2018-02-26 03:57:35 UTC
By Susannah Cahalan February 24, 2018 | 3:32pm | Updated
The film "Arrival" was about understanding aliens. We already may have
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We are on the cusp of discovering new technologies that “will take us
even farther as we explore the planets and the stars” — and lead us
closer to making contact with alien life, writes Michio Kaku in “The
Future of Humanity.”
We know that one out of every five stars in the Milky Way galaxy has an
Earth-like planet orbiting it — which means that there are more than 20
billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, according to Kaku. Though
there are other conditions necessary to creating life (there must be a
Jupiter-sized neighbor to keep asteroids and debris out of the planet’s
path and the Earth-like planet requires a moon to stabilize it), there
seems to be plenty of options out there for life to exist.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, thanks in
part to funding from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, devotes 42
high-powered telescopes to scanning a million stars to listen for alien
Last year astronomers sent out a signal from the Norwegian city of
Tromsø, containing electronic music and information on geometry and
binary numbers, hoping it will reach ET ears.
Dr. Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute told Kaku that he believes we
will make contact before 2025, though he upped that number by 10 years
in a recent article for science magazine The Nautilus.
“I’ve bet a cup of coffee to any and all that by 2035 we’ll have
evidence of ET,” Shostak wrote. “I’m optimistic by nature — as a
scientist, you have to be . . . I feel that we’re on the cusp of
learning something truly revolutionary.”
But what would ETs look like once we finally meet them?
To find out, Kaku interviewed experts in exobiology, a field that
studies what life might be like in distant worlds with different
ecosystems. Based on his research, Kaku decided that intelligent alien
life would have three necessary features:
The aliens, like humans, would have stereo vision, which allows eyes to
compare images and track distance — a necessary feature in predators,
who hunt and track their prey. “In all likelihood, intelligent aliens in
space will have descended from predators that hunted for their food,”
Kaku writes. “This does not necessarily mean that they will be
aggressive, but it does mean that their ancestors long ago might have
been predators. We may be well served to be cautious.”
The aliens would have some form of opposable thumbs or grasping
appendages, necessary for hunting prey and creating tools (which they
would have to do to be sophisticated enough to make contact).
They would also need to have language. “In order to hand down and
accumulate essential information from generation to generation, some
form of language is crucial,” Kaku writes.
In addition, Kaku theorizes that many alien civilizations will exist on
ice-covered moons (like Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon
Enceladus), where life would exist completely underwater. So how would
an aquatic species become truly intelligent beings?
Kaku takes this thought experiment back to Earth. The one Earth-bound
underwater animal that nearly fits all the above criteria — stereo
vision, graspable appendages — is the octopus, he writes. The
cephalopod, which has survived on Earth for at least 165 million years,
only lacks language.
On a different planet, however, cephalopods could easily develop
language — in fact, if conditions changed drastically on Earth, Kaku
says it could even happen here, too.
“On a distant planet under different conditions, one can imagine that an
octopus-like creature could develop a language of chirps and whistles so
it could hunt in packs,” Kaku writes. “One could even imagine that at
some point in the distant future, evolutionary pressures on Earth could
force the octopus to develop intelligence. So an intelligent race of
octopods is certainly a possibility.”
So that’s what we can expect? An intelligent race of octopods, like in
the movie “Arrival”?
Michio Kaku also writes about mining asteroids for billions of dollars.
FILED UNDER ALIENS , LIFE , SPACE
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