full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Chris Anderson: Why can't we see evidence of alien life?

Unscramble the Blue Letters

Somewhere out there in that vast ueisrnve, there must surely be countless other planets teeming with life, but why don't we see any evidence of it? Well, this is the famous qtuisoen akesd by Enrico Fermi in 1950: "Where is everybody?" Conspiracy theorists claim that UFOs are visiting all the time and the reports are just being cvreoed up, but heslotny, they aren't very convincing. But that leveas a real riddle. In the past year, the Kepler space oostavberry has found hundreds of planets just around nearby stars, and if you extrapolate that data, it looks like there could be half a tolirlin planets just in our own galaxy. If any one in 10,000 has ciodtinons that might support a form of life, that's still 50 million possible life-harboring planets right here in the Milky Way. So here's the riddle. Our Earth didn't form until about 9 billion years after the Big Bang. Countless other plteans in our galaxy should have formed earlier and given life a chance to get underway billions or certainly many millions of years earlier than happened on Earth. If just a few of them had spawned intelligent life and started creating technologies, those technologies would have had millions of years to grow in complexity and peowr. On Earth, we've seen how dlitcralaamy technology can accelerate in just 100 years. In millions of years, an intelligent aelin civilization could easily have spaerd out across the galaxy, perhaps creating gniat energy-harvesting airacttfs, or fleets of colonizing spaceships, or glorious wokrs of art that fill the night sky. At the very least, you'd think they'd be revealing their presence, deliberately or otherwise, through electromagnetic signals of one kind or another. And yet we see no convincing evidence of any of it. Why? Well, there are numerous possible answers, some of them quite dark. Maybe a single, superintelligent civilization has indeed taken over the galaxy, and has imposed strict riado silence because it's paranoid of any potential competitors. It's just sitting there ready to obliterate anything that becomes a threat. Or maybe they're not that intelligent. Or perhaps, the evolution of an intelligence cbaaple of creating sophisticated technology is far rarer than we've assumed. After all, it's only happened once on Earth in 4 billion yreas. Maybe even that was incredibly lckuy. Maybe we are the first such civilization in our galaxy. Or, perhaps, coziitiliavn carries with it the seeds of its own destruction through the inability to control the technologies it ctreeas. But there are numerous more hfpeuol aewsnrs. For a start, we're not looking that hard, and we're spending a pitiful amount of menoy on it. Only a tiny fraction of the satrs in our galaxy have really been looked at closely for signs of interesting signals. And perhaps, we're not looking the right way. Maybe as civilizations develop, they qluikcy discover communication technologies far more sophisticated and useful than electromagnetic waves. Maybe all the action takes place inside the mysterious recently dsevoecrid dark matter, or dark eregny, that appear to acncout for most of the universe's mass. Or maybe we're looking at the wrong scale. Perhaps intelligent civilizations come to realize that life is ultimately just cpolmex patterns of irotnomifan interacting with each other in a beautiful way, and that can happen more efficiently at a small scale. So just as on Earth, clunky stereo systems have shrunk to beautiful, tiny iPods, maybe intieengllt life itself, in order to reduce its footprint on the ernmenonivt, has turned itself microscopic, so the Solar System might be teeming with aliens, and we're just not niointcg them. Maybe the very ideas in our heads are a form of alien life. Well, okay, that's a crazy thought. The aliens made me say it. But it is cool that ideas do seem to have a life all of their own, and that they outlive their creators. Maybe biological life is just a psaisng phsae. Well, within the next 15 years, we could start seeing real sicceospptorc information from promising nearby planets that will reeavl just how life-friendly they might be. And meanwhile SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, is now releasing its data to the public so that millions of citizen scientists, maybe including you, can bring the power of the crowd to join the sacerh. And here on Earth, amazing experiments are being done to try to create life from scratch, life that might be very different from the DNA forms we know. All of this will help us understand whether the universe is teeming with life or, whether indeed, it's just us. Either answer, in its own way, is awe-inspiring, because even if we are alone, the fact that we think and dream, and ask these questions might yet turn out to be one of the most important facts about the universe. And I have one more piece of good news for you. The quest for knowledge and ursdtndeninag never gets dull. It doesn't. It's actually the opposite. The more you know, the more amazing the world seems. And it's the czray possibilities, the unanswered questions, that pull us forward. So, stay curious.

