What is the more disorienting, confounding possibility? That Earth is the only source of intelligent life in this massive and intricately complex universe, or that we are only one of many intelligent species scattered across the countless galaxies?
WaitButWhy.com has a magnificent explanation of the Fermi Paradox. It’s complicated. Go read it and ponder this really big question: since the universe is so, so big and very, very old and filled with earth-like planets in abundance, why haven’t we heard from any other intelligent species?
Consider this from the article:
for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there
there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world
These can be your imagination-defying, consciousness-expanding thoughts for the day, for the year even. You deserve to go to the beach just to stare dumbfounded at the sand and sky and bask in your smallness.
The article concludes with this:
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.”
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.
I love that thought: “the possibility that a lot of what we’re sure about might be wrong, sounds wonderful.”
Brace yourself for regularly discovering that you are wrong about really important stuff. Having all the answers is boring anyway, right? The people with the good questions are the ones having the most fun.
3 thoughts on “The Fermi Paradox and our place in the universe”
[…] boggling. And for every grain of sand on Earth there are probably 100 Earth-like planets in the […]
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[…] For every grain of sand on earth there are at least 10,000 stars in the visible universe. […]
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