The Fermi Paradox: Are We Alone in the Universe?

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Looking up at the night sky, it can be hard to comprehend just how vast our universe is. In the grand scheme of things, we are nothing but a tiny speck of dust in sea of trillions upon trillions of other planets and stars. Inevitably, the thought of extraterrestrial life creeps into our minds, begging us to wonder if we are truly alone in the universe.

Humans have been searching the cosmos for any sign of alien life since the advent of radio technology around the turn of the 20th century. Teams of the top astronomers in the world have joined forces in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), since the 1980’s, commanding vast and powerful telescopes arrays to search for even the faintest shred of evidence that we are indeed not alone in the universe.

Yet, in all our endeavors, we have yet to find any concrete indication of life outside our planet.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Back in 1950, Italian physicist Enrico Fermi arrived to lunch flustered, exclaiming to his fellow researchers, “Where is everybody?” Fermi set out to answer the confounding question of the supposed lack of intelligent life in the universe. The Fermi Paradox states that since Earth and our Sun reside in a relatively young solar system, and that interstellar travel may potentially be fairly easy to achieve given the time and resources, we should have been visited by aliens by now. SETI has said that an enterprising intelligence civilization could hypothetically colonize the entire galaxy, provided they had suitable rocket technology and enough incentive.

So where the heck is E.T.?

In an article titled “An Explanation for the Absence of Extraterrestrials on Earth” author Michael Hart says “It is suggested that this fact can best be explained by the hypothesis that there are no other advanced civilizations in our galaxy.” Since the 20th century, we have made massive leaps in our overall technology and capability. We have walked the moon, studied Mars, and even sent a probe into interstellar space. It’s not exactly like we’re trying to stay hidden from any intelligent life out there, so what gives?

Well, to start, the universe is big. Like, incomprehensibly big. This poses a huge problem for alien civilizations, as the distance between extraterrestrials maybe so big, that we are essentially walled off from any forms of life in the universe. Other factors to take into account is the fact that life may be too fragile to survive for so long. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but planet Earth is quickly heading towards a future where any number of calamities can spell the end of the human race. From climate change to a rogue asteroid impact, life is extremely delicate, and this could be an answer as to why we haven’t been visited by aliens.

On the contrary, maybe intelligent life is out there, but it is so advanced we are unable to detect it with our current technologies. Or maybe we have been visited, but have yet to be deliberately contacted. Nevertheless, as far as we know it, we are only known place in the universe to harbor life. This, however, could be a good thing. According to the late physicist Stephen Hawking, a visit from an advanced alien civilization might turn out exactly how it does in the movies: not so great for humans. Still, it’s hard to not look up at the night and have a deep curiosity about the mysteries of the cosmos we have yet to uncover.

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind. I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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