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      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
    Also, wasn't one of the points he made that any "alien life" we encountered would likely be microbes and/or bacteria? Which makes the scenario more likely of us dying from Space Aids like the natives who encountered Columbus, rather than being rogered to bits by foot-long alien johnsons?
  1.  (8137.22)
    "simply clone one of us for their needs"

    You're right! I forgot about cloning! And they could probably reprogram us to go along peacefully.

    "All of that assumes a finite amount of space and resources"

    You're right! Space is infinite! On to the next planet, Ensign. These Terrans watch far too much DANCING WITH THE STARS.
  2.  (8137.23)
    All he did was spew one of the oldest ideas in science fiction, straight from HG Wells. But since he's Steven Hawking, Discovery Channel reaped a bonanza of publicity. I saw the part of the program discussing the Alien Threat, and it was just an excuse for some cool animation of spaceships and wormholes.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
    "The want to touch our bums."

    Just our bums if we're lucky.

    * * *
    As for the roaming rapacious nomad scenario . . . I dunno.

    The scaling doesn't work out.

    Interstellar travel is hard. Really expensive in terms of energy.

    And once you're out there . . . tens of billions of stars, the vast majority of them red dwarfs circled by ice and rubble. Ice and rubble which with the help of nanotechnology can be efficiently harvested and processed and turned into whatever you want: Fuel, food, new habitats.

    The cost of tracking down habitable planets with civilization in them just to save a little effort at harvesting . . . just doesn't seem to work out.
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
    How many ant colonies get wiped out in a strip mining operation?

    How many tree frogs die when a forest gets cut down?

    Any culture that can travel across the ridiculous gaps between star systems is going to be so far ahead of us technologically they would be like something out of the bible. But scarier.

    Lets even assume they're the same size as us, even roughly. Their ships could be the size of the moon and they're conscious gas clouds who see earth as some shimmering h2O saturated speck. Maybe they just pass by, even then they could kill us all simply trying to communicate using methane exchange or noise so loud it deafens anyone who hears it. That lovely burst of UV radiation that means "HELLO AND WELCOME TO THE GALACTIC HUGGING SOCIETY" that gives everyone exposed aggressive stage 4 pancreatic cancer?

    If you've been out in the wilderness, where things like wolves and bears and wolverines will kill you, you learn very quickly not to make too much of spectacle of yourself. That brass plaque on Voyager may look like a take-out menu to some beastie out there.
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010 edited
    It must be the fact that I've been catching up with Doctor Who (starting with the Eccelston run) but I couldn't help but think of the WWIII storyline in which these aliens plan to nuke the world and sell chunks of the planet as a cheap fuel source.
  3.  (8137.27)
    I don't get Hawking's line of reasoning at all. Even in the solar system, resources are for all intents and purposes as close to infinite as to make very little difference to a race capable of interstellar travel. Matter and energy are cheap, and if a race has mastered them enough to zip from one star to another I'm willing to bet they don't need anything we've got.

    Or pretty much what StefanJ said. :)
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
    @James Cunningham:

    Ever read a book called "Under the Skin" By Michel Faber? Features these aliens who come to earth to harvest humans as a delicacy. Not even a necessary food item, just something tasty for the upper class. They barely regard the humans they kidnaps, geld, stuff full of hormones and chemicals and then "harvest" as anything more than cattle. Their perception of sentience is completely different from ours.

    Humans as the Poo-Poo platter.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
    Going Way Back:

    Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker is a sort of theologically themed future history of life in the galaxy. An astrally project earth man visits all sorts of worlds in crisis. Many die off, unable to cope with the challenges of industry, environment, or their own alien-human nature.

    But some races figure things out and become "utopian," in a Wellsian-socialist fashion. Some of these are laid back and respectful of other races; they have a Prime Directive thing going. But others are ideological nut-jobs. Stapledon calls them the Perverts. They roam the galaxy in moving planets, trying to convert other races to their idea of righteous utopian thinking. Galactic neoconservatives. At one point they start using nova bombs on solar systems who inhabitants don't see it their way.

    Freeman Dyson acknowledges getting the idea for "Dyson Spheres" from Star Maker.

    I'd be willing to bet that Hawking read the book too.
    • CommentAuthorSolario
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
    Why are we listening to a theorethical physicist on matters of sociology, political philosophy and prehaps zoology and biology? I understand that he could have an interesting viewpoint, but he isn't really qualified or an expert in the field, the discussion is pertaining to. I wouldn't assume that a rocket scientist is a master chef, because he has a high IQ.

