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If you can’t sleep, the Fermi paradox

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= Why the space aliens haven’t called back. A zillion reasons. Every theorist, a different reason.

As in

Beyond its shocking science fiction component, The Fermi Paradox also leaves me with a deep humbling. Not just the normal “Oh yeah, I’m microscopic and my existence lasts for three seconds” humbling that the universe always triggers. The Fermi Paradox brings out a sharper, more personal humbling, one that can only happen after spending hours of research hearing your species’ most renowned scientists present insane theories, change their minds again and again, and wildly contradict each other—reminding us that future generations will look at us the same way we see the ancient people who were sure that the stars were the underside of the dome of heaven, and they’ll think “Wow they really had no idea what was going on.”

Compounding all of this is the blow to our species’ self-esteem that comes with all of this talk about Type II and III Civilizations. Here on Earth, we’re the king of our little castle, proud ruler of the huge group of imbeciles who share the planet with us. And in this bubble with no competition and no one to judge us, it’s rare that we’re ever confronted with the concept of being a dramatically inferior species to anyone. But after spending a lot of time with Type II and III Civilizations over the past week, our power and pride are seeming a bit David Brent-esque.

That said, given that my normal outlook is that humanity is a lonely orphan on a tiny rock in the middle of a desolate universe, the humbling fact that we’re probably not as smart as we think we are, and the possibility that a lot of what we’re sure about might be wrong, sounds wonderful. It opens the door just a crack that maybe, just maybe, there might be more to the story than we realize.

Or maybe not.

If the phone rings in a place where there is no one to answer it …

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology) for why this stuff is taken seriously. (Maybe you laugh, but it could be your neighbour’s religion. So guffaw silently.)

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6 Replies to “If you can’t sleep, the Fermi paradox

  1. 1
    jstanley01 says:

    Taking into account the entire scale of the universe (between about 10^-35 and 10^27 meters), humans aren’t microscopic at all. We’re just about in the middle; just a little bit toward the large end actually…


  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    jstanley01, very good point. Another interesting point in The interactive graph that you listed is that the smallest scale visible to the human eye (as well as a human egg) is at 10^-4 meters, which ‘just so happens’ to be directly in the exponential center of all possible sizes of our physical reality (not just ‘nearly’ in the exponential center!). i.e. 10^-4 is, exponentially, right in the middle of 10^-35 meters, which is the smallest possible unit of length, which is Planck length, and 10^27 meters, which is the largest possible unit of ‘observable’ length since space-time was created in the Big Bang, which is the diameter of the universe. This is very interesting for, as far as I can tell, the limits to human vision (as well as the size of the human egg) could have, theoretically, been at very different positions than directly in the exponential middle.

    Throw a few more geometric considerations on top of that and a strong case starts to appear that threatens the Copernican principle from another angle besides quantum mechanics and the ‘privileged planet principle’:

    Is there a violation of the Copernican principle in radio sky? – Ashok K. Singal – May 17, 2013
    Abstract: What is intriguing even further is why such anisotropies should lie about a great circle decided purely by the orientation of earth’s rotation axis and/or the axis of its revolution around the sun? It looks as if these axes have a preferential placement in the larger scheme of things, implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which all modern cosmological theories are based upon.

    17a. Why is the solar system cosmically aligned? BY Dragan Huterer – 2007
    The solar system seems to line up with the largest cosmic features. Is this mere coincidence or a signpost to deeper insights?
    Caption under figure on page 43:
    ODD ALIGNMENTS hide within the multipoles of the cosmic microwave background. In this combination of the quadrupole and octopole, a plane bisects the sphere between the largest warm and cool lobes. The ecliptic — the plane of Earth’s orbit projected onto the celestial sphere — is aligned parallel to the plane between the lobes.
    Of note: The preceding article was written before the Planck data (with WMPA & COBE data), but the multipoles were actually verified by Planck.

    A Large Scale Pattern from Optical Quasar Polarization Vectors – 2013

    Testing the Dipole Modulation Model in CMBR – 2013

  3. 3
    jstanley01 says:


    …the smallest scale visible to the human eye (as well as a human egg) is at 10^-4 meters, which ‘just so happens’ to be directly in the exponential center of all possible sizes of our physical reality…

    I didn’t realize that, wow. Fascinating.

    I’ve read Singal’s abstract before but not the others. Thanks, I’ll check those out.

    Evidence seems to piling up to where the “we’re so small and insignificant” meme appears, I dunno. “Sagan-esque”…? “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson-esque”…?

    You know, out of date.

  4. 4
    Jon Garvey says:

    I’m never sure why it’s considered that the more inteeligent you get, the less interested in lesser beings you are. It isn’t true of humans, who are interested in both the extremely small and the extremely large.

    We’re, as jstanley01 says, half way up in the scale of things and are interested in quarks: if they could quack we’d quack back at them.

    So if the universe as a whole were a great Intelligence, it ought to be at least as interested in us.

  5. 5
    henk says:

    Sometime i wonder why so many people here have a problem with alien life. Does The ID theory suddenly collapse when Alien life is found ?

    That site was only speculating about it. There is no problem about that.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    CELL TO CARBON ATOM – SIZE AND SCALE – Interactive Graph – Move cursor at the bottom of graph to the right to reduce the size:

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