The Fermi paradox is the ultimate mystery on this planet. By seemingly every measure we can think of, life on this planet seems to be an unstoppable force of nature. In every crack and crevice of this planet, there is life. Even the most toxic places have seen life adapt to fill them. So knowing this about our own planet we have to ask where the hell all the aliens are. Well Russian physicist Alexander Berezin just published one of the more creative answers to this paradox that I have ever heard
“The only explanation is the invocation of the anthropic principal, we are the first to reach the interstellar phase, and likely, we will be the last to leave”
The essence of what Alexander means is that considering our second generation star is among the first stars with enough heavy elements to support life. If we are the first species to develop interstellar travel. Then the safe assumption is that Humanity will reign supreme over the galaxy, crushing all opposition until the last star burns out, and we inevitably die with it…
Is it a grim view? Optimistic? It certainly seems a-moral. To conquer or subjugate every species that is technologically inferior to you in any way just because you came first. I’m sure my tone is a little more aggressive than Alexanders original paper but that doesn’t change the reality of what we would be doing. Essentially the paper states that Hollywood style alien invasions are just a natural inevitability of life. And true, any examination of human history does nothing to exonerate us of these charges. The animal kingdom is even worse. We are truly red in tooth and claw. I can see why someone would think that on a long enough timeline the stronger power would simply crush its opposition. I honestly don’t know how I feel in this regard. But thankfully I can show the question to be a moot point.
Let’s go back and take a second look at that quote, the one about us reaching the interstellar phase? We haven’t…
Sure we have sent some very successful probes out into deep space, remember our most successful mission into deep space was into our own backyard. The ISS would only fly 3/8ths of an inch off a standard classroom globe were it made to scale. We have not gone to our closest planet let alone the giants in the outer solar system. And while I like to think optimistically there are still some very big questions about the viability of such missions. What I said before about the pervasiveness of life on Earth remember that every other place we know of besides here is a lifeless barren wasteland. Can we overcome those challenges? maybe. But it is far from the only barrier to Alexander’s statements becoming fact.
Lightspeed is usually thought of as being very fast. In the terms of interstellar travel, it isn’t even a crawl. From everything, we know about physics the only way to get from one system to another is the long slow way, longer than human lifetimes that is for sure. Tell me how is an empire supported when any communication between systems requires years for each one-way message. And if the distance between systems seems like a lot the distance between galaxies swamps even that. Supposing you could even travel at light speed remember that the cosmic expansion of the universe is even faster. Some galaxies expand away from each other faster than even light can travel. Right there the possibility of conquering the universe is out the window. Cant conquer systems you can never even reach.
The whole theory requires a heaping pile of hand-wavey technology that our ancestors need to develop to ever come close to happening. But it is fun to think about. I suspect that spawning discussion was really the whole point of his article and in that regard, I can say it was a resounding success.
You can read the original article here.