This is the second story in a series exploring the possibility of alien life visiting earth. To read about NASA, Harvard, and the Pentagon’s assertions, start by reading The UFO Question Part 1: NASA, Harvard, and the Pentagon are all taking UFOs seriously now.
As discussed in Part 1 of this series, the resurgence of interest in the UFO phenomena throughout the United States over the past year or so has been informed, to a great extent, by the revelation that respected and legitimate organizations like NASA, Harvard, and even the U.S. Defense Department have devoted considerable resources and brain power to solving this mystery in recent years. These endeavors compound longstanding civilian led initiatives like the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), and the like… and a number of interesting ideas have been floated by experts hailing from these and any number of other organizations willing to work in the outskirts of what the scientific community deems socially acceptable.
So as we begin to recognize prominent organizations shifting their scope to include investigations into the possibility of alien life visiting earth, the question we have to ask ourselves is: why haven’t we found anything yet? In the interest of full disclosure, that’s where this exploration into the topic will need to diverge into assertion, rather than an objective reporting of facts.
There are two competing schools of thought when it comes to the belief in galaxy-hopping extraterrestrials, and each can be summed up (to an extent) using math. The Drake Equation, which is often cited by alien-believers, was developed by Dr. Frank Drake in 1961 as a means to predict the number of intelligence species that can be found within our galaxy. The equation relied on a number of educated guesses, and has since been recomputed countless times using new data, but the bare bones of it include the following:
N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
Drake’s work resulted in an estimate of 100 million worlds in the Milky Way, each possessing advanced life of their own. If that seems a bit lofty to you, you’re not alone. The other mathematical side of this debate is represented by the Fermi Paradox, which uses a similar line of deductive logic to discredit the idea that there’s any intelligent life out there.
The Fermi Paradox, developed by physicist Enrico Fermi, posits that there are billions of stars in our galaxy similar to our own, and its highly probable that many of those stars have planets that are also similar to our own. If the ingredients required to make us are so common and widespread, and human civilization only developed recently in terms of the celestial calendar… where the hell is everybody? Fermi contended that alien life must be exceptionally rare at best, otherwise we humans would have spotted aliens scooting through our neck of the woods by now.
The logic behind both of these positions are sound: both contend that the ingredients for our “advanced” human civilization can be found in excess all over the universe, with one arguing that alien life must exist as a result, and the other contending that if it did, we should have seen it by now. Neither can be conclusively disproved — so math has let us down… but maybe a bit of that “advanced” human reasoning can step in to fill the gaps between these seemingly disparate ideas.
If alien life is so common place in our galaxy, if it really has visited earth… why haven’t we made contact? That’s what we’ll attempt to explain in Part III.
Feature image courtesy of NASA