|In regards to extraterrestrial life, I wonder
about their "rate of life". I mean, could what
we call a second be a year for their species.
So, a message from us like "Hello" would be a
lll...oooooooooo." If our thought processes are
at two very different rates, then communication
would seem impossible. OR, is there one rate of
life in all the universe? It seems that this
would have to be the case for any contact to
occur since the probability of another species'
"rate of life" being close to ours appears to be
zero. Do you think our rate of life is connected
to the speed of light. So, for example, an alien
species with a rate of life one hundred times
ours would see light travelling one hundred times
slower? (or faster?)
|Question Date: 2000-01-31|
That's a good question. the "rate of life" is
very difficult to assess. For starters, elephants
and mice have hugely different metabolic rates,
and it is hard to ascertain if their "internal
clocks" are different because of it. Scientists
earlier this century noticed that mice and
elephants have roughly the same number of
heartbeats throughout their life, but elephants
live much longer than mice (the rate of beating is
different, the total number of beats is about the
same). Thus, they conjured that every organism
has a fixed number of heartbeats, and that mice
live "faster" than elephants. Still, there is no
direct meaurement of what "faster" is.
Furthermore, they both live on the same planet,
where day length is not governed by their
Anyway, back to your question.
The signals we transmit (and receive) are
typically radio waves, although other boradcasts
and transmissions (such as microwaves) do make it
into space. One key aspect to listening and
transmitting is that you need to find some way to
insure that your recipient can differentiate your
signal from the background. That's why sending
prime numbers (or pulse modulated signals in a
particular pattern) is so important. If you send
prime numbers as pulses, for example, no matter
how fast they are received they are still prime
A good website to check out is
SETI (the search for extraterrestrial life).
should help you in your search for answers. Good
I think the issue here is the means of energy
consumption of the life and its physical size.
Given chemical energy sources and similar
environments (i.e. gravity, insolation,
temperature etc.) simple tasks such as locomotion
create limits on the cognition speed of sophonts.
In the fastest limit, (small organisms with speed
of light communications) cognitions speed could
indeed be millions of times faster than us -- but
probably only hundreds of times slower. However,
no life on earth has come anywhere close to these
speeds, as again practical energy consumption
rates for locomotion seem to determine the
operating speed of most animal brains. Given my
own anthropomorphic bias, I can't see why an
animal would need to develop such fast cognition
abilities from anevolution standpoint -- but the
fact I can't figure it is pretty meaningless.
Something, somewhere might indeed need it... If
they did, they would perceive speed of light
delays much as we note sound delays....
the other hand, our own communication systems are
rapidly evolving into spread spectrum digital
encoded constructs -- which would be undetectable
noise even to us 30 years ago... What will we be
transmitting in 100 years? (i.e. after we have
some time to polish the media a bit???) Most SETI
searches are looking for pure tones, modulated at
relatively low rates -- but it is not clear this
is any simpler from an alien viewpoint than
something we haven't thought of-- A world-wide
spread spectrum broadcast would be undetectable
even within the same planetary ssytem unless one
knew the sequences......
I think this is a very interesting question. I
think it is possible that other life forms could
have other metabolic rates. I would guess that
it depends on the structure of the life form and
the type of energy and speed of chemical processes
used for nourishment.
This is another reason
why trying to contact an unknown intelligence is
such a difficult thing to do.
case, according to Einstein's theory of Special
Relativity the speed of light should be the same
for all observers. So whether you are traveling
60 or 6000 MPH (or even close to the speed of
light), you will see that light is still moving at
the same speed. It is very difficult to
understand why this is the case, but all the
experiments that have been done to test this
theory have supported it.
The way I see it, by "rate of life", you are
referring to the interaction between time (which
is fixed) and life span, which varies a great deal
for different organisms. An adult insect, which
lives for only two hours, would experience a
one-second message as 0.01% of it's lifetime,
which is comparable to 5 days in an animal that
lives to be 100 years old. So, assuming your
message was equally understandable to both
animals, the shorter-lived animal would have to
have a relatively longer attention span to absorb
the message. However, this makes a lot of
assumptions, such as the fact that attention spans
vary with life span and that one message would be
equally audible and understandable to all
organisms (very small organisms usually don't have
sensory capabilities that are well developed
enough to distinguish sounds, at least as far as
we are aware, and tend to use chemical
communication). By choosing to send your message
as sound, you are automatically selecting for
those organisms that can process and decode sound
frequencies in the same range you broadcasted,
which to me would have more of an effect on
deciding who heard your message than the actual
length of the message.
The speed of light
is fixed and is so fast that it would probably be
impossible for any organism to observe the
propagation of a light wave, to literally "see"
the speed of light. This would require that the
organism be able to see packages of individual
photons as distinct and separate and be able to
distinguish between events that occur in only
nanoseconds. This ability would not be related to
life span but to the speed of nerve conduction and
information processing, and to light sensitivity.
In my opinion, because information packages in a
light wave (photons) travel at a fixed and furious
rate, information transmitted by light would
appear to be instant in all organisms, no matter
how long or short their consciousness. Someone
else may have a different interpretation.
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