Topic Tuesday #132 2015/01/27 - "The Fermi Paradox - Where is Everybody?"
Once upon a time, man looked up at the Sun and felt the Earth beneath them as unmovable. We thought that we were the center of everything and that we were special because of it. Time passed, stories told, and the world explored. We now see deep into distance and time with our telescopes and know that we are not the center of the solar system, the galaxy, and certainly not the universe.
Mathematics combined with cosmology leads there are an estimated 200–400 billion (2–4 ×1011) stars in the Milky Way and 70 sextillion (7×1022) in the visible universe. Even if intelligent life occurs on only a minuscule percentage of planets around these stars, there might still be a great number of civilizations extant in the Milky Way galaxy alone. The math says that someone should have been noticed by now. Pondering this one day, as the story goes, Enrico Fermi asked his pals from the Los Alamos National Laboratory "Where is everybody?"
This is a good question. It also creates other questions...
As we continue to peer into the abyss, we have found planets that orbit stars, not unlike our own. The most recent of those (at the time of this writing) is Kepler-444. Kepler-444 hosts five Earth-sized planets in very compact orbits. It is also 11.2 billion years old; the oldest star with earth-sized planets ever found. This is proof that such planets have formed throughout the history of the Universe. This star could be gone now. The planets engulfed by an expanding star, as ours is likely to do in another 5 or 6 billion years. If… If there were intelligent life in the Kepler-444 system, did they escape their planets demise? Will we?
I am reminded strongly of a statement made by one of my favorite science fiction authors; it made my brain hurt.
“Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” - Arthur C. Clarke