Just becuase there may be alien life out there doesn’t mean we’ll ever find it (but that’s okay).
image via youtube screen capture
There are few things that both tantalize and frustrate scientists and sci-fi fans alike as the possibility of finding life on distant worlds. The discovery of intelligent alien life would be the single most significant moment in the history of the human race. But, for all the estimated billions upon billions of stars and planets floating in the vast expanse of our universe, there’s been no sign—not a peep, blip, or radio frequency ping—to indicate that there’s anyone out there.
That, in essence, is Fermi’s paradox—an attempt by physicist Enrico Fermi to describe the apparent incongruity between the universe’s estimated capacity for supporting life elsewhere and the fact that none has ever been found. Known also as “Fermi’s Question,” the paradox can be distilled to a single sentence: “Where are they?”
Youtube channel Kurz Gesagt (a play on the German “Kurzgesagt” - literally “in a nutshell”) tackles the galactic dilemma of Fermi’s paradox in its latest quirky animation, which covers not only the salient numerical quantities inherent in the question of life on other worlds, but also features a giant space duck dressed up like Marvel comics super-villain Galactus, Devourer Of Worlds.
Since Enrico Fermi posed his now-famous paradox in the 1950’s (he was not, it should be mentioned, the first to question along these lines. Soviet scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky asked a similar question in his 1933 manuscript, The Planets are Occupied by Living Beings) astronomers, physicists, and dreamers alike have worked to advance the search for extraterrestrial life. Scientist Frank Drake, whose eponymous equation estimates the number of intelligent civilizations in the universe, has lead the charge in the hunt for alien life, both through his founding of SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence project, as well as his involvement in the Arecibo Message, the first radio broadcast designed to showcase human intelligence to any alien species who may be tuning in somewhere in the Messier 13 globular star cluster.
While Drake’s message has since gone unanswered, and his SETI hunt remains ongoing, scientists continue to look to the stars and wonder whether there are intelligences out there, looking back at us, from light years away. And, as humans take to the skies, striking out for greener pastures (or redder planets, as the case may be) Fermi’s paradox may someday be answered, once and for all.