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The Fermi Paradox is Back

CmdrTaco posted about 7 years ago

Space 713

nettxzl writes ""Sentient Developments revisits the Fermi Paradox which is "the contradictory and counter-intuitive observation that we have yet to see any evidence for the existence of Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (ETI) although the size and age of the Universe suggests that many technologically advanced ETI's ought to exist." Sentient Development's blog post on the Fermi Paradox states that "a number of inter-disciplinary breakthroughs and insights have contributed to the Fermi Paradox gaining credence as an unsolved scientific problem" Amongst these are "(1)Improved quantification and conceptualization of our cosmological environment, (2) Improved understanding of planet formation, composition and the presence of habitable zones, (3) The discovery of extrasolar planets, (4) Confirmation of the rapid origination of life on Earth (5) Growing legitimacy of panspermia theories" and more ... So, where is everyone?"

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So, where is everyone? (5, Funny)

UncleWilly (1128141) | about 7 years ago | (#20121569)

o Far away in space
o Far away in time
o Far away in space and time
o Hollywood

Re:So, where is everyone? (5, Interesting)

smallfries (601545) | about 7 years ago | (#20122081)

Nice. I think you've stitched up all the major avenues of discussion with the first post. Another alternative that made slashdot last year some time was the theory that our galaxy was not conducive to intelligent until recently. The idea is that gamma-ray bursts from pulsars would kill off all life near by. Over time the rate of these events has dropped until the time between them is roughly the length of time for an intelligent species to evolve. At the moment our galaxy is undergoing a phase-transition from an environment that is hostile to life surviving long enough to evolve intelligence, to one that would allow it. So in some sense, all of the intelligent species are "recent" innovations in the galaxy.

It's an interesting theory, but it is just one possible explanation. James Annis' paper [] describes it well.

Have some patience, we'll run across them... event (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 7 years ago | (#20121571)

In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."

The problem isn't that there isn't anyone else out there. With so many billions of stars and planets, the odds that there are other intelligent beings out there are astronomically large. (Pun slightly intended.) The problem is that the distances required to travel to reach them and also astronomically large, and the odds that there is life on any given planet are infinitesimally small.

I always put this thought experiment before people: If you had a spaceship that could instantly take you to anywhere in the universe, where would you go?

Sure, you'd probably drop by a few nebulae and stars and even planets, but after you've seen a few, where to then? You could travel to other planets for lifetimes and still not run across intelligent life on other planets. It's not that truly interesting things aren't out there, it's just that the universe isn't very conducive to producing life-bearing planets. Sure, with so vastly many planets, it will happen (and obviously has), but finding life out there is like finding a needle in a haystack, and we're just now starting to be able to see the haystack.

Further complicating matters is that we don't have spaceships that can instantly take us anywhere in the universe, and according to the laws of physics as we know them, it's likely that other intelligent beings don't either. Maybe they have travelled lifetimes and they just haven't run across us yet.

So be patient, my fellow humans, it may take a few million (or even billion) more years. After all, it's more than just a trip down the road to the chemist, and something that cool will probably be worth the wait.

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121735)

A fungus doesn't need to travel fast to eat your bread. Actually it doesn't travel at all and gets the job done after a few weeks. Space colonization is the same process on a larger scale.

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121935)

>A fungus doesn't need to travel fast to eat your bread. Actually it doesn't travel at all and gets the job done after a few weeks. Space colonization is the same process on a larger scale.

I'm not sure how sending fungi into space to find alien bread to consume is going to be useful to anyone besides the fungi.

The paradox (1, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | about 7 years ago | (#20121767)

The paradox is that if they have a few thousand or hundred of thousand year ahead of us, then they should have at least by probe or similarly conquered or explored this galaxy, or send a lot of radio signal. But we see nothing.

IMHO a simple way to resolve the paradox is that no species has the raw material or the scientific knowledge to ever send self reproducing probe to explore the galaxy. We might not be alone but we will never meet each other and stay in our small island of life.

Re:The paradox (4, Interesting)

thegnu (557446) | about 7 years ago | (#20121987)

The paradox is that if they have a few thousand or hundred of thousand year ahead of us, then they should have at least by probe or similarly conquered or explored this galaxy, or send a lot of radio signal.
My girlfriend pointed out that we've been analyzing for hydrogen based signals, because it's the easiest to produce, and we've found nothing. And then it came out in the conversation that WE'RE not sending out signals because we don't want to be found because we're not advanced enough to protect ourselves from someone who could find us.

Ahem. So in 10k years, we'll be advanced enough to defend ourselves from these theoretical people who are 10k years ahead of us? Will their civilization stop advancing, and we'll catch up? How about maybe aliens aren't sending out signals either?

How about maybe, just maybe, the way we developed science is not very efficient afterall in the grand scheme of things?

I love it when people argue the existence or non-existence of super-advanced beings based on our assumptions about how right we are about everything.

Re:The paradox (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122141)

My girlfriend pointed out
You can stop right there, buddy. If there's one thing even less likely to exist than aliens it's a Slashdotter's girlfriend.

Re:The paradox (1)

foobsr (693224) | about 7 years ago | (#20122175)

if they have a few thousand or hundred of thousand year ahead of us

They probably have other concepts of communication and intelligence (thinking of the spaceship crew that crashed onto a planet only to find out that they had been collected into the zoo of some superspecies).


1.8026175 × 10^12 furlongs per fortnight (1)

mark0 (750639) | about 7 years ago | (#20121841)

It's not just a good idea, it's the law.

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (1)

ChronosWS (706209) | about 7 years ago | (#20121867)

There are several other possibilities. We could find ETIs by:

  1. Observing their effects on the galaxy
  2. Observing their communications
  3. Observing them directly

For observing their effects on the galaxy, perhaps the ETIs make changes which are too small to detect on the scales we can currently resolve. Or maybe they don't need to make such changes to advance their society.

For observing their communications, perhaps their communications are too weak to reach us above the background noise, or they used broadcast communications only briefly in such power (and the time to detect those is past), and now use methods which are much less detectable (think quantum communications.)

