Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Post of the Week Created with Sketch. Winning the Cosmic Lottery.

 

One popular opinion is that because the universe has so many stars there must be life all over the universe though it’s just far away. But when you view how compounding variables work it’s quite likely our lovely earth may be the only bastion of life in the cosmos.

Consider rolling a 20 sided die for a 20. Every 20 rolls on average will yield a 20. But if you need a pair of 20s in a row that only happens every once every 400 rolls. Three twenties in a row happens once every 8,000 rolls on average and a streak of 5 20s happens once every 3.2 million rolls.

Let’s make a list of conditions needed for intelligent life to exist in a star system and assume each of them have a 5% chance of occurring:

1- have a star of the right temperature

2- have a planet

3- have a planetary orbit not too close or far

4- have a planetary core made up of the needed materials

5- have that planetary core be geologically active

6- have water to make an ocean

7- have the necessary elements for life

8- have the necessary elements for an atmosphere

9- have the geology of the planet occur within the window of the Star not dying

10- have inorganic chemicals in the right condition to become self assembling materials.

So what are the odds of all 10 of those things happening? About 1/10,000,000,000,000 less than a millionth of a millionth. So even assuming a relatively small number of events need to happen the 1^23 stars in our universe would likely have life on only 2 of them.

But let’s say that instead of those events having a 5% chance of occurring they had a 95% chance of occurring in after all maybe “life finds a way” and the thresholds for requirements are much lower than I’m guessing. And perhaps that is true but it may also be true that some prerequisites for intelligent life are insanely rare.

Consider the moon. Without it we would have no tides, no tides could likely mean life never leaves the watery cradle of our planet and intelligent terrestrial life becomes impossible. What are the odds of an collision with Earth to break apart some of the planet but leave an incredible large satellite just the right distance to not come crash back into Earth or fly off into space? One in a million? One in a billion?

Armchair speculation like this can of course have answer the question to are we alone in the universe but I would hope it at least checks the vision in many minds where of course the universe is full of life. It may be that our minds are the greatest in the universe and that the precious State of life we enjoy truly is a Divine gift to be treasured in gratitude.

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  1. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    Isn’t that presuming that intelligent life is water-based and can exist only within a narrow range of temperatures?

    • #1
    • January 13, 2020, at 1:32 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. PHCheese Member

    There are more and more people and less and less intelligent life. What are the chances of that?

    • #2
    • January 13, 2020, at 6:08 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  3. JoelB Member

    It seems that the odds of finding another world compatible with life as we know it is very small. That said, I still enjoy a good science fiction tale.

    • #3
    • January 13, 2020, at 6:09 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. Belt Member

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Isn’t that presuming that intelligent life is water-based and can exist only within a narrow range of temperatures?

    Yes, that’s a reasonable rebuttal, but unless there’s a theory that that process is as common as water is in the universe, it’s not going to bump up the odds that much. (One of the things I remember from the original Star Trek series was Spock speculating that some unexplained phenomena was ‘life, but not life as we know it.’)

    There are two problems with trying to calculate the odds: First, you have to choose which variables to include in the equation, and then you have to make your best guess about the values to input. The Drake Equation is a starting point for a lot of this. Second, there’s an awful lot we just don’t know enough about in the first place. (I find it easy to compare this to climate science; we’re just in the beginning stages of understanding things, and twenty years down the road we’re likely to have (possibly radically) different conclusions than we do now.)

    The equation to calculate the odds of life occurring are complicated with lots of variables. Based on the values you assign to them, the odds of life are anywhere from near to zero to, well, astronomical.

    • #4
    • January 13, 2020, at 6:25 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Kozak Member
    Kozak Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Isn’t that presuming that intelligent life is water-based and can exist only within a narrow range of temperatures?

    Actually a lot of presumptions there.

    Personally I think any place you have liquid water you have an excellent chance of life developing. Whether it’s a planet or a moon. We have multiple candidates for life in our solar system in moons around Jupiter and Saturn.

