A species that never got noticed

Last night, while I was reading Richard Dawkins excellent 2011 book for teen-age children (though in all honesty most adults would benefit from reading it too) “The Magic of Reality – How We Know Whats Real?”, a chilling thought occurred to me.

We were here

Premise: A telescope can work like a time-machine. What we see when we look at anything is actually light, and light takes time to travel, about 300,000 kilometers per second. Considering cosmic distances, that’s not so awfully fast. As a result, if you look at the nearest star Proxima Centauri in 2012, what you’re seeing is happening in 2008. We are in the Milky Way galaxy. When we look at our next-door neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, we are looking 2 and a half million years back in time.

Conversely, if there were intelligent beings in one of the five galaxies called Stephan’s Quintet, looking at us with a powerful telescope, what they are seeing on earth, at this very moment, are not us but remote ancestors of dinosaurs!  For anyone to be observing us, humans of the 21st century, they would have to be looking at earth thousands of years in the future. It stands to reason, thus, that if there were any intelligent beings in the universe, wanting to communicate with us, they would have to do so between many hundred to many thousand, or even many million years in the future, depending upon how far they are from us.

We have acquired the capacity to send and receive cosmic signals, and understand them, only over the past 100 years or so, and already today we posses such destructive weapons which, by intention or accident, could spell the end of all life on planet earth. Even if we were to survive a thousand years more before destroying ourselves, by which time we would also possess far more deadly weapons, on a cosmic time-scale, it’s nothing more than the blink of an eye.

The SETI project (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) has been searching for signs of intelligent life and listening to any cosmic signals sent our way for over 50 years now, without success.

It makes me wonder, is this because:

  1. There are no other intelligent beings in that incredibly vast universe, or
  2. After acquiring the capability to send and receive cosmic signals, we survived for such a short time that no one had the time or the luck to notice us.

If (1) is true, it’s hard to explain the presence of over 728 already confirmed exoplanets capable of supporting life, with another 2326 unconfirmed candidates from the Kepler telescope. And we’ve only been looking for a few years!

If (2) is true, then perhaps amidst all our wars for oil, the ever-more destructive weapons created by our super(destructive)-powers, the population explosion and the continuing environmental damage we inflict on our planet, we should all step back for a moment and stop to think, is this really what we humans  wanted to become? Is this the best we can do? Is that all we were worth? A species that never got noticed.

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6 thoughts on “A species that never got noticed

  1. bwhartwork October 23, 2012 at 00:04 Reply

    I think we would be very naive to think we are the only intelligent beings in the universe, I think your right, TIME, we haven’t been here very long and it will take a while before we are discovered or discover something. Hopefully we will be worth discovering, at the moment the road we are heading down isn’t looking so good. Great post and questions, love the discussion.

    • jav3d October 23, 2012 at 16:59 Reply

      Thank You Bradley!

      As a teenager I grew up reading Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clark.

      When we used to think of the 21st century, we always imagined a peaceful global-village where humanity would’ve gotten rid of its childhood myths and its insecurities, hunger and war would’ve been a thing of the past, death by disease would’ve been a rare occurance and humankind would be joined in the exploration and colonisation of space, at least our part of the galaxy.

      Then came the 21st century and….. well.

      If the events of the past decade are any indication, I strongly doubt we’ll survive this century. For the sake of all our children, lets hope cooler and sensible heads prevail.

      Many thanks for reading my blog and taking the trouble to comment.

  2. Sonya Chasey October 17, 2012 at 20:11 Reply

    Yes – I agree with your number 2 proposal !

    • jav3d October 21, 2012 at 00:05 Reply

      Why, Thank You Sonya! Now at least I know I’m not the only “crackpot” worrying about such things :D

  3. top99news January 24, 2012 at 18:02 Reply

    Nice blog and very good article….

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    • jav3d January 31, 2012 at 02:51 Reply

      Thank You!

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