Rise and fall table of contents
Introduction and summary
The Fermi Paradox which contrasts the 100% probability of life and
intelligence developing on Earth against the thunderous silence from
the heavens so far (no alien signals) may be resolved by four things:
One, gamma ray bursters of all types, from faraway 'longs' through
nearby 'shorts', which may have effectively prohibited the development
(or devastated the longevity) of sentient races throughout all galactic
history; Two, the lengthy gestation period required for the emergence
of intelligence (which almost requires the entire useful lifespan of a
given planet, based on our own biography); Three, the need for an
unusually high measure of stability in terms of climate over hundreds
of millions of years (the 'Goldilocks' scenario, enabled by a huge
natural satellite like our Moon moderating the tilt of a planet's axis,
as well as gas giants parked in proper orbits to mop up excess comets
and asteroids to reduce impact frequencies for a living world); and
Four, an extremely dangerous 600 year or so 'gauntlet' of challenges
and risks most any technological society must survive to become a
viable long term resident of the galaxy (i.e. getting a critical mass
of population and technology off their home world, among other things).
That 600 year period may be equivalent to our own span between 1900 AD
and 2500 AD, wherein we'll have to somehow dodge the bullets of cosmic
impacts, nuclear, biological, and nanotechnological war, terrorism,
mistakes, and accidents, as well as food or energy starvation, economic
collapse, and many other threats, both natural and unnatural. So far it
appears (according to SETI results and other scientific discoveries)
extremely few races likely survive all these. So why haven't we heard
from those which have? What are they like? And how far away might they
be? Details of all the above and more (along with references) may be
found on this and succeeding pages.
What are the most probable elements involved
in the emergence of an intelligent race capable of interstellar signals
These factors consist in part of stages of development virtually
any race resembling us in our basic motives and behavior would likely
go through; they also include general 'logic gates' which filter out
those peoples and worlds which would be unlikely to qualify for
relevance in our search for extraterrestrial intelligence (for reasons
Assumptions and intentions:
A. We will focus here only on the likelihood of intelligent, interstellar capable
civilizations within our own galaxy.
One, because the distances between galaxies represent an almost infinitely greater
obstacle to star farers compared to interstellar travel.
Two, because each galaxy is essentially an island universe in its own right, with
possibly hundreds of billions of stars in each-- it would be almost an unimaginable
feat for one civilization (or even several) to explore a sufficiently large fraction of a single galaxy so that
they would then feel compelled to turn their attention to a whole other island universe
in the void, possibly thousands to hundreds of thousands of lifetimes of maximum speed travel distant.
B. The stages suggested below are by no means intended to be
distinct phases of development with clear beginnings and endings, with
no overlap between them. Rather, they represent likely-to-be
important trends or characteristics of a civilization along the
developmental path. For example, humanity itself could be argued to
have ranged in development across several different stages as described
on this site, circa 1996-2002. Specifically, we were clearly not
entirely free of the conceptual competition among politico-economic and religious
systems described in stage Seven; obviously still at risk from our own
wastes in stage Eight; we had yet to fully realize our vulnerability as
spoken of in stage Nine; and the challenge of balancing opposing
concerns of stage Ten remains far from won. Too, though we faced a real
danger of the cataclysmic accidents or war suggested in stages Seven,
Ten, and Eleven, we didn't yet possess any off-world colonies which
could survive our doom to become orphan vestiges of our civilization.
C: The Fermi paradox essentially asks the question "where are
all the aliens?", if life itself is as common throughout the galaxy as
many think. It would appear from much of what we know that we should
find ourselves surrounded by alien folk.
However, ways to resolve the paradox are now becoming apparent. For
instance, in recent years a wholly new and unexpected discovery was
made, which makes a good case for our own present generation being
among the first and/or earliest of star farers in the Milky Way.
The discovery? Gamma ray bursters, both great and distant, and near
and small. The faraway worst ones being massive explosions of radiation
rivaling the Big Bang itself in some ways, possibly serving to
virtually sterilize significant swathes of entire galaxies on a fairly
frequent basis, universe-wide.
But the narrow death beam of those large bursters, coupled with
their typical distance, and especially their declining frequency of
occurance in the last few hundred million years, may have effectively
removed them as an important player in galactic evolution today-- if
indeed they ever were in the first place.
However, the much more frequently occurring and closer 'short' (but
much less powerful) gamma ray bursters could well have played a bigger
role in the intelligence lottery of our galaxy, than their more
spectacular brethren. And continue to do so today.
Now that the Fermi Paradox may have been dealt a reasonably
devastating first blow (with more to follow), let us closely examine
the numbers and types of alien star faring civilizations we are most
likely to contact or encounter during the present or near future, and
why-- in From the first spark of life to the first starships...