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Are we alone in the Universe?  Or, the Anti-Borg Equation…....
Posted: 01 November 2007 08:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Jackson - 31 October 2007 11:17 PM
Baloo - 31 October 2007 01:35 AM

Humans, even under current health technology, are currently doubling every 38 years.  Slow that down to even once in every 100 years, and 70 cycles would only take 7,000 years.

At this point, I’d like to suggest that there is not an advanced civilization in the known universe, that has the ability to occupy planets outside their home planet, that is growing faster than a doubling rate of once every 100 years, and that has fully occupied its first planet more than 7,000 years ago.

Why? because any advanced civilization that’s doubling every 100 years, and had the space technology to do so, would have already had to occupy every planet in this solar system.

-baloo

 
Great topic.  Great point—if the population is increasing exponentially, what does that mean.
And once again the
[Fermi Paradox—Where Are They?] which gives a theme to many science fiction stories.

1. Someone has to be first. The Earth-Centric Anthropic Principle says we are Here—so maybe we are the first…
2. I also like the idea of seeding our DNA through the stars.  There are science fiction stories of robots playing Johnny Appleseed in the cosmos…

Anyway, I hadn’t thought about the doubling issue and its relation to the galaxy. I agree with Doug, one scenario is that the growth tapers off—I think this is likely but who knows.

Hi Jackson,

Loved the readings!


Seeding our DNA throughout the stars is one way to do it, the other, more probable one is that people move there.  If having a family larger that 2 kids per couple is a biological need, or even a highly pleasurable desire, the only way this will be possible for generations in the very near future will be to find more space to do so.  While, as the average birthrate will have to be low enough to keep the population at very slow growth rate, clearly the growth rate of some sub-populations can be much higher, until they saturate the area that they settled in.

Just as a note, while the Earth has well over 6 billion people, even when a new planet is found, and even if only a handful of people are allowed to settle there, the planet will become saturated very quickly.  The 16 people that double every 100 years, will number over 8.5 billion in less that 3k years, again, a very short time period by any standards of evolutionary history.  And, at the seeding rate of 16 per planet, that planet could seed a half billion planets, all of which would be saturated in another 3k years, again, at a growthrate of doubling once every 100 years, and an average saturation rate of 8.5 billion per planet things get very crowded very fast…..not that a planet couldn’t sustain more people, but you can pick any number you want (less than the average weight of the planet), and expodentional growth will overcome that number in a very short peroid of evolutionary history.

-baloo

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Posted: 02 November 2007 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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mckenzievmd - 01 November 2007 01:10 PM

Baloo,

1) (the part that is) I don’t think that mathematics, or probabilities can tell us what ‘is’ out there.

I agree, at least insofar as the mathematics has to be based on solid data to begin with, and I don’t think we have much for these questions.

2) I think that what we know about just how much of our evolutionary path happened here on Earth, makes the vast majority of our current depictions of alien life very unlikely.  Or, restated, anyone who believes in the blind watchmaker, and believes that that same blind watchmaker principle would be the basis of any alien civilization, would have to conclude that the probability of any two blind watchmakers coming up with the same watch is very unlikely.  Take that to most SciFi shows, say the top 500 SciFi movies in the last 50 years, and I think we would have a very hard time finding probable candidates for the results.  We really can’t believe in both ‘seeding’ and evolution at the cellular level at the same time.

Agreed.

3) (the part that is very different from the god question) I think that simple mathematics can explain what ‘is not’ out there.  IE, a civilization that has saturated its home planet, and doubles the number of planets it occupies every 100 years, for the last 7k years, is definitively ‘not’ out there.  Because there simply are not that many planets.  Its a mathematic impossibility, and as such, I think we are on safe ground saying that such a civilization does not exist.

Here’s where I disagree. I think the assumptions that fo into this are, in essence, the same as those you reject in point 1. Namely, that reproduction, structure of civilization, type and use of technology, etc would be sufficiently recognizable to us to make these calculations meaningful. They may be, in which case I think your reasoning is certainly sound. But the more general conclusions in your first post IMHO go too far. What intelligent life elsewhere would be like or be capable of is just too hard to imagine for us to rule it out as you seem to lean towards doing. Anyway, I guess I’m biased since as I said in another thread, one of the things I would most like to see happen in the world before I die is confirmation of life off of earth, so maybe I just don’t want to agree with you here? grin

Hi Brennen,

Well, belief beyond what is mathematically possible is as far from scientific thinking as anything I can think of.

