Thursday, October 30, 2008

32 Nearby Stars

Check out this interactive star map of the 32 nearest stars [32 Nearby Stars].

Imagine that humans could establish colonies on several of these stars in the next 10,000 years. This means that we would have reached out 10 light years in that time. Continuing at that pace, in one million years we would have colonies that are 1000 light years away. In one hundred million years we will have covered more than half the galaxy.

If there are other civilizations like ours, they would have to be less than one hundred million years older than us or they would likely be here by now. Maybe we are alone in the galaxy/universe?

UPDATE: I've been reminded that this argument against the high probability of life is known as the Fermi Paradox.

[Hat Tip: Bad Astronomy]


  1. If older civilizations exist, I guess it could be that they faded. Human civilizations have a life cycle, perhaps the aliens would have similar problems?

  2. Fascinating map.

    What will humans be like in 10,000 years? What will they be like in a hundred million years? Will they be recognizably human at all?

    Supposing another humanoid civilization decides that their biological bodies are to frail and vulnerable for space travel, that the cost of constructing protected habitats in space would be prohibitively expensive, that a more sensible course, if possible, would be to download consciousness into machines that are far better suited to surviving in the hostile environment of outer space.

    Maybe such beings would no longer depend on the resources of a planet's crust and surface and would not have to hop from one planet to the next.

    How do we know there aren't space tourists already here rubbernecking around the planet indistinguishable from the natives or observing us with highly-advanced remote-sensing technology? Maybe their mother-ship is parked in the asteroid belt looking like just another big rock.

    The simple answer is that we don't know. We have no way of knowing what an older, highly-advanced civilization would look like, let alone what they might be capable of and how far they might have spread.

  3. Fermi's paradox. Well obviously, they've been here already ;) Either that or we're utterly alone. Which one is more probable?

  4. Or maybe space travel is just too damn expensive.

    Perhaps Eistein has the final word, and there really are no loopholes in the laws of physics that allow aliens to send one ship to another star without consuming all the resources in their planet.

    I hope not, but it is certainly a possibility. Beware the false dichotomy!