Have you ever stood out under a dark night sky filled with seemingly millions of stars and wondered if there is anyone else up there? Perhaps other beings not too different from you looking our way and wondering the same thing? You are not alone in your wonderings.
In the summer of 1950, the famous Nobel Prize winning physicist Enrico Fermi was having a casual lunch with three of his colleagues at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. If you saw the movie “Oppenheimer,” you will know where that is. The conversation among these very smart scientists was along the lines of potential alien civilizations out there among the stars.
The reasoning went that any smart aliens who were able to develop rocket science could probably expand their presence to all the habitable planets in our galaxy in 5 million to 50 million years. That may sound like a long time, but remember that our universe is far older at a little over 13 billion years in age.
Suddenly Fermi blurted out the question, “Where is everybody?” After all, as far as we know nobody has stopped by to say hello or even bothered to send us a text.
Fermi died just a few years later, but his question, now known as the Fermi Paradox, lingers on. Everybody from UFO buffs to astrophysicists have pondered over the simple question and come up with all sorts of answers. Why has no one come knocking on our door?
If you are bored sitting around at home because it is too cold to go outside skiing, google solutions to the Fermi Paradox. Here are a few ideas people have come up with.
• The Zoo Hypothesis. Maybe aliens know we are here and have been watching us for a long time and are regarding us as some sort of a zoo. Maybe they are afraid of us and are making sure we do not expand any further than our own solar system. Or maybe our political antics are hilarious material for their late-night comedy hosts.
• The Great Filter Idea. Maybe all potential civilizations reach an inevitable ending point which stops them dead in their tracks and prevents them from developing any further or exterminates them entirely. It might be as simple as an unpredictable and deadly solar flare that toasts their home planet like a marshmallow on a stick held too close to a fire. War or disease or a super nova star explosion close by could also do the trick. We just have not reached a planetary disaster yet, but it is waiting for us out there somewhere.
• The Great Computer in the Sky. This idea has received a lot of attention lately with the dawning of quantum computing and artificial intelligence on our horizon. Maybe reality, our reality, is not what it seems to be. Maybe we are just a program in a giant computer somewhere and the guy typing on the keyboard has not gotten around to putting anybody else in the program to keep us company.
As outrageous as this idea might seem, scientists are the first to admit that they cannot definitely rule out the possibility that we all may actually exist in a Matrix type reality.
If your head is spinning with the whole Fermi Paradox idea, just go outside and look up at the stars. Jupiter is high in the sky, the brightest thing up there as soon as it gets dark. Orion, the Great Hunter, straddles the south with all its bright stars. Just before dawn in the southeast, Venus outshines everything else up there except the sun and the moon.
Are there aliens out there somewhere? If there are, let’s hope they are very friendly and forgiving because this has got to be one crazy planet!