For observing them directly, perhaps they are just too far away, or they don't travel beyond their own (possibly terraformed) starsystems.

Perhaps that the period of time in which we had to detect them was small because they made it to some singularity and no longer concern themselves with the same things we do. Maybe they have a massive machine mind now, and everyone 'lives' in that, working on more important problems. Maybe they don't need to consume vast quantites of resources now and so their effects can no longer be observed, and the limited window in which to observe them has passed.

And there are undoubtedly a lot of socio-political factors which we would have to consider - colonization of space is expensive, xenophobia, planet doesn't have the resources to support colonization. Perhaps terraforming as we have imagined it is largely impractical or maybe even impossible (at least for some species) and therefore they are stuck within a single solar system on life support. Maybe they don't have the will to do generation ships, or their biology is unsuited to the trip.

I can thing of TONS of reasons why we have not yet observed ETIs, even if the Universe is swarming with them. I'd very much like to believe we'll meet some someday, but I certainly don't see it happening in my lifetime, and I could easily see humans transcending into some form where such things are no longer of interest to them.

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (1)

igny (716218) | about 7 years ago | (#20122089)

For observing their effects on the galaxy, perhaps the ETIs make changes which are too small to detect on the scales we can currently resolve. Or maybe they don't need to make such changes to advance their society.

Or may be the effects are too large... Hey look, the galaxies are running away from each other, aren't they supposed to slow down by the mutual gravitational effects?

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (2, Insightful)

idesofmarch (730937) | about 7 years ago | (#20121883)

The Fermi paradox has an answer to your thought expirement. The universe is also mind-boggingly old. Furthermore, the Earth is a relatively new planet, meaning there have been billions of years for intelligences to develop before Earth was even around. The Milky Way, on the other hand, is relatively old, meaning that even within the confines of our own galaxy, there should have been plenty of older civilizations.

Now, think of it in a new way. Suppose you were a civilization that just developed space travel, much like where we are now. You have a galaxy around you with 400 billion stars, and that's a lot. It takes you 100,000 years at light speed to cross the galaxy, and that's a long time. However, you have 2 billion years to explore. I have no good grasp on where humans will be 2 billion years from now, but I am sure we will be pretty advanced. Now add to the mix that there are maybe 1000 or 10,000 or 100,000 other advanced civilizations alongside with you, and you can see why we are wondering where everyone is. Oh, and there are a trillion or so other galaxies out there, so if you start to consider the possibility of intergalactice travel, you can even go futher with this.

Really the best answer to the Fermi paradox is that Earth-like conditions are rare. However, I think we just discovered a planet 20 light years away that has 0-40 degreee celsius temperature, water, and is a rocky planet, so maybe that is not the answer either.

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (1)

canuck57 (662392) | about 7 years ago | (#20122219)

Really the best answer to the Fermi paradox is that Earth-like conditions are rare. However, I think we just discovered a planet 20 light years away that has 0-40 degrees Celsius temperature, water, and is a rocky planet, so maybe that is not the answer either.

While that 20 light year away planet might not be the answer, it has interesting possibilities if we (mankind) destroy our planet as we grow with technology but do not grow as fast politically. We should go... and perhaps find intelligence had a war that wiped out intelligence. Could be biological, nuclear or other, but many growing civilization no doubt got major set backs by war.

I for one would think it would be good if one came for a we realize how small we really are.

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (4, Informative)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | about 7 years ago | (#20121923)

With so many billions of stars and planets, the odds that there are other intelligent beings out there are astronomically large. (Pun slightly intended.)

That's the Sagan argument. Unfortunately, the fact that we exist tells us absolutely nothing about how probably intelligent life is or isn't (see: anthropic principle). Sagan's argument doesn't address the fundamental Fermi problem.

The problem is that the distances required to travel to reach them and also astronomically large, and the odds that there is life on any given planet are infinitesimally small.

True, but the amount of time that's passed until us showing up is also astronomically large. It only takes one race with an expansion desire to fill up the galaxy at sublight speeds around 1 to 10 million years (via geometric expansion). Even if it took 100 million years, that's still a blip in the life of the galaxy. At the very least, someone should have sent out self replicating probes by now. By we've seen absolutely nothing.

I'm pretty much convinced that intelligent life is extremely improbable, and that we're alone in the galaxy.

Physical evolution of the universe (1)

spun (1352) | about 7 years ago | (#20122143)

The amount of time that's passed becomes less relevant if life requires certain physical conditions that didn't exist or existed far less frequently early on in the universe. Perhaps life requires certain concentrations of heavy metals. Maybe we're one of the first.

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (1)

MrSteveSD (801820) | about 7 years ago | (#20122057)

it's just that the universe isn't very conducive to producing life-bearing planets.

I'm not sure you can really say that, given that current detection methods are really suited to finding larger planets that are not so suitable for life. What we have is an observational selection effect.

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... (1)

mblase (200735) | about 7 years ago | (#20122103)

Further complicating matters is that we don't have spaceships that can instantly take us anywhere in the universe, and according to the laws of physics as we know them, it's likely that other intelligent beings don't either. Maybe they have travelled lifetimes and they just haven't run across us yet.

I'm still trying to decide if this is even likely to happen.

For example, why don't we work on visiting the Moon or asteroids or other planets that are rich in minerals we need, mine them, and ship them back to Earth? Of course, it's because it's not practical to do so -- the money/energy consumed by shipping them to Earth vastly outweighs what we'd gain by having them.

Shipping people around the universe poses the same problem. To make it practical, you either need to bring a small group back (which you really can't do across light-years) or send a large colony one-way. To do THAT, you need to be fairly certain they've got a good place to land, and completely certain they've got a comfortable ship to ride in. A ship large enough to carry an entire colony AND provide the food, oxygen, and sanity they'll need on the way would probably mean hollowing out an asteroid.

It's not a question of technology to send people across the stars, nearly as much as it is a question of making the trip worthwhile. I don't think there's any technology in existence according to the known laws of physics that could motivate any life-form to colonize other planets while their home planet was still habitable.

