This is one of two email exchanges I had with some other writer/scientists in which we explored the outer edge of science. You have to remember that way back then, there were some ideas that have since died off – like the monuments and face on Mars and the popularity of UFOs.
Some of this is part of an on-going dialog so it may seem like there is a part missing because this is a response to a previously received message. I think you get the gist of what is going on. Despite the fact that this is mostly from 9 years ago, the science described and projected then is still valid or has not yet been proven wrong. You might find these interesting.
October 13, 1998
I want to thank you for letting me post your article about gravity shielding that appeared in the March 98 WIRED magazine. Your comments on my article about lightning sprites and the blue-green flash are also appreciated. In light of our on-going exchange of ideas, I thought you might be interested in some articles I wrote for my BBS and WEB forums on bleeding edge science that I hosted awhile back. Some of these ideas and articles date back to the mid-90’s, so some of the references are a little dated and some of the software that I use now is generally available as a major improvement over what I had then.
What I was involved with then can be characterized by the books and magazines I read, a combination of Skeptical Enquirer, Scientific American, Discovery and Nature. I enjoyed the challenge of debunking some space cadet that had made yet another perpetual motion machine or yet another 250 mile-per-gallon carburetor – both claiming that the government or big business was trying to suppress their inventions. Several of my articles were printed on the bulletin board that pre-dated the publication of the Skeptical Enquirer.
I particularly liked all the far-out inventions attributed to one of my heroes – Nikola Tesla. To hear some of those fringe groups, youd think he had to be an alien implant working on an intergalactic defense system. I got more than one space cadet upset with me by citing real science to shoot down his gospel of zero-point energy forces and free energy.
These articles deal with the fringe in that I was addressing the science behind UFOs.
I have done some analysis on life in our solar system other than Earth and the odds against it are very high. At least, life as we know it. Even Mars probably did not get past early life stages before the O2 was consumed. Any biologist will tell you that in our planet evolution, there was any number of critical thresholds of presence or absence of a gas or heat or water that, if crossed, would have returned the planet to a lifeless dust ball. Frank Drakes formulas are a testament to that. The only reason that his formulas are used to “prove” life exists is because of the enormous quantities of tries that nature has to get it right in the observable universe and over so much time.
One potential perspective is that what may be vesting us, as UFOs could be a race or several races of beings that are 500 to 25,000 years more advanced than us. Given the age of the universe and the fact that our sun is probably second or third generation, this is not difficult to understand. Some planet somewhere was able to get life started before Earth and they are now where we will be in the far distant future.
Stanley Miller proved that life, as we know it, could form out of organic and natural events during the normal evolution of a class M planet. But Drake showed that the chances of that occurring twice in one solar system is very high against it. If you work backwards from their formulas, given the event of earth as an input of some solution of the equations, you would need something like 100 million planets to get even a slight chance for another planet with high‑tech life on it.
Taken this into consideration and then comparing it to the chances that the monuments on mars are natural formations or some other claim of extraterrestrial life within our solar system, you must conclude that there is virtually no chance for life in our solar system. Despite this, there are many that point to evidence such as the appearance of a face and pyramids in Mars photographs. It sounds a lot like an undated version of the canals that were first seen in the 19th century. Now we can measure these observations with extreme accuracy – or so they would have you believe.
The so‑called perfect measurements and alignment that are supposedly seen on the pyramids and “faces” are very curious since even the best photos we have of these sites have a resolution that could never support such accuracy in measurements. When you get down to “measuring” the alignment and sizes of the sides, you can pretty much lay the compass or ruler anywhere you want because of the fuzz and loss of detail caused by the relatively poor resolution. Don’t let someone tell you that they measured down to the decimal value of degrees and to within inches when the photo has a resolution of meters per pixel!
As for the multidimensional universe; I believe Stephen Hawkin when he said that there are more than 3 dimensions however, for some complex mathematical reasons, a fifth dimension would not necessarily have any relationship to the first four and objects that have a fifth dimension would have units of the first four (l,w,h & time) that are very small ‑ on the order of atomic units of scale. This means that according to our present understanding of the math, the only way we could experience more than 4 dimensions is to be able to be reduced to angstrom sizes and to withstand very high excitation from an external energy source. Lets exclude the size issue for a moment since that is a result of the math model that we have chosen in the theory and may not be correct.
We generally accept that time is the 4th dimension after l, w, and h which seem to be related as being in the same units but in different directions. If time is a vector (which we believe it is) and it is so very different than up, down, etc, then what would you imagine a 5th dimension unit to be?
Most people think of “moving” into another dimension and it being just some variation of the first 4 but this is not the case. The next dimension, is not capable of being understood by us because we have no frame of reference.
Hawkin makes a much better explanation of this in one of his book but suffice it to say that we do not know how to explore this question because we cannot conceive of the context of more than 4 dimensions. The only way we can explore it is with math ‑ we can’t even graph it because we havent got a 5-axis coordinate system. I have seen a 10 dimensional formula graphed but they did only 3 dimensions at a time. Whatever the relationship of a unit called a “second” has with a unit called a “meter”, may or may not be the same relationship as the meter has with “???????” (Whatever the units of the 5th dimension are called). What could it possibly be? You describe it for me, but don’t use any reference to the first 4 dimensions. For instance, I can describe time or length without reference to any of the other known dimensions. The bottom line is that this is one area that even a computer cannot help because no one has been able to give a computer an imagination ……..yet.
