Three recent things on the third of the Three Great Questions.
Ars Technica has a great three-part podcast on Fermi’s Paradox. It’s an audio tour through If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens … WHERE IS EVERYBODY?: Seventy-Five Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life and features the author, Stephen Webb. I haven’t read the book yet, but the podcast does a great job breaking down the major categories of solutions: (1) they’re here but hiding; (2) they’re somewhere, but not here — yet; (3) we’re alone.
Speaking of the “we’re alone” solution…it was happenstance that I found John Gribbin’s Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique at my local library. The book’s thesis is pretty clear from the title, so it’s interesting that Gribbin spends the first third of the book building a strong case for life based on the cosmological side of the Drake Equation: there are lots of stars, lots of planets, and at least the building blocks of the building blocks of life seem common. I’m only halfway in, so like someone who flopped an inside straight draw, I’m waiting for the turn.
- Last is a widely shared paper, Dissolving the Fermi Paradox, which uses statistical uncertainty analysis to show that if we mathematically account for the orders-of-magnitude spanning uncertainty we have for several terms in the Drake Equation:
we find a substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our observable universe (53%–99.6% and 39%–85% respectively). ’Where are they?’ — probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.