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Fermi's Paradox III

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates@virtuallystrange.net>
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 23:15:58 -0500
Fwd Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 23:15:58 -0500
Subject: Fermi's Paradox III


Fermi's Paradox III: Zookeepers, Alien Visitors, Or Simple Life;
How Can We Explain Our Isolation?

By Seth Shostak
Astronomer, Project Phoenix
posted: 07:00 am ET
29 November 2001

We seem to have the Galaxy to ourselves. At least, that=92s the
obvious conclusion from the apparent lack of aliens in the

But this conclusion might be a bit too obvious, and possibly
wrong. In previous articles, we=92ve considered why
extraterrestrial intelligence =96 even if common =96 would have
restrained itself from spreading to every half-decent star
system in the Galaxy. It=92s possible that the aliens have done
cost-benefit analyses that show interstellar travel to be too
costly or too dangerous to warrant ambitious colonization
efforts. An alternative suggestion that would explain our
apparent solitude is that the Galaxy is urbanized, and we=92re in
a dullsville suburb.

Yet another resolution for the so-called Fermi Paradox is that
we=92ve been singled out for special treatment: we are an exhibit
for alien tourists or sociologists. Our world may be known to
the extraterrestrials, but they observe us through a
sophisticated type of one-way mirror.

While there=92s no evidence to give credibility to this last idea
(known as the "Zoo Hypothesis"), many would argue that evidence
does exist for another possibility =96 namely, that the Paradox is
just a red herring because the aliens are in the neighborhood.
In fact, they=92re in our back yards, or just above them.

Many thousands of sightings of unidentified flying objects
(UFOs) are reported each year, and polls show that one-third to
one-half of the population believes that at least some of these
aerial apparitions are alien spacecraft. The presence of aliens
on Earth would neatly resolve the Fermi Paradox.

But while this is a prevalent idea among the public, the
evidence for alien visitation has failed to sway most
scientists. To convince researchers, who are inherently
skeptical, unambiguous and repeated detection of flying objects
by satellites or ground-based radar would be required. Better
yet would be some indisputable physical evidence, such as the
landing lights from an alien craft. In other words, something
better than witness testimony is necessary, since such testimony
isn=92t good enough, no matter how credible the witness.

Consider the fact that lots of people claim to have seen ghosts,
and will be pleased to tell you what they saw. But the case for
the existence of these shrouded spirits isn=92t what you would
call convincing. You don=92t read a lot about the parameters of
ghosts in scholarly journals.

Until and unless better evidence is collected, few scientists
are inclined to accept the premise that the Fermi Paradox can be
resolved by the claim that aliens are either soaring through the
stratosphere, or are stashed away in meat lockers at Area 51.

Of course, there=92s no doubt that aliens in the neighborhood
would be dramatic news, and that=92s part of the appeal of such
claims. But the opposite circumstance would be similarly
startling. What if we have failed to espy the extraterrestrials
simply because there aren=92t any? After all, the evolution of
intelligence may be a rare occurrence, even if biology is
common. Could it be that in the enormous reaches of the Milky
Way, ours is the only planet with thinking beings? That would
neatly solve the puzzle posed by Fermi. And no matter how
discouraging (or otherwise) the thought of being unique may be,
we still haven=92t the proof that it isn=92t true.

While possible resolutions of Fermi=92s Paradox are as plentiful
as gas stations, we still have no idea which, if any, is
correct. Perhaps the universe is teeming with societies so
subtle we can=92t prove their presence. Or haven=92t yet. On the
other hand, maybe we=92re alone.

It=92s all a bit perplexing, but in fact there=92s hope. SETI
experiments offer the promise of relegating the Fermi Paradox to
the dustbin of historical curiosities by proving that other
intelligence is out there. So while it=92s interesting and
instructive to consider the pros and cons of galactic
colonization, we should also make sure that we do some careful
observing. In science, speculation is desirable, but experiment
is definitive.


UFO UpDates thanks:

The Anomalist - http://www.anomalist.com/

for the lead.....

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