For example, if the universe is only 13.7 billion years old, then I think we can assume that believing in a civilization older than 13.7 billion years is by all means, irrational.  If the speed of light is the actual upper limit of speed, than to believe that a civilization that originated in a single cosmic location has traveled more than 13.7 billion light years in any direction from that original location, would also be irrational.  If we believe that the visible universe to be 90+ billion light years across, than any civilization could have only discovered 2.3% of space and it s gonna take them another 30+ billion years to get to the rest of it, which means that it will take them 30+ billion years to increase the possible area they could have visited 2^6, an average rate of doubling once every 5 billion years or so, and ending with the total saturation of the Universe.

Because the limitations of travel at the speed of light, and do to the fact that the universe is effectually finite in mass, any rate of expansion would eventually need to work its way to zero. 

As such, unless someone has another equation, an alien civilization that is increasing in size exponentially is a mathematically debunkable myth.  Also, to believe that humanity could thus become such, also becomes a myth. 

The only thing we have to decide is at what point do we become capable of living at a near zero rate of growth.  And, the longer we want to extend that period of time (ie the longer we want to live at a growth rate higher than 0), the sooner we need to develop space exploration technologies to do so.

-baloo

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Posted: 02 November 2007 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Ok, so where is humanity in the process of expansion?

Well, as noted above, it takes about 35 doublings of the population to go from a theoretical 2 person new species to a 68 billion citizen civilization.

The first 19 doublings take us from ‘2’ to ‘1 million’, and happened by around 10,000 BC, most likely over 10s of thousands of years.  The rest took place at the following rate.

Doubling Number—Estimated Year —Population —Time to Double

#20/#21—8,000 BC—4.19 million—2k years to double twice (avg 1k per)
#22—3,000 BC —8.39 Million—5k years to double
#23—1,000 BC —16.8 Million—2k years to double
#24/#25—500 BC —33.6 Million—500 years to double twice (avg 250 per)
#26—400 BC   —134 Million— 100 years to double
#27—100 BC   —268 Million— 300 years to double
#28—1600 AD —537 Million— 1700 years to double
#29—1850   —1.07 Billion—250 years to double
#30—1940   —2.15 Billion—90 years to double
#31—1980   —4.29 Billion—40 years to double
#32—est 2040 —8.59 Billion—60 years to double
#33—no estimate —17.2 Billion—not expected to happen due to planetary saturation
#34—no estimate —34.4 Billion—may require nautical, aerial, sub-terrestrial, or extraterrestrial expansion

Looking at this it doesn’t surprise me that humanity thinks kindly of the time between #23 and #27, four doublings in less that 1,000 years isn’t bad. Especially when compared to the next 1600 years that we call, the dark ages, and only had one doubling.  Clearly, the time between #30 and #32 will be forever remembered as a golden age, 190 years to double 3 times.  But, that last burst, is pretty much going to be our last before we start space habitation, or at least nautical or perhaps aerial or sub-terrestrial habitation, as I guess any of these are most likely several times easier than space habitation.  But, these might allow us to double 3-8 more times here on Earth, if we are lucky, while space habitation seems to be more effectual overtime.

-baloo

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Posted: 02 November 2007 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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The biggest problem we are going to face in expanding to other planets, and even sustaining our current population, is energy. Our planet spent 500 million years storing sunlight as oil and natural gas, and we’ve burned through half the known reserves in a little over 100 years. And that was the easy half. What we have left is remote, hard to extract, and of lower quality than what we have used so far. Our window of opportunity to expand beyond this planet is closing rapidly, and it will take concerted international cooperation to make it happen. Given the current state of world affairs, resource wars later this century are much more likely than international cooperation to send a privileged few off planet.

Could something similar have happened on other planets? Possible. It is also possible other intelligent species built sustainable societies early, realizing that replacing their resources is the only path to long-term survival. Unless they have energy sources we cannot imagine they would be limited to colonizing their local solar system.

We also face the problem of global warming disrupting the world economy and turning our attention away from space exploration and toward saving what we can of our civilization. If we avoid resource wars as oil depletion forces us into a lower-power, sustainable society, we may decide staying alive on this planet is the only choice we have. If global warming reaches a tipping point and accelerates we may find our species too busy trying to survive to worry about space travel. With billions of people starving, coastlines receding, and weather extremes increasing, feeding people and avoiding (or surviving) wars will be far more urgent than building space colonies.

Building an off-planet biosphere will take tremendous amounts of energy. Does anyone here really believe people will give up their suburban lifestyles, complete with plasma televisions and affordable air conditioning, so a few hundred or few thousand people out of billions can move into an orbiting biosphere? Moving people to Mars and building sustainable biospheres there will take even more energy and money out of our economy. Are we going to quit feeding starving people in third-world countries so a few people can live on Mars? I doubt it.

