WHERE ARE THE ALIENS?
A PHASE CHANGE OF THE UNIVERSE
A third of our economy is based on quantum physics, which is not taught in schools. Yet quantum physics has been around for a century. Think of all the other areas of scientific development of the last thirty years that ‘we’ do not know about. So where are the alien life forms that swarm through the universe, having developed like us and faster in the 13.7 billion years of the Universe?
If you put reactive chemicals together they begin to form systems spontaneously, according to their chemistry and environment, which processes can be modelled with maths. Their molecules form chains and networks that give rise to self-adjusting, self-regulating systems. This is not random, but inevitable, following patterns of increasing complexity. What we call organic molecules form in outer space: we can see them floating there in gas clouds. These are the building blocks of the proteins that come together in what we call ‘life’.
It is no surprise that the most reactive chemicals, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen (together with phosphorus and sulphur), should be the ones that combined to form ‘life’. Because they are reactive, they bond easily, especially when gravity helps to pull them together. They interact to form self-adjusting systems, and have been doing this for the last four billion years on Earth, with evolving complexity.
To the outside observer, Earth is itself a self-adjusting system. Consider one characteristic alone: over the last four billion years, the Sun has heated up 30%, but Earth has controlled its temperature within a narrow range. It is ‘life’ that achieves this through its effect on the atmosphere. In this Earth bubble, all the systems and networks it contains have followed a path of ever increasing interdependence and complexity in the stable environment they have maintained.
So if we have had four billion years to get where we are on Earth, what about the aliens? Have they not had longer? Well, maybe not, or not much longer. All the chemicals we are made of were created in stars that often predate the Sun, stars that exploded and scattered their chemical dust, in turn coalescing to form the Sun. The Sun is ten billion years old, so these earlier stars survived for less than the four billion years that life has had to develop on Earth. From the debris these stars scattered, it took the Sun a little over half its ten billion year life to pull together our solar system to the point where it created the stability of Earth (protected from space debris by the outer planets) where our systems could grow in complexity without total destruction by outside intervention.
The ‘extra’ time any aliens may have had to evolve, compared to us, is limited to the pre-Sun period and the time it took for the Sun to create the stable Earth environment. Maybe they could gain 25% over us?
But then where are we? We are not colonising the universe, have not even touched intergalactic space. History suggests we will be wiped out before we do this, and the next ‘intelligence’ on Earth may need another couple of billion years to develop beyond us. The progress of the only ‘life’ form we know, us, suggests even with more evolutionary time the likelihood that other life forms live in bubbles like us, separated by intergalactic space, yet to be crossed in our young universe. This would explain why we do not see aliens.
What about time travel? Can aliens not benefit from many billions of years of evolution and then come back to visit us from the future? The dispersal of ink from a bottle into water is taken as an example of ‘the arrow of time’: we do not expect the ink to return to the bottle once it is dissolved in water. Perhaps at the particle level, time can go either way. However, if a system incorporates dimensions into itself, the system might unravel when the dimensions are removed. Consider a cube as a representation of a system in three dimensions: take away one dimension, and you have a square; take away a second dimension, and you have a line; take away a third dimension, and you have a point (or nothing). A system such as life that has incorporated dimensions into its structure may in that case not survive the cross-over from future to past, as part of its structure would be missing. It may reduce to the point in the cube analogy and disappear as a system, even if the particles that make it have moved back in time individually.
Assuming no backward time travel of self-regulating systems like ‘life’, what happens as our young universe ages? Self-regulating systems seem to have the ability to evolve to manipulate their environment locally. This is a facet of what we term ‘consciousness’. If this ‘goes global’, does this represent a phase change of the Universe, like ice changing to water and water becoming gas? Does the Universe begin to control its own evolution?
© Fred Piechoczek 2015