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Drake's equation

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DELETED
49569.  Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:09 am Reply with quote

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dr.bob
49577.  Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:32 am Reply with quote



Again, all true -- but that is not to say that the harnessing happens every time. The ancient Greeks understood the principle of steam power, but they never built a railway.


The harnessing may not happen everytime it's discovered, but eventually it will be, after which point it remains harnessed. The greeks played with steam power and did nothing with it, but eventually someone made the necessary leap and the industrial revolution happened.

Victorians (and maybe Egyptians if those funny urns are looked at in the right way) spent years dicking around with static electricity until eventually Faraday came along.



.....then someone else would've discovered it eventually.

It probably took man aeons to discover fire. God knows what kind of fluke led to that discovery, but once it was discovered it changed the world. If people discover something really useful, they don't tend to forget it.

Having said that, however, radio remains a really crap way of detecting extra-terrestrial life. Leaving aside the arguments about civilisations that either haven't discovered radio yet, or have ditched it in favour of some better technology, and also leaving aside the problems of detecting radio signals against the noisy background of the universe in general, there's simply too much "data space" to look through.

If aliens were sending us radio signals, we wouldn't know which part of the sky they'd be coming from, or which frequency they'd be using. This is not just looking for a needle in a haystack, it's looking for a needle in a whole continent full of haystacks!

Much better to look for the signs of life (as we recognise it, obviously), such as an excess of oxygen in the atmosphere.

  DELETED
49581.  Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:42 am Reply with quote

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Last edited by DELETED on Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:48 am; edited 1 time in total

  DELETED
49582.  Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:46 am Reply with quote

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  Gray
49587.  Mon Feb 06, 2006 12:27 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
A sort of 'negative' earth (with a continuous landmass surrounding continent-sized seas) might never have needed to communicate across oceans. Another economic system (or total lack thereof) might mean there was no need for wireless in the first place.

Well, 'need' doesn't really come into it. If an intelligent lifeform arises on a planet, then communication will be central to its function, simply because individuals interact with each other and their society through communication. Any technology that helps them communicate more effectively will eventually be discovered, exploited and refined by them, with the most obvious ones first: grunting, language, drums, marking, writing, flags, radio...

Convergence, as it applies to evolutionary adaptations (e.g. eyes) and science and technology (e.g. the development of the electric telegraph) will apply all the way across the universe at one point or other. Natural selection is a universal process, and has no special identity with humans.

I'm fully expecting, any day now, for someone to stumble across some technology for picking up Douglas Adams' Sub-Etha Network, whence they will hear absolutely tons of inane Sub Etha Forum chatter - trillions of aliens going:
Quote:
BugEyedMonster_8742a: Sup?
PlanetButt_83226: Nuthin. Gettin high.
BugEyedMonster_8742a: Kewl.

  DELETED
49597.  Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:22 pm Reply with quote

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  Gray
49612.  Mon Feb 06, 2006 6:48 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
If our dominant civilisation were run by fundamentalist Islam (this is a fantasy 'Track Two' planet, not some weird projection of contemporary Islamophobia), we might very well have a moonshot, but no history of image-making. Therefore no figurative painting, no photography and certainly no television pictures to beam back from the moon.

That's certainly a possibility, but where there's religion there is also atheism, and they'd have trouble getting to the moon without discovering how to manipulate imagery and telecommunications.

I think if a society has agriculture, then there's going to be money and land issues, and therefore warfare, and therefore communications, etc. etc. I think it's inevitable. Nothing's a 'safe assumption' obviously, but I can't think there's anything special about humans that some other intelligent race wouldn't find what we've found. And more...

  dr.bob
49625.  Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:41 am Reply with quote



Oi! Less of that, thank you.

Yes, lots of discoveries were made by accident by people being in the right place at the right time. However, lots of other people may well have previously discovered the same effects and just not realised the potential.

Take radio waves for instance. There is documented evidence that these were actually "discovered" by JJ Thompson, several years before Nikolas Tesla. Thompson is famous as the discoverer of the electron. However, when he was a young man he began working at Manchester University investigating electricity. In one of his old lab note books, there is a record that his sensitive electrical equipment was being disturbed by large electrical coils being used in the room next door.

This was clearly an example of radio waves. Wireless communication between closed rooms. And the reaction of JJ Thompson? He simply asked the other person to switch off his electrical coils when he was experimenting with his sensitive equipment.

Here's an example of someone being lucky and being in the right place at the right time, but not realising the potential of the discovery and just passing over it. Later on someone else was similarly lucky, realised the potential, and was the hailed as the discoverer of radio waves. Which rather begs the question "how many other people 'discovered' radio waves and didn't pay any attention to them at the time?".



That's true. It's arguable that the tough living conditions when man was in the early stages of evolution caused an accelerated evolution of intelligence to help deal with the situation. If intelligence hadn't evolved quickly enough, we'd've died out. If there was always plenty of food around, we wouldn't have needed to become so intelligent.

It's not at all clear that the evolution of intelligent life is inevitable. Also, even if we have intelligent life, is the development of the scientific method inevitable? I think those two things combine to give an environment where certain basic discoveries are only a matter of time, but I'm not convinced that those two starting points will necessarily always happen.

That's why it's much better to look for the signs of life than the signs of intelligent life.

  Tas
49628.  Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:05 am Reply with quote

Quote:
Yes, lots of discoveries were made by accident by people being in the right place at the right time. However, lots of other people may well have previously discovered the same effects and just not realised the potential.


Just look at the ancient world and the steam engine! They had a workable steam engine that drove a toy around and around but did not put the effect together with a wheeled cart. Just think. We could have had an industrial revolution (and the associated pollution) and then hopefully have become more ecologically friendly 2500+ years ago!

:-)

Tas

  bobofel
49631.  Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:18 am Reply with quote

oo then we would already all be dead from nuclear war/climate change/polution or be living on mars

But we would not think that it was anything special. Imagine a victorian looking at today's world. Imagine a roman for that matter.

  Tas
49633.  Tue Feb 07, 2006 6:24 am Reply with quote

If the ancient Greeks had had the steam engine, and its associated technologies, it is entirely possible that Rome would not have become so powerful, and we would all be speaking a language based on Greco-Germanic languages rather than the franco-germanic-latin hodge-podge we have nowadays.

:-)

Tas

  dr.bob
49639.  Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:01 am Reply with quote

As I understand it, the Roman empire was so successful because the Romans had better technology than their enemies. From better fighting techniques and war engines, to better living standards and public health.

How much of this was developed by the Romans, and how much was nicked from the Greeks? History's not my strong point, so I'm hoping someone else here can answer the question. I was under the impression, though, that the Greeks did produce a lot of scientific research which was then half-inched by the Romans.

Just wondering what the Romans would've been like if they'd managed to nick the "steam engine, and its associated technologies" from the Greeks. Probably would've conquered the entire world or something.

  Mr Grue
49640.  Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:04 am Reply with quote

Well according to The Tomorrow People, had the Roman's had the steam engine (which was invented by Peter Duncan, I seem to recall) they would have landed on the moon much sooner than those Americans. Instead of "The eagle has landed" it would have been... oh!

  Tas
49642.  Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:13 am Reply with quote

But if the Greeks had had the superior technology, then they would have had a super-empire or something, right? (Assuming they did not fall to infighting and bickering, leaving the Romans to re-invent the technology!)

:-)

Tas

  dr.bob
49645.  Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:43 am Reply with quote

Nah, the Greeks were far too busy lounging around at parties and discovering more about "man-on-man action", to paraphrase Mr Fry :)

 

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