Extraterrestrial Civilizations Author:Isaac Asimov Isaac Asimov poses a number of questions: — The question is: Are we alone? — Are human beings the only possessors of eyes that probe the depths of the Universe? The only builders of devices to extend the natural senses? The only owners of minds that strive to understand and interpret what is seen and sensed? — And the answer is, just possibly: We a... more »re not alone! There are other kinds that seek and wonder, and do so perhaps even more effectively than we.
Many astronomers believe this is so, and I believe this is so.
We don't know where those other minds are, but they are somewhere. We don't know what they do, but they do much. We don't know what they're like, but they are intelligent.
Will they find us if they are somewhere out there? Or have they found us already?
Mr. Asimov proceeds to analyze the Universe, life, and intelligence, basing his conclusions on the most recent scientific findings. The size of the Universe, the number of galaxies, the number of stars in a galaxy (300 billion in our own), and the number of planets(280 billion planetary systems in our Galaxy) provide the setting for determining whether other civilizations do exist.
We learn why life can form only on a planet. And we learn the requisites for life: proximity to a star (not too close or too far), water, atmosphere, organic compounds, energy, and, in order to develop a civilization similar to ours, dry land as well as oceans.
Despite the huge numbers of planets, the combination of conditions needed for an advanced technological civiliation eliminates so many the the incidence of possible civilizations is relatively slight. Then there is the problem of communication. Distances are so vast and the time for messages traveling even at the speed of light is so immense that messages sent by a civilized community might not reach us for centuries. And then there is the problem of interpreting the messages. Just as man so far has been unable to translate the language of the dolphins into human terms, so the language of distant civilizations may pose problems.
There is so much to be learned before we will be able to communicate with, and perhaps learn from, the nearest civilizations that undoubtedly exists.« less