    In addition other solvents may be able to function in place of water, we won’t know until we get out there and look around.

     

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that God would create this gigantic universe, with stars outnumbering the grains of sand on the Earth, and we would be the only intelligent life in it. or even life. That would just be a nasty trick to play on us.

    • #5
    • January 13, 2020, at 6:25 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’d say the chances of intelligent life “out there” are better than the chances of finding intelligent life inside the beltway.

    • #6
    • January 13, 2020, at 6:36 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  7. Bryce Carmony Inactive
    Bryce Carmony

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Isn’t that presuming that intelligent life is water-based and can exist only within a narrow range of temperatures?

    Ok let’s say 100% of temperatures are conductive with life now you have 100 other variables even if temperature isn’t one. 

    • #7
    • January 13, 2020, at 6:55 AM PST
    • 1 like
  8. Bryce Carmony Inactive
    Bryce Carmony

    JoelB (View Comment):

    It seems that the odds of finding another world compatible with life as we know it is very small. That said, I still enjoy a good science fiction tale.

    I enjoy high fantasy which is fine so long as I don’t think it’s real. I love star Trek but our yourself isn’t star trek

    • #8
    • January 13, 2020, at 6:59 AM PST
    • Like
  9. Bryce Carmony Inactive
    Bryce Carmony

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that God would create this gigantic universe, with stars outnumbering the grains of sand on the Earth, and we would be the only intelligent life in it. or even life. That would just be a nasty trick to play on us.

    Assuming God created only this universe. What if there are infinite universes created by God. Maybe he has created everything that ever could be or can be. 

     

    • #9
    • January 13, 2020, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. Jon1979 Lincoln

    I’d say even with the odds, the vastness of the universe and the number of galaxies, stars and those capable of creating planets means there’s a balance between the conditions needed for life to exist and the number of locations where it could be a possibility. Based on that, life could be quite common, but you could have only a handful of solar systems per galaxy where life has the proper conditions to exist and maybe only one planet where intelligent life could develop. That could still be millions of planets, but none that will ever have the ability to communicate with each other, due to the vast distances in space.

    • #10
    • January 13, 2020, at 7:45 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Bryce Carmony Inactive
    Bryce Carmony

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    I’d say even with the odds, the vastness of the universe and the number of galaxies, stars and those capable of creating planets means there’s a balance between the conditions needed for life to exist and the number of locations where it could be a possibility. Based on that, life could be quite common, but you could have only a handful of solar systems per galaxy where life has the proper conditions to exist and maybe only one planet where intelligent life could develop. That could still be millions of planets, but none that will ever have the ability to communicate with each other, due to the vast distances in space.

    Doubtful. There just aren’t enough stars for that. You have ~1^23 stars in our visable universe but if you have 100 criteria that happen 50% if the time you’re already not likely to see life more than once if that.

    • #11
    • January 13, 2020, at 7:52 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. Doug Watt Moderator

    There is an inherent danger in the aggressive search for intelligent life in the universe. We might find another life form more advanced than we are that has no desire to share the universe with another life form, and will take steps to rectify that situation.

    It is probably more likely that reruns of Two and a Half Men that have escaped into the universe and have been seen, and another intelligent life form has decided to play hide and stay hidden.

    • #12
    • January 13, 2020, at 8:13 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kozak (View Comment):
    Finally, I find it hard to believe that God would create this gigantic universe, with stars outnumbering the grains of sand on the Earth, and we would be the only intelligent life in it. or even life. That would just be a nasty trick to play on us.

    100% agreed. If you go back to Christ’s time, the notion that you could somehow get in a boat and travel across the Atlantic ocean and find people there to whom you could preach the good news, well, that would have been preposterous. Just like today we know there are stars and planets, but getting there is so hard, so difficult. Why rule them out just because of our own limited understanding?

    • #13
    • January 13, 2020, at 8:37 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. aardo vozz Member

    Bryce Carmony:

    It may be that our minds are the greatest in the universe…..

