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What would Enrico (“if aliens exist, where are they?”) Fermi think of string theory?


Enrico Fermi 1943-49.jpgFrom David N.Schwartz,  author of The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age, at NPR:

Fermi’s contributions to physics were so broad ranging, his interests so wide, that he made a mark in virtually every area of the field. I find it irresistible to speculate what he would make of physics today or how he would view some of our broader debates on the role of science and society.

What he would make of string theory we will never know, but he was always more comfortable with theories backed by experimental agendas. He would have been amazed at the size of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, but in fact, he anticipated the creation of giant accelerators — and once even joked that he could envision an accelerator in outer space, girdling the earth. He was one of the first physicists to use computers to study particle interactions and certainly would be fascinated with the sophisticated data analysis backing up the discovery of the Higgs boson and the other experiments at CERN.More.

Alien tripod by Alvim Corréa, 1906 French edition of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”

Schwartz doesn’t ask what Fermi (1901–1954) would think of the current war on evidence in science that includes string theory, supersymmetry, and the multiverse.

That is odd because Fermi is well-known popularly for the Fermi paradox re space aliens:

Fermi realized that 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. Ten million years may sound long, but in fact it’s quite short compared with the age of the Galaxy, which is roughly ten thousand million years. Colonization of the Milky Way should be a quick exercise.

So what Fermi immediately realized was that the aliens have had more than enough time to pepper the Galaxy with their presence. But looking around, he didn’t see any clear indication that they’re out and about. This prompted Fermi to ask what was (to him) an obvious question: “where is everybody?”

Fermi seems to have thought that the answer to such a question would not just be propaganda.

See also: The multiverse is science’s assisted suicide


Can science survive long in a post-modern world? It’s not clear.

Like I keep asking, how do we know they aren't already here living amongst us? The alien colonists are a lot stricter about observing the Prime Directive than Captain Kirk was? We are the alien colonists but something went wrong? The other alien colonists didn't get this far before their empires collapsed? Which leaves the way open for the Federation to be the first. Seversky

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