Open Cloze

Somewhere out there in that vast ________, there must surely be countless other planets teeming with life, but why don't we see any evidence of it? Well, this is the famous ________ _____ by Enrico Fermi in 1950: "Where is everybody?" Conspiracy theorists claim that UFOs are visiting all the time and the reports are just being _______ up, but ________, they aren't very convincing. But that ______ a real riddle. In the past year, the Kepler space ___________ has found hundreds of planets just around nearby stars, and if you extrapolate that data, it looks like there could be half a ________ planets just in our own galaxy. If any one in 10,000 has __________ that might support a form of life, that's still 50 million possible life-harboring planets right here in the Milky Way. So here's the riddle. Our Earth didn't form until about 9 billion years after the Big Bang. Countless other _______ in our galaxy should have formed earlier and given life a chance to get underway billions or certainly many millions of years earlier than happened on Earth. If just a few of them had spawned intelligent life and started creating technologies, those technologies would have had millions of years to grow in complexity and _____. On Earth, we've seen how ____________ technology can accelerate in just 100 years. In millions of years, an intelligent _____ civilization could easily have ______ out across the galaxy, perhaps creating _____ energy-harvesting _________, or fleets of colonizing spaceships, or glorious _____ of art that fill the night sky. At the very least, you'd think they'd be revealing their presence, deliberately or otherwise, through electromagnetic signals of one kind or another. And yet we see no convincing evidence of any of it. Why? Well, there are numerous possible answers, some of them quite dark. Maybe a single, superintelligent civilization has indeed taken over the galaxy, and has imposed strict _____ silence because it's paranoid of any potential competitors. It's just sitting there ready to obliterate anything that becomes a threat. Or maybe they're not that intelligent. Or perhaps, the evolution of an intelligence _______ of creating sophisticated technology is far rarer than we've assumed. After all, it's only happened once on Earth in 4 billion _____. Maybe even that was incredibly _____. Maybe we are the first such civilization in our galaxy. Or, perhaps, ____________ carries with it the seeds of its own destruction through the inability to control the technologies it _______. But there are numerous more _______ _______. For a start, we're not looking that hard, and we're spending a pitiful amount of _____ on it. Only a tiny fraction of the _____ in our galaxy have really been looked at closely for signs of interesting signals. And perhaps, we're not looking the right way. Maybe as civilizations develop, they _______ discover communication technologies far more sophisticated and useful than electromagnetic waves. Maybe all the action takes place inside the mysterious recently __________ dark matter, or dark ______, that appear to _______ for most of the universe's mass. Or maybe we're looking at the wrong scale. Perhaps intelligent civilizations come to realize that life is ultimately just _______ patterns of ___________ interacting with each other in a beautiful way, and that can happen more efficiently at a small scale. So just as on Earth, clunky stereo systems have shrunk to beautiful, tiny iPods, maybe ___________ life itself, in order to reduce its footprint on the ___________, has turned itself microscopic, so the Solar System might be teeming with aliens, and we're just not ________ them. Maybe the very ideas in our heads are a form of alien life. Well, okay, that's a crazy thought. The aliens made me say it. But it is cool that ideas do seem to have a life all of their own, and that they outlive their creators. Maybe biological life is just a _______ _____. Well, within the next 15 years, we could start seeing real _____________ information from promising nearby planets that will ______ just how life-friendly they might be. And meanwhile SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, is now releasing its data to the public so that millions of citizen scientists, maybe including you, can bring the power of the crowd to join the ______. And here on Earth, amazing experiments are being done to try to create life from scratch, life that might be very different from the DNA forms we know. All of this will help us understand whether the universe is teeming with life or, whether indeed, it's just us. Either answer, in its own way, is awe-inspiring, because even if we are alone, the fact that we think and dream, and ask these questions might yet turn out to be one of the most important facts about the universe. And I have one more piece of good news for you. The quest for knowledge and _____________ never gets dull. It doesn't. It's actually the opposite. The more you know, the more amazing the world seems. And it's the _____ possibilities, the unanswered questions, that pull us forward. So, stay curious.

Solution

  1. search
  2. spread
  3. honestly
  4. spectroscopic
  5. answers
  6. stars
  7. money
  8. understanding
  9. alien
  10. creates
  11. leaves
  12. works
  13. information
  14. phase
  15. reveal
  16. intelligent
  17. account
  18. energy
  19. hopeful
  20. passing
  21. power
  22. covered
  23. asked
  24. quickly
  25. trillion
  26. dramatically
  27. capable
  28. years
  29. conditions
  30. environment
  31. complex
  32. artifacts
  33. observatory
  34. lucky
  35. discovered
  36. question
  37. universe
  38. noticing
  39. crazy
  40. giant
  41. planets
  42. radio
  43. civilization

