>there are billions of stars and planets in our galaxy and billions of galaxies. Humans are rather bad at fully understanding such large numbers.
There's no obstacle to working with large numbers once you understand powers and logarithms (i.e. pre-calc). Very smart people have looked at the Drake equation and it yields a very wide range of values .
>Christopher Columbus first landing on North America (not a good event for native Americans)
The main reason Europeans were able to take over America was disease. The Aztec effort to kick out the Spanish was hampered by smallpox , and colonization of North America had to wait for over a century before the native population was sufficiently depleted by disease to stop offering resistance.  Needless to say, disease worked unintentionally and because both sides were the same species.
> So, screw it, all movie alien races invented artificial gravity.
Or, you know, maybe they built ships with rotating crew habitats that simulate gravity by centrifugal force. (I belive 2001 does a pretty good job of showing the concept.)
> If getting humans to another star system is a 100 on some "technology ability scale", we're a 2 which is not comparatively far ahead of say, poodles - who are probably at a 1.
First off, poodles are at a zero. Second, if 10% of world GDP was dedicated to building an interstellar, multi-generation ark, we pretty much have the technology to do it right now. The technological problem is to reduce the cost to the point where the political will to do it can be summoned (probably around 0.01% of GDP).
>Maybe they want to trade with us. Well, yeah, right. If you've gotten this far it's obvious we have no tech that would interest them.
>How many years before we have a brain interface to Google? You'd know everything.
We already have Google in our pockets. But instantly finding any quote by Darwin doesn't mean I understand the theory of evolution.
 See timeline in http://www.amazon.com/1491-Revelations-Americas-Before-Colum...
If anything, your post is yet another manifestation of this. It simply doesn't matter what happened to native americans, when the entire Columbus story does not apply.
And what do your comments about googles in pockets and drake equation have to do with anything? Do you have anything to say about actual point the OP is making?
We are talking about the vastness of an entire GALAXY and a level of technological advancement that comes with consequences that no one can even begin to imagine let alone predict. The entirety of human science fiction doesn't even scratch the surface as to what is possible (and due to our own biases and the need to entertain a television audience/readership is probably far more tame and boring than what is really out there) at those levels.
You're talking about quantum limits but you have to realize, to make the vast majority of science fiction watchable/readable, you have to almost entirely throw out our knowledge of modern physics. For example, every real world attempt at theorizing FTL travel has lead either to needing ridiculous amounts of energy (equivalent to the mass of Jupiter for the original Alcubierre drive which would be about a billion billion billion kilograms each of matter and antimatter) or particles with properties which we have NEVER come close to seeing (and by never, I mean not a shred of experimental evidence or even a suggestion that it exists outside of a theoretical framework). If an alien race has FTL, it's knowledge of the universe is well above ours and any attempts we can make to predict the limits of their technology is useless. For all we know, FTL travel might be as difficult as building your own solar system from scratch.
In order for us to have an alien visit that is even close to any imagined encounter in science fiction, many things that we can't speculate on would have to work out. We're not talking one black swan, we're talking about an unknowable number of factors and events that would have to work out just right.
It's might be possible (we don't even know if FTL is possible), just like it might be possible for wild pigs to evolve to fly without any artificial intervention in a few thousand years, but it's so unlikely that it's worth putting into the "Just not going to happen pile," all the while working to prove yourself wrong :)
Exactly. Few of the points the OP makes have anything to do with his main argument, and most of them are illogical in some way.
I don't see how you can make a valid point when your facts and supporting arguments are wrong. The article itself mentions Columbus, Google and (implicitly) the Drake equation. The "main point" that you mention - "we think too small" - is either tautological or self-defeating, depending on interpretation. If this was all there was to the article, it might well have consisted of that single phrase instead.
Throwaway points as to how likely it is for advanced aliens to even exist and whether they might be willing to trade with us? He's attempting to refute all possible motivations that aliens might have to communicate with us.
I don't think anyone disputes that any of those things on the list are "possible," just the odds stacking up in our favor.
Article: Humans are rather bad at fully understanding such large numbers.