Heavy elements still relatively young (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about 7 years ago | (#20122187)

It usually takes a second-generation solar system to create a planetary disk with enough heavy elements to form rocky earth-like planets with iron cores (thus generating a magnetic field that can shield the planet's biosphere from solar radiation). Heavy elements form through atomic fusion deep inside the the core of decent-sized main-sequence stars, and are probably only released through supernova-scale events.

The known universe is only 15 billion years old. Our sun is only halfway through its (at least second, maybe more) 10 billion year lifecycle. So chances are we're still fairly early to the party.

Once conditions were right on Earth, it took life only about 2 million years to develop to where we are now. We've only been pumping out radio signals for about a century. We're 8500 light years from the center of the Milky Way, so news of our existence hasn't even reached most of our own galaxy yet.

From the bits I've read about what we know about physics, quantum tunneling and wormholes are the only prospects we have for faster-than-light communication and/or travel. And both of them pretty much rely on having the entangled particles or artificial wormhole endpoints moved to separate locations at sub-light speeds. So I think the prospects are dim for finding ways to survey a significant part of our galaxy and the rest of the universe for our contemporaries. We'll just have to hunker down and try to survive for the long haul, and try not to destroy ourselves or our planet or fail to colonize other planets before this one goes out on its own. Eventually we'll find something out there, and hopefully they'll have the decency not to thwack us :P

Re:Have some patience, we'll run across them... ev (1)

david.given (6740) | about 7 years ago | (#20122227)

Sure, you'd probably drop by a few nebulae and stars and even planets, but after you've seen a few, where to then? You could travel to other planets for lifetimes and still not run across intelligent life on other planets. It's not that truly interesting things aren't out there, it's just that the universe isn't very conducive to producing life-bearing planets.

That is all true --- but you're not going to find intelligent life on their home planets. You're going to meet explorers looking at the same sights you are.

Given a Perfect(TM) spacecraft, there are a relatively small number of Interesting Things in the universe --- there are only about 12000 known quasars, for example, and I'm sure there are other, rarer Interesting Things to take a look at. Closer to home, space-going travellers in Milky Way Galaxy will tend to congregate at the black hole at Galactic Centre if you want to meet locals. And, naturally, everywhere you go you leave bouys saying hello and inviting people to meet up and some arbitrary location. Eventually you're going to run into someone.

Also, bear in mind that a Perfect(TM) spacecraft drive also implies that a Perfect(TM) communications system could be possible... you may just be able to turn on the hyper-radio and ask if there's anyone out there who wants a drink.

(My pet hypothesis for the Fermi Paradox is that there's lots of people out there, but they're not talking on the same system that we are. Long-distance communication using electromagnetic waves sucks, they're expensive, unreliable and slow. Let's suggest that there's something better available once technology gets good enough --- it doesn't matter how much better, just that it'll be the preferred mechanism once you discover it. Let's call this Q waves. The window where a civilisation knows about EM waves but doesn't know about Q waves is likely to be quite small, on the order of a hundred years or so. Given how slow EM waves are, by the time you receive a message that's been sent using EM waves, the sender's probably not using them any more... so given that you're using the Q spectrum for your own communications anyway, why bother even listening on the EM spectrum?

This neatly explains why we haven't been able to pick up an EM sources in the sky; there aren't any. But there will be plenty of Q sources, and if any of those are close enough and interested enough to have picked up our own EM emissions, they'll be patiently waiting for us to build Q receivers so we can hear their replies.

Incidentally, in the real world, high-frequency gravity waves might make a good candidate for Q waves. We know practically nothing about the gravitational spectrum, but while gravity waves propagate at c, they don't get blocked by interstellar dust, and there's a good chance that there aren't very many natural sources of high-frequency gravitational waves to produce interference. That makes them a considerable improvement over EM waves. Now all we need to do is to find a way of sending and receiving them...)

Theory of evolution is wrong (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121611)

Maybe, just maybe, the theory of evolution is wrong, and it's pretty damn hard for life to form and evolve to the complexity we see today through random mutation and natural selection.

Hey, I'm just puttin' it out there...

God only made humans (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121613)

This is it folks, this planet is all there is. God only created life here on earth.

Re:God only made humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121689)

Thats what all the civilizations say.

Re:God only made humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122049)

>This is it folks, this planet is all there is. God only created life here on earth.

It's pretty clear in the Bible that God created beings that are not here on Earth.

God only made humans??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122061)

Then who the hell is responsible for the mosquito?!

Re:God only made humans??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122135)

Steve Balmer.

Time to give up... (3, Insightful)

g0dsp33d (849253) | about 7 years ago | (#20121621)

So we've used a few hundred years of technology for almost a hundred years to look for signs of life in a (nearly?) infinite universe and not found anything. Must mean its not there.

Considering the state of terrestrial intelligence, maybe any ETIs have realized that broadcasting attack coordinates into space may not be such a great idea?

Re:Time to give up... (4, Interesting)

h4rm0ny (722443) | about 7 years ago | (#20121737)

Maybe it's been broadcast in a way that we just don't recognize yet. A mere few centuries ago, no-one would have thought to look for alien life (if they thought to at all), by looking at radio waves. Radio what? It's easily possible that there is another great leap just around the corner that is pretty obvious once you reach a certain level of technological or scientific know-how. Maybe someone will discover a sub-ether-o-matic and the whole sky will light up. It's also possible that life forms frequently move toward a smaller population base and thus give off less indicators of their presence.

Re:Time to give up... (1)

g0dsp33d (849253) | about 7 years ago | (#20121755)

Or maybe its broadcast with sarcasm which also seems to go undetected... :)

Re:Time to give up... (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | about 7 years ago | (#20121851)

Gosh! Really?

Re:Time to give up... (2, Interesting)

Trevin (570491) | about 7 years ago | (#20121855)

It takes the power of an entire sun -- something on the order of 10^26 to 10^32 watts -- for us to pick up a tiny pinprick of light, and that's only if our own sun doesn't get in the way. How likely do you think we'll be to pick up a signal sent on a few measly megawatts of power?

