(TMU) — The debate about the existence of alien life has been a topic that has interested humans for a long time and the scientific community has had split opinions regarding our solitude in this amazingly big universe.
Now, new research published in the Astronomical Journal provides further information that invites us to rethink our mindset on this topic.
During the summer of 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi posed a question to his colleagues over lunch:
“Don’t you ever wonder where everybody is?”
He was referring to alien life.
The Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and we could say that that was roughly the time it took a “kind of life” to be capable of space travel. Our universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old.
Fermi proposed that during this time, the galaxy should have been overrun with intelligent, technologically-advanced aliens. Yet, we have no evidence of this despite decades of searching. This postulate became known as the Fermi Paradox.
Briefly, some of the main points of this paradox, formalized by Michael H. Hart, are:
- There are billions of stars in the Milky Way similar to the Sun.
- With high probability, some of these stars have Earth-like planets, and if the Earth is typical, some may have already developed intelligent life.
- Some of these civilizations may have developed interstellar travel.
- Even at the slow pace of currently envisioned interstellar travel, the Milky Way galaxy could be completely traversed in a few million years
- And since many of the stars similar to the Sun are billions of years older, this would seem to provide plenty of time
Now, you can have a clearer view of why this paradox is so interesting for scientists and further investigation is being done, the odds seem to be really high.
The expectation that the universe should be teeming with intelligent life is linked to models like the Drake equation, which suggests that even if the probability of intelligent life developing at a given site is small, the sheer multitude of possible sites should nonetheless yield a large number of potentially observable civilizations.
This new study offers a different perspective on the question: maybe aliens are just taking their time and being strategic.
“If you don’t account for the motion of stars when you try to solve this problem, you’re basically left with one of two solutions,” Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback the study’s lead author said.
“Either nobody leaves their planet, or we are in fact the only technological civilization in the galaxy.”
Stars orbit the center of the galaxy on different paths at different speeds. They occasionally pass each other, so, aliens could be waiting for their next destination to come closer, Caroll-Nellenback’s study says.
Researchers have formulated different theories trying to answer the Fermi Paradox, including the possibility that all alien life forms in oceans below a planet’s surface and there’s even the “zoo hypothesis” which imagines that societies in our galaxy decided to not contact us to “preserve” us in a way analogical to how we preserve some natural places—or even to prevent them from getting some kind of “disease” from us.
A crucial fact to this new study is the fact that, as previously mentioned, the galaxy moves. So, aliens could be waiting for an optimal travel distance to explore new territories.
“If long enough is a billion years, well then that’s one solution to the Fermi paradox,” Carroll-Nellenback said.
Another important thing to notice is that the research team did not attempt to guess at the alien’s motivations or politics, something that usually delayed the attempts to solve the Fermi Paradox.
We have to consider also that our consciousness and our perception of the “civilization” concept may play a crucial part in this kind of studies. So, our predictions may be based on our own behavior.
“We tried to come up with a model that would involve the fewest assumptions about sociology that we could,” Carroll-Nellenback said.
So far, we’ve detected about 4,000 planets outside of our solar system and none have been shown to host life. But we haven’t looked that hard—there are at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way and even more planets, so we still have a lot more to explore.
Maybe, merging philosophy and science together for a moment, we could believe that at some point, if there is in fact alien life out there in the universe, we (or our kids, grandkids, or great grandkids) will get to know them and make really close contact, assuming all of this in basis of some of the ideas exposed in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, where he says that if something can happen, and there is enough time for that to happen, it will happen.
Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”
In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.
The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.
The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.
The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”
“This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.
“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”
However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.
The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.
“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”
He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”
A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”
One hopes that things don’t reach that point.
In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.
Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour
Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.
In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.
While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.
“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.
See for yourself:
Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.
In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.
Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”
Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.