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Caleb A. Scharf

Astrophysicist: If there really are extraterrestrials, what difference would it make?

Scharf: "Eventually it might all just be a bit of a relief. We’ll neither be alone, nor surrounded by anything particularly extraordinary. Copernican mediocrity will be somewhat restored, and we can go back to worrying about everything else that can go wrong on our speck of rock and water as it sails through the cosmos." Read More ›

At Scientific American: Maybe aliens live too fast or too slow for us to recognize

Even on Earth. And that is why we don’t see them, astrophysicist suggests: For example, could the messy chemistry we see in fossil fuels on Earth – a smorgasbord of organic reactions, a seemingly tarry chaos – be simply a short-term view of a living system that functions across hundreds of millions of years? Or consider a chunk of complex rock, a mixture of minerals and carbon chemistry. It may be bathed for a billion years in cosmic rays and indigenous particle radiation. It changes over that timescale, electrons are freed and captured, slow, slow chemistry and structural variation happens. Your pet rock might be just that, except you’re living too fast to notice. Of course, rather frustratingly, to make Read More ›

Astrobiologist: Why time travel can’t really work

Recently, cosmologist Carlo Rovelli, author of The Order of Time, argued that time travel, especially into the future, can work. However, astrobiologist Caleb A. Scarf sees an insurmountable barrier, which he calls the “spatial problem”: Let’s take the Earth’s motion around the Sun. A month of orbit corresponds to moving in an arc of approximately 78 million kilometers. During that same period the entire solar system will have also moved approximately 600 million kilometers around our galaxy, and our entire Local Group of galaxies will have swept through about 1.7 billion kilometers of space relative to the cosmic microwave background. Not only do you need to traverse those kinds of distances, you need to get it correct to within a Read More ›