It took less than two billion years for our Milky Way Galaxy to emerge from the chaos of the Hot Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago. Another 7 billion years would elapse before our Sun and Solar System took form. During this time, the thermonuclear processing of matter in the cores of stars and during the violent deaths of massive stars collectively forged the heavy elements that characterize our rocky home planet.
On Earth’s moist surface, microbial life took hold less than a billion years after the Sun turned on. Yet another three billion years would have to pass, before multi-cellular life forms began to leave fossil records in the accumulating sediments of sand, mud, and limestone. The remaining 500 million years up to the present day have witnessed the successive flourishing of primitive sea animals, land animals, flowering plants, dinosaurs, mammals, and – in the last two million years – humans.
Timeline of Earth’s history, including the origin of microbial life 3.8 billion years ago and the evolution of multi-cellular life forms to the present day. Courtesy of Andree Valley (see http://www.geology.wisc.edu/zircon/Earliest%20Piece/Earliest.html ).
Homo sapiens began creating their distinctive and enduring stone tools, middens, and burials about 100,000 years ago. Only in the last century (1/1000 the history of modern humans and 1/ 50-million the history of Earth) have we begun to telecommunicate beyond Earth. Using radio and television transmitters, we have become inadvertent players on the galactic stage. Already, our broadcasts have faintly traveled past thousands of stars and their associated planetary systems.
We have also begun the search for distinctive electromagnetic signals from technologically communicative life forms beyond Earth. What those species may be and what sort of signals that they may be sending out remain highly challenging questions. Once the exclusive province of science fiction authors, the topic of Interstellar Communications has come into its own as a scientific and technological field worthy of deliberate investigation.
The following journals currently host peer-reviewed technical articles on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and the even more provocative topic of Communications with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI).
Acta Astronautica (Amsterdam: Elsevier Publications)
… See http://www.journals.elsevier.com/acta-astronautica/
Astrobiology (New Rochelle, NY: Mary Ann Liebert Inc., Publications)
… See http://www.liebertpub.com/overview/astrobiology/99/
International Journal of Astrobiology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press)
… See http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=IJA
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As one who has accumulated in excess of some 25,000 hours of SETI participating GPU processing power on a series of Linux based home machines for the last ten years, this topic has fascinated me ever since I was presented with the Drake Equation by the world renowned and now deceased Astrophysicist and Educator , Dr. Carl Sagan. Probability Mathematics assures us that the likelihood of other sentient life prevailing in the universe is reasonably great and with a modicum of extrapolation, no doubt to an advanced state.
The question now arises . If that is the case, then given our current state of affairs with all the criterion of what constitutes an advanced state of civilization, how would we as terra based earth beings measure up? The answers to that question encompass an entire panacea of disciplines which if honestly evaluated from a cultural, scientific, philosophic and ultimately an existential perspective , then perhaps our current state of consciousness would be looked upon by other galactic civilizations with a measure of curiosity but coupled with a tempered and worrisome, if not pitied trepidation.
For starters, our unleashing the power of scientific technologies for industrial mass consumption and fluid and interactive communication constructs has indeed provided us with what we term a convenient life style. It has concomitantly also induced the possibility of genocidal annihilation either by waging thermonuclear war and or defaulting to entire systemic and sustainability breakdown encompassing the very biological , financial and life sustaining systems of the planet.
Homo Sapiens of today cannot rest upon their laurels characterized by a shallow and narcissistic belief that they represent the crowning and pinnacle epoch of human achievement when we gaze upon the state of humanity, both from a posterity driven and resource depleting schema. Technology has proven to be a double – edged sword and when in the hands of those who are intent on unrestrained growth , hubristic avarice and the concentration of power for less than humanistic concerns for the species as a whole, THEN , we might ask, “ If THEY are out there, they perhaps are just watching and hoping.”
I am reminded often by this quote, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” Martin Luther King , Jr.
In conclusion , it is not beyond the realm of possibility that perhaps other civilizations are waiting for us to mature to a more enlightened and humanistic condition where greed, corruption and a lemming like propensity to fuel the fires of our own extinction are overcome. If they are betting on the issue, then what are the odds ? It is for each of us to answer that ultimate question.