Life elsewhere ?

Discussion: Do you believe that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?  If yes, what kind of mathematics are they studying over there 🙂

 The following is one opinion on the first question by

Douglas Keyworth

As we all know, the Earth has everything that is needed for life to develop, which is why we are here.

But four billion years ago, when the Earth was formed, what were the chances that life would emerge? Pretty small, according to biologists – about the same chance that you would have of winning the national lottery five weeks in a row. So we’re quite lucky to be here at all.

Elsewhere in the universe

What about the chances of life forming elsewhere – in our own galaxy, for instance? The Milky Way contains around 400 billion stars. Some (maybe most) of these have planets orbiting around them, and the chances are that many millions – or even billions – of these planets could support life. So it does seem possible that there are some other lottery winners living in the same neighbourhood.

And if you think that there are countless other galaxies out there – many of them far bigger than the Milky Way – then it seems obvious that there must be other forms of life somewhere in the Universe.

Intelligent Life

But is it intelligent life, the kind of life that could build space ships and pay us a visit?

Here on Earth there have been billions of species, but only one of them has turned out to be intelligent enough to develop technology and fly into space. And even we’re not particularly intelligent: the human race will probably blow itself up long before it learns how to visit other part of the galaxy.

Alien visits

But let’s suppose that there are advanced civilisations, here in our own galaxy, who have developed fast-moving flying saucers. Would they visit the Earth?

First we need to ask: why should they want to? The most likely answer is that their own sun is at then end of its life, and they need to find somewhere else to live.

And the next question is: why here? The diagram shows the part of the Milky Way which probably has the largest number of habitable planets. The oldest ones (and therefore the ones which are most likely to have advanced forms of life) are in the area shaded red. We’re towards the edge (marked X).

If I were an alien looking for a new home, I think I would try a few million of my neighbouring planets before bothering to travel a hundred thousand trillion miles to visit Earth, on a journey that would take at least 200 000 years.


But what about all those UFO sightings that are reported every year? Well, most of them are planes. And whatever the others are, they’re not flying saucers. If you were a visiting alien with incredibly powerful technology, what would you do: hide yourself away and keep quiet, or land and take over the Earth? I know what my answer would be.

If there are other forms of life elsewhere in the Universe (and I’m sure there are), that’s exactly where they are – elsewhere. 

(Extract from Doff and Jones, Language in Use, Cambridge)


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