In Brief
  • Cox believes we won't be communicating with intelligent life outside our solar system anytime soon. In fact, we may never hear from aliens.
  • The best chance of finding alien life would be in bacterial or microbial forms on one of the 3,532 exoplanets currently known to us.

Far too advanced

English physicist Brian Cox believes we won’t be contacting intelligent extraterrestrials — nor will we hear from them — anytime soon (or perhaps not ever). Cox, the popular presenter of several science programs, is an Advanced Fellow of particle physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester.

“It may be that the growth of science and engineering inevitably outstrips the development of political expertise, leading to disaster,” says Cox. He believes that intelligent extraterrestrial life may have unwittingly rendered themselves extinct. Intelligent life destroys itself as soon as it becomes advanced, the physicist believes, “we could be approaching that position.”

Credits: BBC
Credits: BBC

The comment comes as no surprise, especially since Cox believes that politicians should start thinking more like scientists, using evidence as much as ideology to shape their views.

The Fermi Paradox

The vastness of space and the possibilities it holds are the very heart of the Fermi paradox — a 1950s theory named after physicist Enrico Fermi who famously pointed out how, despite the strong potential for extraterrestrial life, there is an equally strong lack of evidence showing that it exists. If alien life is out there, why haven’t they contacted us, yet?

“One solution to the Fermi paradox is that it is not possible to run a world that has the power to destroy itself and that needs global collaborative solutions to prevent that,” Cox explains. While this explanation makes a lot of sense, there’s still a chance we might encounter extraterrestrial life, albeit not in intelligent forms.

The best chances we have right now may be in bacterial or microbial life forms. With the rise of ocean worlds inside and beyond our solar system, we may soon discover single-celled organism hiding in these planets — such as Saturn’s moon Dione and our next-galaxy neighbor Proxima b.