Radio Astronomy is too slow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121801)

SETI with radio signals is the most retarded thing I have ever heard of, it is guaranteed to fail. No INTELLIGENT life would attempt interstellar communication by radio. As soon as we grok that our chances of finding ETI will increase significantly.

Re:Time to give up... (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | about 7 years ago | (#20121951)

So we've used a few hundred years of technology for almost a hundred years to look for signs of life in a (nearly?) infinite universe and not found anything. Must mean its not there.

The point isn't that we haven't found them, the point is that nothing has found this planet. And that should've happened a long time ago, either by a race expanding at a geometric rate (even at sublight speeds), or by a self-replicating probe. A billion years is a long time.

Re:Time to give up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122063)

maybe we found this planet?

Re:Time to give up... (3, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | about 7 years ago | (#20122097)

You *assume* that no ETI has found your planet.

Just because you can observe no evidence to indicate such,
does not mean that it has not happened.

We might just be hiding our ships on another planet, observing you.

The star gate is how we get to other planets...... (2, Informative)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 7 years ago | (#20121627)

and the Extra Terrestrial Intelligence that we know about has been covered up.

Wales (1)

KitsuneSoftware (999119) | about 7 years ago | (#20121641)

Where are the aliens? Wales. It's the perfect answer to every question.

Re:Wales (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 7 years ago | (#20121799)

Oh come on. I know the Welsh [] have their own culture, but that doesn't make them aliens.

Re:Wales (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 years ago | (#20121981)

Now, if the French were really the aliens, that would explain a few things.

Maybe we're better off alone (5, Insightful)

FlyByPC (841016) | about 7 years ago | (#20121647)

Steven Hawking's comment (about how the history of advanced civilizations on Earth meeting less-developed civilizations has generally not gone well for the less-developed ones) would seem to apply here. Hopefully, any civilization advanced enough to not blow itself to pieces before developing interstellar transport capability would be reasonably benign -- but can we afford the risk? If a civilization has the wherewithal to visit other star systems, they are at the very least many years beyond where we are, both technologically and economically.

Maybe we should be glad if we're too insignificant to be noticed just yet. (We certainly don't have our act together, at any rate.)

Re:Maybe we're better off alone (2, Interesting)

Stefanwulf (1032430) | about 7 years ago | (#20121877)

Very often the civilizations that suffered at the hands of colonizers were less technologically advanced because they had less trade and less contact with other civilizations - whether through political choice or geographic isolation. Those civilizations which embrace trade can can very often catch up to their more advanced neighbors in a relatively short period of time - take Europe in the renaissance, for instance. I can't think of a single situation where isolationism allowed a country to overcome a technology deficit, however. In this hypothetical situation of meeting technologically advanced alien life, if we isolate ourselves because we fear that they have better technology then all we are doing is slowing down our own rate of technological development and making the disparity worse when we do eventually come into contact.

Re:Maybe we're better off alone (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | about 7 years ago | (#20121893)

in less than 20 years we will have the technology to detect life on other planets, what are the chances that a technologically advanced civilization capable of going into space wouldn't have the technology to find our life with or without us being significant or not? chances are if they are still around they are far more advanced than us [assuming they are space capable etc.] and would find it a trivial problem to find species like ourselves. but you are probably correct in that this being true, they either haven't searched this part of the galaxy, can't see our signals, dont really care we are here or haven't contacted/gotten to us yet [assuming that UFOs are not them]

Re:Maybe we're better off alone (1)

Evan Meakyl (762695) | about 7 years ago | (#20122003)

Yes, and maybe we are alone because ... that's what they want.

Currently, our cultures and our societies are typically humans, and if one day a "superior" civilization, coming from another star, goes on Earth, what would happen?

We will try to mimic them. Currently, our research and development are going into all the directions, because we don't know where to search. If a lab can look at what an UFO looks like, what do you think they will try to do? To copy it. Or to ask for the ETs to answer the questions we are wondering since age. Our imagination and our soul will vanish - we will loose our specificities.

If I were them, I would look to the humans without trying to disturb them, in order to fully understand them, and make them proud of their discoveries - else, I could find a depressive society, with no goal.

The day we will reach a certain level (traveling to another star?) maybe they will knock to our door... or keep watching and studying us

The universe is very very big... (1)

EjayHire (860402) | about 7 years ago | (#20121649)

We are a single piece of plankton in a very large ocean. It might take a while... -Ejay

Re:The universe is very very big... (1)

Not_Wiggins (686627) | about 7 years ago | (#20121829)

We are a single piece of plankton in a very large ocean. It might take a while...

You mean... assuming we can avoid the Humpback whale and that other civilizations have done the same. 8)

not really a paradox (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121679)

Its not really a paradox if the intelligent life is smart enough to actively try to avoid our detection, and competent enough to succeed.

Evidence for intelligent life (5, Funny)

dgtangman (140663) | about 7 years ago | (#20121683)

Anyone remember who first noted that the best evidence for intelligent life in the universe is that they haven't contacted us?

Re:Evidence for intelligent life (4, Informative)

Inexile2002 (540368) | about 7 years ago | (#20121999)

That would be Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.

Re:Evidence for intelligent life (2, Insightful)

biocute (936687) | about 7 years ago | (#20122177)

This could be very true.

Would we bother to communicate with ants? We might observe them, kidnap a few for experiments, but we don't really bother to send signals at them.

Far side of the moon (1)

Gunfighter (1944) | about 7 years ago | (#20121695)

They set up shop on the far side of the moon and launch interstellar spaceflights from there. That's why. Didn't you see that in Star Trek IV [] when Kirk and the gang used the moon to hide their warp signature from the Vulcans as their ship headed off towards the sun to travel back to the future?

Re:Far side of the moon (1)

computerman413 (1122419) | about 7 years ago | (#20121921)

You actually got that pretty wrong. Picard and company used the moon to hide their warp signature from the Vulcans while the Vulcans were making first contact with Earth. They then created a portal to return to the 24th century, without using the sun. This happened in Star Trek: First Contact [] .

