RE: Burning Cosmic Commons (was: ... Fermi's Paradox?)

Billy Brown (
Mon, 8 Mar 1999 09:56:40 -0600

I've got two different lines of commentary on the heavy-planet scenario as a candidate for the Great Filter:

First, allow me to point out that it isn't enough. Even if one accepts it at face value, it would catch only a modest majority of civilizations. Even if life develops faster on heavy planets, we know it is possible for it to develop on Earth. That means that unless the preference is extremely strong, this effect could only reduce the population of spacefaring races by 1-2 orders of magnitude. Given that what we're looking for is more like 12 - 14 orders of magnitude, that doesn't help much.

Second, the argument takes a very short-term view of a problem that is properly examined from a cosmological perspective. It doesn't matter if space travel takes a few hundred years longer, or is a few orders of magnitude more expensive. What we're looking for is something that makes space travel utterly impossible.

Perhaps this would be a good time to point out that the problem of escaping from a deep gravity well (escape velocity maybe 15 MPS) is trivial compared to the problem of interstellar colonization (required velocity at least 0.01 C = 1,860 MPS). We can't rely on the first problem to prevent people from solving the second one.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I