Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Alien Armada on the way? Don't think so!

According to the latest issue (Summer, 2011) of The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report ('Black Extremists Blast U.S. Libya Campaign, Predict Spaceships', p. 3) we are not long until seeing a vast armada of space ships from another planet which will waylay "the White Man" and his militaristic ambitions, as well as rescue still downtrodden blacks from a racist America.

So declares Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, in prophesying the arrival of giant spaceships that will "avenge black suffering by whisking away the true believers and destroying the rest of humanity". But wait, haven't we beheld this same fairy story before? With the fundies and all their "rapture" bunkum? I mean, cutting into the portrayal, it is merely a variation on the same basic theme: some righteous subset of humans needs to be whisked away and "saved" - and either God or aliens will accomplish it! Then retribution will rain down on those left behind.

According to the SPLC Intelligence Report (ibid.):

Nation of Islam theology, a heterodox and racist version of Islam, describes white people as intrinsically evil, and has it that just before the end times ("apocalypse") believers will be transported in small space ships called Baby Wheels' to a giant 'Mother Wheel' where they will all live. Other ships will bomb those left behind on Earth- principally white people - to smithereens.

How does Farrakhan know these alien ships are en route? According to the IR article, it's because "governments around the world are releasing their UFO files, but not the Unitied States". Those other governments are being proper in "informing their people of the reality of what is above their heads."

According to Farrakhan (ibid.):

"Who do you think you're dealing with? You may think you're the best in the world but you're thousands of years behind the technology on those wheels! I'm here to tell you that you are dealing with God! You have no weapon that can handle what is already prepared to take you out!"

So wait, the aliens coming ARE God? Or are they emissaries or storm troops, doing HIS or Her bidding? In any case, if GOD is behind it, why the need for spaceships at all? Certainly a putatively infinite Being can strike anywhere desired, or at whom, without the need for space machines, space ships, "wheels" or whatever!

But let's assume these things represent actual space craft according to his forecasts how likely really is this visitation, and in how many years?

In an earlier blog (last year, 'Hawking’s Alien Speculations: Don’t Take Them Lightly!') I noted the research paper of William Newman and Carl Sagan, in Icarus, Vol. 46, June 1981, page 293 ('Galactic Civilizations: Population Dynamics and Interstellar Diffusion').

The authors began with a standard diffusion equation, treating the dispersion of any advancing techno-civilization similarly to any medium that diffuses, for example: viruses, general bacterial infections, or even human populations (say in the early colonizations of the New World). Their basic diffusion equation use was (p. 301, eqn.12):

@(rho)/@t = DIV • D(x,t,rho) • DIV rho(x,t)

where, rho(x,t) describes the population density at time t, and position x, and D is the diffusion coefficient in terms of x, t and rho. The preceding equation is then tweaked and used as the basis for future refinements.

The authors' first major derivative (from the diffusion eqn.) computation is of ‘N’: the steady state number of extant advanced civilizations in the Milky Way. This is essential to obtain because it is one of the key variables used to compute the mean distance between advanced civilizations in the Milky Way:

= (2.5 x 10^11/N’)^1/3

Where the numerator refers to the number of stars estimated in the galaxy. The result is in parsecs, assuming the mean separation between stars in the galaxy is 1pc = 3.26 light years. (Bear in mind while our region near the outer rim is sparse with stars, the interior third of the Milky Way is teeming with them, very densely packed)

Based on a star –planet formation factor, f * ~ 1, and a mean lifetime for an advanced civilization of 10^6 years, the authors obtain: N’ = f(10^6) = 10^6, or one million advanced civilizations in the Milky Way alone.

Then, the mean distance between advanced civilizations in the Galaxy is:

= {(2.5 x 10^11/ (10^6)} ^1/3 = [2.5 x 10^5]^1/3 = 63 pc = 205 Light years

Readers may not appreciate this, but this is literally “a next door neighbor”!

The authors’ next task is to obtain the velocity of the colonization wave front which they give as (Eqn. (79), page 316):

V = (v)(D g)^1/2

Here, (v) is a dimensionless constant of order unity(1), and g ~ 0.1 (based on the rate of migration of human populations today (Newman and Sagan estimated 0.01 /yr, but that was nearly 30 years ago before the age of globalization). They conservatively estimate the diffusion coefficient, D, at: D ~ (2 x 10^-8 pc^2/yr).

Thus, the colonization wave velocity would be:

V = (1)[ (2 x 10^-8 pc^2/yr)(0.1 /yr)]^1/2 = 4.4 x 10^-5 pc/ yr

Which would imply 1.4 x 10^6 or 1.4 million years before the advancing alien wavefront reached Earth, assuming a 63 pc distance to the nearest advanced colonizers.

Now some readers may recall (and I justified it in the blog) that this may well be too conservative, and by correcting for human bias and assumptions (i.e. that any aliens can't use technology much better than we have now) one arrives at a more realistic value that sees a reduction of the base travel time to about one ten thousandth of what the authors obtained.

This enhances the diffusion wave speed, V to 0.004 pc/yr.

The reasons for this are multifold and also incorporate Freeman Dyson's conjecture (from a 1972 coniference) that any first alien civilization we encounter will be a "technological cancer in the galaxy" - they will, in other words, be rather similar to our early explorers when they first came upon the primitive Amerindian peoples in the West Indies! Their technology, including for space flight, would be that much beyond ours!

This reduces the time to alien encounter to 1.57 x 10^4 yrs. or just over 15,700 years, a mere blink of an eye in cosmic time.

In other words, I don't believe we have anything to fear from this "galactic cancer" now and for a long time!

One more thing, given what these things are likely to be, their very nature, I don't think Farrakhan can take comfort in their being any more specially disposed to taking care of black people than white. As Dyson saw it, they will likely take all of us out, most likely using a genetically-engineered micro-organism (perhaps a cross between Ebola and the 1918 Spanish Flu) which will remove most of humanity in about 3 months or less.

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