A New Perspective On The Fermi Paradox


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.")


Signs of Intelligent Life on Earth

From the first episode (Challenges of Life) of the new BBC series Life. YouTube video posted by pacificwhiteside; hat-tip Jazzy720 of DelphiForums for the heads-up.

It's nice to know that there is, at least, some signs of intelligent life on this planet.

Mid-Afternoon Open Thread: Rube Goldberg Cascading Effects Edition

From Wikipedia:


A Cascade Effect is an unforeseen chain of events due to an act affecting a system. If there is a possibility that the cascade effect will have a negative impact on the system, it is possible to analyze the effects with a consequence/impact analysis.

Cascade effects have been described for natural events (the removal of one species influencing an ecosystem enough to result in the loss of other species), in science and in finance. There is just one quibble I have with the definition, however: they're not always unforeseen.

Sometimes, people have to make decisions based on factors they cannot control, and the result of failure to account for undesired behavior or unexpected results can often be foreseen. Take, for example, the old For want of a nail rhyme:


For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

That's a cascade effect.

It plays out in life, if someone loses their job and ends up on the streets, or can't afford healthcare. It plays out in economics -- a major plant shuts down in a small down, or a mine closes, and the surrounding population is devastated. The larger businesses like hotels and some restaurants and movie theaters close; perhaps that causes some means of public transportation like trains or small airports to close, which further squeezes the area's economic lifeblood...and on it goes.

These effects are globally observable when it comes to the topic of climate change:

One shouldn't confuse the Cascade Effect for a Rube Goldberg effect, even though I think both share a distant relationship with a chaotic little butterfly and its constant net-in-hand pursuer, Murphy.

While we're on the topic, here's an example of a Rube Goldberg device, just for you:

Happy Saturday. Relax a bit, and remember:

This is an Open Thread, and you're double-parked in the Twilight Zone...

Easter Vigil: Remembrance

I posted the following as a comment in the recent DailyKos diary You Are Not Alone by noweasels, but thought it was thoughtful enough to also post as a separate piece -- please also read the piece by noweasels, and thank her for the inspiration.

The rest of what follows below the fold is essentially the entire comment -- two personal submissions for remembrance today that I submitted, plus a parting thought.

...if you're still with me, then jump...

The Dash, A Comma And A Footnote

The beginning of the poem The Dash by Linda Ellis sets the stage: a man, speaking at the funeral of friend, referred to the dash between the woman's birth and death as the most important aspect of the person's life. Read the poem, if you can. And read/watch it here: