There’s Nobody Out There – The Fermi Paradox
When I first heard about the Seti Project I was incredibly excited. If you are not familiar with SETI – it stands for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. It’s a project that started officially in 1960 with Cornell University’s Ozma Project using a radio telescope 85 feet in diameter dedicated to finding signals emanating from space. Since then, the project has grown and there is even a Seti@home version where you can :lend” your computer’s resources to help find signals from space.
I first heard about this project as a grade school student and I was so excited about it, I even declared to my teacher that within 5 years we’d get proof of life in space. I was an avid science fiction fan and I knew that there were, as Carl Sagan said, “billions and billions” of planets out there and there should be millions of civilizations somewhere out in space.
Well, I graduation grade school but I was sure we would find evidence before I graduated high school. No luck Certainly by the end of college. Well, for sure a few years after. Next year for sure. Or next. Or next. Hey! What gives?
Well, there is the Fermi Paradox. Wikipedia says this about it:
The size and age of the universe incline us to believe that many technologically advanced civilizations must exist. However, this belief seems logically inconsistent with our lack of observational evidence to support it. Either (1) the initial assumption is incorrect and technologically advanced intelligent life is much rarer than we believe, or (2) our current observations are incomplete and we simply have not detected them yet, or (3) our search methodologies are flawed and we are not searching for the correct indicators.
Let’s go over the popular explanations for why we haven’t found any intelligent signals coming from space.
“They” are using an incredibly advanced form of broadcast
communications we are unable to understand
This one just doesn’t wash. Despite all our advances in broadcast communications, we still have AM radio – and still have a large “ham radio” community. I’m willing to bet that even 100 years from now, there will still be AM radio and ham radio enthusiasts just as we still have people who love to ride horses, churn butter, weave clothes, etc etc. Who knows – I may even live long enough to collect that bet.
“They” developed weapons of mass destruction and
wiped themselves out long ago with wars
That would truly be a tragedy of incredible proportions if every advanced civilization wiped themselves out before we could detect their presence. But if we are talking about millions of civilizations, surely a few managed to avoid annihilating themselves. Some of them must have certainly developed contingency plans – move to another planet, build underground cities, or something far more advanced than we could even guess. And surely they must have had telecommunications satellites, broadcast stations on their moons, other planets, something! That explanation is also highly unlikely.
Searching around the internet, I have found some even less likely explanations.
Robots took over their planets, wiped out all life, and have
no need nor interest in mass communications
We’re actually living in a virtual reality created by
a superior intelligence and all of space and time is just an illusion
That reminds me – there’s a bill to legalize pot in the next election ballot. Cosmic, dude.
They are already here, walking among us, and they are
using sophisticated equipment to scramble signals coming
from their home planet(s)
This one, if taken seriously, would certain require a long and sophisticated explanation of why it is extremely unlikely – involving alien viruses, the common cold killing them off like War of the Worlds, other biological incompatibilities, and on and on – although I have met a number of people who seem to have come from other planets.
Life on other planets is still in a primitive stage, not yet developing mass communication
Considering that Earth and our solar system are “newbies” in the universe and the rest of the galaxy and the universe is much much much older than we are, that means the intelligent life out there is not very intelligent and would be considered severely mentally impaired by our standards.
There’s no one out there
Eventually we would have to come around to this one. First there have been a number of scientists who have done the math and have figured out that life in the universe, even life on our planet, is statistically impossible. First the chance that chemicals in the primordial soup could combine in such a perfect way to create living cells has been calculated as 10390 . That would be like going to Vegas and rolling snake eyes on the craps table 30,000 times in a row without cheating. (Of course you’d be thrown out and banned long before you got to that point.) British scientist Fred Hoyle said it would be like a tornado going through a junkyard and randomly creating a Boeing 747. Needless to say – pretty darn unlikely.
Then there is that thing with the dinosaurs. We don’t know if it was volcanoes, a meteor, or what – but we do know the Rise of Man would never have happened with dinosaurs around. The odds of dinosaurs disappearing and mammals flourishing due to a cataclysmic event is also mathematically impossible – but somehow we beat the unimaginable odds a second time. And of course, surviving the ice age – and just plain surviving. By all odds, there is no way, no how we should even be here. We are a spectacular statistical anomaly.
Even considering that there may be billions of planets, and even millions that may be hospitable toward life – the odds of life actually happening on any planet, let along another planet, is statistically impossible. We are so incredibly impossible there is no way for it to happen a second time.
This scenario certainly explains why we have received no signals from space. But are there any other possible explanations I might have missed? If so, let me know.
Waiting with an open mind