Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Fermi Paradox

I think almost every scientist has thought at one point or another about the possiblity of extra-terrestrial life. What I didn't appreciate was just how much thought some folks have put into the matter! I found this little article really summarized the various possibilities amazingly well. Reading it really gave me the willies, alternately filling me with joyous wonder, existential angst and primal dread.

One cool concept is that of the "Great Filter" that weeds out civilizations (explaining why we don't see them). Is this filter ahead or behind us? Hopefully behind, right? Better hope there's NOT life on Mars:
This is why Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom says that “no news is good news.” The discovery of even simple life on Mars would be devastating, because it would cut out a number of potential Great Filters behind us. And if we were to find fossilized complex life on Mars, Bostrom says “it would be by far the worst news ever printed on a newspaper cover,” because it would mean The Great Filter is almost definitely ahead of us—ultimately dooming the species. Bostrom believes that when it comes to The Fermi Paradox, “the silence of the night sky is golden.”

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