Have you ever noticed how rain sounds like a load of dogs running by? You have to imagine thousands of them, mind you. And they’re running through a giant crop field. And it happens to be raining.
There’s a definite similarity.
Anyway, Another thought on a Neil DeGrasse Tyson quote, which I will paraphrase: If you think about humans, and you think about chimps, there is a chasm of difference between us, in particular in terms of intelligence. We have a sophisticated language, we can learn throughout our lives, we can build, innovate, invent, improvise to an extent that puts chimps to shame. We look at them doing ‘clever’ things like poking a stick into a tree in order to catch ants. Brilliant! It only took the chimp several years to learn. If he started learning it after about the age of 4, however, it would have been futile.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, they say, and this is literally the case for chimps and most other creatures except the human, who is capable of learning new skills until death, albeit with a declining rate of progress. So we look at them, and we see little children. ‘Aw, that’s adorable, the chimp actually used sign language to say I love you, after years of intense enclosed training! It’s just like my 2 year old daughter =)’ Well, how patronising, right? Where does the difference between us lie?
Well, it entirely lies in a 2% difference in our DNA. That 2% is entirely responsible for chimps being chimps and humans being humans. Space stations, submarines, GPS, Quantum Mechanics, Lasers; all created out of 2% DNA. Seriously, that’s it. Remove it and we’ll be chimp-like creatures again.
What Neil concludes is that, assuming there is other intelligent life in the Universe, who is to say they would have equal DNA to us? What if they are superior. Moreover, what if they are a further 2% superior? They would look at us in the same way we look at chimps: Aww look at these humans, they’re creating mathematical equations! This smart one in a wheelchair even has a rough understanding of black holes, just like my 2 year old daughter =)’ ‘They made a space station that looks almost exactly like my son’s school project!’ That’s the kind of alien we could be dealing with.
Just like the first 2% difference, we will not be able to understand them, in any shape or form. Their way of communication is likely to be so vastly bizarre and advanced that we as comparative chimps would have absolutely no concept of what they are doing, just like the real chimps walk around staring blankly at us, unable to grasp the sounds coming from our mouths. What if, for example, these aliens simply use combinations of light emitted from their foreheads (located on their chest)? If we assume they don’t have any radical tools such as bio-luminescence, how about communicating via a complex process of breath sounds? Each wave of breath is so intricately indented with patterns shaped by their trachea, vocal cords, tongue and mouth that the position of every molecule in the air is equivalent to a word in their vocabulary. A single breath could summarise our own entire understanding of the Universe so far. They could conclude the human race’s level of intelligence with a mere snort from a blocked nose.
Then again, so could I.
Of course, the drawback here would be wind, but in their galaxy I would imagine they would have a symbiotic agreement with nature, in that, providing nature keeps wind consistent and controllable, or permits them to control it, they won’t destroy it. This only makes sense if they implanted sentience into the wind, which again, given the 2% difference, is entirely likely. To communicate on earth they would have to use different methods, at which point they would collectively agree on an entirely new language within a few seconds. Perhaps they will adopt our languages, by listening to a few sentences, getting the general idea and figuring out the rest via common sense and probability in which sounds and words are likely to mean which gesture and object, with a 97% accuracy rate.
People often ask ‘why would aliens so capable of travelling such distances even be remotely interested in a planet such as ours?’ Well, why are we interested in a species such as chimps? They are out and about in space because they are either innately curious like us, or very lost, and I can’t imagine an alien so capable to be so useless at navigation at the same time.
Actually I can imagine that.
It would be some kind of supremely curious subterranean creature who never, or could never push through the surface. Perhaps in one huge leap, such as our industrial revolution, they designed a sort of space ship powerful enough to protrude the crust of their planet. Given that they had never been in the open atmosphere, they just considered outer space and the surface of the earth to be one of the same, so their ship was capable of whatever the Universe could possibly throw at them.
Upon piercing the crust, they continued onward into space, assuming it was just more of their own planet, continuing for a few weeks before realizing that, whatever they used to live in wasn’t there anymore when they looked back from whence they came.
They attempted to back up and return but navigation wasn’t as simple as following a tunnel you just made. There was no tunnel. The invisible track they formed was affected by the gravitational pull of other planets they passed closely by, but not close enough to see them, until they became utterly lost and ended up on Earth.
Perhaps other launches moments after the initial one succeeded ended up in various other places of the cosmos. This would mean there is a high possibility that they inadvertently colonized much of the galaxy, and so when it comes to a time when we can explore such locations, we will be amazed and blown away by our first intelligent life discovery, confused at the second, then expectant, then hopeful and finally bored.
The entire galaxy has been taken over by utterly lost and probably blind aliens who have no idea what to do without a tunnel system at hand and a sentient wind to manipulate.
Hmm, I’ve kind of lost interest in the idea of exploring the Universe now.