Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Fermi Paradox

Representation of the Milky Way. The approximate location of the Sun is noted.
*Check out the companion video too:*

Hey everyone. The Fermi Paradox, for those who do not know, is based around the idea that since our Galaxy is so old, advanced civilizations should have colonized it in its entirety by now.

Even though it would take a while to traverse the galaxy at sub-light speeds, it would still be possible given enough time, say millions of years. Over generations, an advanced civilization could theoretically develop an autonomous machine (usually called a "Von Neumann Probe") that would travel to nearby solar systems, collect resources, and duplicate itself. Then the original and its clones would journey to other solar systems, and the process would continue.

As you can see, this system grows exponentially and over a million years much of the galaxy would be explored or visited by these machines. The question then is why this has not occurred yet, as the universe had already existed for billions of years by the time life on Earth developed. Indeed, you would think that during that time some sort of civilization would have arisen and colonized the Milky Way.

Various theories have been proposed as to why we see no evidence of such an alien race. Some say that we truly are alone in the universe, others that we as humanity are one of the first intelligent species to arise in all of space, and therefore perhaps we will be the ones to launch probes and create an interstellar empire.

There are others ideas as well. Some state that a Galactic Alien Empire exists, but intentionally inhibits our ability to detect or make contact with them. In other words they either don't want to deal with us or do not want to meddle in our development. This is normally referred to as the zoo theory, for obvious reasons.

Then there are more sinister theories, such as those that state that the reason we do not detect life is because there is a malevolent force out that that intentionally eliminates it. The less horrific and Lovecraftian version of this theory is that there are just natural occurrences (such as gamma ray bursts) in the universe that eliminate intelligent life before it ever develops far enough to truly form any sort of Galactic Civilization.

Either way, whatever the answer to this paradox, the day we discover the truth will be earth shattering indeed. Pardon the pun.

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