How much more energy would it take to build a spacecraft capable of taking generations of people to another solar system? Assuming, of course, we could even identify a viable solar system from Earth. Given our current understanding of physics it would take us hundreds of years to send a probe to another solar system so it could look around and send a message back regarding the feasibility of colonizing a planet around another star. How many such probes would we need to send before we found a suitable planet?

I’m not at all surprised we haven’t seen evidence of an alien civilization. There are many, many ways for a civilization to fail, even one as supposedly advanced as ours. Even a successful civilization is highly unlikely to expand beyond its own solar system. The distances are too vast and the return on investment too low.

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Posted: 04 November 2007 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Freeman Dyson proposed that an advanced civilization would need to harness all of it’s suns enrgy at some point along it’s growth.  This could be done with satalites around the sun or if technologicly advanced enough use all the available material in their solar system to build a mega structure around their sun.  Check out a Dyson Sphere at wiki for a short course.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere

Interesting concept.

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Posted: 04 November 2007 09:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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In reference to the rapidly increasing population described above, the experiment with increasing population of rats in uniform sized cages demonstrated that the rats became ‘neurotic’, combative, self-destructive, and just in general pretty anti-social.  I think we have seen evidence of that in the more densely populated areas already, and it will probably become far worse as the population increases faster than the availability of food and other goods.

Occam

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Posted: 08 November 2007 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I love the topic, Baloo!  I also largely agree with fotobits that energy is a heckuva limiting factor. 

As Thomas Homer-Dixon has pointed out in his “The Upside of Down” book (among many who have similar reasoning), there are inherent limits imposed by the utilization of any natural resource.  It’s the whole “Malthusian” limit notion.  But, as Thomas &c point out, energy is a kind of meta-resource in the sense that insofar as we are able to substitute plentiful resources for dwindling ones, it always takes energy to transform, transport, shape, and manipulate any other resource.  Sure energy is plentiful in an absolute sense, thanks to E=mc^2 and the conveniently located mega-fusion generator in our Sun; but capturing, releasing and applying that energy may be beyond our means.  When our ability to fiddle with energy fails to keep up with our needs for growth and resource extraction/manipulation, we’ll be witnessing our first Malthusian catastrophe.

In a related way, discussions about exponential growth can lead to some strange, though mathematically rigorous conclusions, such as the Earth should be covered in several feet of amoeba (or any other random microbe).  fotobits’ point is the solution to that paradox, all expanding biomes require energy and material in order to continue spreading.

Our biology is very ill-suited to space travel, or to life on durned near any other planet - since our bodies’ chemical abundances are pretty closely tied to the geochemical properties of our lil’ planet’s oceans and crust.  We’re also annoyingly prone to being devastated by interplanetary and interstellar radiation - a problem lethally exacerbated by any high-speed (light-approaching) motion through space.
One might safely assume that other sentient life on other planets would face similar problems, since their biology would have been naturally-selected to be consistent and compatible with their own planetary (vs. interstellar) physical characteristics.

I reckon if I were pressed to make a prediction about space colonization, I would propose that intelligent and space-robust “machinelife” would be far more likely to spread out into space than would biome-bound squishy critters like us.  Such corporeal thing-a-ma-bobs wouldn’t need annoying things like celery, crab-cakes, Jell-O, and pork-chops as sources of energy and mass - they could more easily obtain what they needed from the raw materials and energy available in space.  They also wouldn’t (presumably) have the same socially/psychologically limiting gotchas, many of which Occam points out about humans.

Now, if we figure out a way to “upload” the states and patterns constituting our consciousness to space-robust doohickeys (or evolve ourselves into such doohickeys), then we may be in a position to colonize the Universe.  As squishy Earthlings, our chances of success are, in my opinion, vanishingly close to zero.


-Scott

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Posted: 10 November 2007 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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fotobits - 02 November 2007 05:25 PM

The biggest problem we are going to face in expanding to other planets, and even sustaining our current population, is energy. Our planet spent 500 million years storing sunlight as oil and natural gas, and we’ve burned through half the known reserves in a little over 100 years. And that was the easy half. What we have left is remote, hard to extract, and of lower quality than what we have used so far. Our window of opportunity to expand beyond this planet is closing rapidly, and it will take concerted international cooperation to make it happen. Given the current state of world affairs, resource wars later this century are much more likely than international cooperation to send a privileged few off planet.

Could something similar have happened on other planets? Possible. It is also possible other intelligent species built sustainable societies early, realizing that replacing their resources is the only path to long-term survival. Unless they have energy sources we cannot imagine they would be limited to colonizing their local solar system.

