Home SCIENCE Ask Ethan: Could Earth be the only planet with intelligent life? | by Ethan Siegel | Starts With A Bang! | Oct, 2023

Ask Ethan: Could Earth be the only planet with intelligent life? | by Ethan Siegel | Starts With A Bang! | Oct, 2023


This aerial view of Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is one of the most iconic hydrothermal features on land in the world. The colors are due to the various organisms living under these extreme conditions, and depend on the amount of sunlight that reaches the various parts of the springs. Hydrothermal fields like this are some of the best candidate locations for life to have first arisen on a young Earth, and may be home to abundant life on a variety of exoplanets. (Credit: Jim Peaco/National Parks Service)

With such a vast Universe and raw ingredients that seem to be everywhere, could it really be possible that humanity is truly alone?

The Universe, as we understand it today, is a vast expanse of space littered with stars, galaxies, and very likely planets, for as far as our instruments can probe. Beyond that, there’s likely a much greater amount of “Universe” out there that’s unobservable to us, and an inflationary multiverse in which our entire Universe is embedded. Yet, even though our scientific efforts have revealed an enormous number of details about the Universe we inhabit (and perhaps even beyond), we have yet to find another inhabited world out there with even simple, microbial life, much less life that’s complex and differentiated, or even intelligent and technologically advanced. The question of just how “alone” we are in the Universe remains unanswered.

And it’s this question — perhaps the biggest existential question of all — that Ronald Rainge wants to know the answer to, asking:

“With a universe large beyond comprehension, and theories of multiverses, could this really be the only planet with high level intelligent life?”

Although there are an enormous variety of well-thought-out possible answers to this question, we have an absolute absence of data to know for sure. The current answer is that a Universe with ubiquitous intelligent life and a Universe where “Earthlings” are the only ones around are both within the realm of possibility, and it will take a tremendous increase in our current knowledge to know the answer for certain. Here’s where we stand today.

What do planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, look like? A variety of possibilities are shown in this illustration. Scientists discovered the first exoplanets in the 1990s. As of 2023, the tally stands at just over 5,000 confirmed exoplanets. None are known to be inhabited, but a few raise tantalizing possibilities: largely among the Earth-sized planets, not the super-Earth-sized ones. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Let’s begin by dividing our knowledge base into three separate sections:

  1. what is known to be true, today, in 2023,
  2. what is not yet known but is assumed to be true, based on our current knowledge,
  3. and what remains unknown, even today, even with the best knowledge at our disposal.

Source link

Related Posts