    Then may G-d help the universe.

    • #14
    • January 13, 2020, at 9:21 AM PST
    • Like
  15. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Isn’t that presuming that intelligent life is water-based and can exist only within a narrow range of temperatures?

    Actually a lot of presumptions there.

    Personally I think any place you have liquid water you have an excellent chance of life developing. Whether it’s a planet or a moon. We have multiple candidates for life in our solar system in moons around Jupiter and Saturn.

    In addition other solvents may be able to function in place of water, we won’t know until we get out there and look around.

     

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that God would create this gigantic universe, with stars outnumbering the grains of sand on the Earth, and we would be the only intelligent life in it. or even life. That would just be a nasty trick to play on us.

    Well, we are supposed to be especially important to Him. 

    • #15
    • January 13, 2020, at 9:44 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Bryce Carmony (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that God would create this gigantic universe, with stars outnumbering the grains of sand on the Earth, and we would be the only intelligent life in it. or even life. That would just be a nasty trick to play on us.

    Assuming God created only this universe. What if there are infinite universes created by God. Maybe he has created everything that ever could be or can be.

    True, but more meta than physical. 

    • #16
    • January 13, 2020, at 9:45 AM PST
    • Like
  17. Bryce Carmony Inactive
    Bryce Carmony

    TBA (View Comment):

    Bryce Carmony (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that God would create this gigantic universe, with stars outnumbering the grains of sand on the Earth, and we would be the only intelligent life in it. or even life. That would just be a nasty trick to play on us.

    Assuming God created only this universe. What if there are infinite universes created by God. Maybe he has created everything that ever could be or can be.

    True, but more meta than physical.

    What we physically observe is a universe where life is only on this planet

    • #17
    • January 13, 2020, at 9:50 AM PST
    • Like
  18. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This is why the latest “military knows about the UFOs!” craze makes me laugh. We’re talking about intelligent life — highly advanced beyond our capabilities. Maybe there’s life out there. I can accept there’s a possibility, however remote. But, it’s just as likely it’s some amorphous blob of reproducing cells or is similar to those sulfur-based worms that live around deep sea volcanic vents. I feel safe predicting we’ll never know about it. 

    It’s more likely those tic tac ufos the Navy fighter pilots are seeing are an artifact of some recent software upgrade. 

    • #18
    • January 13, 2020, at 10:00 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. Hugh Member

    There is also Time to consider. The rise and fall of a civilization or ecology would happen in a particular span of time which would have to line up with the present. This makes thing more unlikely in my opinion.

    • #19
    • January 13, 2020, at 10:04 AM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Bryce Carmony Inactive
    Bryce Carmony

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    This is why the latest “military knows about the UFOs!” craze makes me laugh. We’re talking about intelligent life — highly advanced beyond our capabilities. Maybe there’s life out there. I can accept there’s a possibility, however remote. But, it’s just as likely it’s some amorphous blob of reproducing cells or is similar to those sulfur-based worms that live around deep sea volcanic vents. I feel safe predicting we’ll never know about it.

    It’s more likely those tic tac ufos the Navy fighter pilots are seeing are an artifact of some recent software upgrade.

    Sailors see sirens astronauts see aliens

    • #20
    • January 13, 2020, at 10:15 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Bryce Carmony (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Bryce Carmony (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that God would create this gigantic universe, with stars outnumbering the grains of sand on the Earth, and we would be the only intelligent life in it. or even life. That would just be a nasty trick to play on us.

    Assuming God created only this universe. What if there are infinite universes created by God. Maybe he has created everything that ever could be or can be.

    True, but more meta than physical.

    What we physically observe is a universe where life is only on this planet

    Except we don’t especially observe the universe or even galaxy to any exacting degree. We’re not even sure that there is no life (at its most basic level) in our solar system. 

