Comment of the Day: 'The Cosmic Connection'
Image of the Day: A Colossal Star Destined to Become a Black Hole

Wednesday Debate --'The Cosmic Connection'



"We are like the inhabitants of an isolated valley in New Guinea who communicate with societies in neighboring valleys (quite different societies, I might add) by runner and by drum. When asked how a very advanced society will communicate, they might guess by an extremely rapid runner or by an improbably large drum. They might not guess a technology beyond their ken. And yet, all the while, a vast international cable and radio traffic passes over them, around them, and through them... 

"We will listen for the interstellar drums, but we will miss the interstellar cables. We are likely to receive our first messages from the drummers of the neighboring galactic valleys - from civilizations only somewhat in our future. The civilizations vastly more advanced than we, will be, for a long time, remote both in distance and in accessibility. At a future time of vigorous interstellar radio traffic, the very advanced civilizations may be, for us, still insubstantial legends."

- Carl Sagan, "The Cosmic Connection"

What do you think?

Image above is dwarf galaxy is called SagDEG (for Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy. This galaxy was immediately recognized as being the nearest known neighbor to our Milky Way, significantly closer than the Large Magellanic Cloud which was considered to be our closest companion until than. It held the title of our nearest intergalactic neighbor for nine years, but lost it in November 2003 to the then newly discovered Canis Major Dwarf.


Well, obviously there's a spectrum of possibilities ranging from "Humans Are Monkeys" to "Humans Are Gods", relative to the rest of the universe's development. I'm a little cynical about the human race's "advanceness" (look at the stupid things we're still doing) but when you consider that we really only became modern men within the last 10,000ish years, we're not doing to bad. There's a lot of inertia in social development, so despite the highest aspirations of our most educated and/or ethical members, we're not going to achieve global peace and total prosperity in the next decade.

Anyway, we're on the line between barbarism and godhood right now. We may be able to analyze the probability of other races being more or less advanced than us. One important variable that comes to mind is that our planet is actually kind of new, probably a great-great-grandchild of the galaxy itself, descended through a few supernovae. In our own galaxy there could have been dozens of races capable of interstellar travel billions of years before our planet came into existence.

On the other hand, we don't yet know what the probability of carbon-based life's development is. We could be the oldest civilization in the galaxy, or in the local cluster. We just don't know.

So, in a way, it sorta comes down to what we want to believe and what we're willing to prepare for. The advanced civilizations could just be finding us now, they could have ignored us millions of years ago, or they could be unaware of us. The galaxy is a big place, after all. They could very well have forms of communication between interstellar colonies that we can't imagine. Maybe they have wormholes, gravity wave generators, entanglement intercom, string vibratronics. We don't know what's possible yet.

Personally I hope that we're just part of a family of starfaring species, with some older siblings currently exploring their closest stars and with some species just starting to probe their solar systems. It would be nice to feel at home in the galaxy.

We definitely don't know what we're looking for, since Earth is relatively young, about 10,000,000,000 years younger than than the beginning of even just the Milky Way galaxy. So who knows how much more evolved the technology of other civilizations could be, whose planet was created closer to our galaxy's beginning 13.2 billion years ago.

All we can do is guess about technologies more advanced than our own, yet our guesses will be only relative to what we already know about and have. Who knows what we could be missing now, that we can't recognize.

It may just be bigger drums. Ones that can vibrate all the matter between two places at once. Sort of like striking the end of a yard stick and listening at the other end.


There must be many advanced ways of communicating instantaneously over the vast distances of space, you still see people today trying to argue in favor of Fermi's stupid hypothesis (based on 1950's knowledge) that because we haven't detected them already through radio technology. Then they must not exist. As if radio technology is the pinnacle of communication. Yes it travels at the speed of light, but therein also is its limitation. It's far more likely that an advanced civilization would use a faster than light communication system. Something we have yet to even conceive possible.

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