Do I Believe in UFOs?

Do I Believe In Aliens?

Whenever I do a new livestream on Instagram (hint hint, @universetoday on Instagram), it’s generally with an audience that doesn’t have a lot of experience with my work here on Universe Today or YouTube.

They’re enthusiastic about space, but they haven’t been exposed to a lot of the modern ideas about astrobiology and the search for extraterrestrials. They have, however, seen a lot of TV and movies.

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What If We Do Find Aliens?

What If We Do Find Aliens?


Time to talk about my favorite topic: aliens.

We’ve covered the Fermi Paradox many times over several articles on Universe Today. This is the idea that the Universe is huge, and old, and the ingredients of life are everywhere. Life could and should have have appeared many times across the galaxy, but it’s really strange that we haven’t found any evidence for them yet.

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Where Are All The Alien Robots?

If you’ve seen at least one other episode of the Guide to Space, you know I’m obsessed about the Fermi Paradox. This idea that the Universe is big and old, and should be teeming with life. And yet, we have no evidence that it exists out there. We wonder, where are all the aliens?

Ah well, maybe we’re in a cosmic zoo, or maybe the Universe is just too big, or the laws of physics prevent any kind of meaningful travel or communications. Fine. I doubt it, but fine.

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Did We Arrive Early To The Universe’s Life Party?

Artist's impression of an exoplanet orbiting a low-mass star. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

The Fermi Paradox essentially states that given the age of the Universe, and the sheer number of stars in it, there really ought to be evidence of intelligent life out there. This argument is based in part on the fact that there is a large gap between the age of the Universe (13.8 billion years) and the age of our Solar System (4.5 billion years ago). Surely, in that intervening 9.3 billion years, life has had plenty of time to evolve in other star system!

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Why Haven’t We Heard From All The Aliens? Because They’re All Dead!

Illustration of Kepler-186f, a recently-discovered, possibly Earthlike exoplanet that could be a host to life. Scientists could use this one or one like it to measure planetary entropy production as a prelude to exploration. (NASA Ames, SETI Institute, JPL-Caltech, T. Pyle)
Illustration of Kepler-186f, a recently-discovered, possibly Earthlike exoplanet that could be a host to life. Scientists could use this one or one like it to measure planetary entropy production as a prelude to exploration. (NASA Ames, SETI Institute, JPL-Caltech, T. Pyle)

In 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi raised a very important question about the Universe and the existence of extraterrestrial life. Given the size and age of the Universe, he stated, and the statistical probability of life emerging in other solar systems, why is it that humanity has not seen any indications of intelligent life in the cosmos? This query, known as the Fermi Paradox, continues to haunt us to this day.

If, indeed, there are billions of star systems in our galaxy, and the conditions needed for life are not so rare, then where are all the aliens? According to a recent paper by researchers at Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences., the answer may be simple: they’re all dead. In what the research teams calls the “Gaian Bottleneck”, the solution to this paradox may be that life is so fragile that most of it simply doesn’t make it.

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Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” II: Questioning the Hart-Tipler Conjecture

Artist's impression of The Milky Way Galaxy. Based on current estimates and exoplanet data, it is believed that there could be tens of billions of habitable planets out there. Credit: NASA

Welcome back to our Fermi Paradox series, where we take a look at possible resolutions to Enrico Fermi’s famous question, “Where Is Everybody?” Today, we examine the possibility that the reason we’ve found no evidence of alien civilizations is because there are none out there.

It’s become a legend of the space age. The brilliant physicist Enrico Fermi, during a lunchtime conversation at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1950, is supposed to have posed a conundrum for proponents of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations.

If space traveling aliens exist, so the argument goes, they would spread through the galaxy, colonizing every habitable world. They should then have colonized Earth. They should be here, but because they aren’t, they must not exist.

This is the argument that has come to be known as “Fermi’s paradox”. The problem is, as we saw in the first installment, Fermi never made it. As his surviving lunch companions recall (Fermi himself died of cancer just four years later, and never published anything on the topic of extraterrestrial intelligence), he simply raised a question, “Where is everybody?” to which there are many possible answers.

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Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” I: A Lunchtime Conversation- Enrico Fermi and Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi won the 1938 Nobel Prize for a technique he developed to probe the atomic nucleus. He led the team that developed the world's first nuclear reactor, and played a central role in the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb during World War II. In the debate over extraterrestrial intelligence, he is best known for posing the question 'Where is everybody?' during a lunchtime discussion at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His question was seen as the basis for the "Fermi Paradox". Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Welcome back to our Fermi Paradox series, where we take a look at possible resolutions to Enrico Fermi’s famous question, “Where Is Everybody?” Today, we examine the lunchtime conversation that started it all!

It’s become a kind of legend, like Newton and the apple or George Washington and the cherry tree. One day in 1950, the great physicist Enrico Fermi sat down to lunch with colleagues at the Fuller Lodge at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and came up with a powerful argument about the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, the so-called “Fermi paradox”.

But like many legends, it’s only partly true. Robert Gray explained the real history in a recent paper in the journal Astrobiology. Enrico Fermi was the winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize for physics, led the team that developed the world’s first nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago, and was a key contributor to the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb during World War II. The Los Alamos Lab where he worked was founded as the headquarters of that project.

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Are Intelligent Civilizations Doomed?

Are Intelligent Civilizations Doomed?

One answer to the Fermi Paradox is the idea of the Great Filter; the possibility that something wipes out 100% of intelligent civilizations. That why we’ve never discovered any aliens… they’re all dead. Is that our future too?

In a previous episode, I presented the idea of the Fermi Paradox. If space is huge, like space huge, not aircraft carrier huge, and there are billions upon billions of stars, AND there seem to be lots of habitable planets around those stars, where are all the damn aliens?

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Where Are The Aliens? How The ‘Great Filter’ Could Affect Tech Advances In Space

Artists impression of a Super-Earth, a class of planet that has many times the mass of Earth, but less than a Uranus or Neptune-sized planet. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

“One of the main things we’re focused on is the notion of existential risk, getting a sense of what the probability of human extinction is,” said Andrew Snyder-Beattie, who recently wrote a piece on the “Great Filter” for Ars Technica.

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