Oh, they're out there... (2, Funny)

Thomasje (709120) | about 7 years ago | (#20121731)

...but they are way too smart to talk to strangers!

Maybe they always quickly blow themselves up? (3, Insightful)

originalhack (142366) | about 7 years ago | (#20121771)

We've been unable to make our presence known by radio until less than 100 years ago.

We can get humans to the moon, but not to the next planet.

The universe is vast even compared to our oceans and we lose people in our oceans all the time. Why would we think a space probe would be noticed by someone?

Now, our technology will improve and some of the above statements may change rapidly. But, the chances of our using some of those technologies to destroy ourselves seem to be accelerating as well. Perhaps the missing part of the model is that other civilizations always blow themselves up within a few hundred years of their first communication attempts or steps off their planets.

We probably will.

The universe is way too big (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121785)

I've heard it said that if you shrunk down the galaxy so that it was about a yard wide, the head of a pin would represent all the stars that we can see from Earth. Earth is such an infinitesimally small place in our galaxy, let alone our universe, that it seems pretty much impossible that any advanced life would notice our tiny planet. Shoot, we've only had radio technology since the 1940s! That means that any signal we've ever sent out from our planet is no farther than what, 70 light years from Earth? That's not even close to reaching that many stars. Even if other races set up something like SETI on their own planet and were actively looking for signals, it'd still be millions, or billions of years before ANY got to them.

Re:The universe is way too big (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122117)

Shoot, we've only had radio technology since the 1940s!
The first commerical radio broadcasts began in 1920, and other uses of radio (i.e. wireless telegraphs) were around since the turn of the 20th century.

Re:The universe is way too big (1)

pclminion (145572) | about 7 years ago | (#20122189)

Shoot, we've only had radio technology since the 1940s!

Wh-wh-wha... what?

Where is everyone? (1)

Pcybill (841782) | about 7 years ago | (#20121793)

Where is everyone? Avoiding us, Humans are not a very nice species, we do not play well with others...

CSI quote (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | about 7 years ago | (#20121805)

reminds me of a quote Grissom had on CSI about aliens: "I am sure if there is something out there looking down on us from somewhere else in the universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us."

2 minutes to midight!! (0)

SengirV (203400) | about 7 years ago | (#20121807)

Life is one thing, intelligent life on the other hand is very rare. In the billions of years life has existed on Earth, sentient being have been around for how long?

2-minutes to midnight ring a bell anyone?

sing along with me ...

The killers breed or the demons seed,
The glamour, the fortune, the pain,
Go to war again, blood is freedoms stain,
But dont you pray for my soul anymore.
2 minutes to midnight
The hands that threaten doom.
2 minutes to midnight
To kill the unborn in the womb.

The blind men shout let the creatures out
Well show the unbelievers
The napalm screams of human flames
Of a prime time belsen feast...yeah!
As the reasons for the carnage cut their meat and lick the gravy,
We oil the jaws of the war machine and feed it with our babies.

Considering the current state of affairs... (4, Interesting)

Jasin Natael (14968) | about 7 years ago | (#20121811)

I'm reminded of an argument put forth in Robert J. Sawyer's Calculating God: If, once we reach a certain level of technological sophistication, it takes only hundreds or thousands of years to either annihilate ourselves or transfer our consciousness into a virtual world, what are the chances that any two types of intelligent life could exist contemporaneously anywhere in the universe, provided that a sufficiently intelligent species develops science and technology only after developing for several billion years?

We're not even confident that our social experiment will last right now. We've had 120 years or so of real technology -- and there's no guarantee that resource constraints, political strife, or any number of environmental factors won't return us to subsistence farming within a few more generations. The real question is, given not only the incredibly large size of the universe, but also the almost incomprehensibly-long timelines, what are the chances that two intelligent species will be concurrently intelligent, civilized, and looking for each other ... and furthermore, what is the chance that we are one of them (and at this very moment)?

Advanced Intelligence May Just Be Embarrassed (4, Funny)

nick_davison (217681) | about 7 years ago | (#20121819)

Assuming they're smart enough to create signals that we can detect, they can most likely detect ours too.

Complex life on this planet has been going on for hundreds of millions of years and yet it's only in the last hundred or so that we've been able to look out with anything more than enhancements of our natural senses. This implies that the odds of a second species being at exactly the same point tiny. Most likely, if they're sending things we can read, they got there a long way before us and are quite a bit smarter.

Assuming they're quite a bit smarter, one look at the crap our radiowaves are sharing with the universe - infomercials, reality TV and our politics/wars - and I'd imagine pretty much any higher civilization would be embarrassed enough about us to screen their signature and make damn sure those idiotic hairless apes don't go and screw their part of the galaxy up too.

So, the answer to the paradox: There's most likely higher intelligence out there. And, because it's higher, it's most likely embarrassed to hell and back by us and screening itself from us. Problem solved.

Re:Advanced Intelligence May Just Be Embarrassed (1)

ypps (1106881) | about 7 years ago | (#20122157)

Well TV-signals are hardly strong enough to be detected by ET? Or I don't know. But what about (military) radar? It is stronger by several magnitudes and it is transmitted in one direction at a time. Or what about atmospheric nuclear tests? (Let's hope that ET assumes that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were tests, too.) In that case we are constantly transmitting the following message over and over: "Bip! We like to kill each other."

If I was ET I would probably call the extermination entrepreneur for this sector of the galaxy.

Better Off. (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about 7 years ago | (#20121823)

Any space-faring race that makes it here will be technologically advanced by far.

We're technologically advanced over all the other creatures here on Earth. We eat them.


Re:Better Off. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122013)

not everyone eats the technologically less advantaged.....veggie's.......and they seem to be smarter(statictically)
I think humans need to evolve (more).

there is possibility that when smart aliens come they won't eat us :)

Re:Better Off. (1)

Aladrin (926209) | about 7 years ago | (#20122261)

You think vegetables are more technologically advanced than humans? What planet do you live on?

