fermi paradox

November 6, 2017

Alien species, extraterrestrial life, you name it. Pop culture and films abundant in society illustrate the possibilities of the different forms of space life, but the one question remains: is it possible?...with a likely follow-up: and if so, why haven't they found us?

While taking a break from my exhaustive readings dissecting the "normative significance of peer disagreement in epistemology" (read: what should we do in the case of an argument), I found myself hyperlinking my way across Wikipedia and Google pages. This time around, I've centered on a topic I've only had a superficial understanding of, but that I found incredibly fascinating: the Fermi Paradox. 

This blog post was the first exposure I've had to this concept, and explains it extremely well (and conveniently details hypothetical explanations as to why this paradox still hold). The gist of it is that there are an incredible amount of stars, and a large likelihood of these stars having planets, Earth-like planets, which leads to them developing intelligent civilizations and developing the technology to communicate with us. In fact, recent estimates approximate 10 million billion intelligent civilizations in the observable universe. So why haven't we heard from them?

There's a huge paradox on this issue, especially as the sun is a relatively young star in our galaxy (meaning Earth is also an also relatively new addition) - so it's almost impossible not to have had contact with extraterrestrial species, especially if they have had more than twice Earth's lifespan. During that time, there's a high probability for them to have developed some type of intergalactic travel. This gap or contradiction between this likely probability and the lack of evidence is namely, the Fermi Paradox.

As a consequence, there have been numerous projections surrounding estimating not only the probability of civilizations, but also the number of technological civilizations that may exist in our galaxy. The Drake Equation is one of them, an approach that identifies likely parameters (of finding ET life in our universe) and restricting appropriate bounds to them. The equation makes a lot of sense, detailing variables like rate of star formation, finding the fraction of these stars that can develop intelligent life, and the length of detectable communication from civilization. Though the original Drake equation was found obsolete due to new evidence (here's an article that details the revamped edition), the rational/logical approach to finding this number holds a compelling argument, and is similarly aligned to the way I think and break down problems.

My next train of thought is: What's missing from the equation? Must we go beyond our rational, scientific minds of what we know in the physical world in order to make a breakthrough?