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Friday, August 18, 2006

Yahoo Answers Impresses

I posted two questions on Yahoo Answers yesterday. The answers are extensive and timely... this is truly impressive. Best of all, it’s free*.

After reading through all the answers from users (who create their cartoon avatars from a variety of custom design with the fun Yahoo Avatars tool), you can select a best question, which will then move towards the top. I awarded the best answer to my first question to Michael, a “level 3” Yahoo Answers user with 214 answered questions so far. Here’s his reply:

Q: Why haven’t we visited by aliens yet?

A: It is probable (but not definite) that civilizations evolve at different rates. The hominid species spent a good million years just running around like an animal before we developed the mutation that allows us to imagine the future and make decisions that are not instinctual. So, even if civilizations were to develop on many different planets, they could be seperated in TIME by a few million years easily.

On top of that, before you send out an expedition to a planet in search of life, you’d want to receive a signal from them. We’ve only been broadcasting into space for some 40 years now... and 40 light-years is pretty small in the grand scheme of things. Even if another civilization received our signals today, it would take them 40 years minimum to respond, barring some faster-than-light communication technology, and probably much longer to actually get here. With our current rocket technology (~40 miles/sec exiting Earth’s sphere of influence), it would take us a good 4500 years just to get 1 light-year away. I think the nearest star is about 4 light years away – so that’s a long time!

Intelligent life is most likely out there somewhere (or were, or will be), but I doubt we’ll run across one anytime soon. The distances and times are too great. However, unintelligent aliens (microbes, or maybe sea-creatures) we might find in the next 100-200 years on the various moons and planets in our solar system.

*At Google Answers, every answer will cost you something. Of course, the upside is that as a researcher, you’ll get paid. (Disclosure: I was working as Google Answers Researcher in 2003.)


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