Scientists use new algorithm to predict number of intelligent species in the galaxy
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In the category of weird, but fun news to read, scientists have calculated there are 36 intelligent species of aliens living in our galaxy. Scientists used a new algorithm to reach the figure. If correct and aliens are discovered, it could open new questions about intelligent life, God, the universe and salvation. Fortunately, the Church already has answers for them.
Does intelligent life exist elsewhere? What does the Church say?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Based on a new algorithm, scientists from the University of Nottingham conclude there are approximately 36 intelligent, extraterrestrial lifeforms in the galaxy right now.
Their findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal for peer review.
Previous estimates for intelligent civilizations in the galaxy use the Drake Equation, which is based on the number of stars in the galaxy, rates of stellar and planetary formation, and other variables. The problem with the question is a lack of data which forces scientists to guess many variables within the equation. The result is wildly different estimates ranging from a single-digit low, to highs in the thousands.
This new algorithm solves the problems of the Drake equation by assuming life develops similar to how it developed on Earth. Based on those assumptions, they conclude there are more than 30 intelligent species of aliens living in our galaxy right now.
Scientists used what they call the Astrobiologcal Copernican Limit to obtain their figures. The scientists explain the Astrobiological Copernican Limits as the five billion years they estimate it takes for intelligent life to form, and the metal content equal to that of the Sun which needed for the formation of solar systems like ours.
Metals, and indeed all elements heavier than iron, are formed in supernova explosions. Our sun is a third-generation star, meaning at least two other, larger stars formed and then exploded to provide the dense material needed to form our Solar System over the past 13 billion years.
But there are some questions that follow these studies. For example, if aliens abound in our galaxy, where are they? Why haven't we found them?
There are plenty of anecdotal claims of aliens visiting earth, including some which come from credible sources. However, there is no scientific proof. The professors at the University of Nottingham explain the average distance between civilizations is likely to be about 17,000 light years. That means a message transmitted by radio waves, would take 17,000 years to cross only a tiny portion of the galaxy to reach us. To appreciate this figure, understand humans have only been able to communicate by radio for just over one century. And for a transmission to be detected requires they be sent with enough power to a receiver that is switched on and listening, and sensitive enough to detect such a communication.
Of course, aliens could be communicating by an as yet undiscovered means. Arthur C. Clarke described humanity as communicating with drums in the jungle while entirely unaware the airwaves are filled with radio traffic.
The astronomer Carl Sagan once explained that not only are great distances involved, but also great measures of time. And we have no idea how long intelligent civilizations might tend to last. So far, there is no proof that intelligence confers the long-term survival value needed to conquer the distances between the stars. That's a powerful, humbling critique.
As Catholics, we do know we are created by God, in His image and likeness, and it is possible God has also created other worlds. We cannot put creative limits on God. Some argue the possibility of life on other worlds is mentioned in the Bible, while others debate this. But in either case, we cannot tell God what He can and cannot do.
The Church has also made clear that if intelligent life exists elsewhere, God may have a plan for them as well.
Whatever the math says, and whatever science unveils, the fact is we are created by God to live in glory with Him. All the universe speaks of His awesome power and love. Whatever we learn, whatever mysteries we behold or solve, let them all guide us to Him.
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- The Angelus
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Act of Contrition
- A Guide for Confession
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