“See… I said it a few weeks ago… we live in a fucking zoo boys and girls! 😀
Damn right I believe I met an extra-terrestrial! Why would an extra-terrestrial take a special interest in me?… because I’m fucking awesome! (probably the star attraction!)
Think about it, in a zoo, when one of the animals starts creating problems (usually the highly intelligent one), they have to send in a zookeeper or a vet to make sure he’s not going to be too much of a problem for the rest of the pack… … same applies to me! 😀
“That ones our star attraction human Danny… a favourite amongst some of the female keepers. We have to be a bit careful with him though, unusually high intelligence, managed to figure out the number 137 and hydrino energy… likes to annoy the other 7 billion humans on Earth. We need to try and find him a suitable mate to keep him out of trouble” 😀
Are we alone? Probably not. After all, astronomers have already found 4,001 confirmed exoplanets in our Milky Way galaxy, and expect there to be over 50 billion exoplanets out there. For scientists gathering in Paris today, the question is different: why haven’t we made contact with alien civilizations?
What is the Fermi Paradox and the “Great Silence?”
Italian physicist Enrico Fermi asked ‘where is everybody?’ back in 1950 in what’s now called the Fermi Paradox. It addresses a contradiction in astronomy, and can be summarized thus: if extraterrestrial life and even intelligent alien civilizations are not just likely, but highly probable, then why have none of them been in contact with us? Are there biological or sociological explanations for this “Great Silence?”
“We are very interested in the scientific approach used in the analysis of the Fermi Paradox and the search for intelligent life in the universe,” said Cyril Birnbaum and Brigitte David at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Cité), the science museum in Paris that’s hosting today’s meeting. “The question ‘Are we alone?’ affects us all, because it is directly related to humanity and our place in the cosmos.”
What are scientists doing in Paris?
Today, leading researchers from the fields of astrophysics, biology, sociology, psychology, and history are meeting at the Cité. “Every two years, METI International (METI stands for messaging extraterrestrial intelligence) organizes a one-day workshop in Paris as part of a series of workshops entitled What is Life? An Extraterrestrial Perspective,” said Florence Raulin Cerceau, co-chair of the workshop and a member of METI’s Board of Directors. The scientists are discussing some pretty insane-sounding questions:
Are extraterrestrials staying silent out of concern for how contact would impact humanity?
Do we live in a “galactic zoo?”
Should we send intentional radio messages to nearby stars to signal humanity’s interest in joining the “galactic club?”
Will extraterrestrial intelligence be similar to human intelligence?
Did life get to earth from elsewhere in the galaxy (interstellar migration)?
“This puzzle of why we haven’t detected extraterrestrial life has been discussed often, but in this workshop’s unique focus, many of the talks tackled a controversial explanation first suggested in the 1970s called the ‘zoo hypothesis,’” said Raulin Cerceau. Ah yes, the idea that we’re being watched by aliens and … perhaps even being protected by them.
What is the “zoo hypothesis”?
This is a mind-warping idea that there are alien civilizations out there (no, not on Oumuamua) that know all about us, but purposefully hide from us. It certainly explains the “Great Silence.” “Perhaps extraterrestrials are watching humans on Earth, much like we watch animals in a zoo,” explains Douglas Vakoch, president of METI. “How can we get the galactic zookeepers to reveal themselves?” At a workshop, Vakoch proposed that humans should be more active in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. “If we went to a zoo and suddenly a zebra turned toward us, looked us in the eye, and started pounding out a series of prime numbers with its hoof, that would establish a radically different relationship between us and the zebra, and we would feel compelled to respond,” he said.
It’s hard to disagree with that. “We can do the same with extraterrestrials by transmitting powerful, intentional, information-rich radio signals to nearby stars,” he said.
What is the “galactic quarantine” theory?
Think the “zoo hypothesis” theory is insane? That’s nothing compared to another theory about alien benevolence. “It seems likely that extraterrestrials are imposing a ‘galactic quarantine’ because they realize it would be culturally disruptive for us to learn about them,” said Jean-Pierre Rospars, the honorary research director at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique and co-chair of the workshop. “Cognitive evolution on Earth shows random features while also following predictable paths … we can expect the repeated, independent emergence of intelligent species in the universe, and we should expect to see more or less similar forms of intelligence everywhere, under favorable conditions,” he added. “There’s no reason to think that humans have reached the highest cognitive level possible. Higher levels might evolve on Earth in the future and already be reached elsewhere.”
