View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Whaur is awbody?


Whaur is awbody?

Wunnerin whither the micht be ither life ayont oor Yird is naething new. The ancient Greek philosophers Democritus an Epicurus jaloused the micht be ithers some gait, but the maist kenspeckle wis Anaximander (ab.610-ab.546 AC). But the philosophers Aristotle an Plato, that threapit we shuid spen oor time on whit we can see, raither nor whit we micht jalouse, haed a strang influence ower Christian European thinking an sae it becam awmaist a heresy tae differ wi the teachings that the faithers o releegion follaed. In the 15t century Nicol o Cusa wis amang the first Christian philosophers tae speak anent the subject follaed bi the Frainchman Weelum Vorilong. The Italian freear Giordano Bruno (1546-1600) spak aboot sindry warlds afore threits fae the inquisition turnt him aff, but the wark o the Frainchman Bernard le Bovier (1657-1757) cryed Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes (1688) turnt oot tae be gey important tae thinkers o the Enlichtenment o the 18ct century.

Amang the gentlemen scholars o thae days in Scotland that jaloused the micht be life ithergaits, wis the natural philosopher Sir Dauvit Brewster (1781-1868), a son o Jethart in the Borders. His maist important wark sib tae this wis More Worlds than One: The Creed of the Philosopher the Hope of the Christian, set furth in 1854. In this wark he debatit life ayont the Yird an throu the Universe. Anither kenspeckle body wis the dominie and meenister Tamas Dick (1774-1857) fae the Hilltoun o Dundee. In 1838 he wrate a buik cryed Celestial Scenery, or, the Wonders of The Planetary System displayed. In this he threapit that ilka warld in oor Sun Gird haed fowk intil’t an set oot tae reckon hoo mony ootrels the micht be awthegither. He jaloused that it maun be as mony as 22 trillion sowels! We micht crack a smile nooadays but keep in mind that scholars o thon age haedna yet the means tae see whither the warlds o oor ain sun gird cuid uphaud life.

In thae days, in the 19t century, whan fowk in Americae an Europe thocht o life on ither warlds, thay jaloused that it maun be muckle like human life, but no bein Christian, no as weel-lared or skeely. In ither words, academics and philosophers thocht the same gait as the colonial pouers o the day. The first Scot tae write a wark that we nooadays wad caw a wark o lee-science wis Tamas Erskine 1st baron Erskine (1750-1823). In his novel Armata, fae 1817, Erskine spak o a veage atween warlds in a sailing ship til a warld that wis in mony weys like oor ain but whaur fowk wis fleggit wi chengin technology. A weel seen comment anent the dreids o his ain time. It haes aw the eiks an ideas o a 1950’s lee-science picture oot o Hollywood – a veage aff-warld, a fremmit planet, an ootrels, tho muckle like oorsels. Awmaist the first body tae propone that ootrels micht be gey unalike ony human body, wis the Frainchman Camille Flamarrion (1842-1925) in his buik La Pluralitié des mondes habités set furth in 1862 an in the neist twinty an thirty year screivars sic as the Inglisman George Herbert Wells gied us a flegsome veesion o this in lee-science warks sic as First Men in the Moon (1900) an War of the Worlds (1897). It wis aiblins fae this time, in the blatters atween impires, technology, an science, that oor dreid wis born o the idea o invasion fae ither warlds, bi craiturs that micht scunner oor human een.

But the ae important question, askit bi the Italian atomic scientist Enrico Fermi back in 1950, an ane that mony speirs tae this day, is: whaur is awbody? Fermi, while wirkin tae mak the first nuclear reactor, in the USA, listent tae the debate anent jaloused ootrels in craft that micht cuid traivel the gait o the Yird, but speirt, gin that wis the case, whit wey haed thay no peyed us a veesit bi noo? Syne this question wis cryed the Fermi Paradox.

In pairt reply tae this the American astrologue Frank Drake, in 1961, cam up wi the Drake equation, a kind o reasoning that used a puckle factors tae reckon the likeliheid o the nummer o ceevilisations in oor galaxy that wisna jist lang-heidit, but haed the can tae send oot strang radio seegnals. The leet o factors comprehendit the idea that aw lang-heidit speshie micht aye self-perish bi a certain stage, an we oorsels micht be weel doun the same gait. Gin this is richt, it mibby gies us the reason we haena heard fae onybody ither. Some fowk jalouses that the micht only be ae heich ceevilsation at ony gien time, in a hail galaxy, an gien hoo faur aff ane galaxy is fae anither, this is whit wey we divna hear a cheep back. Efter aw, the nearest starns til oor Yird (apairt fae oor ain ane, the sun) is the three that belangs Alpha Centauri – some 4.37 licht year awa – an the nearest o the three is Proxima Centauri aboot 4.24 licht year awa. Haed we a craft driven wi nuclear pouer it wad tak aboot a thoosand year tae win at Proxima, sae the’r nae wey ony human cuid mak sic a veage. Bi the same reasoning, mony fowk threaps that nae ootrel made o flesh cuid mak sic a veage either, an sae it is maist unlikely that UFOs is fae ither warlds. Unless, in coorse, we arena speakin o biology but raither progs, or robotic cheils, makkin the veage throu undemous time. But Drake an Fermi, is haes been suggestit, micht no’a factort in cheils we haena even thocht aboot. Sae like Daurk Maiter, we jist daena ken.