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The Fermi Paradox

 
 
Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2014 06:03 pm
First, some background:

1. Our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy contains between 100 and 400 billion stars and there are about 100 billion galaxies.
2. The universe is believed to be 13.8 billion years old.
3. Our sun and solar system are about 4.6 billion years old.
4. It is believed that most stars or many stars are orbited by groups of planets, just as our sun is. A few hundred of the larger ones have already been detected.

Now, the Fermi Paradox:

At Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1950, physicists Enrico Fermi, Emil Konopinski, Edward Teller, and Herbert York were walking to lunch when the conversation turned to a recent spate of reports of UFO sightings. Fermi used some straightforward math to show that if technological civilizations were common and moderately long-lived, then even containing hundreds of billions of stars, our galaxy ought to be fully inhabited. Since there are probably lots of inhabitable planets orbiting stars that are cosiderably older than our sun, there would likely be many extraterrestrial civilizations far more advanced than we are. Fermi theorized than even limited to travelling at sub light speed one or more of these civilizations would have had ample time to colonize the galaxy by now and we would have seen evidence of their presence. We haven't. That's the paradox.

A few possible explanations:

1. They exist, but not in great numbers
Something so special happened in the formation of the Earth and evolution of life on earth, that it just doesn't happen very often. Only one out of every...say 10000 stars has a civilization capable of being heard by us on the radio and none is close enough. The Earth only gets visited once in a blue moon and the last time was so long ago, that either man wasn't here yet, man was here but hadn't invented writing, or the written record that was made has such a primitive description of the contact that it seems like a crazy fantasy to those who come across it now.

2. We are mistakenly assuming that our primitive technology is capable of hearing them.
We are trying to listen for their signals with radio telescopes, but radio is just a phase which lasts a few centuries and is then usually replaced by a better technology. If you brought someone from the 1960s into the lobby of Microsoft headquarters today with a walkie talkie, he could listen all he wanted, but he wouldn't hear the e-mail, IMs, or land line phones in use in the building. He might incorrectly conclude that no one was there.

3. The great filter
Although evolution is common, there is some step in the evolution of intelligent life or the growth of civilizations and their technology that is extraordinary difficult to get through and almost no one ever does. If this is true, is the great filter behind us or ahead?

4. The cosmic zoo
Local supercivilizations know we're here, but they're protecting our natural development by refraining from communicating with us until we develop more.

5. One powerful species kills the competition
One of the first civilizations to arise and develop an advanced technology now kills any potential competitors who arise. Not wanting to waste their efforts, they wait to see if you will destroy yourself, but once you succeed in attaining a certain level, they come and destroy you.

6. The boondocks
Much of the galaxy is settled, but not this particular area.

7. We're too stupid or too far behind
Would the ants on an ant hill understand the meaning of a superhighway nearby? When Columbus visited America for the first time, did he walk up to an ant hill, greet the ants, and tell them why he had come?

Many other explanations have been suggested.
 
Frank Apisa
 
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Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2014 06:10 pm
One "other" would be:

There might not be any universe. This may be all there is...and this may be an illusion of just one mind.

Who knows!

Anyway...it is entirely possible that there are aliens among us and they observe a form on the Prime Directive (as noted in your Number 4).

Whatever.

But, assuming there is a universe, I do know that I want very much to know there are other creatures in the universe...and so I am hoping and wishing that they show up before I take the deep six.

In another thread I've asked anyone so inclined to join cyber-hands with me to wish and hope with me for that to happen.
Brandon9000
 
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Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2014 06:11 pm
@Frank Apisa,
Hi, Frank. Be careful what you wish for.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2014 08:22 pm
As has been repeatedly mentioned on other threads, I believe distance to be the one stumbling block to finding potential alien civilizations. I have little doubt there are a few out there.
maxdancona
 
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Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2014 08:33 pm
@Brandon9000,


(If I could thumb up my own posts, this is the one I would thumb up.... if you haven't heard this story, please take the time. It is well worth the 5 minutes).

edgarblythe
 
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Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2014 09:26 pm
@maxdancona,
This sounds very familiar. I must have read it in the past. Great concept.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2014 09:42 pm
@edgarblythe,
Without knowing a) life spans of aliens, b) their speed of travel, c) their distance, and d) our limited knowledge of the cosmos, it's impossible to determine if there are such things 'out there.' Without any evidence, it's all conjecture.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Jul, 2014 11:56 pm
@Brandon9000,
8. They're here already and posting on A2K !
Setanta
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 01:27 am
There are several good reasons to consider Fermi to have been incredibly naïve in the casual, off-hand formulation of his alleged paradox. I'll review some of that later. It's time-consuming, and i don't have that time just at the moment.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 04:58 am
Fermi's paradox should, first of all, be recognized as an off-hand remark. That somewhat excuses the thoughtless nature of what Fermi said. First, to look at statistical reasons why the paradox is not really a paradox:

The mere number of stars, and therefore, potential planets in this or any other galaxy is a poor starting point for calculating the probability of technological civilizations. Many of the stars in any galaxy are clustered near the center of the galaxy (i believe that that is probably most of the stars, but am claiming no expertise, and so won't insist upon it). This would mean a high dose of stellar radiation in those areas. The earth is protected from cosmic radiation in general and solar (our stellar) radiation in particular by our magnetosphere and a dense atmosphere. Mars has neither protection, and doses of radiation from solar flares, for example, could easily be lethal to terrestrial life forms, if any were on the surface of Mars and not otherwise shielded. So exposure to stellar radiation is one negatively mitigating factor for the rise and continuance of life, and the odds against the rise and continuance of life must necessarily be higher in the galactic center. Additionally, in the very center of the galaxy, the tidal forces of gravity may well be so great that the odds of the formation and continuance of planets in that region are much lower than is implied by estimates based on uniform distribution assumptions. Statistically, the estimates being used are wildly unrealistic. The probability is that it is only in the galactic boondocks (which is where we live) that stable planets will form and survive, and that life will arise and continue.

The probability of our detecting other technological civilizations has also been wildly overestimated. As this source states, we have only "looked" at a tiny, tiny fraction of the sky, and are only capable (at present) of "looking" at a tiny, tiny fraction of the sky. It is silly arrogance to suggest that if they're out there, we would have known it. Statistical hilarity ensues.

Statistically speaking, making best estimates suggests that the probability of life arising and continuing and the probability of our detecting other technological civilizations has been wildly overestimated.

Fermi showed himself to be both uninformed as well as naïve in other regards, too. His choice to ignore the implications of stellar radiation is mere arrogance on his part. That he didn't know about the probable effects of micro-gravity is excusable. Sending space craft out with people on them will necessarily require enormous expenditures of energy and materials. What is the probability that a population of sentient, self-aware individuals would endure the sacrifices necessary for that? Our own example is not encouraging. Fermi seems to have envisioned planetary governments with the power to rule by fiat. How likely is that? Fermi showed a distinct lack of imagination.

Without going into more detail, i consider the so-called Fermi paradox to be a sham.
edgarblythe
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 05:09 am
@Setanta,
I will agree that you are correct. I still think that of the vast numbers of stars and planets out there, a few are likely to have life of some sort. That we will ever know for sure seems unlikely.
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 05:17 am
150 years ago...we could not fly through the air.

Today, we can send a device to photograph a particular mountain on a moon of Saturn.

No telling where we will be a mere 150 years from today...providing we manage to continue to exist.
Setanta
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 05:38 am
@edgarblythe,
I am not arguing that life would not arise on other planets. I am pointing out that it is highly unlikely that we will ever visit other galaxies, and that we will visit other stars within our galaxy with manned missions. If we visit other stars in our galaxy, it would likely only be after getting a report from an automated probe, and that could take many decades or even centuries. Before you will get the people of this planet to support sending out colonizing missions, we will have had to have solved the problems of feeding everyone, providing them clean drinking water and medical care--and still produce a significant material surplus from which to build both the probes and vehicles for a colonizing mission. My prediction is that it ain't gonna happen anytime soon. Not for centuries, and likely not for millennia.
Romeo Fabulini
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 05:43 am
Quote:
Fermi Paradox quote:..one or more of these civilizations would have had ample time to colonize the galaxy by now and we would have seen evidence of their presence. We haven't.

Oh no? Check this-
Jesus said- "I know where I came from and where I am going, but you have no idea where I come from or where I am going....you are of this world, I am not of this world..." (John 8:14/ 8:23)
"..praise to the Lord, to him who rides the ancient skies above, whose power is in the skies." (Psalm 68:33-34)
"There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown" (Genesis 6:4)

http://i53.photobucket.com/albums/g64/PoorOldSpike/Giants-hominids_zpsee8624c5.jpg~original
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 06:03 am
@Setanta,
My vision of colonizing expeditions from Earth would be as acts of desperation, when it seems there is no alternative. Meaning, life on Earth facing extinction or some such doomsday scenario. Likely they would fail to get off the ground, because people would delay and dither, until the best opportunities were passed. To me, the most successful effort would be extremely costly. Cruising micro worlds, capable of of supporting generations that may never find a suitable landing place.
Setanta
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 06:46 am
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:
Cruising micro worlds, capable of of supporting generations . . .


That's the best idea i've heard on the subject . . . ever.
edgarblythe
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 07:32 am
@Setanta,
I read a science fiction story when I was young, in which the same scenario played out.
0 Replies
 
Olivier5
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 11:50 am
@Setanta,
I must say this is quite amusing. So Enrico Fermi, physics Nobel price 1938, was arrogant, unimaginative, thoughtless, naïve and uninformed... :-)

Next in this series: how Albert Einstein was confused and way in over his head!...
Setanta
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 11:53 am
@Olivier5,
I'm so glad i could entertain you, Olive Tree. Your life always seems so bleak. Being a physicist and a Nobel laureate is no guarantee against arrogance and hubris. I said nothing about Einstein, you're just trying to stir up trouble.
Olivier5
 
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Reply Thu 17 Jul, 2014 11:59 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Being a physicist and a Nobel laureate is no guarantee against arrogance and hubris.

Some people don't even need a Nobel price for that... Smile
0 Replies
 
 

 
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