And I'm going to assume you meant vegans are statistically smarter than us meat-eaters, not that you think the vegetables are smarter.

Maybe they're using Messenger? (3, Funny)

IBBoard (1128019) | about 7 years ago | (#20121839)

Maybe they are out there, trying to communicate with us, but they're using MSN Messenger and have the same bad grammar as half of the other people who use it?

"hello earthling.we want to know you know about is important!!!!!"

Re:Maybe they're using Messenger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121933)

they would like to contact us but intersteller communication protocols are patented.

simple answer (2, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | about 7 years ago | (#20121849)

The smarter a living thing gets, the more likely it is to do something stupid that kills all of them swords then guns then nuclear weapons then synthetic black holes and antigravity, etc. And less cognatively capable but well adapted animals can't build radio towers and spaceships so we'll have to go visit them instead of them visiting us

Radio waves.. (5, Insightful)

Mascot (120795) | about 7 years ago | (#20121879)

I always found it puzzling that the brightest minds seem to feel there's a fair percentage chance we'll find sign of extraterrestrial intelligence from radio waves. Granted, they're a lot more clever than me, so hopefully they have good reasons.

My view though...

Our civilization is in its technological infancy, and even we find radio rather slow and limiting. I can't imagine us leaving much of a radio footprint in another hundred years, especially not leaking it with omnidirectional broadcasting.

Imagining the same being the case of another civilization, we're trying to listen in on broadcasts from a time window of two hundred years or so, and we've been listening for a couple of decades. In a context where being off by a million years wouldn't be too bad, the odds strike me as fairly infinitesimal even if assuming thousands of civilizations located cosmically nearby.

Doesn't hurt to try, mind. It's not like we have a lot of other options open to us currently.

Re:Radio waves.. (1)

bagsc (254194) | about 7 years ago | (#20122109)

Do you talk to bacteria? Why should they notice our existence, and if they notice, why should they care? When we start to ignite supernovas, they'll probably drop by with a fruitcake to welcome us to the neighborhood.

Re:Radio waves.. (1)

Mascot (120795) | about 7 years ago | (#20122167)

I'm not sure what you're replying to. It doesn't seem to be my post.

Nothing I wrote said anything about an intended transmission from an ETI to us.

I know what happened (1)

dattaway (3088) | about 7 years ago | (#20121885)

The truth is oil was discovered on the new planets. And they had a different religion. They will find us next.

Isn't it obvious? (4, Funny)

jcr (53032) | about 7 years ago | (#20121901)

Our radio emissions are a powerful repellent to intelligent life. Come on, if you tuned in to earth and heard all about Paris Hilton, Disco, or one of FDR's "fireside chats", wouldn't you just keep on going by?


to be fair... (1)

Digitus1337 (671442) | about 7 years ago | (#20121913)

We have not had electronics for very long. We have just become able to communicate across the planet at any kind of speed.

Please check out the Disclosure Project (5, Interesting)

Hej (626547) | about 7 years ago | (#20121955)

I found a video from these guys to be rather interesting, if not somewhat convincing: http://http// [http] Video can be found here. Please, anybody with some web space, put up a mirror so that this nice little not for profit group doesn't get slashdotted off the web: []

Re:Please check out the Disclosure Project (1)

Hej (626547) | about 7 years ago | (#20122001)

Is there anyway to edit my post? I followed the example for inserting the URLs, and it added the extra 'http://' (so the links don't work). Would like to fix it if possible. If not, then I guess you'll have to copy & paste the URL. My bad.

Where is everyone? (0, Troll)

xednieht (1117791) | about 7 years ago | (#20121965)

So let's say YOU are the extra-terrestrial and you have overcome gigantic obstacles of technology related to getting from point A to point B in the universe; would you really expose yourself to a "civilization" (and I use the term loosely - so loosely in fact that it makes a French whore seem like a virgin) that murders it's own population for a fuel source that has no future in the space age?

Get real, if there are others out there it will be eons before they introduce themselves, unless by some unforeseen accident.

Re:Where is everyone? (1)

idesofmarch (730937) | about 7 years ago | (#20122083)

That's great. You take one negative aspect to humanity and paint our entire species with it. I could do the same in reverse, by pointing out that we also unselfishly feed our pets and unconditionally love our parents and children. But anyway, that is beside the point. The point is that we would surely be interesting to alien species, simply because we are alien to them and they would want to what we were like, similar to how we examine other species on earth, regardless of their morality and temperament.

Re:Where is everyone? (0, Troll)

xednieht (1117791) | about 7 years ago | (#20122231)

One negative aspect? Better said THE negative aspect. It is when we unconditionally love not just our parents and children and pets but all life that we can make a claim to being civilized.

Civilized societies don't lead people with guns pointed at others.

Imagine if you will... (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | about 7 years ago | (#20121971)

the leader of the fifth invader force speaking to the commander in chief...

Answer here []

"They're made out of meat, Sir."

Or maybe, truth is as strange as fiction? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20121985)

I don't see any comments that reflect the possibility that perhaps, just maybe, truth is as strange as fiction, and intelligent life "from beyond" is already here...

Note: About a month ago Lt. Walter Haut, who was the original press officer at Roswell who issued both the "we've got a crashed UFO" press release as well as the "Oh no, our bad, it's just a weather balloon" release, had his post-deathbed "confession" released, stating that indeed a craft, with bodies, did crash.

Haut confession []

What I find very interesting about this is that when he was alive, Haut consistently denied that anything spectacular had occurred, and only after his death was this information released, as per his wishes. IMO that lends at least a certain level of credibility to the claims.

Perhaps it is unlikely, but I for one am not going to say there is no chance this "UFO thing" is for real, at least in a small number of cases.

