The Fermi paradox is a theory put across by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. It states “Any civilization with a modest amount of rocket technology and an immodest amount of imperial incentive could rapidly colonize the entire Galaxy. Within ten million years, every star system could be brought under the wing of empire.” 1 It is a contradiction between the high probability of existence of advanced alien life and lack of human contact with it.
In a nutshell, the Fermi paradox states that if intelligent alien life was indeed present, it would have already crossed paths with humans. This leaves us with two assumptions;
- There are no intelligent life forms outside of our planet
- There are intelligent life forms and they have already made contact with humans
Either thought is terrifying and spectacular at the same time.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what the Fermi paradox is, let’s further dive into the basis of its conception.
Conception of the Fermi paradox
The paradox was conceived based on the following arguments:
There are roughly 400 billion stars in our galaxy 2. If intelligent life forms exist on even a minuscule percentage of planets orbiting around these 400 billion stars, there might a possibility of the existence of intelligent alien life forms.
Out of this, a further minuscule percentile of intelligent alien life forms would have attained the ability of interstellar travel and space colonization. The age of the known universe is believed to be around 14 billion years old 3 and its size is believed to be 90 billion light-years in diameter. The fact that we have yet to encounter a single intelligent alien life form, questions their existence in the first place.
Thus, the possibility of existence of intelligent civilizations yet the absence of contact with them is called the Fermi Paradox. The Drake Equation is a potential answer to Fermi’s Paradox.
Other notable accomplishments of Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi is additionally responsible for the creation of the Chicago Pile-1,4 the world’s first nuclear reactor, and had also played an integral part in creating the nuclear bomb. He was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938 on the topic of induced radioactivity. Fermi also has a telescope called the ‘Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope’ named after him.