In 1950 physicist Enrico Fermi posed a question pointing to the contradiction of probability for extra-terrestrial civilizations and the lack of contact with such civilizations. His pondering is known as the “Fermi Paradox”. In 1961, Frank Drake tried to come up with the statistical answer using a mathematic equation. Drake assigned values for rate of star formation in the galaxy, fraction of those stars with planets, fraction of those that would develop life, of those – the fraction with intelligent life, fraction of intelligent life willing and able to communicate, and expected lifetime of intelligent civilizations.
It doesn’t take a physicist to figure out flaws in Drake’s formula; how can anyone determine the lifetime of any given civilization or possibly understand definitions of cosmic life. We’ve only glimpsed at our solar system, haven’t set foot on the moon in decades, Voyager 1 has taken 36 years to travel 19 billion Km. give or take a few million – and is still about 11 billion Kms. from our sun. There are billions upon billions of stars in the universe; almost incomprehensible, despite attempts such as “picture all the grains of sand in the world – remove one – that’s our sun”.
Science, religion and philosophy toss the paradox around – all searching for a definitive “solution”. Science equates likelihood of an “encounter” to a fly travelling from one end of a football field to the other – a person reaching up and grasping at the air – there’s a chance they could grab the fly. Religion, steadfast and unwavering that no proof of extra-terrestrial life “proves” God put us here. (Apparently a lot of Christians missed a memo from the Vatican that extra-terrestrial life is possible as there is no limit to God’s power)
I’ll close by pondering how lovely it would be if we could simply focus on discovery and knowledge. Imagine understanding dark matter, black holes or the fourth dimension. Debating Fermi’s Paradox is a worthy diversion; an entertaining way to stretch your mind. Buckling down to the business of pure science will change lives – forget “ancient aliens”, I want parallel dimensions.