Published on January 28, 2008
Cosmos & Contact: Cosmos & Contact Discerning Signs of Intelligence in the Universe Robert C. Newman Sagan’s Opening Statement: Sagan’s Opening Statement The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. Extra-Terrestrial Life: Extra-Terrestrial Life Sagan doubts that God exists. Yet he believes life exists elsewhere in the universe, in spite of life’s enormous complexity. He believes that (in some places) this life must include very advanced life forms. He believes such advanced life is common enough to be worth searching for. The Search for ET Intelligence: The Search for ET Intelligence Many besides Sagan have such dreams. Perhaps (they think) we can contact such life. Perhaps these beings have solved the difficult and dangerous problems we face. The most likely way to contact an advanced civilization would be through its radio signals. The Plot of Contact: The Plot of Contact Ellie Arroway, astrophysicist, devotes her professional career to searching for ETI. Despite many setbacks, the long-awaited message finally comes, a strong signal from the star system Vega. The signal is seen to be more than radio noise by the presence of prime numbers, indicating an intelligent source. The Plot of Contact: The Plot of Contact Eventually, a more complex message is found in the signal, instructions to build a device to transport a human to Vega. After several twists in the plot, Ellie winds up going to Vega on the transporter. Our clip picks up as she arrives. Sagan on Recognizing an ET Message: Sagan on Recognizing an ET Message Strong signal. Detectible by multiple radiotelescopes. Decisive against chance origin. A few dozen prime numbers sufficient. The whole message to build the transport machine is about fifty thousand pages. How the Book Ends: How the Book Ends Ellie discovers a message in the digits of pi. Found in base 11 arithmetic A square picture made up of 0s and 1s The picture: a circle of 1s in a field of 0s Simple message, but high statistical significance The universe was made on purpose, the circle said. How the Book Ends: How the Book Ends 359X21086652790X4312567089243 00000000000111111100000000000 00000001100000000000110000000 00000100000000000000000100000 00001000000000000000000010000 00001000000000000000000010000 00000100000000000000000100000 00000001100000000000110000000 00000000000111111100000000000 The Film Doesn’t End This Way: The Film Doesn’t End This Way No message from God in the film! Why not? Did Hollywood veto this ending? Did Sagan back away from “the precipice of theism” in his last years? Don’t know Sagan’s novel Contact is more open to theism than his last book Demon Haunted World is. Could God Do Something Like This?: Could God Do Something Like This? Put a message in the digits of pi? Seems doubtful God could put a message there: Pi is built into the structure of logic and so not variable. God cannot do what is contradictory. Could God send us some other message? Where Might God Put Such a Message?: Where Might God Put Such a Message? He could put it in something He has created. Do we have any candidates for such a medium and such a message? Yes, several! Here we consider three: The universe itself Our place in the universe Living things A Message in the Universe: A Message in the Universe Seen in its “fine-tuning” Some bibliography: L.J. Henderson, The Fitness of the Environment Paul Davies, The Accidental Universe Barrow & Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle Hugh Ross, The Creator & the Cosmos Michael Denton, Nature’s Destiny Fine-Tuning the Basic Forces: Fine-Tuning the Basic Forces Strong Force (short range, strength 1) Electromagnetism (long range, strength 1/100) Weak Force (very short, strength 1/100,000) Gravity (long range, strength 1/1039) As divergent in strength as these forces are, very slight changes in any would be disastrous. The Strong Force: The Strong Force Holds nucleus together. 50% weaker, no stable elements but H 5% weaker, no deuterium, stars won’t burn 5% stronger, diproton stable, stars explode The strong force is tuned to ±5% on the basis of these considerations alone. The Weak Force: The Weak Force Holds neutron together. Few % weaker, few n, little He, few heavy elements; even these stay trapped in stars. Few % stronger, too many n, too much He, too many heavy elements; but these, too, stay trapped in stars. The weak force is tuned to a few percent. Electromagnetism: Electromagnetism Both repulsive & attractive, due to existence of positive & negative charges. + and – charges must be almost exactly equal in number, to better than one part in 1040. Yet protons (+) and electrons (-) drastically different in mass, and froze out at quite different times in the early universe. If not for this equality, e-m would dominate gravity, so no galaxies, no stars, no planets. E-m is tuned to one part in 1040. Gravity: Gravity Dominant force on astronomical size scale. Need very close balance of gravity and cosmic expansion for stable universe. If gravity weaker by 1 in 1060, universe expands too quickly, no galaxies or stars. If gravity stronger by 1 in 1060, universe collapses without forming galaxies or stars. Gravity is fine-tuned to 1 part in 1060. Summary on Fine-Tuning: Summary on Fine-Tuning Combining these cases gives fine-tuning of better than one part in 10100. How big is 10100? There are estimated to be some 1080 elementary particles in our universe. So we need