About The Author
D. R. Prescott has written a novel, a collection of short stories, a nonfiction book, a collection of essays, planetarium show/display scripts, two family histories, technical articles and business plans as well as written for and edited several newsletters.
 
Awards and published work include Writers' Journal, Long Story Short, Taj Mahal Review literary journal, The Orange County Register, Writer's Digest, and Writing.com and four books among other challenges.
 
As a former aerospace executive and planetarium program director, Prescott currently writes and explores life in Orange, California.
 
Picture to match DW in promo
"Sentience can be annoying."-DRP Abt. 1990
*Thumbsup*
 
Taj pics small
Since 2008, Prescott has been a regular contributor of
essays and short stories to
The Taj Mahal Review Literary Journal
Get your copies now at: http://tajmahalreview.com/
 
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Alpha Centauri and Beyond Radio Interview of Prescott
Books written. 
 
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Available today in most eBook formats from these fine people:
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O R D E R   T O D A Y !
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What about aliens?
D. R. Prescott's HOMEPAGE at:
http://www.inkspot.com/authors/donprescott




WHAT ABOUT ALIENS?

By

D. R. Prescott



         Does extraterrestrial life exist? Answer: Possibly. Have they visited us? Answer: Unlikely. Are they here now? Answer: Improbable. So, what about aliens?

         Answering that question, we need to distinguish between primitive life and intelligent, sentient life. There is a huge difference! Could primitive life (bacteria, single-celled animals) exist in other places in the universe? Most scientists and informed lay people would likely say yes, probably. Yet, when people ask about aliens, they are asking about the thinking, self-aware type capable of traveling Star Trek-like at will across interstellar distances to visit our tiny world in the outskirts of a rather non-descript galaxy.

         Our universe is a huge place, filled with billions of galaxies. Most galaxies are made of billions of stars. Across what we can see of our universe (about 13 billion light years), the possibility of life existing in our galaxy or another galaxy seems likely, at least simple, primitive life. We know of one planet where simple life exists and, in fact, also intelligent life. That’s Earth. We have no verifiable evidence that life exists, at this moment, anywhere else in the universe, only some educated guesses.

         People have played with numbers for years trying to calculate how many intelligent civilizations might be in our galaxy. Estimates have ranged from one, here on Earth, to thousands, even higher. The search so far has produced no positive results. We are finding that planets seem to be a fairly common part of star formation. Whether those planets are capable of sustaining life is another unknown. In our galaxy, one technologically capable civilization might be the only one. What about other galaxies? There are billions. Could there be millions of civilizations throughout the universe, even if only one in a million galaxies harbored life?

For fun and to apply a little critical thinking, let’s assume that at least one other technological civilization exists somewhere in the universe. Let’s stretch and suggest that another one exists within our Milky Way Galaxy. That should make it easier to evaluate if we will ever meet aliens or have them visit us. In some circles, one more civilization in our galaxy would be considered very optimistic.

         To get an idea of size, if we threw out our Milky Way Galaxy, the rest of the universe would hardly notice, other than a little gravitational bump. Yet, our galaxy is very large by human standards. It would take about 16.67 quadrillion earth masses to equal the mass of the Milky Way Galaxy; that’s 16, 670,000,000,000,000 earths! In a space over 100,000 light years across (that’s 590,000,000,000,000,000 miles in human terms), one other technical civilization might be thousands of light years away. Remember a light year is the distance light can travel in one year. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. That means light travels nearly six trillion miles in one year. The nearest star to us besides the Sun, Proxima Centuri, is 4.2 light years away, or about 24 trillion miles.

         Let’s say that one civilization arose on a planet circling a star that is 25,000 light years from us, only about a quarter of the way across the Milky Way. (I’ll let you do the math to figure it out in miles, 6 trillion times 25,000.) The light from our hypothetical inhabited star system left it 25,000 years ago. If you built a spaceship that could travel at the speed of light, it would take you 25,000 years to get there, excluding the time to get up to speed and slow down.

         By radio or light beams, communication between us and a civilization 25,000 years light years away would be difficult. If we asked them a question at light speed, we would have to wait 50,000 years for their answer! Talk about being put on hold!

         Another big problem is estimating how long technological civilizations last on a planet. Our only experience suggests that we human beings can trace our civilization back perhaps 10,000 years or so. Early hominids go back maybe a few million years. Our civilization has had the ability to communicate across interstellar distances, and actually go into space, for less than 100 years. We have no idea how long we will continue as a viable civilization. Optimistic estimates approach another 10,000 years, if we’re lucky. Not only is that less time than it would take to send a signal to a civilization 25,000 light years away, there is another problem. What are the chances that two civilizations exist at the same time in the 13 billion year history of the universe? As bad, would the sending civilization even be around or care when they received the returning message 50,000 years later?

         If we found a way to travel 25,000 light years in a reasonable amount of time, why would we go there and play hide-and-seek with the inhabitants? Look at our history as an exploring species. Have we ever gone anywhere and kept our presence a secret for very long? Then, why would a life form from another star system spend all that time and energy to come to Earth and not announce their presence, especially if they are more advanced than we are? It just doesn’t pass the “makes sense” test. That makes us think that it is improbable they are here now.

         As Carl Sagan once wrote, “There are two possible self-deceptions here: either accepting the idea of extraterrestrial visitation in the face of very meager evidence because we want it to be true; or rejecting such an idea out of hand, in the absence of sufficient evidence, because we don’t want it to be true.”

         Is it possible for another sentient, technologically-capable life form to exist? Maybe they did. Maybe they do! Maybe they will. Maybe they never will. Will we ever know? Answer: Maybe! In the meantime, we keep searching because of the way we are, curious.



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© Copyright 2006 D. R. Prescott (donprescott at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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