Humans – unique in Universe

This is a collection point for such information.


I keep a running list of reasons why Earth-Humanity are unique in the Universe. Here is my partial list. It’s incomplete and merely presents food for thought.

Earth is unique. We read about these immense numbers of galaxies, stars and planets and just *know* that there are other “earths” out there. But it will become more and more evident and publicly accepted that Earth is exceedingly unique. The list continues to grow regarding factors that make it so, but here are a few.

• Sol is singular, not a binary star system. It’s estimated up to 1/2 of solar systems are binary.  This cuts the number of possible stars for Sol like systems by 2/3s.
• Sol’s position in the galaxy is out in an arm away from the chaos of inner galaxy turmoil.
• Sol’s wave path as the Milkyway revolves allows it to miss much of the disruptions in the galaxy. (Local bubble)
• Earth’s distance from Sol, Goldilocks zone, LOTS of liquid water.
• Earth’s neighbors, Jupiter’s asteroid cleaning.
• Earth’s impact from Theia resulting in a much denser iron/nickel core.
• Earth’s extensive magnetosphere (due to this larger than normal magnetic core).
• Luna’s very large size and its influence on Earth’s rotational / axial stability, not to mention tides (tide pools enhance life generation possibilities).
• The asteroid belt delivering asteroids, comets and meteors and their H2O and elements.

Here are some chemical aspects of Earth that make it unique

• Earth’s H20 to land ratio.
• Earth’s land distribution (large continents, not islands).
• Earth’s high quantity of radioactive elements within the planet interior.
• Volcanism continuously recycling minerals and elements.
• Early life starting 3.5bya, clearing the oceans of toxins.
• The tilt of Earth providing seasons.
• Ozone without which DNA would be rendered inert.
• The transition of prokaryotic to eukaryotic life.

And here are some reasons why Man is unique on this Unique earth.

• 2.5 billion years of hydrocarbon deposition.
• Humanity’s survival through and benefit from disease, we are robust.
• The decimation of prior dominant classes of animals and the rise of mammals.
• Fire both its discovery and the existence of burnable material for boosting our nutritional uptake and our ability to manipulate elements.
• Broad variety of available metals useful for life and industry and eventually the construction of communication capabilities.
• The configuration of the continents that gave rise to grasses that gave rise to agriculture.
• The existence and development of draft animals without which agriculture would not have arisen.
• Humanity had to survive, and in general, avoid having its electricity systems (generation, grid, transformers) being devastated by CMEs (coronal mass ejections).

And no doubt many more.

We are unique.

• I agree that the numbers favor life, lots of life, in the Universe. What I’ve tried to explore, over the years of gathering this list, is that the trek of humanity to the stage we enjoy today is one of tenuous happenstance. I find that many folks I’ve spoken with haven’t examined the special situational sequence of events and configuration of planetary, ecological, and geological factors that humans leveraged to get to this point in our evolution.

Take trees for instance. Where would humanity be if it were not for the existence and diversity of trees? The implications are manifold. If there are alien intelligences out there living on planets where trees or their substitute, do not exist… could they discover fire? Build shelter? Build ships? Construct tools and machinery of thousands of kinds? Produce charcoal for smelting? Produce methanol as a fuel? I realize that such a statement is highly anthropocentric. But still, imagine humanity without the ability to leverage wood as a resource. Wither wood, would we have ever reached the state we thrive in today?

It’s factors like that, in that list as well as others I’ve identified, that simply invite one to step back and think about how incredible humanity’s path to technological advancement really is.

• As I alluded to, the argument for life vs intelligent, electromagnetic capable life are two different things. Lots of life — sure. Intelligent life? Who knows. I simply list factors which many people do not take into account when examining humanity as an EMC (electromagnetic capable) species. A similar species to us would have to have enjoyed similar serendipity. That’s all my point is trying to provide. For instance, fuel for fire is necessary to smelt the metals that an EMC life-form might leverage to build their technology. Not to mention the fact that such metals must be readily available. Things like that.

• What’s unfortunate about SETI is that it’s focused on radio. It appears that even for humans, radio is a transition technology. The recent fervor regarding directed energy propulsion — lasers — to push tiny space craft out to the stars speaks of using lasers to communicate to and from said space capsules. If we’re already looking to use lasers to talk between us and our crafts or our colonies then it would seem we need to start to switch SETI over to capturing pulsed light transmissions; if we want to starting “listening” to aliens who might be using light to talk.




9 responses to “Humans – unique in Universe

  • Anony Mole

    In a study published today in the journal PLOS Genetics, Shriver shows how the temperature and humidity of the air we breathe has impacted the shape of what we breathe with.

    The idea that climate impacts nose shape is not new. By 1905, U.S. Army physician Charles E. Woodruff was writing in his scientific treatise The Effects of Tropical Light on White Men that “the shape and size of the nose and the position of the nostrils are now fairly well proved to be a matter of selection of the fittest varieties.” He went to describe how, in his opinion, a nose’s shape could help one adapt to a climate over time:

    “In the tropics where the air is hot and therefore rarefied, more of it is necessary and it is essential that there should be no impediment to the air currents so the nostrils are open and wide and the nose very flat. Such a nose is unsuited for cold countries as it permits masses of cold air to flood the air passages and irritate the lining membrane, so that the nose must be large and have much warming surface, and the nostrils therefore are slender slits to admit air in thin ribbons easily warmed. […] Hence there must have been a natural selection in cold countries of one kind of variations—large contracted noses, and a selection in hot countries of the other extreme, so that the various types gradually arose.”

    Read more:

  • Anony Mole

    CMEs will have a greater impact on society, on an electricity powered society, than anyone currently believes.

