Thinking About Aliens

April 24, 2020

Our planet, the Earth, is in the Solar System. The Solar System is centered around the Sun. The Sun is a star. There are about 100 thousand million stars in a typical galaxy. Let me throw an analogy to help you grasp that staggering figure. That’s exactly what analogies are for. There are many times more stars in the observable universe than there are grains of sands in all the deserts and beaches of the Earth combined. 

Our Milky Way Galaxy

The name of our galaxy is the Milky Way. Two other galaxies who are our neighbors are the Canis Major and the Andromeda Galaxy. There are perhaps 400 billion (400,00,00,00,000) galaxies in the observable universe. Even if there is one planet capable of harboring life in an entire galaxy consisting of millions and millions of stars, there should be at least 400 billion civilizations in our observable universe by that calculation of probability alone. What may indeed be is that the universe is littered with civilizations. Many are likely to be at different stages of evolution. Few things we may want to take into consideration is that intelligence is not an inevitable product of evolution. Several civilizations may be at a very primitive stage. We can only make educated guesses about how life may have evolved under very different circumstances from ours.

Also, every star is like a ticking bomb, meaning it eventually burns out rendering the entire system uninhabitable. Many civilizations, regardless of how advanced they were, may have been wiped out this way or being wiped out right now as we speak. It could be that there is no way around the death of your star. Or maybe there is, and civilizations have found a way around it. Naturally, one is tempted to ask, where are they right now? There are many answers. One may say that they are probably doing other things, more important things, in an unimaginably large playground of the universe. It’s also possible that we may be so far away from each other that we may never meet or civilizations haven’t had the time to reach us yet. Covering distances like millions of light-years require an unimaginable advancement in technology and the civilization in control of it more powerful than any Gods that we have ever imagined. Considering how much we have progressed in such a short span of time, even if just one of the civilizations from billions had a million-year of a head start than us, imagine the level of progress they have had within this time.

There is also a possibility that they are on their way to doing things that they see as more important, as opposed to interacting with primitive species such as us that still quarrel over man-made constructs such as religion and countries and economy and are a prisoner of our emotions. Imagine you were going for a hike in the mountains and happen to cross a mole-hill of ants. How likely are you to stop by and interfere with their affairs when you have more pressing things in hand? Also, we may not have developed a sensory system that allows us to even be able to communicate with a far intellectually superior civilization, which it has to be to be an ultra-advanced space-faring species. Hence, we will be a nuisance to them at best.

Monolith | 2001: A Space Odyssey

Only in an universe with physical laws that allows for the process of pattern creation in increasing order, i.e. evolution, can we exist to ask the question “Why are we here?”. It may be that in all other universes, we are non-existent simply because physical laws unique to the universe doesn’t permit for atoms to form and is therefore lifeless. Or it could be that different kinds of being emerge from the constraints of and in compliance with the different order of physical laws in different universes. Don’t know what that would be called though.

We ask “What is the meaning of life?” as though we are very important actors in the grand scale of cosmos. We ask as if the universe was made with us in mind. We were absent for millions of years even after the creation of the universe. We are a happy accident, if you will. It is important to remind ourselves that all of human history has unfolded in a speck of dust suspending in space in one corner of one galaxy among billions of galaxies. There is no inherent meaning to life. We are here because we can be here. If we couldn’t exist, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question. Case in point, we are not in billions of other planets in the observable universe to ask this very question.
The Mysterious ʻOumuamua

Knowing that there is, for all intents and purposes, no inherent meaning to life is liberating. It means you can make anything of the only life you will ever experience. Interestingly enough, physical laws are constant throughout the universe. So if we indeed find ourselves in an universe that allows for life to form, the universe, given its unfathomable magnitude, must be buzzing with civilizations, from microbes to incredibly advanced civilizations. Wonder what they must be doing right now? Are they working a way around the inevitable heat death of the universe? 

Our way of communicating (speaking, writing, reading, and listening) may be an archaic way of information transmission. Maybe we are being observed right now. Maybe we have always been observed. Some of us may expect them to have filled the night sky with their presence by now but it may not be a very wise thing to do. Who knows what’s lingering in the dark? Some things we may never live to find out. 

© Amitabha Dey. All rights reserved.