Tentatively finding even the most faint sign of extraterrestrial life would be the single most important discovery in the history of mankind, it could possibly help us find answers to the most existential mysteries of science, like "how did life on Earth arise," and, more importantly, "are we alone?"
On that note, as our body of knowledge and technological prowess grow, the size of our galaxy (and the universe itself) continues to be refined. We now know that the Milky Way—an 'island universe' that spans more than 100,000 light-years across—has between 200 and 400 billion stars. Further revisions to that number suggest our galaxy could have billions of habitable planets. Our search for these potentially habitable worlds has just begun, but surely, based on numbers alone, the environmental conditions of a select few must be conducive to life, and the sustainability of it.
The problem, of course, is that, after 56 years of searching, we have yet to uncover proof that intelligent life exists beyond Earth, which is where the Fermi Paradox comes in. It attempts to address the apparent contradiction between the calculations that say our galaxy may have hundreds of thousands of intelligent alien civilizations, and the lack of proof.
Most solutions are rather simple; things like "maybe life exists, it just hasn't been around long enough to become intelligent yet;" or conversely, " intelligent civilizations were around so long, they went extinct long ago" (after all, the Sun is rather young compared to the age of the Milky Way itself).) However, a few are pretty inventive.
Learn more about the Fermi Paradox here:
- How Advanced Races of Intelligent Beings Could Live in Black Holes
- SETI Claims We’ll Know Whether Alien Life Exists Within 20 Years
- Could Aliens Be Catching Up on Old Television Shows? (Video)
- Are We Alone? – Calculating the Number of Alien Civilizations
- Where’s the Evidence of Extraterrestrials?
- Know Your Scientist: Frank Drake
- Rare Earth Hypothesis
- The Search for Life
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