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Today's story - Good news on immigration

July 28, 2015 12:26 PM

According to today's Independent, there's a whole institute in California with an array of 42 radio telescopes searching the radio spectrum for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, and finding nothing. Here's why they never will.

There are a trillion planets in the galaxy. The reasoning goes that even if the chances of beings like us evolving on any one planet are one in a million, that still leaves a million planets where it could happen, so the galaxy must be teeming with us.

The flaw in the argument is that we don't know what the odds of us evolving are. It might be one in a million, or one in a thousand, or one in a trillion. Considering the history of this planet and the strange things which have happened to it to allow first of all any life, then organised life, then creatures with intelligence, then things with the extraordinary intelligence needed to make planetary probes and atom bombs, it seems the longer odds are the more probable.

Dr Shostak of the Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute dismisses this argument as equivalent to requiring a miracle. It's not a miracle, just cold hard statistics and the acceptance that our planet, and our existence, is almost impossible.

The clincher is the fact that if us-like life exists it will at some point in its life span discover radio waves and start sending out signals. If EI was commonplace some of those civilisations would have got to that stage centuries ago, or millennia ago, or hundreds of millions of years ago, so the radio spectrum should be full of noise from all these peoploids. SETI has found nothing.

Consider also the progress we've made in the last century, and imagine what we'll do in the next one, or the next million years. Almost everything the science fiction writers have ever imagined could come true. In galactic terms we're going to get much noisier than we are now, and anyone else out there within a million light years couldn't fail to notice us. Likewise anyone who got to where we are now a million years ago should be noticeable to us. If there are millions of them they should be in our face every time we turn on a radio telescope.

But they're not. Seti is wasting its time. As far as this galaxy goes we're alone. Oh, there are plenty of places with organic molecules or microscopic organisms. There are probably lots of planets with things like plankton, algae, bugs and plants. There may be some with highly developed creatures like worms and snails. There could be seas with plants and sponges and limpets. There may even be planets with intelligent life equivalent to our fish, reptiles, cats and dogs and dolphins. But there's nowhere else with us, or anything like us.

So UKIP don't have to worry about all those aliens.

The universe is as big as it is because that's how big it has to be to make us, and it's as old as it is because that's how long it takes to make us.