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Observing >> Deep Sky Observing

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Tony Flanders

Reged: 05/18/06

Loc: Cambridge, MA, USA
Re: How many of you have ever thought this? new [Re: caheaton]
      #5977534 - 07/18/13 09:47 AM


Along the lines of how life could take other forms that we may not even recognize as life, has anyone read the book by Fred Hoyle "The Black Cloud?"

Yes, The Black Cloud is a wonderful book. And Hoyle has a wonderful explanation for how life came to exist -- it didn't! As the primary advocate for the Steady State theory, Hoyle believed that the universe had always existed -- that time stretches infinitely in both directions. So, the Black Cloud says or implies, life has always existed; there's no need to explain how it started.


When people on Earth eventually make communication with the cloud, the cloud is surprised to discover that there are life forms on the planet, and states that it had never considered the possibility of intelligent life existing on planets!

No, the Cloud says that intelligent life on planets is relatively rare -- but obviously not all that exotic.

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Reged: 06/11/13

Loc: 43 N, 73 W
Re: How many of you have ever thought this? new [Re: caheaton]
      #5977569 - 07/18/13 10:03 AM

"The Black Cloud" is mentioned in a lecture course I'm listening to on Origins of Life, which discusses (among many other topics) how we don't have a consensus definition for what "life" is. Some might describe any kind of self-regulating system as a form of life - like sand dunes reorganizing to more efficiently pass energy (in the form of wind) through the system. The lines between biology, chemistry, and physics may not be broad, or may not truly exist at all. In the search for ET "life," we're really just trying to recognize Earth-like circumstances elsewhere.

Tony - points taken, and I will not bet you on my making it to Saturn, nor on my finding native trout when I get there. But know that I am perfectly realistic - I plan to bring a sandwich with me, in case I get skunked.

I think I had too much Shel Silverstein read to me as a child...

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS,
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me--
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

-S. Silverstein

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Reged: 01/07/08

Loc: Western New York
Re: How many of you have ever thought this? new [Re: Usquebae]
      #5977598 - 07/18/13 10:14 AM

I do think what the OP and the others in the same vein think when looking at a galaxy. Used to think this literally every time; now, some hundreds of galaxies later, the thought does not get worded as compulsively any more, but it is still in my mind.

The question here is whether stargazing with telescopes is common enough in the universe. I am not an expert (the science of astrobiology really took off since I last read something systematically about this, and I am afraid that the development of the science of technology and society evolution may be the one actually limiting our understanding here), but my guess is that it is common enough that it is reasonable to entertain this thought when looking at a spiral galaxy, such as NGC 3877. At least if we require only one being (at a time) looking back.

Remember, they must have clear skies at least as often as we have in the Appalachia, in addition to being technological, etc.

Beyond that, I like to imagine the perspective we present to them. For example, someone viewing from NGC 3877, far from our Galactic plane, will likely see us as comparatively more face-on than we see them.

EDIT: Incidentally, idle stargazing with large telescopes, which I believe is implied here, may be one of the most sublime and fragile manifestations in a technological civilization. So if life is common and civilization is common, it can still be rare.

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Carpal Tunnel

Reged: 05/26/09

Loc: SW Ohio
Re: How many of you have ever thought this? [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5977701 - 07/18/13 11:15 AM

Thanks for the correction, Tony. I was able to track down a quote from the book and you're correct:

"[it] is most unusual to find animals with technical skills inhabiting planets, which are in the nature of extreme outposts of life... Living on the surface of a solid body, you are exposed to a strong gravitational force. This greatly limits the size to which your animals can grow and hence limits the scope of your neurological activity..."

Oh well...I was a kid then and it's been at least 35 years since I read it!

Good point made by IVM about whether or not other species would stargaze as a hobby. I would like to think they would, but then again there's a quote in the program Torchwood where Jack (a man who is immortal due to an accident and has traveled the universe through time and space) makes the observation that humans are the only species in the entire universe that goes camping!
("No other race in the universe goes camping. Celebrate your uniqueness!")

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