Are We Alone In The Universe? (#252) | Neil deGrasse Tyson on Making Sense with Sam Harris

Check out Making Sense with Sam Harris Episode page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Ideas matter in Astrology & Astrophysics, but typically, it’s simply just weird and unknown stuff being discovered for the first time
    • Information in the field has been exponential, and the possibilities are endless
  • The most simple and abundant building blocks (hydrogen, carbon, etc.) on earth imply we are not special
    • This implies that our system isn’t as complex as we give it credit for. Overall, it is simple and certainly credits the potential of it occurring elsewhere in the universe.
  • The Fermi Paradox: life tends to team up with life and would have visited us by now
    • In this theory, not being surrounded by alien technology creates the doubt around their existence
  • “Intelligence is not important for survival; otherwise, roaches would have big brains. The mistake is thinking intelligence is an inevitable consequence of evolution” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • As a field of study, Astrophysicists are looking for signs of life rather than life itself

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) is an American astrophysicist, author, overall ambassador for science, and host of the StarTalk Radio Show
  • Sam Harris speaks to Neil deGrasse Tyson about our place in the universe, the complexity of life, and whether or not we are alone.
  • Host: Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg)

Discussing Tyson’s New Book

Today in Astrology & Astrophysics

  • Ideas matter in Astrology & Astrophysics, but typically, it’s simply just weird and unknown stuff being discovered for the first time
  • Tyson ran an experiment at Princeton using issues from the Astrophysical Journal dating 1895 – present
    • The half-way interval was between 15-18 years, the total amount of information doubles each interval
    • Information is on an exponential growth curve in Astrology & Astrophysics

The Potential of the Universe

  • What’s the safe assumption of our galaxy’s size?
    • Hard to gauge based on our own informational bias, our knowledge can only understand life on carbon-based and planetary conditions
  • Due to the size, diversity of objects, and age of the universe: “practically anything you can imagine being possible, we think is going to be possible” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • The Fermi Paradox: life tends to team up with life and would have visited us by now
    • Nearly impossible for all complex life in the universe to be at the same stage of technological progress
    • In this theory, not being surrounded by alien technology creates doubt around their existence

Complexity of Life

  • Imagine a complex system that got a 1 billion year head start on Earth
    • When questioning intelligence, how would our standard deviation look from human to alien compared against human to monkey
    • The human makeup has only been 0.5% deviated from the monkey
    • How interested would aliens be in us? Would we be viewed as a worm or a monkey?
  • Not a stretch to believe that interstellar encounters would be too far off from our worldly encounters, referencing the implosion of the colonial empires
    • Can most likely be assumed as fundamental truth without understanding the psychological profile of the alien
  • The most simple and abundant building blocks (hydrogen, carbon, etc.) on Earth imply we are not special
    • “Life is opportunistic” Neil deGrasse Tyson, we typically take the path of least resistance
  • When asked which is more astonishing: is there complex life or no other complex life?
    • We are not that different from a beaver, they exploit their resources for their advantage
      • Are we really that complex, comparatively speaking?
    • 1 in a million isn’t bad odds for others when comparing to the billions of star systems out there

Expectations of Alternate Life

  • If the asteroids didn’t come, dinosaurs would most likely still be alive
    • They had existed 300 million years prior to the asteroids, no reason not to think they could have lasted another 65 million years to the present day
    • “Intelligence is not important for survival; otherwise, roaches would have big brains. The mistake is thinking intelligence is an inevitable consequence of evolution” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • How close are we to seeing anything substantial on an exoplanet?
    • Directly imaging a life on another planet the way we see things on Earth is unrealistic
    • The universe is vast and hard to visualize, the skin of an apple is comparable to the atmosphere on Earth
    • Astrophysicists want to see any evidence of life, not necessarily life itself

Waking Up with Sam Harris : , , , ,
Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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