Friday, September 11, 2009

Where Is Everybody?

There is a legend in the scientific community that one day the great nuclear physicist, Enrico Fermi,[top, left] was discussing the nature of the Universe with colleagues and the question of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations arose. Fermi made a few assumptions: 1). there was at least one very advanced civilization; 2). this civilization could, albeit with difficulty, travel star-to-star; 3). there were "X" billion stars in the galaxy; 4). the interval in years between "them" visiting one star and then setting sail for another was "Z", where both X and Z are relatively small numbers. Even with Z being somewhat larger than X, the vast age of the galaxy permitted the star-travelers to get around to all the stars in our galaxy in far less time than was available. [this by the way is extremely more obvious when one reads the later calculations of Carl Sagan on the potential rate of "interstellar migration".] So, the Extraterrestrials should be here but they are not. This became known as "The Fermi Paradox". As time has gone forward, the rise of the SETI [search for extraterrestrial intelligence] community has made the Fermi Paradox more credible. This is largely because of the work of Frank Drake [bottom, right] who created his famous "Drake Equation"--named not by him but by his colleagues as an honorarium--as a method of focussing the discussion on the likelihood of certain necessary factors being true in order to produce advanced civilizations in the first place. There are nay-sayers, but the large majority of the relevant science community believes that it is most likely that many such civilizations exist in the Milky Way. ---------------------------------------------------------When Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley [bottom left] began discovering "extra-solar" planets, the nay-sayers began again to hoot. This was because those first planets didn't fit the standard theory of planetary formation. I sat listening to him, several times at science conventions, and what I heard was different: the first extra-solar planets were odd-balls because planets of extreme size and pulling-power [on their star] were the only planets seeable at the early crude state of our detection mechanisms. As we got better, the "normal" planets would begin to show up. And they did, and they continue to do so. Drake's intuition holds. Still the "school-of one" [that we're the only civilization anywhere] perseveres. They are clearly motivated by something outside of science, by the way. They want the Galaxy to be "clear" of competitors, so that some sort of Human Manifest Destiny can one day sweep across it. To accomplish this, the other assumption in the Fermi Paradox must be true; that space travel is possible. The SETI community tends to NOT believe this. Organizations like the British Interplanetary Society have spent a great deal of effort showing that Nuclear-Powered craft are feasible. Even if one doesn't buy their designs, it is difficult to shrug off the designs of techno-genius, Robert Forward, [top, right]. While listening to him, I was absolutely convinced of the elegant simplicity of his concepts. Space travel may or may not be "easy"--but it's certainly possible. ------------------------------------------------------------So, the odds are quite large that "they're" out there, and quite large that they could travel here. Fermi still stands. Where are they? School-of-one falls back on Fermi to say: this proves that no matter how logical your arguments are, we're the only smart people in the galaxy. SETI says: no, they're out there, but for some reason we can't think of, they have decided not to travel in the stars. The UFO community says: WAIT A MINUTE! The evidence for them being around is all over the place! But both SETI [for whom UFOs would end their research] and School-of-One [for whom UFOs would undermine their whole model of reality] say: ha-ha, if that were true they'd long have made themselves more obvious. Obvious? Is flying over the Capitol and the White House in DC --twice on consecutive weekends in 1952--UNobvious? How about a quarter of a million logged sightings in the UFO databases? What about several thousand in-your-face close encounters? No. none of that counts. Why? Because they never "landed at the White House" and set up permanent diplomatic relations. There is NO evidence "good" enough for the majority culture on this subject than that. -------------------------------------------------------------What are the odds that we'll ever get to that point? No one can say of course, but I think that it's possible that we never will see that day. Why? This is just a flying speculation but consider this possibility: Advanced civilizations go forward into the centuries and ultimately learn about all there is to know about the physical world save filling in small details. They'd figure out everything about us and our world in about ten minutes of "dropping by", for instance. But the "Big Questions", Death, Afterlife, GOD, Will, Purpose...all that continues to elude them. There will be a type of civilization that decides that their conclusion is "spiritual". They evolve a set of beliefs which make their existence and that of creation sensible to them. There will be another type of civilization that comes to the exact opposite conclusion: it's all meaningless; it's all just matter and energy banging about; there's no ultimate purpose so just enjoy what you can. And there will be a third type who doesn't have the answers and knows it doesn't, but wouldn't mind exploring in hopes of learning something more about it. Almost by logic, these are the three options. What if the "Spirituals" came here? If they are what they say, they know that nothing is important except free choice--they will not intrude. We must make our own way. What if the "Live While You Can" group arrives? They will want novelty/entertainment. Gross interference justs drives our experience towards things they already know about. They might "prime-the-pump" to get us more stirred up and more fun to vicariously toy with, but on a big scale, no. And what if the "explorers" showed up? Absolutely they don't want to interfere. Their only chance of learning more is to observe the "different", in a more profound sense than the vicarious thrill seekers. They already know the "same", and it has not been enough. If so, as we say, "Where Is Everyone?"--they're right here and probably,all of them, have been for a very long time. The UFOs ARE the answer to Fermi's Paradox and answer it in harmony with what our science and technology believe most likely to be true: there are many, many advanced civilizations, and they CAN get here from there. What they choose to do ONCE they get here, differs for each agenda.


  1. I've always thought that the answer to the Fermi paradox was blatantly obvious in that where they are is everywhere judging from the thousands of reports and photos. It takes a special kind of arrogance and ignorance to be one of these "infallible" scientists scratching their chins thinking "where are these guys?" when the evidence of their presence is literally all around them!

    1. Arrogance and Ignorance exist aplenty in this story, but the more important sadness therein is how this state of attitude became almost inevitable on social-psychological-and-security grounds. It is a mix of fear for different reasons in academia and military coalescing together [military for understandable reasons in the 1940s-1950s] and academia due to the general cowardice of the Tribes throughout. This story is told fairly thoroughly in UFOs and Government.



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