March 01, 2010
Universe Still 13.75 Billion Years Old

The universe is not getting any younger.

Menlo Park, Calif.—Using entire galaxies as lenses to look at other galaxies, researchers have a newly precise way to measure the size and age of the universe and how rapidly it is expanding, on a par with other techniques. The measurement determines a value for the Hubble constant, which indicates the size of the universe, and confirms the age of the universe as 13.75 billion years old, within 170 million years. The results also confirm the strength of dark energy, responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe.

These results, by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, the University of Bonn, and other institutions in the United States and Germany, is published in the March 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The researchers used data collected by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and showed the improved precision they provide in combination with the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP).

Think about it: If you want to live long enough to see the universe get a tenth of a percent older (and really, who doesn't) you are going to have to figure out how to stay alive for another 13.75 million years. Puts things in perspective. One would have to become extremely risk averse to stay alive that long. This risk aversion is probably why long lived super intelligences aren't revealing themselves to us.

People talk a lot about alien intelligences and whether they exist. A big question is, why the space aliens aren't here already and whether they are hiding and watching us. Here's what I'm thinking: Someone really really old, say a few hundred million years old, might have grown bored looking at the life forms that already existed and decided to sleep many millions of years waiting for some other form of intelligence to evolve.

Given the vastness of time I would expect some forms of intelligence to find ways to slow down their metabolisms and basically go time traveling into the future to meet (or at least observe from a safe distance) life forms unlike any they found on the planet they evolved on. Sleep in a traveling planet and look for signs of a solar system interesting enough to cruise near.

13.75 billion years is such a long time that sentient beings that came into existence hundreds of millions or billions of years ago should have found ways to maintain sentience for extremely long periods of time to carry out long term plans.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 March 01 10:07 PM  Space Alien Intelligence

Toadal said at March 1, 2010 10:49 PM:

If you had a spaceship that could travel .9999999 the speed of light and it took 6 months to accelerate to or decelerate from that speed, you could:

1) Travel to the center of our Milky Way galaxy.
2) Explore its center and black hole for one year.
3) Return to earth.

And you would be about 25 years older.

But unfortunately, your friends on earth would have died over 52,000 years ago.

Of course, if you wanted to live 13.75 million years, you would have to travel even faster.

Lono said at March 2, 2010 8:34 AM:


I do not think we can possibly hope to understand the motivations of an extremely advanced and long lived species - as we are so myopic due to our own immediate, temporal needs.

However - I would like to know how people feel about the following fact:

Two American astronauts, Space Pioneer Gordon Cooper, and former moon-walker Dr. Edgar Mitchell, (as well as several cosmonauts), have gone on Public Record that the American Government is well aware of crafts being piloted by extraterrestrial intelligences, and that these objects are Regularly caught on sophisticated military radar.

Yet - to my knowledge - none of these men's claims have EVER been disowned or ridiculed by NASA, nor the American nor Russian Govt.

Even after Gordon Cooper took his case to the UN in an attempt to "force" the the U.S. to be more transparent with their knowledge of this phenomena.

Add to this the fact that certain spectacular UFO encounters are extremely well documented - (with Radar and Air Traffic Control conversations with Commercial Pilots)- such as the incident with an enormous ufo over Alaska in 1986 encountered at Close Sight by Japan Air Lines Flight 1628.

Basically - I am just asking - should we, as scientists, not be taking UFOlogy more serious - just as Cryptozoology has gained some respectability with the discovery of several unexpected species - from the Ceolcanth to the Giant Squid.

Again, not looking for blanket skeptical ad-homminum attacks - just honestly - does this not seem to have a bearing when discussing the possibility of long lived species (in our galaxy or otherwise)?


David A. Young said at March 2, 2010 9:06 AM:

Well, it's hard to criticize scientists for being skeptical, because most UFO boosterism IS nonsense...still, the "ideal" of science is to keep an open mind about those things which are not demonstrably impossible. And given the age of the universe, even if only a few races managed to evolve to the very-long-lived-highly-technically-advanced stage, there's still been plenty of time for them -- or their intelligent robot probes -- to have become ubiquitous throughout the galaxy. Doesn't mean it's the case, but it's not logically absurd.

Randall Parker said at March 2, 2010 8:18 PM:


I do not see what we can hope to accomplish by taking UFO reports more seriously. If they are out there flying around and the US military can not force them down then what's the point of paying attention? What are we supposed to do with these claims about flying saucers?

Suppose there are really long lived species and they are visiting us. They've probably got technology so far beyond us that we can't hope to force them to land and reveal themselves.

Suppose aliens are visiting. I have no idea if that is the case. But let us assume it for the sake of discussion. I am very curious to know what would motivate incredibly advanced species to pop around in our skies so that some people see them while at the same time they don't land. Surely if they are that advanced they can watch us without popping around in the sky. They could use hidden sensors and monitor tons of radio traffic.


William Edelstein of Johns Hopkins recently explained that near the speed of light the rate at which a star ship would hit interstellar hydrogen would be so fast that the ship would be destroyed instantly.

As the spaceship reached 99.999998 per cent of the speed of light, "hydrogen atoms would seem to reach a staggering 7 teraelectron volts", which for the crew "would be like standing in front of the Large Hadron Collider beam".

Unless a warp drive could bend space around a space ship warp speed would kill you. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock need a way to protect the Enterprise that doesn't involve using lots of energy to try to repel the hydrogen gas.

Brett Bellmore said at March 3, 2010 3:58 AM:

Edelstein also assumed that the most advanced radiation shielding a society capable of accelerating a ship to 99.999998% of the speed of light could deploy, was 10cm of aluminum plate. That was not what I'd call a serious analysis.

