Bet 30

Duration ? years (02002-???)

“The first discovery of extraterrestrial life will be someplace other than on a planet or on a satellite of a planet.”

freeman j dyson

Peter A Spark

STAKES $2,000

will go to Project for the Blind, Tibet. if dyson wins,
or The World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US) if Spark wins.

Dyson's Argument

If extraterrestrial life exists, it might have adapted to living in vacuum and spread widely over cold regions far from the sun. If so, it must grow optical concentrators, lenses or mirrors, to focus sunlight and keep itself warm. The concentrators will reflect sunlight in a narrow beam back toward the sun. If we point our telescopes directly away from the sun, we might see life as bright reflecting points, like the eyes of animals caught in headlights.

Spark's Argument

I’m betting that the first life to be discovered beyond earth WILL be found on a planet or satellite of a planet. I believe that the ingenuity and inquisitive nature of man will see us conquer the logistical problems currently associated with space travel and exploration, leading to a new age of discovery. I believe that we will then first discover life* forms existing on a planet or satellite of a planet, in part because we know this is possible so will very probably focus our efforts on this form of discovery, and in part because I think it likely that the conditions that allowed life forms to evolve on our planet, this beautiful rock we call Earth, will have most likely led to a similar parallel evolution elsewhere in the Universe. I believe we shall overcome the two persistent problems that currently hold this back, essentially related to our curious and perverse dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source, and our current lack of competence with regard creating an environment that can maintain human life over time in a small, closed environment such as our current conception of a space-ship. We are making astounding progress in dealing with these two key issues already, future generations will look back on our existing forays toward understanding our place in the known universe, and laugh at the crudity of our current proposed solutions, they will have evolved a much more sophisticated understanding of the technologies required to sustain humanity in the universe. This is important because the unintended consequences of that sophisticated technological evolution will benefit us not only in learning to live in harmony with life forms on this planet, but also to the first discovery of life on other planets. The Dyson family win if we discover life on something other than a planet or its satellite, i.e. on a piece of the flotsam and jetsam of the universe, a comet, asteroid or some such, or as Freeman suggests, in the cold regions far from a 'sun', or perhaps even a ‘space-ship from another planet’. I’m betting that we shall first discover life in its habitat, a planet, upon which random chemistry, solar energy and gravity have all combined to allow a chemical soup to evolve life. I’m betting this will happen before it discovers us in ours. We may settle the bet next week, it may take ten thousand years or more, history will be the judge. It is potentially a very long bet, and a peculiarly ‘human race’. * For the purposes of this bet: 1."Life" is defined as a self-replicating cellular organism. 2.The decision as to whether or not what is discovered qualifies as “Life” as detailed above shall be judged by George Dyson or his descendants.