to 1020 universes to get 10100 particles. Imagine the chances of randomly picking one marked particle from all these universes! Summary on Fine-Tuning: Summary on Fine-Tuning Fine-tuning of universe is about 1 part in 10100 for the cases we have examined. Hugh Ross, in The Creator & the Cosmos, lists 22 more items besides these four. Do we really have any evidence for 10100 universes to make this likely merely by chance? The universe looks designed. It seems to be sending us a message. Fred Hoyle on Fine-Tuning: Fred Hoyle on Fine-Tuning “… a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.” Our Place in the Universe: Our Place in the Universe Besides fine-tuning of basic forces, our particular location in the universe is quite special, a matter of many features being just right. In his 1995 edition, Ross lists over 33 of these drawn from the scientific literature. We will look at just a few. The Right Planet: Temperature: The Right Planet: Temperature Varies substantially on Earth, but: Only a few spots above boiling Some below freezing Contrast Venus, about 900 oF (500 oC). Contrast Mars, barely above freezing in midsummer at the equator. Earth is warm enough for water to be liquid, cool enough not to destroy biomolecules. The Right Planet: Water: The Right Planet: Water Much water is needed to support life, though a few organisms have techniques to conserve it and can live in arid regions. Water on Venus and Mars is infinitesimal by comparison. Earth’s water is also concentrated at the surface. The Right Planet: Atmosphere: The Right Planet: Atmosphere Balance of oxygen and “inert” gases: Few % less oxygen and animals can’t breathe Few % more oxygen and plants burn up Mars and Venus have virtually no free oxygen. The Right Planet: Mass: The Right Planet: Mass If Earth were ¼ as massive, atmospheric pressure would be too low for life. If Earth were twice as massive, atmospheric pressure would be too high, producing a greenhouse effect and killing all life. The Right Moon: Size & Distance: The Right Moon: Size & Distance Our Moon is unique in the Solar System, one of the largest, and by far the largest compared with its planet. If it were smaller (or further away), Earth’s climate would be unstable, and tides too small for mixing. If it were larger (or closer), tidal effects on Earth’s rotation, ocean & atmosphere too large. The Right Moon & Earth’s Crust: The Right Moon & Earth’s Crust If Earth’s crust thicker, it would eat up the atmospheric oxygen. If Earth’s crust thinner, too much volcanism and plate movement. The Moon apparently formed from the Earth’s crust, when we were struck by a Mars-sized planet, a very flukey event! The Right Sun: Character: The Right Sun: Character Mass in right range: Heavier – luminosity changes too quickly Lighter – life zone too narrow, tidal forces too large Temperature (color) in right range: Redder – insufficient photosynthesis Bluer – insufficient photosynthesis The Sun’s main radiation is right in the region where our atmosphere is transparent. The Right Sun: Location: The Right Sun: Location Right distance from center of galaxy: Closer – too much radiation, disruptive gravity Further – too few heavy elements Right relation to supernovae: More or closer – exterminate life Less or further – too few heavy elements Right number of stars in system Zero – pretty cold! Two or more – unstable orbits if planets at all. The Right Galaxy: The Right Galaxy Our galaxy is a spiral, which produces stars over much of its history. Not an elliptical, where star formation ends before there are many heavy elements. Not an irregular, where radiation events would have destroyed life. Our Place in the Universe: Our Place in the Universe Ross calculates the probability of accidentally getting his 33 items in the right range as 1 chance in 1053. What does this mean for the chances of finding an earth-like planet? Surely not more than 10 planets per star. If so, only 1024 planets in the Hubble volume. Thus only 1 chance in 1029 of getting even one such planet in our universe! Our place in the universe appears to be telling us something! Living Things: Living Things Living things are by far the most complex objects we have yet found in our universe. Sagan says of the E. coli bacterium: Information content = 1012 bits. Equivalent to 100 million pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Humans have trillions of cells, each more complex than those of E. coli. Fred Hoyle on Living Things: Fred Hoyle on Living Things “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged [by chance] is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein.” Sagan on Recognizing an ET Message: Sagan on Recognizing an ET Message Strong signal. Detected by several radiotelescopes. Decisive against chance. A few dozen prime numbers sufficient. The whole message to build the transport machine is about fifty thousand pages. Recognizing the Life Message: Recognizing the Life Message Strong signal. Seen in all living things. Decisive against chance. The information content is beyond the probabilistic resources of the universe. The whole message to build an E. coli bacterium is about 100 million pages. Adjusting One’s Worldview: Adjusting One’s Worldview If Sagan was really open to the universe; If he was really willing to consider the supernatural; Why didn’t he respond to this sort of evidence? Why did he draw back from “the precipice of theism”? What about you?