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Archive for July, 2011

‘Trick’s Brain Teaser #1 – The Deterministic Universe

For this brain teaser, imagine the universe is such that every event that happens in it occurs due to a cause.

Event H causes a series of events that eventually cause event P.
Event P causes a series of events that eventually cause event Z.

If we were to rewind time to when event H happens or before and hit play, could event Z not happen the second time around (could the causes lead up to a different event instead of event Z)?

Hints to ponder:
Can the same cause lead to more than one possible effect?
Can a cause be the cause for J over K and the same cause be the cause for K over J?
If not, what does that mean for Z?

Do Little Green Men Exist?

July 4, 2011 2 comments

In this post I want to talk about the possibility of life on other planets. You know – those slimy little green guys with large brains, big eyes, long fingers, and no anuses.

There is a well known equation called the Drake equation. The Drake equation attempts to estimate the number of civilizations hosting those little green guys (or purple or blue guys) in the Milky Way. It is used often by those suggesting the universe is teaming with life. The Drake equation, however, should not be considered real science. Rather, it is merely speculative given that we plug in specific (yet arbitrary) variables for it. This is fine. I have no problem with speculative. The truth of the matter is, however, that the universe could be teaming with life, or life coming from non-life could be so rare that it only happened once in the history of the universe.

It’s fun to think about aliens, what they might look like, what might interest them, if they are more advanced than us, if they fart (probably the most important question), and so on. Aliens have given science fiction writers an endless supply of material. They have been characterized as cute friendly creatures to fierce monsters.

Maybe life on other planets does exist, but it never gets farther than simple celled equivalents of bacteria. After all, 3.8 billion years of our own evolutionary history were simple cells. It must be very difficult to make the leaps to more complex organisms.

Some suggest that life happens throughout the universe, but that most of it goes extinct and do not happen within the same time period of each other. This is why it is so difficult for us to detect life elsewhere.

Also keep in mind that, at least to date, there is no evidence of any other life arising on planet earth other than that of our own DNA history. Some attribute that to the difficulty of detecting it if it did exist (since it would look similar), or that current life would wipe out any new life that tries to come about.

For those that claim the universe is teaming with life, and that much of the life is intelligent, there are a number of hurtles that need to be jumped.

  • Hurtle 1: The difficulty of abiogenesis (meaning life coming from non-life). Probably the largest hurtle.
  • Hurtle 2: The difficulty for such new life to sustain itself long enough to reproduce and not immediately go extinct.
  • Hurtle 3: The difficulty to go from the simple to the complex.
  • Hurtle 4: The difficulty to evolve basic minds.
  • Hurtle 5: The difficulty to go from basic minds to minds that have language and deeper levels of understanding.

We simply do not know the extent of such hurdles. We can certainly speculate as the Drake equation does; just be wary not to confuse speculation with fact. The Drake equation is “if such and such, then such and such”. It is not “such and such, so such and such”.

Personally, I hope the universe is not teaming with life. I hope that our planet is the only one that had to endure evolution via survival of the fittest. This past blog post might help you understand why I am not a proponent if life happening elsewhere in the universe. Unfortunately what I hope is the case, and what is actually true, could be entirely different.

Do you think life exists elsewhere in the universe