Oneof the great perks of my job as a publisher is that I get to read manuscriptsfrom some pretty smart people in the space business. I've recently read greatstories by Alan Binder, Bob Zubrin, Paul Spudis, Steve Howe and other very smart people. It is notuncommon for some publishers to swap products so that we can see what theothers are doing.
RecentlyI was given a book from the Springer Company that absolutely blew me away, "Ifthe Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions toFermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life", written by StephenWebb.
Enrico Fermi was oneof mankind's greatest scientists and thinkers; as such his thought process wasway out in left field. One day whilst having lunch with his colleagues heexclaimed, "Where is everybody?" Now his colleagues knowing him as well asanybody could, realized that this was not a question about missing diners. No,what Fermi was asking was, if there are so many intelligent civilizations outthere in the galaxy, how is it we aren't hearing from them either by radio orin the flesh? The book offers 50 well thought out reasons for the lack of noisefrom aliens. (That is apart from the poor souls who are constantly bothered bythem and have needles stuck into every orifice on their persons by all sorts ofstrange creatures in space ships.)
Thearguments are as varied as the fact that they (the aliens) might not use radio,perhaps they use optical or some other form of communication devices, orperhaps we (Earth) are in quarantine and should only be observed from adistance until we as a race mature. All of the reasonsare well argued but they leave much to be desired in many cases.
It'smostly a numbers game: if there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, thenthere are probably twice or three times as many planets. That is a staggeringnumber and it makes you think, with that many planets possibly out there, itmakes sense that there must be other civilizations,the numbers are just too great. If you look at the discoveries we have made injust the past ten years, this makes sense. We now know that Mars was once verywet, just like Earth. We have found more planets outside of our solar systemthan inside it, it seems that planets are commonplacethroughout the universe. The fact is that we will in all probability discoverlife on some other world fairly soon, maybe even in our own solar system. Butthere's a big difference between finding single celled organisms (even thoughthat would be the greatest discovery in history) and complex multi cellularorganisms like you and me. It is likely that there are many planets with multicellular organisms out there. Look at the huge diversity on our own planet.It's not that much greater a leap from single cells to multi celled creatures.(It's actually a bigger step from no life to a single celled organism than fromthat same "bug" to us.)
Soyou think, with all those "Billions and Billions" of planets, there has to belife right? More than likely is my answer. But here's the rub!
Onour one little planet, which has created in excess of probably 50 billiondifferent species of life, only one of those 50 billion has developed a complexlanguage. In fact we're using it right now. A complex language is more likelythan not an imperative to creating a space faring civilization or at least atechnological society and as far as we know, we're it.
Sowhere am I going with this?
WhereI'm going is this: it's just possible that we could be the most advanced racein our galaxy! Now there's a scary thought right? But what if it's true? Wheredoes that leave us? Could we be the "Elders" that are mentioned in so manyScience Fiction stories. Is the job of bringing intelligent life to the rest ofthe galaxy ours? Think about that for a moment. What a responsibility!
It'squite possible that there's a galaxy out there (ours) just waiting to be filledwith life. Why not? Whether you're religious or not it's a daunting question toanswer. The religious among us could say that God put the whole universe therefor us to utilize and the abilities within ourselves to actually achieve thatgoal. The non-religious could say that there is a whole galaxy out there justwaiting for us to understand. If we can do it, why shouldn't we? Isn't it importantto take life out there? Isn't life the way that the universe knows itself?
Whateverway you think, the whole universe is there just waiting. If we do nothing aboutit then it will probably be a lesser place than it could be.
Richard Godwinis president of Apogee Space Books as well as a Board member of the NationalSpace Society.