate with it, regardless of the other life form's sophistication level.

I think I had more to say, but I kind of lost my train of thought there, so I'll end here and just edit it in if I remember.

EDIT: Oh, I remember! So, as I said briefly above, even though extra terrestrial life may in fact be common, one needs to take into consideration a large number of other factors before one can accurately assess the likelihood of contact with extraterrestrial life forms. To start, let us assume a theoretical life form (call them the Snamuh) and follow their path through time, checking to see what sort of factors could inhibit us from being able to communicate with them (I'll make a lot of assumptions about their environment and evolutions, to keep this from being pages long). For connivence's sake, let us assume that the Snamuh began evolving at approximately the same time as the predecessors of humans did. First, they would have to survive long enough on their home planet to become relatively numerous (life may have "started" many times on Earth before any one type of life became numerous enough to last over time). Then they have to develop some sort of primitive method of reproduction (current theories point to micro-bubbles as the first cell wall structures on earth, and these structures spontaneously form and divide based on background motion; we'll assume this structure for simplicity's sake, although it's not the only possible structure). Next, they would need to associate in some way (likely as colonial organisms at first, such as algae, and then evolving with time through associated colonial organisms -- a modern example being sea sponges -- and eventually to multi-cellular organisms). During this time, the Snamuh will need to develop specialized cells which function in specific ways that benefit the organism based on Darwin's theories about environmental stressors and evolution, carried down to a cellular level. Assuming then that the Snamuh evolve successfully as multi-cellular organism, there will now likely be other species which may attempt to predate them. Note that all of this up until now assumes a relatively stable planetary environment. Assume that the Snamuh survive predation and environmental shifts and catastrophes, and are now the dominant species on their planet.

Now we have to speculate about the nature of the evolution of intelligence, which is tricky at best. I think it's relatively safe to assume that, after a certain point, organisms will benefit by being able to manipulate their environment. This is likely what lead to intelligence among humans, and what we will assume for the Snamuh too, although it is important to note that it is not necessarily true: intelligence does not have to evolve. Anyway, we now have intelligent beings. So come into play many and various social factors: will the Snamuh inadvertently kill themselves off; will they develop a societal system similar to ours, which would allow for the development of sophisticated technology; will philosophical underdevelopment keep them from ever achieving technological potential? Even assuming that the Snamuh have now evolved to about the same technology level as humans and at the same time, there are still other factors which must be overcome before they can discover, contact, or visit us.

First of all, as was already mentioned, the inverse square law means that they won't be able to detect us via electromagnetic radiation, such as radio waves, unless they are very close indeed, or happen to be looking exactly at us with very powerful antennae. Then there is the problem of responding, which takes time: assuming they're relatively close (because we're assuming they spotted us somehow), the constant speed of light c means that it could possibly take centuries for them to notice us and for them to be able to send a signal in return. Even if they do send that signal and it arrives in a reasonable amount of time, we will need to be looking for it, which will not necessarily be the case by the time it gets here. Humankind may be extinct, or we may have lost interest in searching for extraterrestrial neighbors. And don't forget that even getting to this point has been built on countless assumptions, not the least of which is that the Snamuh are biologically capable of responding to electromagnetic radiation (aka light) in the same way that humans are.

tl;dr Even though the odds of life existing elsewhere are probably very high, the amount of intervening factors that could prevent us from communicating with them are so enormous that the likelihood of ever actually meeting an extraterrestrial species is highly unlikely.

And finally, as an aside, who is to say that humans are not the most advanced species in the universe? Objectively speaking, there has to be one most advanced species? Why do we always assume that extraterrestrial life will be hyper-intelligent? Perhaps we're the bast version that has ever existed. I think the whole premise of the article is ridiculous.

Edited by realityChemist

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I haven't finished reading your comment (let alone this thread) yet, but I feel the need to point out this error. A photon is an elementary force carrying particle with exactly zero mass. On the other hand, any type of atom has measurable mass, making even a humble hydrogen ion (effectively a proton) literally, not figuratively, infinitely more massive than a photon.

I was speaking on a volumetric basis, not a mass basis. I know photons are massless.

As for assuming life must be carbon based... well, I suppose not. But given the relative abundances of the elements, and the properties thereof, carbon is the way to bet; I would be greatly surprised if most life were not composed of carbon compounds. Even if it were gaseous.

Water I did assume, if only because it's an extremely convenient and common polar solvent; I don't know of another good candidate at temperatures we would find comfortable, but of course there are plenty of temperatures we _don't_ find comfortable. I'd say that's the thing I would be most likely to be wrong about.

