Extra Sensorial and
The possibility of communication with unknown
entities, whether they are incarnations from our previous lives, imaginary
beings from beyond the material world, or actual yet unidentified creatures
beyond the stratosphere, has always fascinated us. To talk with ghosts and spirits,
naive people resort on mediums or psychics who use gadgets such as Ouija
boards, aromatic incense or glasses of water. To connect with aliens, seekers
make use of sophisticated technologies such as electronic ‘boards’, huge radio
antennas or electromagnetic radiation monitors.
While some ghosts supposedly utter incomprehensible
gibberish, most spirits are multilingual or speak the language of the medium.
About the galactic people that interest us we do not even know whether they
speak, like us, through the generation of sound waves. Do intelligent aliens
exist? I do think so. Will we communicate with them someday? A two-way
exchange, my guess, will never take place.
The Milky Way, our Galaxy (one among billions), has
about one hundred billion stars, and most likely a similar number of planets.
If one tenth of these is habitable, there should be some ten billion planets in the
Galaxy that might harbor life. If chemistry and biology evolved, as they did
here on Earth, in one out of every million planets, there should be intelligent
life in some ten thousand worlds.
Conjectures similar to these led to two interesting
projects. The first is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI); the
second is the Kepler Space Observatory, launched by NASA in 2009, in order to
search for habitable planets.
SETI, more than a single project, is a wide range of
activities to find intelligent life beyond Earth, following strict scientific
methods. There are hundreds of SETI organizations and projects (Harvard and
Berkeley, for example, are two of the prestigious universities that have been
involved), and thousands of volunteers participate in a diversity of tasks
associated with the core objective. There are active and passive SETI tasks.
Active SETIers send signals into space hoping that some alien civilization will
recognize them, and respond. Passive SETIers monitor electromagnetic radiation
for clues of some intelligent transmission from somewhere in the universe.
So far the Kepler Observatory has located more than
one thousand planets in the Milky Way. While there is the possibility of forms
of life different to those on Earth, current efforts have focused on Earth-like
planets (size, temperature, water availability...). We already know that there
exists some kind of life on Earth and the lengthy development process might have
repeated somewhere else if the conditions are similar. Dr. Andrew Knoll,
Professor of Planetary Sciences at Harvard, says that "any life we can
contemplate will follow the laws of physics and chemistry." As a scale of
the similitude of any space object to our planet, researchers use the Earth
Similarity Index (ESI), which is calculated from the differences between the
properties of the object and those of our Earth. ESI is 1.0 for our planet. Six
planets of those identified up to September 2014, had an ESI greater than 0.8.
By comparison, Mars’s ESI is 0.64 and Venus’s is 0.444.
Despite the extraordinary effort involved in SETI, I
think that we will never succeed in exchanging messages with aliens. The odds
that they exist in many places are essentially one hundred percent but,
unfortunately, they are too far away. The civilization transmitting a signal
that we detect might have disappeared by the time we discern what is about.
“More than searching for extraterrestrial intelligence”, physicist Freeman
Dyson wrote half a century ago, "we are looking for evidence of
Planet Kepler 62-e (its ESI is 0.83), that orbits a
star called Kepler 62 in the constellation of Lyra, is one of the best
candidates identified so far for hosting life. Kepler 62-e is 1200 light-years
away from us. Such length of time (1200 years) will take the electromagnetic
signals cast from Earth to reach that land (and vice versa).
The aliens over there, will they have a level of
technology similar to ours? Will they receive our signals? Will they understand
our message? Will they answer? Will there be ‘Earth’ when the answer returns?
Will our grand-grand-grand…grand-children understand what the received packet
is about? Answers are either strong negatives or raise big question marks, which
together are sufficient to conclude that we will never be able to communicate
with the residents of Kepler 62e or with anyone out there. (Unless someone in
SETI decides to hire mediums or psychics to replace technology. As SETIers are
science oriented people, I am sure no one would try such nonsense.)
Author of 'Inner Harmony through Mindfulness Meditation'
Atlanta, June 14, 2015
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