    And why do we always assume that social intelligence is completely non-existent in technological advanced species?
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
    Is he really worrying about this?
    godsakes keep him away from Anathem.
  4.  (8137.32)
    Unless space virii have RNA, I'm really curious to see how they intend to infect us.
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010

    Hawking will worry about what he wants to worry about. Hu-man.
    • CommentAuthorZie87
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
    I doubt they would travel all they way to earth for resources, for all the reasons stated previously in this thread. However I reckon they might travel past us, on the way too and from somewhere. We could be colonized as some sort of intergalactic highway service area. Or if we're unlucky it could turn out that HHGTTG was a prophesy and we are just in the way.
    • CommentAuthorRedwynd
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
    @Justin Jordan & James Cunningham;

    I would like to point to two theories: first, the conservation of energy, then the so-called "life zone" around some stars. (Also, I am not a scientist, so if my references aren't exact, don't jump on me.)

    The idea of conservation of energy is that there is a finite amount of energy, or its alternate state mass (E=mc^2, after all), in any closed system. This universe very probably is a closed system, if the Big Bang Theory is correct, and therefore there is a finite amount of energy. Let's say, for argument's sake, that 75% of the energy in the universe it taking the form of matter. Then 90% of that is in the form of the theorized dark matter, leaving us with 7.5% in "normal" matter. Of this, probably 99.99% is the stuff of stars and gas giant planets. Then from what's left over, of the mass of a planet like Earth, we'd figure that, what, 0.0000001% is useful in any kind of interstellar tech? As you can see, we're rapidly approaching a point where resources are very, very scarce, even when you're looking a starting point of all the energy/mass in the universe. I'm modeling this argument after the Drake Equation, of course.

    Second part to this: if like is most likely going to arise on a planet with liquid water, then that life will be most well adapted to a level of heat similar to that of Earth. Well, heat in space is expensive to maintain - no system is completely free from heat radiation, so it needs to be constantly replenished, consuming fuel or energy of some kind. The ISS does this through solar power, but that approach just isn't feasible in deep space, the light is just too diffuse. This kind of loss would be enormous, and would occur over a number of years (our closest neighbor is 40 years away, at the speed of light, but statistically any visitors would likely be coming from somewhere else, see Drake Equation), with each additional kilo of fuel for life-support requiring still more fuel to propel, then stop, then propel, that additional fuel. Rather than carry and consume the fuel to mine in the Kupiter Belt, they'll be coming here first, because that will be most hospitable to them.

    Now, I've dropped a whole lot of "probably"s out of all that, since its all conjecture on all our parts and it makes for awkward writing, but I'm sure you get the point. Also, its worth noting that the conservation of energy rule is the whole problem we're having here on Earth right now: peoples, governments, corporations, and institutions not yet having come to grips with the implications that we live in a closed system, and that we already have essentially all the resources we'll ever get from this planet, and that there isn't another place for a dump or a city just over the next hill.


    Hawking is about as qualified as anyone else is, because no one else has anything better to go on. The problem with trying to predict how an intelligent alien species will behave is that we know nothing about their hardware, their brains. Its been shown that certain parts of human behavior are based in our brains, coded into the very structure of them - aggression and territorial behaviors, which are very much still a part of our lives, come from the "reptile brain", or the evolutionary vestiges of our distant past. Its quite possible that the aliens we encounter will have similar brains, but what if they evolved directly from reptiles, and overlaid the neocortex (higher functions, consciousness) directly onto the reptile complex, and did not develop a mammalian sense of tribe and communality? They'd behave in many ways like a mob family, working together for the dominant's gain because their higher functions see the benefit, but constantly infighting, jockeying for position and privilege, and what's more to the point, destroying everything they can't control and turn to their own benefit, so that it can't become a threat to them. Without some idea of how their brains are structured, we've no idea.
  5.  (8137.36)
    On the other hand, long before a species is ready to travel between stars it'll have access to the whole contents of its solar system. What's significant in that is how it changes the ratio of resources to habitable space. It wouldn't be like the colonisation of a new area on earth - lack of heat/air/wildlife/etc is going to discourage you from just moving a load of people there and breeding till the space runs out again, you're more likely to keep most of your population at home and send small teams and/or a hell of a lot of robots to bring you back the stuff you want. The whole idea of vast, sprawling galactic empires seems to rely either on needing a giant population for something or it just being easier to migrate than to limit your own population growth, neither of which are ideas I buy.
  6.  (8137.37)
    What's the chance of an alien/invasive species NOT being a disaster when entering a new ecological zone?
    Even without it attempting harm, there would be the problem of diseases it might have, or crud from it's homeland that might take a shine to our environment, or somehow be dangerous to us.
    If they are so much more advanced than us, hell, who'se to say we won't end up on the market as a pet/food/novelty sex toy for some alien species that presumes we're not really 'sentient' anyway because we look odd to it or think and behave differently? What if they couldn't recognize our language as a language?

    Even if they are friendly or meant to be friendly, I think things could accidentally go wrong very fast.
    • CommentAuthorSteadyUP
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
    I don't get Hawking's line of reasoning at all. Even in the solar system, resources are for all intents and purposes as close to infinite as to make very little difference to a race capable of interstellar travel.

    Think of it as the difference between a furnished apartment and an unfurnished one. =)
    • CommentAuthoricelandbob
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010

    This is brilliant.