What does the Drake Equation try to do?
A formula to estimate the number of technological civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy, the Drake Equation is an attempt to put the Fermi Paradox into numbers. The Drake Equation was posited in 1961 by Dr. Frank Drake, a radio astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.
What is the Drake Equation?
OK, don’t expect any answers here. The formula below, which comes from the SETI Institute might seem impressive, but it’s mostly guesswork. Practically speaking, its purpose is not to find a definitive answer, but to keep the discussion going about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
N = R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L
N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
R = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
METI puts a special emphasis on those last three terms, which explore not just the frequency of intelligence-bearing worlds, but how long they last (before they get wiped out).
Radio astronomy Vs interstellar colonization
While for now, radio astronomy is the only practical way of humans sending messages out into the cosmos, says one scientist, only full-blown colonization of other stars is the only way to prove the existence of intelligent life. “It appears that although radio communications provide a natural means for searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence for civilizations younger than a few millennia, older civilizations should rather develop extensive programs of interstellar colonization,” said Nicolas Prantzos, director of research of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), in advance of Monday’s meeting. “This is the only way to achieve undisputable evidence, either for or against the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, within their lifetime.”
27 MAR 2019
Some people think we’re living in a vast computer simulation contrived by an advanced alien intelligence. But not METI scientists. The truth, they say, is much simpler than that.
Members of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence), a San Francisco-based research organisation, convened in Paris last week to discuss aliens. Or, rather, the complete and utter lack of them, seemingly anywhere, despite decades of us searching the skies.
In a nutshell, this conundrum is known as the Fermi Paradox: the riddle as to why, with billions upon billions of stars all around us, we’ve never heard a solitary peep out of ET.
Lots of hypothetical answers to the problem exist. Maybe extraterrestrial life hit some kind of wall we don’t yet understand. Maybe they’re all asleep. Maybe there’s nobody out there anymore, and maybe it’s all our fault.
But there’s another possible answer to the Fermi Paradox, one that was revisited by the METI researchers in Paris last week: what if the reason we’ve never seen or heard from aliens is because we’ve somehow been quarantined by them, contained in a kind of cage, like a specimen in a galactic zoo?
“This puzzle of why we haven’t detected extraterrestrial life has been discussed often,” METI director and astrobiologist Florence Raulin Cerceau said at the event, held at the science museum La cité des sciences et de l’Industrie.
“But in this workshop’s unique focus, many of the talks tackled a controversial explanation first suggested in the 1970s, called the ‘zoo hypothesis’.”
The zoo hypothesis might sound like science fiction, and it actually is, often turning up as a motif in sci-fi novels, TV shows, movies, and video games.
But it’s also a serious (if entirely hypothetical) response to the Fermi Paradox, sometimes described as the ‘Great Silence’.
“Perhaps extraterrestrials are watching humans on Earth, much like we watch animals in a zoo,” said METI president Douglas Vakoch.
“How can we get the galactic zookeepers to reveal themselves?”
For METI, it’s not a rhetorical question: the organisation actually exists to try and find ways to make contact with alien life, as a kind of proactive branch of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
The background of the zoo hypothesis is a 1973 paper by MIT researcher John Ball.
“Extraterrestrial intelligent life may be almost ubiquitous,” Ball wrote.
“The apparent failure of such life to interact with us may be understood in terms of the hypothesis that they have set us aside as part of a wilderness area or zoo.”
In other words, as Josh Hrala explained for ScienceAlert in 2016, the zoo hypothesis assumes that alien life is out there, but it’s so advanced, it doesn’t want to engage with us, either because it doesn’t want to influence our society, or it’s content to otherwise simply monitor it from afar.
While we can’t be sure of the reasons we’re in the zoo, we can speculate.
“ETI may be discreetly and inconspicuously watching us but not dabbling,” Ball wrote in later research.
“Our biosystem and culture are surely of some interest; Earth is worth studying at least by a few of their scientists.”
While the zoo hypothesis may not offer more answers than that, at least it’s around to give us another hypothetical explanation for why the Universe seems so lonely sometimes.
“It seems likely that extraterrestrials are imposing a ‘galactic quarantine’ because they realise it would be culturally disruptive for us to learn about them,” researcher Jean-Pierre Rospars from the Institut national de la recherche agronomique said at the METI workshop.
“There’s no reason to think that humans have reached the highest cognitive level possible. Higher levels might evolve on Earth in the future and already be reached elsewhere.”