Alien Civilizations and The Postage Stamp Theory
Where are they?
Just a few thoughts from a true believer in spacefaring, alien civilizations, who nevertheless wonders, with Physicist Enrico Fermi:
“Where are they?”
What are the odds that we are alone in the Cosmos?
Let’s put it this way…
Las Vegas wouldn’t take the bet…
Astronomer Carl Sagan
Astronomer Carl Sagan: “With a third or a half a trillion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy alone, could ours be the only one accompanied by an inhabited planet?”
“How much more likely it is that technical civilizations are a cosmic commonplace, that the Galaxy is pulsing and humming with advanced societies, and, therefore, that the nearest culture is not so very far away…”
“Perhaps when we look up at the sky at night, near one of those faint pin-points of light is a world on which someone quite different from us is then glancing idly at a star we call the Sun and entertaining, for just a moment, an outrageous speculation.”
Sagan said a conservative estimate of the number of advanced civilizations in our galaxy alone runs into the millions.
Billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars…
The likelihood that Earth is the only inhabited world in that vast ocean of galaxies is incomprehensibly slight.
But let’s dispense with the lingering UFO issues…
The “Postage Stamp” Theory
The Cosmos is so vast that space-faring aliens might never find us.
But assuming our world has been visited sometime in the past—when could it have happened?
Let the Empire State Building represent the geological age of the Earth, about 4.5 billion years.
On the top of the ruler, place a dime, flat.
This represents recorded history since about 7,000 B.C.E.
On top of the dime, slap a postage stamp.
The postage stamp represents “modern” times, about 500 yrs, 16th – 21st centuries.
If we have been visited it was likely sometime way down on the 10th floor, or the 87th floor.
Separated from us by hundreds of millions or perhaps even billions of years.
Pale Blue Dot
In 1990, Astronomer Carl Sagan convinced mission controllers to turn the Voyager I cameras homeward and snap a picture of Earth.
Some scientists considered it a frivolous request, but the photo has become one of the best-known symbols of humanity’s place in the Cosmos.
“The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.”
If all those UFO sightings are valid…
Either we’re astride a major traffic lane or they’ve decided humans are fun to watch.
Isn’t it more likely that our neighbors haven’t found us yet?
Could you pick up the right grain of sand, out of all the beaches and deserts on Earth, surface to bedrock?
So, let’s celebrate Discovery Day in advance. One day, one of our descendants will make First Contact with an alien civilization.
I’m secretly hoping some of my brothers and sisters who write sci-fi have guessed wrong about everybody shooting up the galaxy out there, a la the 19th century American Wild West or current Afghanistan, pick your favorite analogy.
So, let’s boldly go their through the avenues of imagination, with firm belief our great-grandchildren—or theirs—will crew the first human starships and find friends/foes to contact in whatever manner is appropriate.
The motto of my Star Lawyers series seems to be, “Trust in galactic civilization, but go out there packing…”
See you aboard the Patrick Henry soon!
Jump Gate Omega (Star Lawyers Book 1) and Forbidden Sanctuary (Star Lawyers Book 2) and The Blue King Murders (Star Lawyers Book 3) are live. If you didn’t read it yet, the prequel to the series is also available and you can Download my free short story here!
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