Scientists Propose Idea of Planetary Intelligence
Can planets possess their own intelligence? That’s what University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank and his colleagues, have proposed in a paper published in the International Journal of Astrobiology.
They pulled ideas from the Gaia Hypothesis — that all living organisms on Earth interact with inorganic organisms to regulate the conditions necessary for life, making the planet a self-regulating organism.
They looked at how, “[T]he appearance of technological intelligence may represent a kind of planetary-scale transition, and thus might be seen not as something which happens on a planet but to a planet”
They argue that to understand the evolution of life, we must study the planet as a whole instead of individual species. Their definition of planetary intelligence is “the acquisition and application of collective knowledge, operating at a planetary scale, which is integrated into the function of coupled planetary systems.”
Consider photosynthesis: for the first two billion years, Earth’s atmosphere was mainly molecular nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and some oxygen. The evolution of photosynthesis by bacteria lead to the “great oxygenation event” about two and a half billion years ago.
The planet itself was changed by bacteria and plants, creating oxygen and making the atmosphere habitable for life. As more life grew, there became complex systems —a feedback loop that grew more life, eventually leading to the Earth we know today. So how can we use this knowledge?
The researchers say we can use the concept of planetary intelligence to study Earth and exoplanets, our current geological age, the future of human sustainability, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The researchers say there are four stages of planetary evolution:
Stage 1 – Immature biosphere: Earth before it developed its biosphere.
Stage 2 – Mature biosphere: The period from 2.5 billion to 540 million years ago, characterized by continents, vegetation and photosynthesis, and an ozone layer developing.
Stage 3 – Immature technosphere: Where we are now.
Stage 4 – Mature technosphere: This is the hope for the future where human technology works with the natural biosphere, not against it.
By studying where we came from in terms of the planet working as an intelligent being that has evolved to grow life, we can figure out how to fix problems we are facing, in order to have a more sustainable planet in the future.
As Frank told SciTechDaily, “The biosphere figured out how to host life by itself billions of years ago by creating systems for moving around nitrogen and transporting carbon. Now we have to figure out how to have the same kind of self-maintaining characteristics with the technosphere.”
The researchers added that understanding the Earth’s evolution of planetary intelligence could help in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It stands to reason that if it worked for earth this would work on other planets. Frank argues the search for techno-signatures from other planets could be the way to find intelligent life, telling SciTechDaily, “…the only technological civilizations we may ever see—the ones we should expect to see—are the ones that didn’t kill themselves, meaning they must have reached the stage of a true planetary intelligence.”
Final Words Project: The Dying's Final Words Hint at Afterlife
What can the final words, spoken by the dying, tell us about life’s greatest mystery? According to the findings of a long-term research project, a great deal.
Lisa Smartt is a linguist who, in 2012, became interested in the words spoken by the dying when she noticed peculiar changes in her father’s speech as he was passing.
“So one of the things I noticed when I was sitting bedside with my father, well the first thing was he started talking about angels in the room, and my dad was a hardcore scientist. So when I heard my tough, gruff, cigar-smoking Papa talking about angels in the room, I took notice. Being a linguist, I pulled out my pencil and pad and started taking notes. Three days before he died, he shared that the angels say ‘only, three days left,’ and indeed three days later he was gone. And what began to emerge in my notes intrigued me, and led me to the language of the dying, but there wasn’t much written. So I attended a workshop with Dr. Raymond Moody and together we established the Final Words Project.”
Since the project began, Lisa has collected 200 accounts of the last words of the dying from those at their bedsides. Throughout more than a decade of analysis of 2,000 final utterances, Lisa has come to see many universal patterns and recurring themes.
“Specifically you see patterns about a big event coming, someone might say, ‘oh, the big dance is coming’ or ‘the big art show is coming,'” Smartt said. “And then people also talk about traveling, some say ‘the ship is ready’ or ‘the boat is ready,’ feeling that something is kind of moving them along that’s bigger than they are. And then another way that this hybrid language appears is someone may say ‘get me my checkbook, I need to pay at the gate,’ as if they’re referring to Heaven’s gate, so they’re bringing pieces of this world and beginning to talk with the other.”
“People might start talking about things that some family members or loved ones might think are nonsense like ‘my husband (who had died 10 years ago) is standing at the edge of my bed.’ Now to some people they may think that’s nonsense, but it seems from our research and others that there actually are visitors standing at the bedside with those who are dying and that’s not nonsense,” she said.
One particularly fascinating implication is the glimpse these final words seem to provide of what may come after physical death.
“There’s a lot of repetition, you know one well-known example of this is Steve Jobs ‘wow, wow, wow’ before he died, I think those were actually his very final words, and you can only imagine, what did he see? What did that exclamation refer to? People definitely start talking about how beautiful it is over there. I’ve come in contact with so many people who have had near-death experiences and there’s such a sense of peace, and you can see this in some people even before they die. There is this energy that seems to be moving toward some kind of new emergence or a new state of being,” Smartt said.