Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Fermi Paradox, Part 2

In my first post on the Fermi Paradox, I went over the basics, which I expect most readers are familiar with anyway. It can be summed up simply (perhaps over-simply) as:
  • Our galaxy is plenty old enough for at least one advanced civilization to have completely colonized it by now, even at speeds much slower than the speed of light.
  • "Completely colonized" should include our solar system.
  • No one can make a persuasive case that this has happened.
 So, the simple version is: they should be be here, but they aren't. This presents us with a paradox.

I'd bet that some readers already have a few objections to the above, and over the next few posts we will take this apart and see where reasonable doubt lies.  This is the real value of the paradox: it serves as a sharp mental lens that forces us to question our assumptions. It should make us more humble about our understanding of how the universe works, and spur us into deeper research. The great unknown is great indeed, so let's go explore. The forward path for the human adventure could not be clearer, and one of the best signposts is the Fermi Paradox.

Sadly, this is not the only effect it has. Too many seize on the Fermi Paradox to jump to Grand Conclusions not in evidence. I promise not to do that. Instead, we will look for better questions than "where is everybody?" I haven't found one yet, but I see hope.