Original Text

Somewhere out there in that vast universe, there must surely be countless other planets teeming with life, but why don't we see any evidence of it? Well, this is the famous question asked by Enrico Fermi in 1950: "Where is everybody?" Conspiracy theorists claim that UFOs are visiting all the time and the reports are just being covered up, but honestly, they aren't very convincing. But that leaves a real riddle. In the past year, the Kepler space observatory has found hundreds of planets just around nearby stars, and if you extrapolate that data, it looks like there could be half a trillion planets just in our own galaxy. If any one in 10,000 has conditions that might support a form of life, that's still 50 million possible life-harboring planets right here in the Milky Way. So here's the riddle. Our Earth didn't form until about 9 billion years after the Big Bang. Countless other planets in our galaxy should have formed earlier and given life a chance to get underway billions or certainly many millions of years earlier than happened on Earth. If just a few of them had spawned intelligent life and started creating technologies, those technologies would have had millions of years to grow in complexity and power. On Earth, we've seen how dramatically technology can accelerate in just 100 years. In millions of years, an intelligent alien civilization could easily have spread out across the galaxy, perhaps creating giant energy-harvesting artifacts, or fleets of colonizing spaceships, or glorious works of art that fill the night sky. At the very least, you'd think they'd be revealing their presence, deliberately or otherwise, through electromagnetic signals of one kind or another. And yet we see no convincing evidence of any of it. Why? Well, there are numerous possible answers, some of them quite dark. Maybe a single, superintelligent civilization has indeed taken over the galaxy, and has imposed strict radio silence because it's paranoid of any potential competitors. It's just sitting there ready to obliterate anything that becomes a threat. Or maybe they're not that intelligent. Or perhaps, the evolution of an intelligence capable of creating sophisticated technology is far rarer than we've assumed. After all, it's only happened once on Earth in 4 billion years. Maybe even that was incredibly lucky. Maybe we are the first such civilization in our galaxy. Or, perhaps, civilization carries with it the seeds of its own destruction through the inability to control the technologies it creates. But there are numerous more hopeful answers. For a start, we're not looking that hard, and we're spending a pitiful amount of money on it. Only a tiny fraction of the stars in our galaxy have really been looked at closely for signs of interesting signals. And perhaps, we're not looking the right way. Maybe as civilizations develop, they quickly discover communication technologies far more sophisticated and useful than electromagnetic waves. Maybe all the action takes place inside the mysterious recently discovered dark matter, or dark energy, that appear to account for most of the universe's mass. Or maybe we're looking at the wrong scale. Perhaps intelligent civilizations come to realize that life is ultimately just complex patterns of information interacting with each other in a beautiful way, and that can happen more efficiently at a small scale. So just as on Earth, clunky stereo systems have shrunk to beautiful, tiny iPods, maybe intelligent life itself, in order to reduce its footprint on the environment, has turned itself microscopic, so the Solar System might be teeming with aliens, and we're just not noticing them. Maybe the very ideas in our heads are a form of alien life. Well, okay, that's a crazy thought. The aliens made me say it. But it is cool that ideas do seem to have a life all of their own, and that they outlive their creators. Maybe biological life is just a passing phase. Well, within the next 15 years, we could start seeing real spectroscopic information from promising nearby planets that will reveal just how life-friendly they might be. And meanwhile SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, is now releasing its data to the public so that millions of citizen scientists, maybe including you, can bring the power of the crowd to join the search. And here on Earth, amazing experiments are being done to try to create life from scratch, life that might be very different from the DNA forms we know. All of this will help us understand whether the universe is teeming with life or, whether indeed, it's just us. Either answer, in its own way, is awe-inspiring, because even if we are alone, the fact that we think and dream, and ask these questions might yet turn out to be one of the most important facts about the universe. And I have one more piece of good news for you. The quest for knowledge and understanding never gets dull. It doesn't. It's actually the opposite. The more you know, the more amazing the world seems. And it's the crazy possibilities, the unanswered questions, that pull us forward. So, stay curious.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
billion years 2
intelligent life 2

Important Words

  1. accelerate
  2. account
  3. action
  4. alien
  5. aliens
  6. amazing
  7. amount
  8. answer
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  10. art
  11. artifacts
  12. asked
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  14. bang
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  30. colonizing
  31. communication
  32. competitors
  33. complex
  34. complexity
  35. conditions
  36. conspiracy
  37. control
  38. convincing
  39. cool
  40. countless
  41. covered
  42. crazy
  43. create
  44. creates
  45. creating
  46. creators
  47. crowd
  48. curious
  49. dark
  50. data
  51. deliberately
  52. destruction
  53. develop
  54. discover
  55. discovered
  56. dna
  57. dramatically
  58. dream
  59. dull
  60. earlier
  61. earth
  62. easily
  63. efficiently
  64. electromagnetic
  65. energy
  66. enrico
  67. environment
  68. evidence
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  70. experiments
  71. extrapolate
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  96. important
  97. imposed
  98. inability
  99. including
  100. incredibly
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  102. intelligence
  103. intelligent
  104. interacting
  105. interesting
  106. ipods
  107. join
  108. kepler
  109. kind
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  115. mass
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  118. milky
  119. million
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  128. obliterate
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  130. order
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  168. shrunk
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  180. spawned
  181. spectroscopic
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  184. stars
  185. start
  186. started
  187. stay
  188. stereo
  189. strict
  190. superintelligent
  191. support
  192. surely
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  196. technologies
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  198. teeming
  199. theorists
  200. thought
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  202. time
  203. tiny
  204. trillion
  205. turn
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  208. ultimately
  209. unanswered
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  213. universe
  214. vast
  215. visiting
  216. waves
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  218. world
  219. wrong
  220. year
  221. years