ARE WE THE BEST THE UNIVERSE HAS TO OFFER?
As we look up at the night sky, we often wonder if this it. Are we the only ones in the universe, or are there others like us somewhere far away? In this technological age of computers, the answer gets more and more complicated, and we begin to wonder as a race if it’s even worth the search. The truth is, as we use Kepler to explore our galaxy, the probability of life elsewhere is increasing. We continue to find planets like our own, but we still don’t know if they are habitable or not. Scientists in the next twenty years hope to find an answer to whether life exists elsewhere, but one thing they know for certain-where there is water, there may be life. Even if there is life somewhere else, just what defines intelligent life? Most people would say beings like us, but the truth is, in terms of civilized beings, we’re not civilized at all. We’re considered on the bottom of the scale as far as civilizations, a type 0 civilization. I will discuss the types of civilizations in further detail on the next blog.
Today, we’re going to talk about the Drake equation, the mathematical formula that determines how many civilizations might exist. It was devised by Dr. Frank Drake in 1961, as a dialogue at a meeting of Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. The equation is often criticized because its components are conjecture, and cannot draw firm conclusions.
The equation, N= R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L, is divided into several parts: N= The number of civilizations R*= The rate of stars in our galaxy, which has been determined as 7 per year. Fp= The fraction of stars that have planets- With the help of Hubble and Kepler, this number has increased dramatically, and it has been found that most stars have at least one planet orbiting it. Ne= The Average Number of Planets that Might Support Life- This has also increased, as we continue to find Earth-like planets throughout even a small section of the galaxy. There are 40 billion Earth sized planets orbiting habitable zones of yellow and red dwarf stars within our galaxy alone, and the nearest maybe only 12 light years away. Fl= The Fraction That Develop Life- This is an elusive number because we still don’t fully understand how life developed on our own planet. Extinction and Creation events can affect the processes of evolution, and can either enhance it or eliminate it. Fi= The Fraction revealing their existence via signal-This number suggests that we could understand a signal and the civilization uses radio waves. Even if an alien race sent radio waves, by the time they reached us, the probability is the civilization will be long dead. Any other form of communication, and we won’t understand it. So this is a relatively low fraction compared to the other components of the equation. L= Lifetime of said civilization- Michael Sherver, a famous historian, estimated that the lifetime as 420 years, based on the duration of 60 historical civilizations. The above formula is only used to detect advanced life, and not primitive life forms, and those that use radio waves as communication. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at what it takes to make a civilized society, and the different stages involved to get there. Until then, here’s today’s links:
WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD As we discuss the probability of a civilized race of beings, we must first understand what that entails. One would believe that we are a civilized society, but are we really? Just because we have harnessed the energy of our planet’s resources, learned how to fly, gone to the moon, and created technology, does that make us civilized? Well-no, and this is why.
Renowned Russian theoretical physicist Nikolai Kardashev created a scale in 1964 to measure civilizations by their ability to harness the power of their star, galaxy, and universe called the Kardashev scale. These are arranged in Types. A type I civilization has the ability to harness the nearest star, gathering and storing its power to meet the demands of the civilization.
In a Type II civilization, they will be able to harness the power of their entire star and control it. One method is to use a Dyson Sphere, named after Freeman Dyson, to contain the star like a giant nuclear reactor. In a Type III civilization, the race will be able to harness the power of a galaxy. This civilization will be able to manipulate black holes or create wormholes in space. At this stage of the game, cybernetic organisms and artificially intelligent beings capable of self replication will colonize the cosmos.
In a Type IV civilization, they will have the universe at their command, and be able to travel anywhere in it or anytime in it. Type V civilizations will be able to manipulate entire matter, space, and time within universes in a multiverse, and be able to control dark energy. We’ll discuss each one of these in future posts, but for today’s topic we will confine our discussion to our own world. The fact remains that we don’t even make the list; we are considered a Type 0 civilization. For us even to achieve a Type I status, we’ll need to abandon fossil fuels and liquid propulsion systems, and learn to manipulate our environment to suit our needs.