Time is big too (1)

Traa (158207) | about 7 years ago | (#20122005)

Not only is space really big and our influence on it really small (so far), but the age of the universe is huge compared to the time we have been capable of making an impact which might be visible by ETI's looking for us. If we take earth history, with us humans in particular, as a measure of what is needed to get to a civilization that can be seen from another part of the universe then we might notice that it has only been very recent since shapes and development on or around earth might be visible and taken as a sign of intelligence present. Us humans have only been making an impact in the last couple of centuries (give or take a few 1000 years). So, relative to the age of the universe (13 odd billion years) we have barely started participating in the race of finding others. The big question is how long human civilization will last and continue to grow its influence on our cosmic surrounding in a way that will make it more and more likely to be picked up by ETI's. I find it hard to predict if we will even be here in the same shape and form a 1000 years from now (human singularity, natural or unnatural catastrophe). The distribution in time of when ETI's might have been able to show themselves might be the same. If there is only a visible window of a few 1000 years before a ETI civilization passes back into a state of non-visibleness then that significantly reduces our chance of finding any.

just a thought.

Lost in time (1)

redelm (54142) | about 7 years ago | (#20122019)

Not only is space vast, but so is time. There is no reason to suppose multiple simultaneous development (a la StarTrek). A thousand years from now we will either have totally different technology or lost patience with EM scanning/bcast.

This inserts a factor of 1000years/16 billion into the probability calcs.

No ET's have come colling? Maybe because... (1)

yellowstone (62484) | about 7 years ago | (#20122041)

...they're off visiting all the other jillions of interesting sentients throughout the universe?

It seems to me in order for the "Fermi paradox" to be a problem, you've got to assume that the development of intelligent, spacefaring sentients is really, really, common.

Suppose, for example, we assume that we get found by someone detecting our radio broadcasts. According to this [] , the first commercial radio broadcast was in 1920. The wave-front from that broadcast is now a sphere ~43 light years in radius. According to this [] , the Milky Way galaxy has a diameter of 100,000 light years.

Using a 2D (because I don't have the math or the data for a 3D) model: a disc of radius 43LY has area 43*43*pi = 5.8E3 LY^2. For the galaxy, A=50000*50000*pi = 7.8E9. So our broadcast sphere has covered 0.00007% of our own galaxy.

So even if there is another sentient spacefaring species out their zipping around in their FTL ships, they'd have to be looking really hard just to get down to the granularity necessary to look in our little corner of the galaxy.

And what if you assume the development of sentient life is unlikely? What if the nearest one is in, say, the LMC? What if FTL travel is impossible, or just really hard? We might never meet one.

So, where is everyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122055)

We're in your tubez, monitoring your p0rn!

"something wrong with our thinking" (3, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 7 years ago | (#20122059)

Indeed, as TFA notes, there is "something wrong with our thinking", or at least with that of the author.

First, interstellar colonization? Unlikely. It makes nice SF, but there's no good economic basis for it. A civilization that survives long enough to reach the technological level necessary for interstellar spaceflight will have stabilized its population and learned how to use local resources to make their home world a paradise. Why go anywhere else? The expense is enormous, the payoff non-existent. (They're working on stellar engineering, of course, so there's no worry about their sun going nova.) Childish species who still imagine faster-than-light loopholes might dream of going swashbuckling across the galaxy, but grown-up races are content to follow more mature pursuits. TFA's claims about "intelligent life's ability to overcome scarcity, and its tendency to colonize new habitats" are simply handwaving, generalizing from one species of half-bright monkeys into sweeping statements about all intelligent life.

Second, there's the question of signal detection. Contrary to popular belief, radio and TV transmissions [] probably couldn't be detected at interstellar ranges. We've only sent a handful of signals into space that are detectable at long ranges - and mostly that's content-free radar signals. Why do we assume others are more chatty than we are? I imagine a galaxy full of listeners, each waiting for someone else to start talking. Additionally, compression and encryption make signal indistinguishable from noise.

Third, recognition of "mega-engineering". TFA claims "we see no signs of their activities in space". How would we know? We assume a "natural" explanation for phenomena - as we should - but if we assume the existence of greatly advanced tech, who knows what we think of as "natural" and take for granted out there that's actually engineered?

A self made Paradox (4, Insightful)

BeerGood (561775) | about 7 years ago | (#20122065)

Even if there was proof of ETI our governments would cover it up. Is it really a paradox if we have no chance of obtaining proof?

The real paradox (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | about 7 years ago | (#20122069)

The problem really is if they start out as we did with radio signals then they would be low powered for local use. Once they advance to space travel it's unlikely they'd be using radio type communications. There's either a narrow range of years, where we are now, where they might try to contact other races. Once they advance to interstellar space travel it's unlikely they'd be interested in tracking down far less advanced civilizations. Why broadcast radio signals hoping to hear back in ten thousand years from a far less advanced civilization? The only real hope is detecting radio signals that escaped into space but we don't have equipment sensitive enough to detect weak signals. Let's say there's a two hundred year window a race uses radio signals. Say over the last million years 100 races developed to the point of using radio within a 100 light years of us. Overlaps in two races in the zone would be rare and that's even assuming we had the equipment to detect the signals. But what about a million lightyears away? The signal would be that much weaker. The only hope really is a long term program with the intent to communicate with other races. We've yet to do that ourselves. We haven't had a civilization last ten thousand years so how likely is it going to be that we are still monitoring radio signals in ten thousand years? It's been a fight to keep SETI going for a few decades and it just monitors a fairly narrow range of signals in low noise areas of the spectrum.

Calvin had it right (0, Redundant)

Jay Maynard (54798) | about 7 years ago | (#20122071)

Personally, I think there may well be more than a grain of truth in Calvin's Commentary: "The best proof that there is intelligent life out there is that none of it has tried to contact us."

Possible reason why we don't see their TV shows... (3, Insightful)

ofcourseyouare (965770) | about 7 years ago | (#20122093)

One piece of wild speculation on why we haven't accidentally picked up any TV or radio broadcasts from ET...

At this point in time TV and radio is rapidly being usurped by interactive media, most of which currently travels along cables and would of course be undetectable from other planets. As for wireless internet, the power of a wireless LAN router is obviously far less strong than say a TV signal broadcast from a TV tower. And future wireless broadband signals would presumably also be local and low-powered, because it's more efficient that way. (Guesswork, of course).

