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Back in the short-trousered black and white day, the small club of Big Scientific Knobs who, tuning in and dropping out, founded SETI included the astrophysicists Carl Sagan and Frank Drake.  When scrambling a scratch agenda for the founding meeting of SETI scientists, Frank Drake scribbled an equation to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial hang-outs in the bars and pool-rooms of the Milky Way.  Feel free to add your own constraints to the seven big sisters of Drake’s famous equation: average annual rate of star formations (about seven), the fraction of stars with planets, fraction of planets that can support life, fraction of planets to evolve life, fraction of planets evolving intelligent life, fraction of intelligent civilisations that evolve technology, the time taken by intelligent civilisations to release detectable radio signals into space.  


Occasionally, I get a letter from someone who is in ‘contact’ with extraterrestrials.  I am invited to ‘ask them anything’.  And so over the years I’ve prepared a little list of questions.  The extraterrestrials are very advanced, remember.  So I ask things like, ‘Please provide a short proof of Fermat’s Last Theorum’.  Or the Goldbach Conjecture ... I never get an answer.  On the other hand, if I ask something like ‘Should we be good?’  I almost always get an answer.  Carl Sagan  


The nearest detectable intelligent civilisations should by now be receiving our ever-rippling television signals of I Love Lucy, which might explain their reluctance to visit planet Earth for lunch.  Intelligent life may find great difficulty in arising from the slime, and if you’ve stood on the terraces of Arsenal’s North Bank, you’ll understand why.  Or intelligent life has a propensity to self-destruct  which includes the stupidity of spending precious resources on nuclear weapons.  


The planet will be here for a long long long time after we’re gone.  And it will heal itself; it will cleanse itself ’cause that’s what it does  it’s a self-correcting system.  The air and the water will recover.  The Earth will be renewed.  And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm  the Earth plus Plastic.  The Earth doesn’t share our prejudice towards plastic.  Plastic came out of the Earth; the Earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children.  Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place  it wanted plastic for itself.  Didn’t know how to make it  needed us.  Could be the answer to our age-old philosophical question  Why are we here?  Plastic, assholes!  George Carlin


So here we stand you and I  fragile freaks stranded on the shore of an unfriendly universe, surrounded by a sea of indifferent silence.  


So what are we?  A statistical accident.  Where are we?  Nowhere special.  Where are we going?  Into oblivion.  A meaningless hiccup in the blank procession of matter through time.  It’s a tatty destiny.  BBC Horizon: The Anthropic Principle 1987


The profound loneliness of the lowly human condition inspires the most dulcet dreamscaped drama, literature, art and music.  So whether the brain’s defence to evolve a day-dreaming of God, the fancying of faeries, the gazing on ghosts and the supposing of purpose where no purpose supports the evidence, does us a disservice the reader must decide.  

   The expanding universe enables the detective to place time restraints on a logical God claiming ownership of the universe thirteen and half billion years old.  We face not the inevitable return of a living God but the inevitable invasion of an asteroid or comet to read us our rights.  The lucky stragglers can await the collision of the Andromeda Galaxy with our own and a cosmic son et lumiere fireworks display.  And if that doesn’t give us a headache we simply wait for the Sun to run out of gas.  Game of patience, anyone?


An expanding universe does not preclude a creator but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job.  Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time series, 1991


What are the chances that after such a long absence from the scheme of things God decides a couple of thousand years ago to intervene with a sordid session of eldest son sacrifice?  God is twitching to intervene with a message but can’t be arsed to let us have that message from scratch, or deliver the message godo-a-mano.


The universe doesn’t give a cat’s furball for a fascist gangsta God muscling in on the action of a backward bunch of hairless apes and our brief moment in the Sun.  


Meanwhile, the sun is getting ready to explode and devour its dependent planets like some jealous chief or tribal deity.  Some design!  Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great p80


The universe won’t miss us when we’re gone and won’t thank us for the ever-rippling television signals of I Love Lucy, our final legacy to a friendless, faceless but fantastically fire-balled universe fleeing into the setting Sun.


We will disappear into the blackness of the space from which we came.  Destroyed as we began in a burst of gas and fire.  The heavens are still and cold once more.  In all the immensity of our universe and the galaxies beyond, the Earth will not be missed.  In the infinite reaches of space the problems of man seem trivial indeed.  And man existing alone seems himself an episode of little consequence.  That’s all.  Rebel Without a Cause 1955, man in planetarium