What are the odds that Science Fiction enthusiasts everywhere will finally see their dreams realized when man makes first contact with intelligent extra-terrestrials? According to Professor Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia, 0.01%. Or in layman’s terms, not bloody likely.
The Professor, who published his findings today in the academic journal Astrobiology, claims that we may have to discover tens of thousands of Earth-like planets before we find any sophisticated organisms, the reason being that the habitable lifespan of a planet is only 5 billion years — rarely long enough for such evolution to occur. Earth itself is already 4 billion years into its cycle, he says, making it extremely unlikely we’ll get the job of finding E.T. done in the last 20% of our Universal existence.
Is this study a critical blow to the believers? Scifi devotees have rarely needed the scientific medicine to help wash down their spoonful of sugar. I might contend that mankind’s progress over the 15,000 years of its existence has been so exponential, it is only very recently that we’ve even bothered to back our fiction with applicable science. Astronomers like Carl Sagan helped to usher in an era of plausibility with works like Contact, which bothered to ask science fiction’s most dreaded question — how — as if our future was an inevitability. Shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation followed suit. No longer was the Starship Enterprise a plot device, it had to be deconstructed from the mechanics of intertial dampeners to the physics of a warp field. For someone who has taken a leap of faith based on the past hundred years of our technological development, the argument that we won’t be able to do enough in a billion years to meet our dreams for the future is, perhaps, the greatest fiction of all.Read More