    • #21
    • January 13, 2020, at 11:46 AM PST
    • 1 like
  22. philo Member

    Bryce Carmony:

    1- have a star of the right temperature

    2- have a planet

    3- have a planetary orbit not too close or far

    4- have a planetary core made up of the needed materials

    5- have that planetary core be geologically active

    6- have water to make an ocean

    7- have the necessary elements for life

    8- have the necessary elements for an atmosphere 

    9- have the geology of the planet occur within the window of the Star not dying

    10- have inorganic chemicals in the right condition to become self assembling materials.

    So what are the odds of all 10 of those things happening?

    You can also add to that list:

    Has a large moon.

    Has “Jupiter-like” neighbor

    Has the proper tilt

    Is located in the habitable zone of its galaxy (as well as the habitable zone of the solar system (your #3))

    I’m sure there is more. All of this is why I chuckle at the semi-frequent stories about the discovery of another “Earth-like” planet. Most of these “properties” are unknowable now and for the foreseeable future. 

    In my humble opinion, that life exists elsewhere I have no doubt. (It may not even be all that rare.) That intelligent life has/does/will exist elsewhere is highly probable. But because of the massive timelines (i.e. life spans of galaxies and stars, planets moving out of habitable zones (like Earth will eventually), loss of large moon (like will happen to Earth eventually), other extinction events, etc.) and distances involved, the probability of us ever observing or encountering such a thing is stuff for the movies…but little else.

    I highly recommend both of these for the curious reader:

    Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe (This is the reference for those items I listed above.)

    The Privileged Planet: How our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery

    • #22
    • January 13, 2020, at 2:59 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  23. FloppyDisk90 Member

    Aren’t some these requirements overlapping? For example, I would think that having the right temperature is largely determined by distance from the sun or once you have the right temp distance doesn’t matter.

     

    • #23
    • January 13, 2020, at 4:06 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  24. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I once saw a UFO. I saw an object, flying through the sky, that was unidentifiable to me. Now keep in mind: I’ve been trained to identify flying vehicles, so when I saw this thing, it wasn’t as if I was some gramma who’d never seen a jet. 

    This thing was flying just above tree top level. Imagine three wine barrels on their sides, all lined up and attached, one in the middle, the others to either side. It was moving not much slower than what I think should be possible for an airplane, except it didn’t have the kind of wings that would provide it enough lift. The noise it made was sort of a low humming…like an engine on low idle.

    Every so often I google around and see if anyone else has seen such a thing.

    • #24
    • January 13, 2020, at 4:14 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  25. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Oh hey look: http://www.nuforc.org/webreports/147/S147149.html

    • #25
    • January 13, 2020, at 4:16 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. Hugh Member

    Spin (View Comment):

    I once saw a UFO. I saw an object, flying through the sky, that was unidentifiable to me. Now keep in mind: I’ve been trained to identify flying vehicles, so when I saw this thing, it wasn’t as if I was some gramma who’d never seen a jet.

    This thing was flying just above tree top level. Imagine three wine barrels on their sides, all lined up and attached, one in the middle, the others to either side. It was moving not much slower than what I think should be possible for an airplane, except it didn’t have the kind of wings that would provide it enough lift. The noise it made was sort of a low humming…like an engine on low idle.

    Every so often I google around and see if anyone else has seen such a thing.

    Sounds like one of those helium filled Remington shavers.

    • #26
    • January 13, 2020, at 4:25 PM PST
    • 1 like
  27. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    What you need for a functioning biochemistry:

    Accessible energy – this is one of the reasons I don’t think Europa or Titan have life.

    Polar Solvents – Polar solvents drive the formation of protein structure, and expand the liquid range. Ammonia is probably the only one to come close to water, and that is a stretch,

    Variable molecular backbones – carbon is probably the most stable and flexible. Silicon is the only one that comes close, and it is not as flexible as carbon

    Degradation Protection – Radiation destroys biomolecules, as does high heat.

    Lastly, and most importantly, Information. You need all of the biomolecules arranged precisely and with precise structures.

