Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Fermi Paradox

“The Fermi paradox (or Fermi's paradox) is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization and humanity's lack of contact with, or evidence for, such civilizations.“ (Wikipedia)

If you had moved home to a new location far away from your previous one, and wanted to go out and make friends, which of these is least likely as a place to look:
            Sporting club?

Social club?
            Educational institute (e.g. evening classes)

Special interest group e.g. Astronomy society?
            Street full of knife-wielding brawling drunks?

I’m assuming you picked the last as the least likely.  On that basis, why would inhabitants of another planet pick Earth as a planet to be friends with?
For all we know, we were visited in the distant past and have been shunned ever since because of the constant warring.

That, I believe, is the explanation for Fermi’s paradox, and, incidentally, why SETI is a bad idea. We need to be careful whose attention we attract: there could be planets out there whose inhabitants are even worse than ours.


  1. A very interesting take on the paradox. My hunch is that due to the sheer number of possible earth-like planets involved (many billions in our galaxy alone), we are still in the early days of interstellar space exploration.

    Although as you say, other civilisations could be well ahead of us in this regard and our own warring history gives a constant stream of bleak examples as to what happens when one technologically superior or hyper-aggressive civilisation meets a less well equipped one.

    I don't think SETI is a bad idea - it's not broadcasting our presence, is it? Although all of our radio traffic from the 21st century is already speeding away from us at the speed of light.. but even then would only have reached out a teeny-tiny way into our galaxy..

    I've always wondered, since we discovered radio technology, how many other solar systems could potentially have received our broadcasts? (i.e. how many stars are there within 50 light years?).

    Thought provoking indeed!


  2. There was a sci-fi film where contact was made. The others sent us useful stuff about cures for cancer etc to gain our trust, then sent us a genetic formula plus instructions, that gave birth to some demon creature.