As for longevity, there has been some very serious research going on in this area but it has recently been hidden behind the veil of aids research. There is a belief that the immune system and other recuperative and self‑correcting systems in the body wear‑out and slowly stop working. This is what gives us old‑age skin and gray hair. This was an area that was studied very deeply up until the early 1980’s. Most notably were some studies at the U. of Nebraska that began to make some good progress in slowing the biological aging by a careful stimulation and supplementation of naturally produced chemicals. When the AIDS problem surfaced a lot of money was shifted into AIDS research. It was argued that the issues related to biological aging were related to the immune issues of AIDS. This got the researchers AIDS money and they continued their research, however, they want to keep a very low profile because they are not REALLY doing AIDS research. That is why you have not heard anything about their work.
Because of my somewhat devious links to some medical resources and a personal interest in the subject, I have kept myself informed and have a good idea of where they are and it is very impressive. Essentially, in the inner circles of gerontology, there is general agreement that the symptomatology of aging is due to metabolic malfunction and not cell damage. This means that it is treatable. It is the treatment that is being pursued now and as in other areas of medicine in which there is such a large multiplicity of factors affecting each individuals aging process, successes are made in finite areas, one area at a time. For instance, senility is one area that has gotten attention because of the mapping to metabolic malfunction induced by the presence of metals along with factors related to emotional environment. Vision and skin condition are also areas that have had successes in treatments.
When I put my computer research capability to look at this about a year ago, what I determined was that by the year 2024, humans will have an average life span of about 95‑103 years. It will go up by about 5% per decade after that for the next century, then it will level out due to the increase of other factors.
_____________ Are They Really There? ___________ Life is Easy to Make:
Since 1953, with the Stanley Miller experiment, we have, or should have discarded the theory that we are unique in the universe. Production of organic life and even DNA and RNA have been shown to occur in simple mixtures of hydrogen, ammonia, methane and water when exposed to an electrical discharge (lightning). The existence of most these components has been frequently verified by spectral analysis in distant stars but, of course, until recently, we can’t see the star’s planets. Based on the most accepted star and planet formation theories, most star systems would have a significant number of planets with these elements and conditions.
Quantifying the SETI
A radio astronomer, Frank Drake developed some equations that were the first serious attempt to quantify the number of technical civilizations in our galaxy. Unfortunately, his factors were very ambiguous and various scientists have produced numbers ranging from 1 to 10 billion technical civilizations in just our galaxy. This condition of a formula is referred to as unstable or ill‑conditioned systems. There are mathematical techniques to reduce the instability of such equations. I attempted to do so to quantify the probability of the existence of intelligent life.
I approached the process a little different. Rather than come up with a single number for the whole galaxy, I decided to relate the probability to distance from Earth. Later I added directionality.
Using the basic formulas Drake used to start, I added a finite stochastic process using conditional probability. This produces a tree of event outcomes for each computed conditional probability. (The conditions being quantified were those in his basic formula: rate of star formation; number of planets in each system with conditions favorable to life; fraction of planets with on which life develops; fraction of planets that develop intelligent life; fraction of planets that develop intelligent life that evolve technical civilizations capable of interstellar communications and the lifetime of such a civilization).
I then layered one more parameter onto this by increasing the probability of a particular tree path inversely to the relation of one over the square of the distance. This added a conservative estimate for the increasing probability of intelligent life as the distance from Earth increases and more stars and planets are included in the sample size.
I Love Simulation Models
I used standard values used by Gamow and Hawking in their computations, however, I ignored Riemannian geometry and assumed a purely Euclidean universe. Initially, I assumed the standard cosmological principles of homogeneity and isotropic distributions. (I changed that later) Of course this produced 1000’s of probable outcomes but by using a Monte Carlo simulation of the probability distribution and the initial computation factors of Drake’s formula (within reasonable limits), I was able to derive a graph of probability of technical civilizations as a function of distance.
But I Knew That
As was predictable before I started, the graph is a rising, non‑linear curve, converging on 100%. Even though the outcome was intuitive, what I gained was a range of distances with a range of corresponding probabilities of technical civilizations. Obviously, the graph converges to 100% at infinite distances but surprisingly, it is above 99% before leaving the Milky Way Galaxy. We don’t even have to go to Andromeda to have a very good chance of there being intelligent life in space. Of course, that is not so unusual since our galaxy may have about 200 billion stars and some unknown multiple of planets.
Then I made It Directional
I toyed with one other computation. The homogeneous and isotropic universe used by Einstein and Hawking is a mathematical convenience to allow them to relate the structure of the universe to their theories of space‑time. These mathematical fudge‑factors are not consistent with observation in small orders of magnitude in distance from earth ‑ out to the limits of what we can observe ‑ about 15 billion light years. We know that there is inhomogeneous or lumps in the stellar density at these relatively close distances. The closest lump is called the Local Group with 22 galaxies but it is on the edge of a super cluster of 2500 galaxies. There is an even larger group called the Great Attractor that may contain tens of thousands of galaxies.
By altering my formula so that I took into account the equatorial system direction (ascension & declination) of the inhomogeneous clustering. Predictably, this just gave me a probability of intelligent life based on a vector rather than a scalar measure. It did however, move the distance for any given probability much closer ‑ in the direction of clusters and super clusters. So much so that at about 351 million light years, the probability is virtually 100%. At only about 3 million light years, the probability is over 99%. That is well within the Local Group of galaxies.
When you consider that there are tens of billions of stars and galaxies within detection range by Earth and some unknown quantity beyond detection – it is estimated that there are galaxies numbering as many as a 1 followed by 21 zeros – that is more that all the grains of sand in all the oceans, beaches and deserts in the entire world. And in each of those galaxies, there are billions of stars! Now you can begin to see that the formula to quantify the number of technical civilizations in space results in virtually 100% no matter how conservative you make the input values. It can do no less than prove that life is out there.