(Intelligent) Life in the Universe?
The answers to all of the questions would become apparent
if we could collect statistics on the prevalence of extraterrestrial
- Answers to the following questions -- none of which are apparent
today -- are required to understand the status of life elsewhere
in the universe and our potential for someday contacting it.
- How often (and easily) does life arise
when the conditions permit?
- How long does life typically survive once it gets started?
- If the answer is short compared to the age of the
Universe, then life might originate often but be rare
at any instant.
- The next generation of space telescopes may be able
to answer the first two questions
by looking for oxygen in the atmospheres
of terrestrial-type planets around other stars.
- We could have some sort of answer in about 20 years.
- If life arises, how likely is it that it will become complex?
- If life become complex, how likely is it that it will become
"intelligent" and how quickly does that happen?
- What defines "intelligence"... being able to construct radio transmitters/receivers
capable of communicating with thier counterparts across our galaxy.
- If an intelligent civilization has arisen elsewhere, what is
the likelihood that we can communicate with and/or visit it?
- If the number of extraterrestrial civilizations is zero, we will never get the answer!
- Even if the answer is not zero, the cosmic haystack is huge
and getting the answer may take a long time.
Created April 29, 2002