Michio Kaku, a renowned physicist predicts that we will reach this status 100-200 years, considering we’re still around that long. The only hope for survival is to begin space colonization within that time to ensure our race continues. In the meantime, we continue to burn fuels that destroy the very environment we need to survive. New energy alternatives have driven the value of oil down for the moment, such as solar and wind power, as well as natural and ethanol gases, and helped preserve our planet’s resources. If the average survival of a society is 420 years, half our our time as Americans is up. Maybe by the rest of our tenure, we’ll learn to salvage our humanity, reach for the stars, and embrace our galactic destiny. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at what a Type I civilization would be like, and what they are capable of. Until tomorrow, here are the links to references used in this post. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale http://futurism.com/the-kardashev-scale-type-i-ii-iii-iv-v-civilization/
THE POWER OF THE SUN IN PALM OF OUR HANDS
If you’re a big Spiderman fan like I am, you remember this line from Spiderman II, in which Doc Ock tries to harness the power of a fusion reactor. Type I civilizations will likely use fusion power as a routine form of energy for space travel, as well as everyday use. These type of races have the ability to create artificial intelligence, and simple androids
For us to reach such a status, certain things have to change for us to advance. First of all, we’ll need to rely more on alternative energy, such as solar or wind power, and stop depending on fossil fuels. Next, we’ll need to learn to become a more peaceful and united society, something that is next to impossible as far as humans are concerned. And then we’ll have to learn to advance beyond our small blue planet by colonization.
Certain types of options are available to do this; ram-jet fusion drives which will allow us to reach the nearest star in forty years, photonic and ion propulsion rockets, as well as solar sails. Ram jet fusion uses Hydrogen already present in space as fuel, giving it an unlimited supply. Type I civilizations have the ability to deflect asteroids using laser beams, manipulate and control the weather, and harness the power of hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Scientists predict we can reach this status in 200 years, but unless the other underlying issues of mankind are addressed, we’ll continue to be marooned on this planet. Next time, we’ll take a look at the next step of the civilization ladder, and what technology will develop.
In a mere 200 years, it is more than likely we’ll either leave our planet and begin to colonize our own solar system, or we’ll perish as a race. Its my opinion that there are no other scenarios. If we stay here, unless we change our ways, we’ll eventually die as a race. It’s happened before to other Earth civilizations, such as the ancient Egyptians, the Sumerians, and the Mesopotamians. They couldn’t sustain a society without colonization of other areas, and neither can we. As a global society, it is doubtful we can feed the world without using space as a resource. It has been found on several NASA experiments that vegetation can actually grow just as effectively in zero gravity conditions as in Earth gravity situations, maybe even better. Perhaps giant green houses, like those in the movie Silent Running, can be used to feed the planet. But now that we’ve colonized the solar system, then what? This is where we become a Type II civilization, using the power of the galaxy as our guide. Stars like our own can be used to harness energy using the Dyson sphere as a conductor of solar power. Antimatter drives will be used to travel the stars, traveling at 3/4 the speed of light, or man may use Von Neuman probes to explore the galaxy with robots able to replicate and repair themselves, like Nomad, from the Star Trek series. Do not confuse an antimatter drive with those in Star Trek. It is not a warp drive; it is a propulsion engine using antimatter explosions to propel itself, and can only travel at best 3/4 the speed of light. And it’s even doubtful that it would be possible without ripping the ship apart. But if it did work, it would still take us centuries to millennia for us to develop it and colonize the galaxy. There is also the option of cryogenic hibernation, such as the method used in the Alien franchise, allowing us to sleep several hundred years until we reach our destination.