Kudzu Bob said at March 3, 2010 8:21 AM:

What Brett Bellmore said. If we ever learn enough to make a spacecraft move at relativistic speeds, we will then presumably know more about all sorts of other useful things, such as extremely high-performance radiation shielding.

Freeman Dyson once pointed out that interstellar travel is a problem of biology, not physics. I take his statement to mean that breakthroughs in hibernation and longevity might enable us to go very far beyond our solar system indeed, even at a velocity far below that of light. But an extension of his idea is that if we find interstellar too difficult a problem to figure out, then perhaps we can upgrade our brains so that they are up to the challenge.

Mud didn't become alive, and then sentient, just to wander aimlessly on the Earth until the Sun dies.

Kudzu Bob said at March 3, 2010 8:26 AM:

Penultimate sentence should read "But an extension of his idea is that if we find rapid interstellar travel too difficult a problem to figure out, then perhaps we can upgrade our brains so that they are up to the challenge."

Now to upgrade my own brain with some coffee.

Lono said at March 3, 2010 8:57 AM:


I can appreciate your cyncism - but as scientists should we ignore facts just because they are inconvenient for those who are currently in power!? Didn't we already learn our lessons about that with copernicus and Gallileo??

(Dr. Edgar Mitchell has suggested that the American Govt.'s resistance to disclosure and full transparency on the UFO phenommena is indeed largely because they do not have a comprehensive understanding of the situation - and as typical for Govt. control freaks - they want to be in control of the information first - rather than the upredictability the information could cause in the general populous)

As for why these Extraterrestrials would allow themselves to be randomly observed - it does seem absurd for sure - but it is possible that certain rare conditions do affect their cloaking technology - and they could be fairly carefree about it beacuse either they just don't care about cultural contamination - or they believe limted contamination may even be good for our species - to help psychologically prep us for future incorporation into their greater ruling structure.

Still - as scientists - I believe it is important to not let cultural pressures bias us against potential facts - even if they are indeed paradigmn changing in their nature.

PacRim Jim said at March 3, 2010 3:33 PM:

Distributed, non-biological life. The only way to persist. Then there's that damn entropy to worry about.

Randall Parker said at March 3, 2010 10:20 PM:


I would hope scientists try to spend their time on investigations that promise the most return on investment. How can they do experiments on aliens who show up very sporadically in the atmosphere jutting around at incredibly high speeds?

If the US military thinks the aliens really are there then I would expect the military has a number of classified projects to study them. I wonder if they have discovered anything useful.

Lono said at March 5, 2010 9:00 AM:


Yes - I wonder as well - as it may be the most important question/issue in the history of Human civilization.

(for sure we will never be the same after contact with another advanced sentient species - extraterrestrial or not)

I understand it is a hard problem to tackle - but so would palaeontology be - if the govt. took over all excavation sites and classified all studies of fossils.

(The US and UK MSM also have to clear all UFO stories through the Govt. before reporting on them as part of the state secrets act - the rationale being that we wouldn't want a foreign power to have unecessary knowledge about the testing of our protype defense aircraft - thus reducing the evidence available for scientific scrutiny as well)

Their have been NO substantial investigations into the UFO phenommena except by the Federal Govt. precisely because such a study woukld require Govt. cooperation and transparency which is NEVER given.

Personally I have never seen a UFO (although I have seen two different and quite unusual experimental craft)in my lifetime - but I find it hard to ignore both the accumulated radar data and the high profile Astronaut Whistleblowers in our country and in others...

I just start to get a little crazy when - like with the valid questions into the WTC 7 free fall collapse - it seems every otherwise reasonable scientist and engineer decides to cover their ass and cops a "nothing to see here" attitude!

I have been told to "tend my own garden" many times - but I do not feel that is an honorable position for a scientist to take on any issue!

Randall Parker said at March 5, 2010 7:41 PM:


WTC 7, UFOs: I've got only so much mental capacity. I can't study everything. I'd rather invest the intellectual effort into climate science, energy technologies, genetics research, aging research, the stock market, and several other topics.

I look at it this way: I know for a fact that some things going on really do matter. Whether UFOs matter I do not know. But, for example, humanity is increasing the concentrations of gases in the atmosphere that absorb IR and reduce IR transmission out into space. I know that oil field discovery peaked in 1963. That matters for sure. I know that genetic sequencing costs have been dropping by orders of magnitude and we are on the verge of identifying the significance of thousands of genetic differences. I could go on. You get the idea.

Plus, I keep learning about more things that matter due to my line of work. For example, been gradually coming to a better understanding of computer security issues and I'm appalled at what some corps do and don't do about computer security. Also, the banking crisis is causing a huge surge in total sovereign debt and lots of sovereign debt defaults are on the horizon. Got plenty of things to worry and think about.

Lono said at March 6, 2010 9:05 AM:

Cool - I understand - I just can't continue on living passively in this Matrix like world - where illusions are often treated as more real then facts.

As I pull out more and more from the fields of biotechnology and software engineering I find I am compelled to position myself to take on more and more of the fringe science out there - where perhaps the greater risks (and lowered social recognition) are balanced out by the greater potential rewards.

Keep up the excellent work - and I'll keep you and your readership informed of anything that I discover.

slush said at March 10, 2010 2:11 PM:

Aliens would have to cross distances our meager minds cannot hope to grasp. Disregarding warps and worm holes, we are told we cannot exceed light speed. Physicists however, have accepted that space its self can exceed light speed--think expansion. All we need is a container placed in space and a means to eject that space to greater than light speed. Nothing to it.

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