The absurd search for aliens


There are many reports of people looking for life on other planets and searching for alien beings resemble humans. I wonder if anyone else is as skeptical as I am. Projects like SETI generally encourage science & technology, but they cause the sensationalist media to mislead lots of gullible people.


Let's define some words just for the context of this note:

1.       Intelligence: ability to learn from the environment and adapt positively to it.

2.       Life: a being with the ability to reproduce and has the intelligence to improve itself.

3.       Alien: an intelligent life form that is not currently native to Earth.

The argument

My biggest doubt is that we may not even recognize aliens because they may be totally different from us. Why are we assuming the following:

         Carbon based life

Most life forms on Earth are carbon & water based with amino acid foundations. There are so many other viable chemistries, for example, sulfur & ammonia based. Or something that is not even based on molecular chemistry, but on subatomic combinations of quarks and leptons.

         Visual spectrum

We can see a very narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Aliens could be sensitive to a totally different range. While we have instruments to detect electromagnetic energy that we cannot see, we cannot detect complex patterns in the signals. For example, perhaps an alien is sending us a picture of their birthday party, but we can't assemble the picture to appreciate it. That could lead the alien to conclude that we are uncultured heathens. Our visual spectrum (~400-700 nm or ~400-700 THz) is probably because our ancestors evolved from aquatic life. Water is most transparent in this band. However, aliens may not have evolved similarly in a watery environment.

         Temperature tolerance

Because of our chemistry, we thrive in a very narrow temperature band. Most of the known universe is either extremely cold or extremely hot. There could be an intelligent life form that is based on plasma, and it could live deep inside stars.

         Atmosphere and gravity

The most obvious incompatibility would be the Earth's environment, not to mention language and sensibilities. I always wondered, if an alien visited Earth, would they find our sunset beautiful? Or would they prefer the stark glories of their own home environment.

         Temporal speed

All life on our Earth moves and ages at relatively similar rates, perhaps because the underlying carbon-based chemistry has a certain reaction rate. We think and perceive events at a certain speed. Our events are measured in seconds, days or years. What if an alien was a million times faster than us and their whole life span was one blink of our eyelids? Or what if they were a million times slower? They could take hundreds of years to communicate a bit of information. Perhaps an alien evolved to slowness to adapt to the huge times needed for intergalactic travel.

         Spatial dimensions

Perhaps aliens are much smaller than us, each cute alien being may be a nanometer long. Or they may be huge, a single alien life form that is as large as a star.

We know of 3 dimensions. Physicists have theorized that there could be more. If so, we humans are only aware of an object's projections in our 3 dimensions. We would not detect any aliens in other dimensions. Or we may detect several disjoint events in our space that seem synchronized, like quantum entanglement. We fail to realize that they are really connected together in a different dimension.

Imagine that ants are aware of only 2 dimensions and can only walk around in one plane.

credits: XKCD

Alternative searches

1979 Alien Design.jpgWe Earthlings really are a fragile set of species. While listening for ET signals is fine, I wonder if it is wise to advertise ourselves by sending out probes like Voyager that could lead someone back to us. Mankind is nowhere close to being ready for aliens, given that we do not even understand ourselves.

What if an alien did reach out to us. Let's assume that, by some luck, they were nonlethal, nontoxic, and generally physically compatible with us. Does anyone really think that we can learn how to communicate with them, given that we have not yet learnt how to communicate with animals? What if aliens could communicate with whales, but not humans? Perhaps we should start by learning how to communicate with new beings by practicing with dogs.

Our doggie clearly makes different sounds depending on the situation. She has distinct vocalizations for "play with me" and "go away from my territory". I wonder if dogs have languages, dialects, and a grammar. Ultimately, it would be so cool to have an app that can translate barks into text, and vice versa. Then we can tell her to pick up her toys.

All in fun

Oct 2021