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I've been reading The Vital Question by Nick Lane, where he puts forth some theories about the origin of eukaryotes, and life in general. It does make it seem that abiogenesis and eukaryote-genesis are much more difficult than we give them credit for.

So in the Drake Equation, I think that F[L] is probably pretty low.

And because eukaroyte genesis is difficult and only happened once (and it took a billion years of bacteria & archea hanging out before we got a eukaryote), and eukaryotes are a prereq for multi-cellular organisms and thus intelligent life, F[i] is also really low.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Vital-Question-Evolution-Origins/d...




One thing to keep in mind is that the time interval of stability for Earth as a life-bearing planet is actually fairly close to the end. We're past the 75% point. The Sun's evolution will "soon" put an end to that (speaking on a cosmic scale).

So it seems like it was a close call. Life needed almost the full extent of that interval of stability to create an (arguably) intelligent species. There can be no reset and start over. This is it, for the solar system. If we fail to survive, this whole star and its planets have failed to produce viable intelligence.

If Earth turns out to somehow be unusually stable as a life-bearing planet, this might explain a large portion of the Fermi paradox. This might be a large chunk of the Great Filter.


"How long do you say the sun had left?"

"...5 billion years."

"Whew, that's OK, I though you said 5 million!"


> 5 billion years

The Sun will get significantly hotter over the next 1 billion years. Life on Earth will become impossible (unless artificially maintained) quite a while before the end of that 1 billion year interval.


...I had so much I wanted to do :-(


This gets my vote. My hunch is that intelligent life like the kind we would love to meet happens either on the order of once or twice per galaxy during the galaxy's entire lifetime, or it happens SO rarely that, if the universe is infinite in extent, then any intelligent observer looking out from the "center" of their observable universe will most likely be in the only intelligent civilization in that visible radius.

Depressing, but it seems more plausible than things like "Great Filters of DOOM". It would predict that there is a lot of intelligence in the entire universe, but each cluster of intelligence is profoundly alone.


Where do you get the estimate of "once or twice per galaxy"? I can agree that it might be "rare," but I have no idea how you would pin down the rareness to that level of accuracy.


It's a total guesstimate. The interesting thing to me is that I have no idea how anyone else pins down THEIR estimates to any level of accuracy, but they are apparently confident enough in their estimates to posit things like the "Great Filter", when other (equally likely) estimates such as mine require no such thing.


Then why the fuck do we keep killing ourselves?

Seriously, if we taught this level of intelligent-life appreciation to every born soul... the world would be a better place.

Rather than starting with the teachings we do for youngsters; why not just teach them how freaking rare and lucky they are to be a consciousness present to hear that fact and then know that they can then expand the known universe... but do this in a much more deliberate fashion than we are now?

We need to be much much more deterministic from a species if we will survive for eons.


To quote Ender's Game: "I am not a happy man, Ender. Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf. Survival first, then happiness as we can manage it."

It doesn't really answer why we commit suicide. But it does give an answer to why we aren't happy.


We keep killing ourselves because so many people are so damned reassured that death isn't the end. That or they just pessimistically assume there's no way we'll make it to eons.

I think we could easily last for eons, but yeah. We have to get people on board with that possibility.


> Then why the fuck do we keep killing ourselves?

We are slaves to our own genetic sequences to a much larger extent than we usually think.

It's pretty easy to show that the behaviors that lead to people killing each other are driven by mechanisms initially evolved to ensure that our own genetic sequences keep multiplying and spreading out, eliminating competition. And they're pretty dumb mechanisms, running on the lower levels of our brains, so don't expect them to be very selective, or run without failure. Sometimes they hit an internal bug and become runaway destruction loops, which sometimes even turn against the individual itself.

Many things that are typically considered "evil" can be traced back ultimately to these mechanisms that ensure that our own genetic sequences win the race. In a way, "evil" was actually useful, way back in time, in an evolutionary sense. It's just recently that we've acquired new desires and aspirations, which are in conflict with the old, narrow, dumb routines.


> Then why the fuck do we keep killing ourselves?

Because the knowledge that "us killing ourselves" collectively is bad for us collectively does not affect the decision for an individual to kill another individual.


>Then why the fuck do we keep killing ourselves?

Not enough game theorists in charge.


Panspermia is one solution to this.


All problems [in philosophy] can be solved by another level of indirection...


Ha! But it does solve the 'this rare event happened here on Earth but it is very unlikely to happen anywhere' because those little single cells came here from somewhere else. That source infected millions of planets.

It moves the problem of starting everywhere to starting in one place (more likely)


Getting it to occur once is more likely than getting it to occur many times. However, it does give you a new problem: making cells that can survive hard vacuum, radiation, and extreme cold, for millenia (at least), and still be viable when they reach a new planet. We're not talking speed-of-light propagation here. We're probably not even talking 0.01 c. So even to the nearest neighboring star is probably thousands or tens of thousands of years. In vacuum. In extreme cold. Without even photosynthesis to provide energy. Yeah, I'm kind of skeptical of this actually working.


If panspermia does happen in the universe, I bet that it happens with the sheltering of asteroids and meteors. Life develops on low-gravity planets with turbulent atmosphere -> some cells get into space -> get caught by comets and other objects -> slowly propagate within comet -> comet has an unstable orbit that sends it to another system, where it has an encounter with a habitable planet.

An icey comet could provide radiation protection and it could accidentally go through a gravity assist to increase it's speed.

I suppose that the best evidence we could collect to prove or disprove panspermia is to see if it's happened between planets/moons/objects within our own solar system.




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