Zeteo: There's no obstacle to working with large numbers once you understand powers and logarithms (i.e. pre-calc).
Me: The article said "fully understand" and "humans". Some scientists may indeed easily work with aspects of large number. Many people are lost. I'd say you're wrong but it's a disagreement on arguable, hardly settled points. Calling your disagreement with the author a "misconception" on the author's part is implying a hard factual accuracy on your side - and here you are both wrong and disingenuous.
The rest of your post is about like this.
The first paragraph of the article is a pretty clear statement that a calculation such as the Drake equation  must result in a large number of intelligent alien races and that only lack of understanding for large numbers prevents people from realizing this:
> it's nearly comical to believe we're the only intelligent life in the universe. It's easy to get lost in the numbers thrown around - there are billions of stars and planets in our galaxy and billions of galaxies. Humans are rather bad at fully understanding such large numbers.
To restate my point, this is wrong on two counts:
1. The Drake equation can be understood by anyone with a pre-calc background, which is by no means rare these days.
2. Different scientists have plugged in different numbers, with the most pessimistic estimates being of under one civilization in the observable universe.
Heck, there might be cloud-squid in Jupiter we're not even aware of who make better conversationalists than us. The aliens might even show up after a thousand year trip and ignore the Earth entirely.
But let's forget that. Let's grant that in the future we'll be able to quadruple the human lifespan to 480 years. For the sake of argument, I'll even grant that manned interstellar flight at 0.1c is achievable. At this rate, it will still take most of our very long lifespans to reach the three nearest systems that are candidates for habitable exoplants. You'll still need a generation ship unless you want a colony of geriatrics. (Also, once you do get there, you're very likely to find that the potentially habitable exoplanets turn out not live up to that potential in much the same way the potentially habitable Venus turned out not to, so you'll spend the rest of your extended lifespan moving on to the next system.)
But yeah, that is one possibility.
You... need to work on that.
There are plenty of stars within 14 light years.
If you took 100,000 years that would be a speed of 0.00014c. That is pretty pessimistic - we have put objects into space that are travelling away from earth faster than that already! (Yada yada accleration :).)
At 0.1c you can go 14 lightyears in 140 years. There are stars closer than this.
Citation needed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_1 travels now at 17 km/s which is cca 6e-5 of c, twice slower than your 1.4e-4. However the bigger the object, the inertia is bigger too, so it is harder to speed up the bigger things, especially anything that would sustain life long enough for more generations. Then don't forget, as much as you speed up something, you have to speed it down too and you need the same amount of energy for that.
70 km/s. I personally wouldn't want to take that specific trip, but regardless :)
Inertia is a much smaller problem than subjecting humans to acceleration :) You can't afford to accelerate fast anyway. Thankfully spacecraft speed up and slow down quadratically with respect to acceleration.
To get to a speed of 0.00014c if you were accelerating at 9.8m/s^2 ("Earth gravity") you would need to wait...
1 hour and 15 minutes to reach top speed. (The same to slow down (ignoring relativistic effects.)) This is a drop in the bucket vs. 100,000 years, or a human lifetime :)
By studying the actual quantities involved?
>It's a back of the envelope, order-of-magnitude thing.
No, that's not how you get "any number". Just some of them, the more sloppy ones.
The nearest star is like 5 light years away. With 1/10 of the speed of light that's like 50 years. Wanna make it 1/100 and 500 years?
In any case much less than the 100,000 years estimation.
>We don't have anything close to faster-than-light spacecraft and there's no reason to think we will in the near future, except for pure religious hope.
First, we don't need "faster than light" to make it to there to less than 100,000 years.
Second, we actually DO have some ideas about that, too:
2 - disease aside, the intent is important, the argument is that when technologically advanced meets less technological society the outcome is as much exploitation as possible
3 - artifical gravity is pretty tangential
4 - poodles being 0 or 1 is not your call to make, you as a 2 have no idea how a society at 100 would slice and dice it, its totally tangential but honestly maybe single cell lifeforms are 0, some kinda social structure ability to learn is 1, and 2 is less than a world wide society