Are We Alone in the Universe?

Photo Credit: Stars by tonyetone

What exactly are the odds that there are aliens out there among the stars?

Do you think they’re asking themselves that same question?

Are we a dim bit of overlooked dust in the region of an average star that can’t be seen by an alien whose condo is in a big city?

Doubtless, there is not a single soul on this Earth that has not or will not look up at the stars and wonder if there is someone looking back. What a beautifully unifying idea. What would happen to the nations of the Earth if we were to find and potentially meet intelligent life from a different planet?

Is There Intelligent Life?

Not just life. Intelligent life. Living organisms can be found in the harshest of conditions on Earth and beyond–conditions which may not allow more complex forms of life to evolve. A meteorite crashed into Sri Lanka in 2012 with fossilized diatoms (single-celled algae) in the debris. The International Space Station found plankton (probably from Earth) clinging to it.

So, there is life. We have found it, or rather, it found us. But when a fisherman on a tranquil river in rural China and a used-car salesman in southern Alabama look up at the sky and ache for an answer, they aren’t thinking of single-celled organisms like those on the meteorite.

The real question is, is there intelligent life?

Where Can Intelligent Life Be Found in the Universe?

For every star in the sky, there is at least one planet, on average. The Milky Way Galaxy has 100 billion stars, and there are uncountable galaxies in our universe. Let that number sink in and overwhelm you with its incalculability. Then consider the moons orbiting those planets.

Remember, though, that not all planets orbiting a star can support life, and only a small percentage of those able to support some version of life is also capable of supporting complex life forms. A diatom is a life, sure, but it can’t beat you in a chess game (if it can then you should take up Connect Four instead).

Earth-like planets with liquid water and a comfortable temperature due to a Sun-like star are surprisingly common. The number may be as high as 1 in 5 planets possessing the capacity for intelligent life. In our galaxy alone, that number amounts to 20 billion habitable planets. Colonies, anyone?

Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring sense that the question we should ask is not “is there intelligent life” but “how could there not be?”

“The emergence of the human race may not seem worthy of note as a significant milestone in the history of astronomy. We are, after all, just one species, on one planet, orbiting a typical star that is in a fairly ordinary part of an average spiral galaxy. Our planet may be one of billions capable of supporting life, and we could be one of countless numbers of sentient species among the stars. But it might also be the case that we are the only intelligent, self-aware, technological species–and civilization–in all the cosmos. That latter possibility is humbling, daunting, and perhaps even a little scary, but it reminds us that we should indeed celebrate as truly extraordinary the appearance of a species that, through its achievements, provides a way for the universe to know itself.” – Jim Bell, The Space Book, pg. 16

Have you been abducted by an alien? Tell me in the comments.

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