    Humanity has experienced just one CME of a size to do serious damage. I’m sure you’re well aware of the Carrington Event and the government reports on the next CME that will hit us (as well as the July 2012 CME that barely missed us.)

    What I don’t believe anyone has theorized is the extent to which a CME (every few hundred years, or more frequently) will have on an advanced tech society. Will have on THIS advanced tech society.

    If CMEs slam electricity enabled civilizations, over and over, each time knocking them back, wasting resources (like irreplaceable fossil fuels), maybe this is a solution to the Fermi Paradox.

    If a pair of massive CMEs were to hit during our summer, 10 to16 hours apart — say goodbye to civilization in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Here’s a theoretical scenario that explores this possibility:

  • Anony Mole

    Bio, hydro, wind all got humans into the 1700’s, that’s true. But now the factor of time enters the equation. The trajectory of development of technology without fossil fuels, I believe, would ramp so slowly, due both to the availability of fuels for tech as well as exponentially affect the population (and the ideas generated by those billions of extra humans), that the time needed to get to an equivalent level, that we enjoy today, would take extra millennia. And by then — the next calamity would befall humanity resetting their tech-clock.

    In addition, without fossil fuels, how does any species launch thousands of rockets into LEO much less launch them out to protect the planet from asteroids and comets? (Again, within the brief time window allotted to them.)

    I think the influence on society’s ability to avert existential risk is critically linked to fossil fuels. But there is another threat that most dismiss as incidental — Coronal Mass Ejections.

  • Anony Mole

    I’ve personally been collecting Fermi’s Paradox supporting evidence for a number of years. I stuffed a few of my additional points into your Fermi’s compendium video’s comments. One factor that you’ve mentioned, but may need further examination, is the concept of time. More specifically the concept that any civilization that arises in the galaxy/universe must do so quickly enough to get to the point where it can protect itself from the myriad existential threats.

    Of the 4.5B years Earth has had, the Holocene has been a very special, stable, warm, interglacial period where humanity could spring forth into a civilization — and hopefully (if you’re not a nihilist like me), one which can protect itself from the next natural calamity to befall the planet.

    That is, there are these windows of opportunity that must exist for a sentient lifeform to become a technologically advanced civilization. These windows of time, I believe, are brief and probably infrequent.

    Our own Holocene window comes at a time when an extremely rare (planetarily speaking) quantity of fuel has been deposited and offered to humanity to launch its own technological civilization. I posit, that without fossil fuels to spawn the great agricultural and industrial revolution thereby prompting the technological and informational revolutions — humanity would not achieve a technologically advanced state. Why? Because the window to do so would have closed by the time humanity figured out how to protect itself.

    Of course this theory is utterly anthropocentric. Yet, I believe this occurrence, that of the massive deposition of gigatons of nearly free energy over the last 2.5B years, is key to ANY civilization.

    Unless these windows of time between planetary natural disasters are so wide that a sentient intelligent species could take 500k or a million years to slowly create its technology from the poor energy sources at hand — a vast NFE energy source is a requirement for civilizations outside our own.

  • Anony Mole

    Life vs sentient life vs intelligent life vs EMC life (electro-magnetically capable)

    Is there extra-terrestrial life in the galaxy/universe – probably.

    Is there sentient life? Again, probably.

    What about intelligent life? Maybe, but we won’t learn about any of these three grades of life unless the forth kind actually exists. And to create the forth kind, one needs to assume a number of developmental characteristics.

    In order to build an electromagnetic generation system (one that emits electromagnetic signals so that we can detect them) a species must have the following terrestrial attributes available to them:

    • Fire
    • Fuel to drive fires to smelt metal.
    • Metals available for smelting, forging, construction and refinement.
    • A vast enough food source to drive a population into work stratification (farmers, engineers, magistrates, etc.)
    • A longevity of civilization great enough to bring all of the above together between natural catastrophes (Holocene).

    This is just a sample of aspects required to build an EMC species. There are no doubt others. So, given this list, what physical characteristics must a species have in order to build EMC generators?

    • Material manipulation appendages (hands+fingers).
    • Material transportation capability (feet).
    • Probably the 5 senses for touch, hearing, sight, smell, taste (these last two might only be required as evolution dictates for survival).

    Given the above stipulations, there indeed could be other EMC life that looks very little like humanity, but it will be recognizable as EMC life. Anthropocentric views cannot be avoided. But in their defense, these views are anchored in 3.5B years of evolutionary experimentation. Convergent evolution does occur and there are reasons that it does. Nature (generally) finds the most efficient means of survival and procreation (sexual selection being one of those things that does not select for environment survivability).

    So will alien EMC life look like us – possibly, but if it doesn’t it will be pretty darn close.

  • Anony Mole

    ALL of the prior extinction events needed to occur for humanity to arise.

  • Anony Mole

    * Rhizobium bacteria were a requirement in the establishment of human agriculture. Such bacteria fix Nitrogen. They are symbiotically associated with legumes. Without such fixing early agriculture would have failed.

    rhizobium leguminosarum

  • Anony Mole

    “Proponents of this “Rare Earth” hypothesis also argue that the evolution of complex life requires an exceedingly large number of perfect conditions. In addition to Earth being in the habitable zone of the Sun, our star must be far enough away from the galactic center to avoid destructive radiation, our gas giants must be massive enough to sweep asteroids from Earth’s trajectory, and our unusually large Moon stabilizes the axial tilt that gives us different seasons.

    These are just a few prerequisites for complex life. The emergence of symbolic language, tools and intelligence could require other such “perfect conditions” as well.”

  • steven jackson

    Do you receive this email?

    Sent from my iPhone


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