Ever heard of the Fermi Paradox? Essentially, it's this:
If there are intelligent civilisations elsewhere in the Universe with technologies that far surpass our own, why do we see no sign of them?
The article The Fermi Paradox, Phase Changes and Intergalactic Colonisation, posted June 26 online at the Technology Review, two gentlement from the National Technical University of Ukraine have come up with a new take that's yielding some interesting insights:
Their approach is to imagine that civilisations form at a certain rate, grow to fill a certain volume of space and then collapse and die. They even go as far as to suggest that civilisations have a characteristic life time, which limits how big they can become.
In certain circumstances, however, when civilisations are close enough together in time and space, they can come into contact and when this happens the cross-fertilisation of ideas and cultures allows them both to flourish in a way that increases their combined lifespan.
What's this mean? Well,
The result gives a new insight into the Fermi Paradox. Bezsudnov and Snarskii say that for certain values of these parameters, the universe undergoes a phase change from one in which civilisations tend not to meet and spread into one in which the entire universe tends to become civilised as different groups meet and spread.
Of course, this doesn't resolve the question definitively, but certainly provides some interesting additional sparks that could catch and burn brightly in a fertile imagination.
What do ~you~ think -- is there any intelligent life in the universe? (Outside of Earth, that is -- effectively avoiding whether or not you'd qualify humanity itself as "intelligent.")