If we could, war wouldn’t be an option, for its unproductive results would destroy any civilization before it even reached Type I status. So even though we like to fantasize about civilizations that wage war such as Klingons, or the Republic in Star Wars, and in my own stories as well, it is unlikely we’d be invaded by such a civilization, It is simply not worth it. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at what a type III civilization is, and go where no man has gone before, or where Jeff Walker has never gone before.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY Will man someday become a galactic empire, like in Star Wars or Star Trek? Will we someday shoot across the stars in a matter of weeks, or even days? The technology of these franchises suggests that warp drives have become common place, and space travel is a simple process to be achieved. This is anything but reality. The problems of a warp drive are many, and only a Type III civilization would be able to design this type of device, if it’s even possible at all. The main problem is the mass to inertia ratio, which suggests the faster an object moves in a vacuum , the more massive it becomes. The only way to reduce this type of “drag” is to form a bubble around the ship, which is called the warp field. Einstein struggled with this dilemma for years, and came to the conclusion that faster than light speed wasn’t possible by our known laws of physics. The keyword here is “known.” The world of quantum mechanics and astronomy has changed the way we look at physics. Just twenty years ago, we believed that there could only be a few, if any, rocky planets like ours, stars like ours, or solar systems like ours. We are quickly learning that this isn’t the case at all, and the galaxy is teaming with planets orbiting stars. How many of these worlds that contain Type III civilizations are anybody’s guess. We assume they’ll communicate with us, but my question to that is why bother? If they’re truly that advanced, they probably have a form of the prime directive like in Star Trek, and wouldn’t interfere with primitive societies. We are slowly learning that to travel this fast, we have to think outside the box. One theory is to cheat space and time by folding space itself by creating a wormhole, or manipulating an existing wormhole. This would be the very top of the Type III scale, as it would require dark energy or exotic matter to achieve the task, and an enormous amount of energy, perhaps the energy of a black hole itself, equal to the power of all the stars in this galaxy. There has been talk that NASA has been trying to develop a type of electromagnetic drive, which will be capable of traveling close to the speed of light. This is a far cry from the Enterprise, but it’s a start towards colonization if it’s true. The CERN accelerator has shown us that neutrinos can move faster than light, but we still don’t know exactly why this happens. Type III civilizations would most likely be so far advanced that most of the problems we have today, such as war, hunger, and disease would be eliminated, and science would be at such a level that we would seem primitive to them, perhaps even animalistic. Remember Columbus and the natives? If they were hostile, it would most likely be the same result. Scientists believe because we haven’t received signals or some kind of message, that no one is listening, or because of the Drake equation proves that life is too rare for us to hear anything. I, however, do not believe this at all. The universe is a big place, and we’ve only explored a small section of it. We also believe that because of our own failures, no one else could have achieved this status either. Perhaps there is a bigger picture of our universe, and we’re just a tiny part of it. Maybe there is no creation, or big bang at all. Maybe we’re just part of an intergalactic playground for those who can manipulate and create matter, like in Hitchhikers of The Galaxy. This is a Type IV or V civilization, which will be our final topic of the series.
MIND OVER MATTER
Michio Kaku has said that if any civilization were able to reach Type IV or V status, they would appear “Godlike,” with the power of the universe at their command. Any civilization this powerful would be able to manipulate time and space itself, as well as being able to use matter as if it were silly putty.
Although the members of the USS Enterprise have some of that power, such as antimatter warp drives, hyperbolic formulas, and transporters, this doesn’t qualify them for Type IV status. It is more likely they fall under a Type II or III status. We’re talking about the manipulation of matter itself, and where time travel is common place.
In Star Trek, this would most likely be beings such as the Melkotians, Triscallions, Mentrons, or Apollo in Who Mourns For Adonis. Trelane, although he is considered a naughty child, also falls in this category, as he has the ability to control matter and make planets. Dr. who also falls in this category, as he travels through time and space with his Tardis. The device itself is inter-spacial, for on the outside it appears small, but once you enter, its a full grown ship.
Teleportation, transference, and manipulation of matter are not new ideas; Einstein wrote about it in his theory of relativity, describing the relation of space travel and time dilation, and the warping of space through black holes. Teleportation of energy has been achieved using the CERN accelerator, but teleportation of objects is a millennia away, if possible at all. Even if it were possible to use a transporter, it wouldn’t be you that gets there, only a carbon copy of you, thus you will basically cease to exist every time you stepped into it.
Manipulation of matter on this scale would make such a race feel god-like or feel they had power over all things in the universe. Such power to a war-like society would be a dangerous proposition, but it is unlikely such a race would wage intergalactic war. Do to to the complexity of the Drake equation, however, it is extremely doubtful that there are any such civilizations; at least in our universe.
Next week I’ll return after the holiday with a new topic. If you have have any suggestions for an upcoming topic relating to science or science fiction, please send me your idea under the comments section. Until next time, have a pleasant holiday, and a great summer kick off!