We also face the problem of global warming disrupting the world economy and turning our attention away from space exploration and toward saving what we can of our civilization. If we avoid resource wars as oil depletion forces us into a lower-power, sustainable society, we may decide staying alive on this planet is the only choice we have. If global warming reaches a tipping point and accelerates we may find our species too busy trying to survive to worry about space travel. With billions of people starving, coastlines receding, and weather extremes increasing, feeding people and avoiding (or surviving) wars will be far more urgent than building space colonies.

Building an off-planet biosphere will take tremendous amounts of energy. Does anyone here really believe people will give up their suburban lifestyles, complete with plasma televisions and affordable air conditioning, so a few hundred or few thousand people out of billions can move into an orbiting biosphere? Moving people to Mars and building sustainable biospheres there will take even more energy and money out of our economy. Are we going to quit feeding starving people in third-world countries so a few people can live on Mars? I doubt it.

How much more energy would it take to build a spacecraft capable of taking generations of people to another solar system? Assuming, of course, we could even identify a viable solar system from Earth. Given our current understanding of physics it would take us hundreds of years to send a probe to another solar system so it could look around and send a message back regarding the feasibility of colonizing a planet around another star. How many such probes would we need to send before we found a suitable planet?

I’m not at all surprised we haven’t seen evidence of an alien civilization. There are many, many ways for a civilization to fail, even one as supposedly advanced as ours. Even a successful civilization is highly unlikely to expand beyond its own solar system. The distances are too vast and the return on investment too low.

Hi Fotobits,

Great points!

fotobits - 02 November 2007 05:25 PM

Building an off-planet biosphere will take tremendous amounts of energy. Does anyone here really believe people will give up their suburban lifestyles, complete with plasma televisions and affordable air conditioning, so a few hundred or few thousand people out of billions can move into an orbiting biosphere? Moving people to Mars and building sustainable biospheres there will take even more energy and money out of our economy. Are we going to quit feeding starving people in third-world countries so a few people can live on Mars? I doubt it.

So, lets take this as I think these hit the core issue.

My guess, is that the drivers are going to be much what they were when people migrated to the US.  Promises of greater freedoms.  If the Earth does enter a state of ‘more people than resources’ this is going to cause some serious reductions in freedoms.  I guess we could postulate that 1) Government employees and wealthy families (due to higher than average access to resources) , 2) DIYs (due to lower costs), 3) people who have nothing to lose (due to higher tolerance to risk), 4) Business backed Adventures (due to higher than average paybacks) will most likely be the first to venture off.  It doesn’t take too many people out there before there is a sustainable economy, especially with a fully populated planet (and as Occam points out; with a possibly increasingly neurotic population) to supply fresh prospectors.

Also, no one says that it can’t be high risk / high cost.  Humans have gone through more than a few expansion periods where the mortality rate was very high.  Not sure history suggests we are all that scared of death in large numbers.  Freedom has a very high threshold for discomfort.

None of this of course changes the core premise that as a civilization we can’t continue to grow exponentially for much longer.  That said, if we were to take a poll, and ask people if they would favor a) a World with a higher mortality rate that allowed for greater freedoms and larger families or b) a World with a lower mortality rate and civil controls that restricted family sizes ...  I wonder how people might respond.

-baloo

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Posted: 10 November 2007 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Carbon based - 04 November 2007 10:14 AM

Freeman Dyson proposed that an advanced civilization would need to harness all of it’s suns enrgy at some point along it’s growth.  This could be done with satalites around the sun or if technologicly advanced enough use all the available material in their solar system to build a mega structure around their sun.  Check out a Dyson Sphere at wiki for a short course.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere

Interesting concept.

Very cool!

Ok, quick question.  How much mass does the earth lose in building such a system?  smile  Even if you assume a very thin layer that sphere is so big I can’t help but visualizing a spherical pizza, perhaps a calzone metaphor, with our little planet being spread pretty thin….

Ok, just for fun….

Mass of Earth: approx. 5.97 x 10^24 kg
Radius of Earth orbit: 1.5 x 10^8 km
Surface Area of Sphere with above radius: 2.827 x 10^17 km sq.
Density: 21.13 Kg / Meter Sq.
Concrete is about 2100 kg per meter^3

Would be approx 10 cm thick if we assume the same mass as concrete.

Ok, so it’d be ‘Chicago Pizza’ thick….

Even at a Sphere that large, we’d be down to a 1m x 1m x 10 cm piece of concrete for every person after the population of the earth doubles 45 times…....there’s always the back side I guess, ok 46 times.

And for HGTTG fans, ‘42’ seems to be the number of times the population can double before we are down to about a 1m cube of concrete each.

-baloo

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