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Even without traveling anywhere near the speed of light, this process would colonize the whole galaxy in 3.75 million years, a relative blink of an eye when talking in the scale of billions of years: Continuing to speculate, if 1% of intelligent life survives long enough to become a potentially galaxy-colonizing Type III Civilization, our calculations above suggest that there should be at least 1,000 Type III Civilizations in our galaxy alone—and given the power of such a civilization, their presence would likely be pretty noticeable.

And yet, we see nothing, hear nothing, and we’re visited by no one. We have no answer to the Fermi Paradox—the best we can do is “possible explanations.” And if you ask ten different scientists what their hunch is about the correct one, you’ll get ten different answers.

You know when you hear about humans of the past debating whether the Earth was round or if the sun revolved around the Earth or thinking that lightning happened because of Zeus, and they seem so primitive and in the dark? In taking a look at some of the most-discussed possible explanations for the Fermi Paradox, let’s divide them into two broad categories—those explanations which assume that there’s no sign of Type II and Type III Civilizations because there Those who subscribe to Group 1 explanations point to something called the non-exclusivity problem, which rebuffs any theory that says, “There are higher civilizations, but none of them have made any kind of contact with us because they all _____.” Group 1 people look at the math, which says there should be of them would be an exception to the rule.

Even if a theory held for 99.99% of higher civilizations, the other .01% would behave differently and we’d become aware of their existence. The Great Filter theory says that at some point from pre-life to Type III intelligence, there’s a wall that all or nearly all attempts at life hit.

We’re not quite a Type I Civilization, but we’re close (Carl Sagan created a formula for this scale which puts us at a Type 0.7 Civilization). If a civilization on Planet X were similar to ours and were able to survive all the way to Type III level, the natural thought is that they’d probably have mastered inter-stellar travel by now, possibly even colonizing the entire galaxy.

One hypothesis as to how galactic colonization could happen is by creating machinery that can travel to other planets, spend 500 years or so self-replicating using the raw materials on their new planet, and then send two replicas off to do the same thing.

This scenario would explain why there are no Type III Civilizations…but it would also mean that could be one of the few exceptions now that we’ve made it this far. On the surface, this sounds a bit like people 500 years ago suggesting that the Earth is the center of the universe—it implies that we’re .

However, something scientists call “observation selection effect” suggests that anyone who is pondering their own rarity is inherently part of an intelligent life “success story”—and whether they’re actually rare or quite common, the thoughts they ponder and conclusions they draw will be identical.

In that case, we and many other species may be to super-intelligence, and it simply hasn’t happened yet.

If this is indeed The Great Filter, it would mean that not only is there no intelligent life out there, there may be years before making the evolutionary jump to being complex and having a nucleus.

If this is The Great Filter, it would mean the universe is teeming with simple prokaryote cells and almost nothing beyond that.

One possibility: The Great Filter could be at the very beginning—it might be incredibly unusual for life to begin at all.

This is a candidate because it took about a billion years of Earth’s existence to finally happen, and because we have tried extensively to replicate that event in labs and have never been able to do it.

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