In our ongoing salute to the International Year of Astronomy, I was intrigued by this recent story detailing how a Scottish scientist has estimated that there are at least 361 “intelligent” civilizations in our galaxy, and possibly as many as 37,964.
I don’t know if I’m more amazed by the fact that there could be so many other neighbors out there in space, or that the scientist, Duncan Forgan of Edinburgh University, came up with such specific numbers! Seriously, considering how we have yet to discover one intelligent civilization out in the cosmos, to pick out specific numbers as 361 and 37,964 seems a bit bold, doesn’t it?
Well, if we find even one planet with one intelligent group of life forms on it, there could be a bigger problem. As Forgan points out, “If alien life forms do exist, we may not necessarily be able to make contact with them, and we have no idea what form they would take.”
Ay, there’s the rub. We finally find life somewhere else, but yet we can’t communicate with them. Oh irony, you cruel mistress! Of course, if they were frakkin’ cylon skinjobs, those damn toasters could be here among us already, waiting to destroy humanity and … uh …
Sorry. Excuse my inner geek getting out.
Anyway, Forgan hypothesizes that either life is easy to form but struggles to find intelligence, or that life struggles to form but can evolve easily. No doubt that there’s numerous scenarios in between, too. And because it’ll probably be impossible to count the total intelligent civilizations in the galaxy for a few millenia or so, I guess he’ll be considered his theories will hold as true. Who knows, right? Currently, all the mysteries of the universe — including if and where there may be other intelligent life — are not for us to know.
Then again, if intelligent alien civilizations saw stories like this, they might question our “intelligence” and just not bother.