     

    Even the most basic form of independent life needs two very complicated features:

    Self-Replication – the proto-life needs to be able to duplicate itself. This is extremely hard, especially if you start with simple molecules or a wide-ranging mixture

    Metabolism – self-replication is energetically unfavorable due to entropy. You need to harness energy from a spontaneous reaction or energy in the environment (which is harder) to drive the self-replication.

    • #27
    • January 13, 2020, at 5:35 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  28. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Bryce Carmony (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Isn’t that presuming that intelligent life is water-based and can exist only within a narrow range of temperatures?

    Ok let’s say 100% of temperatures are conductive with life now you have 100 other variables even if temperature isn’t one.

    I had a landlord who was a former Northrop Grumman’s rocket designer. He devoted some time to writing a pamphlet on what the “muds” of various planets would be. Of all the planets in the solar system, only our earth would have mud made of dirt and water.

    On Neptune, mud might for example, be made out of ammonia and methane. He knew the major chemicals found on each planet and he knew whether the chemicals could or could not be combined to create mud. (And I really don’t know if ammonia and methane would combine at all – but he would know it. I’m just giving an example.)

    So assuming that he was barking up the right tree, maybe on some distant planet, or in subterranean caverns on planets inside our solar system, there could be another entire group of entities possessing intelligent life that had their bodies comprised of something other than carbon. And who breathed something other than air.

    • #28
    • January 14, 2020, at 7:54 PM PST
    • 1 like
  29. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Spin (View Comment):

    I once saw a UFO. I saw an object, flying through the sky, that was unidentifiable to me. Now keep in mind: I’ve been trained to identify flying vehicles, so when I saw this thing, it wasn’t as if I was some gramma who’d never seen a jet.

    This thing was flying just above tree top level. Imagine three wine barrels on their sides, all lined up and attached, one in the middle, the others to either side. It was moving not much slower than what I think should be possible for an airplane, except it didn’t have the kind of wings that would provide it enough lift. The noise it made was sort of a low humming…like an engine on low idle.

    Every so often I google around and see if anyone else has seen such a thing.

    A friend of mine who now is way beyond retirement age, recently confided that as a child living in Central California, one of the neighbors had shown her father photos of vehicles that held space people in side them. The man claimed he took the photos in 1947 or 1948.

    After this neighbor died, some men showed up at his home, showed his widow the equivalent of a warrant, and went through the entire house. Then his widow said after they left, they must have taken the photos with them as they were no longer anywhere inside the home.

    I am forgetting what Air Force Base my friend implicated in all these happenings. But I believe the AFB was located in Central California.

    • #29
    • January 14, 2020, at 8:03 PM PST
    • Like
  30. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):

    I once saw a UFO. I saw an object, flying through the sky, that was unidentifiable to me. Now keep in mind: I’ve been trained to identify flying vehicles, so when I saw this thing, it wasn’t as if I was some gramma who’d never seen a jet.

    This thing was flying just above tree top level. Imagine three wine barrels on their sides, all lined up and attached, one in the middle, the others to either side. It was moving not much slower than what I think should be possible for an airplane, except it didn’t have the kind of wings that would provide it enough lift. The noise it made was sort of a low humming…like an engine on low idle.

    Every so often I google around and see if anyone else has seen such a thing.

    A friend of mine who now is way beyond retirement age, recently confided that as a child living in Central California, one of the neighbors had shown her father photos of vehicles that held space people in side them. The man claimed he took the photos in 1947 or 1948.

    After this neighbor died, some men showed up at his home, showed his widow the equivalent of a warrant, and went through the entire house. Then his widow said after they left, they must have taken the photos with them as they were no longer anywhere inside the home.

    I am forgetting what Air Force Base my friend implicated in all these happenings. But I believe the AFB was located in Central California.

    Edwards? 

    • #30
    • January 14, 2020, at 11:27 PM PST
    • Like