What discoveries might await us beyond Earth? The most significant discovery we could make is other life.

Background of galaxy and stars

Essential Elements for Life

We now know that The Living Cosmos has existed for over 14 billion years, and has long been rich with the essential elements for life. As far as we know, there has been plenty of time for other intelligent life to evolve, perhaps greatly beyond our own level of advancement in The Living Cosmos, and even going some significant way towards realizing its cosmic potential. 

The discovery of life in our galaxy would carry profound implications on The Living Cosmos. Should we find just one instance, it would mean that life has almost certainly evolved in billions of other places in the universe.

So where is this life? It is often said that the universe seems lifeless — that if other civilizations really existed out there, the night sky would be littered with signals of their presence. The famous Fermi Paradox emphasizes how curiously alone we seem to be. 

Possibilities for Life

One possibility is that intelligent life is out there, and that we are simply mistaken in thinking that its presence would be obvious.  After all, even we, with all of our emanating electromagnetic signals, could easily be overlooked by comparable telescopes to our own. 

The truth is we have barely begun to look for other life, and as the SETI based astronomer Jill Tata points out, we have scarcely examined 1000 star systems the equivalent to a single glass of water in all of the oceans of the world in this Living Cosmos.

It is therefore far too soon to declare ourselves alone in the universe, our galaxy or even our local stellar neighborhood. One possibility is that advanced life will have evolved beyond the kinds of physical presence we could detect.

Laser Porting Life

The physicist Michio Kaku has spent some time considering this possibility. Kaku believes it will one day be possible to encode our minds into pure information, and that this information could then be composed within light. Using a method called “laser porting” into The Living Cosmos

 Kaku proposes that we may one day transmit our minds via laser across the vast gulfs of space. Once received at their destination, a mind composed within this light could be re-instantiated within a remote avatar; a physical form of our own design. 

Invisible Superhighway of Intelligent Life

Of course the receiving technology would need to be sent in advance, and yet such a method would avoid all the complications and  accompanying risks of launching biological life into space.

Kaku argues that light may well be the fastest and safest way for our minds to traverse space, and that this technology may represent a convergence point for intelligent life. Kaku believes this is why the universe seems so curiously silent of life. In actuality, there may be an invisible superhighway of intelligent life right above our heads, that we have no current way of detecting.

If Kaku is correct, perhaps humanity shares in this destiny to The Living Cosmos, eventually evolve into beings of light. But should we fear an encounter with other intelligent life? While even responding to a distant potential signal should be approached with extreme caution.

 Later we will explore some of the compelling  reasons to consider that other advanced intelligent life would share a surprising number of our highest values, including intelligence, benevolence, and compassion. But for now let’s move further ahead, and consider the potential of our descendants in deep time.

Many scientists have speculated that as  the timeline stretches towards infinity, so an emerging super intelligence will become  more and more godlike. So that in the final stage, the super-mind will merge with the universe; mind and cosmos will be one.

Physicist Paul Davies

The Local Group Galaxies; Andromeda

There are around 50 other galaxies in the vicinity of the Milky Way. This cluster of galaxies is known as “The Local Group” in The Living Cosmos

Closest to us, and the largest of these galaxies, is Andromeda; a beautiful spiral galaxy made up of hundreds of billions of stars. Andromeda is a galaxy similar in form to our own but around twice as large.

Might our descendants one day voyage to this neighboring galaxy? While reaching other stars may entail  at best a significant challenge, at millions of times the distance, skepticism  about the possibility of intergalactic travel is well justified. But before we rule out the possibility of intergalactic travel we should spare a thought to all of the modern  realities once considered utterly impossible.

From the splitting of the atom to human flight, from our very early vantage point it is far too soon to rule out that a civilization, that has mastered  its entire galaxy, could eventually reach another. So might we one day travel to Andromeda? as part of The Living Cosmos.  In one respect we may not need to.

Andromeda will come to us

In fact, if we wait long enough, Andromeda will come to us. Gravity is slowly pulling our galaxy and Andromeda together, and in around 4 Billion Years the two galaxies will collide. This may sound like a cosmic cataclysm, and yet  because of the great distances between stars, this galactic collision is unlikely to cause much disruption at all to individual stars.

Eventually the two galaxies will merge together completely; creating a new, possibly elliptical galaxy, roughly three times the size of the Milky Way. Eventually, over hundreds of billions of years, all 50 or so galaxies of the local group will be pulled together by gravity, resulting in the creation of a single massive galaxy in the expense of The Living Cosmos.

Theory of Cosmic Acceleration

As this occurs, similar enormous galaxies will be forming throughout the observable universe, bringing the dawn of a new cosmic era of massive galaxies. The theory of cosmic acceleration suggests that these massive galaxies will  eventually be pulled so far apart from each other that eventually, no possible contact will exist  between them.

Any inhabitants of these galaxies would witness as the distant night sky grew ever darker, until even the light of distant galaxies disappears forever. What follows would be a time of relative isolation, in which the inhabitants of individual galaxies effectively strike out on their own, falling eternally further apart. 

We should keep in mind however, that this specific chain of events depends on the relatively new and tentative Theory Of Cosmic Acceleration. It is still far from certain that cosmic inflation will accelerate indefinitely and some cosmologists  argue that the universe must ultimately cease expanding, and in all likelihood, will eventually  begin collapsing back in on itself.

If so, enormous galaxies, long isolated, will begin  moving towards one another, and vast galactic communities, long estranged will reunite with each  other once more. Might our descendants inhabit this distant coordinate of time? Might we witness the unfolding of these grand cosmic events? If conscious intelligent life should inhabit such deep time, by then its reach and scale might conceivably grow to play an active role in the long-term destiny of the universe itself. As theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson observes,  

It is conceivable that life may have a larger role to play than we have yet imagined. Life may succeed against all of the odds in molding the universe to its own purposes, and the design of the inanimate universe may not be as detached from the potentialities of life and intelligence as scientists of the 20th century have tended to suppose.” (end quote)

In what ways might life eventually reshape the universe? Is it possible, as the physicist David Deutsch has considered that (quote)  

At the end of time life will have spread throughout space? It will have gained control of all matter and all forces and it will have acquired all knowledge there is to know.” (end quote)

The Conscious Universe

Through the evolution of conscious life, might the universe itself gradually become conscious? Such a surprisingly life-defined future might cause us to reflect, as Dyson did, on the basic character of the universe itself. That life and mind might have been somehow woven into the fabric of the universe from the beginning.

While a controversial subject, the idea that the universe is in some way driven to realize its total mental potential is a possibility in The Living Cosmos; that several scientists and philosophers have taken very seriously. One of them is the physicist Paul Davies. (quote)

 “Many scientists have speculated that as  the timeline stretches towards infinity, so an emerging super intelligence will become  more and more godlike. So that in the final stage, the super-mind will merge with the universe; mind and cosmos will be one.” (end quote)   The possibility that life and the evolution of consciousness are somehow necessary features of reality, suffice to say that this a real possibility that at least we cannot yet rule out.


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