Of course traditional high-powered TV and radio broadcasts aren't dead yet, but in say 100 years it's pretty easy to imagine that they they might be. (Or not -- I know this is all speculation)

So, IF (huge if) other civilisations follwed this path, this might be a possible reason why we don't see or hear their broadcasts -- because like us their high-powered broadcast media only existed for a short time, and were soon replaced by more efficient low-powered interactive media

All wildly speculative I know.

They're hiding... (1, Funny)

advocate_one (662832) | about 7 years ago | (#20122095)

they don't want to catch "Democracy"... they've seen how it gets forced onto others who don't want it...

Unfortunately . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122107)

The same processes that led to our "advanced" evolution, like a strong tendency to eat competitors or in some way take their accumulated energy for our own use, will ultimately result in our demise. Currently humans seem to have evolved along two parallel paths: as predators, for example Dick Cheney or George W. Bush, who individually use all the resources they can take; and as "altruists" who join with others to work for common goals (probably through a built-in mechanism such as empathy). The latter mechanism has a future, the former does not.

Try to imagine any mechanism besides predation that can lead to evolutionary advances and you will see that it is very difficult. Thus the answer to the Fermi Paradox may simply be that all the other experiments in evolution have already died out as the logical result of exactly the same process.

Self-replicating_machine are killing everyone. (1)

TimSSG (1068536) | about 7 years ago | (#20122119) ine [] I say someone in the past created Self-replicating machines and they are not destroying all life in the Milky Way. They have probably heard our radio broadcasts and are on the way already to wipe us out. But, Then I recently read this book Von Neumann's War. 16520759.htm?blurb [] Tim S

Re:Self-replicating_machine are killing everyone. (1)

queezle (897958) | about 7 years ago | (#20122251)

Have you ever read any of Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space [] novels? The paradox is answered by the inhibitors [] which are a self replicating intelligence.

Well... I don't think they want to find us (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 7 years ago | (#20122149)

If it's true that Hitler's speech was the first TV-broadcast using sattelites, I don't think the 'aliens' would like to come and pay us a visit.

Next to that, life on Earth is fairly unique. We have the exact circumstances that are necessary to have carbon-based extravagant life on any planet. We are the perfect distance from the sun, have the perfect atmosphere even the perfect combination of chemicals and gasses. Well, of course we are committing suicide by abusing this perfect balance and screwing it all up, but I doubt there are many planets that have the conditions to sustain bacteria, let alone intelligent creatures that come out on the surface to build stuff and launch themselves into space.

special? (1)

shar303 (944843) | about 7 years ago | (#20122161)

can anyone give me an answer to the following question-

given that electromagnetic signals:

        -travel at the speed of light
        -are useful for communication
        -are quite easy to pick up and analyse en masse
        -keep going indefinitely

why is it that we haven't found evidence for one single civilisation?

is it presuming too much about other lifeforms to expect that at least one, out of the millions of civilisations that must be there, at some stage of its development, may have used radio waves?

i don't know enough about it, but my sympathies lie with the idea that while the universe may well be teeming with life, approximately 40,000 years ago something very special happened on earth . call it the "great leap forward" or whatever, but somehow, the sudden explosion of sophisticated language and the thought that it enabled (and vice versa), allowed for the incredibly rapid development of the civilisation that we see around us today.

its worth considering that life of our type may well be a very rare event. perhaps even unique in the universe.

Rare Earth (1)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | about 7 years ago | (#20122163)

The Rare Earth [] Hypothesis is that microbial life is common, complex life is uncommon and 'intelligent' life is unique to earth.

Human nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122207)

Intelligent people know that the smartest guy in the room is the one who knows when to shut up, particularly when the conversation gets especially technical and poly-syllabic. Maybe that's the conventional wisdom among all those probable intelligent races out there, too. Look, does broadcasting "I Love Lucy" reruns and "We come in peace" boilerplate make us look all that sharp? I figure it makes us look weak, just the sort of planet you'd want to invade. Think about that.

Where everyone is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20122229)

Simple: they're watching the monkeys play with their fireworks. Safely from cloaked vessels.

I don't see a paradox (1)

Inexile2002 (540368) | about 7 years ago | (#20122235)

Steven Baxter in his novel "Space" presented the idea of the solar system being thick with dozens of examples of massive alien resource extraction projects - that there was tonnes of evidence of alien life right here in our own solar system, but we never thought to look for it. It's a good piece of hard SF, but he raises a good point - the evidence was right there, but we didn't know it was evidence. I'm not suggesting that that's the case IRL, but it's food for thought.

People make jokes (or serious observations) about "Why would they even want to talk to us?" but the truth is it's probably more like, why bother coming all the way over here unless they need something. Maybe not everyone wants to talk, or they don't bother devoting huge resources to building transmitters for the same reason we don't - they have better things to allocate resources to. Space could be teeming with life, there could advanced civilizations within 20 light years of here, but we haven't built massive laser or radio systems to contact them, why should we assume that they will. Hell, we can't even track all the near earth asteroids in space, you could fly a ship inside the lunar orbit and photograph the earth and how would we possibly know? Unless we happened to be aiming the right telescope at the right spot at the right time, they could be flying all over the place, and as long as they're not using Orion engines, we'd never know.

I think that Fermi's paradox isn't a paradox at all. If we had an Apollo scale program specifically dedicated to searching for evidence of alien life, searching the skys, conducting archeology on the moon, Mars and Venus etc, we'd find the evidence if it were there. If we devoted HUGE resources to finding and contacting alien life, we probably would if it were there to contact. But we don't because we need to eat and most people would prefer to have an XBox 360 than spend their money ensuring humanity has first contact in the next 50 generations. And the aliens are probably the exact same. Until there's an intelligent race in the universe that decides it's number 1 priority is to find and contact other aliens, we'll probably all just wonder about it and get back to what we've categorized as more important.

I think that there's probably no paradox, it's just that no one out there thinks it's important enough to bother.
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