Now I won't, and didn't, make any assumption that the specific biochemistry would be anything like ours. It might not be DNA that carries the genetic information...though it does seem like a lot of the "pieces" are easy to create in pre-biotic chemistry. And even if it is DNA, the amino acids could be different. Or perhaps what's different is the specific code of which triplet of base pairs goes to which amino acid--as near as the biochemists can tell, that's pretty much arbitrary; any of the possible codes could work; it just so happens that the common ancestor of everything alive on earth today settled on the code we happen to see today. In fact the commonality in the genetic code is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that all extant life on earth has a common ancestor; if we found something on Mars, say, with the same code, we'd conclude it descended from an earth organism transported to Mars or vice versa.

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Proximi Centauri, if you want to be precise / nitpicky.

It's a binary system, Alpha and Proxima Centauri orbit each other. I'm guessing Alpha is the larger?

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[so why the hell did Ayn Rand doubt evolution, relativity, and the Big Bang?]

I think it's a considerable failure of the '60s and '70s Objectivist Movement that she wasn't more closely questioned on this. We desperately needed a fuller, richer discussion and debate about these three -- in order to better pass judgment as to what's true and what isn't on these seminal scientific issues.

Yeah that is strange she was never talked to about these things. Peikoff podcast question? Evolution is nailed down quite well, especially now with all the DNA evidence, not so much other than fossils back then. More or less the same story with relativity, as GPS satellites use it all the time to correct their clocks as they travel around the earth at relatively high speed outside of the gravity well (or more so than us on the surface). The Big Bang has some evidence, mainly "everything is redshifted away from us more so the farther away you look" so, it follows that at one time the Universe was all together in one place really.

... Most of the conjecture so far has assumed that "life" consists only of carbon-based organisms such as ourselves, and that the basic requisites for life in the universe will be similar to ours. This is fallacious, because we have no evidence to suggest that ours is the only viable form of life that can exist. ...

This is true, but it's no fun calculating chances if you don't assume that! :-D Plus, we're the only example of life we have right now, so it's not completely fallacious.

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I was speaking on a volumetric basis, not a mass basis. I know photons are massless.

Well, by my understanding, they don't have volume in the traditional sense. Photons only have volume in the sense that, given certain parameters, their exact position can be calculated. However I don't claim to be an expert in quantum physics, and this whole thing is really an aside to the main discussion (and, ultimately, a point we agree upon).

Plus, we're the only example of life we have right now, so it's not completely fallacious.

I'll concede this point. We don't have any evidence either way on this, really, and because we only have the one data point (us) either claim can be seen as equally true (although, in reality, only one is true, as per the laws of noncontradiction and excluded middle), since we can posit either way.

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It's a binary system, Alpha and Proxima Centauri orbit each other. I'm guessing Alpha is the larger?

Nope, it's a trinary. Alpha Centauri is a double star separated by a couple of billion miles (if memory serves), and Proxima orbits the pair much further out.

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I just want to add that the best way to detect life on earth may be to measure the atmospheric spectra of our atmosphere. This would give you a bigger target than radio and give a pretty good indication both the presence of life and the level of industrial output. You could also measure nighttime luminosity with a big enough telescope.

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I know this is not quite what you are referring to but an atmosphere with a lot of free oxygen in it would be a good indication not just of life, but life that has learned to photosynthesize, and has been doing so long enough that dissolved iron and dead organic matter has absorbed all the oxygen it can. This took 1.4 billion years after life started (or 2.4 billion years ago) here on earth; that's when oxygen began to accumulate in the earth's atmosphere. (The very first photosynthesis was probably about 3.5 billion years ago, or 0.3 billion years after life started.)

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Science is trustworthy, authoritative, and definitive like nothing else. It intellectually enlightens, spiritually uplifts, and is never anything less than glorious. So why the hell did Ayn Rand doubt evolution, relativity, and the Big Bang?

well, it's like doubting god, to me, i guess

because it's easier to say that it doesn't exist when really i mean is: at this point in time, god is irrelevent.

Rand, in my eyes, only was interested in practicality--Big Bang is just joking around, can the big bang theory, in itself, contribute much?

will it help to fight cancer or aids?

as we live in the 3rd dimension we cannot travel backwards in time

AND

humans are only given by nature a relatively short period of time for each lifespan

the big bang (billions of years ago)

evolution (takes thousands of years minimum)

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but then again, i know very little about relativity, if somebody could give a lecture on THAT

i would be very interested probably

maybe a practical science thread?

yesterday i watched a t.v. show where a guy's family grows ALL of their food and also buy used fast food grease from resturaunts and convert it into an oil to run their car.

i'd like to learn how to do the second!

if anyone can pm me with the process or a reference on how to do the second i'd kiss your feet or whatever else you want me to do

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