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Fermi Paradox Reassessed: Humans Likely The Only Intelligent Species In Observable Universe

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Three scholars from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University reevaluate the Fermi Paradox and conclude that humans are the only intelligent civilization at present.

The Fermi Paradox involves the apparent contradiction in that there have been numerous claims that extraterrestrial civilizations exist but there still lack evidence to confirm it. This contradiction has long since been a stumbling block in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence or what is commonly known as SETI.

In the new study, this paradox was reassessed using the Drake Equation first proposed in the 1960s. The equation is used to calculate the odds of finding an intelligent life in the universe. The idea is that even with a small amount of proof of the existence of other intelligent life, the massive number of locations that could host such life should also yield a large number of other observable civilizations.

Ultimately, the study concludes that based on the available knowledge that people have, there is a bigger possibility that humans are the only intelligent species in the observable universe or in the entire Milky Way Galaxy at this very moment.

The Fermi Paradox

The paradox was proposed by physicist Enrico Fermi sometime in 1950. It's popular for aiming to answer the question of "where the aliens are." Given that the Earth is a part of a young planetary system, the paradox floats the idea that aliens should have visited this world already. However, aliens remained to be unverified still.

In 2013, Dr. Anders Sandberg, one of the authors of the present study and a research fellow from the university, already proposed that based on the Fermi Paradox, other extraterrestrial beings are not dead but merely on a hibernation or waiting for more suitable conditions of the universe.

Drake Equation

In this present study, however, Sandberg and two other colleagues reevaluate the Fermi paradox applying the parameters of the Drake equation. For their study, they incorporated models of chemical and genetic factors as life evolves in the universe. Their new evaluation revealed a significant amount of scientific uncertainties with regard to other forms of intelligent life.

The equation used in the study, which appeared online on June 6 via Cornell University Library, is mathematically expressed as N = R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L.

The symbol (N) represents the number of civilizations in the galaxy that may have the capability to communicate to humans. (N) can be determined by multiplying the average rate of star formation in the galaxy which is represented by the symbol (R*). The symbol (fp) represents the fraction of those stars which have planets; (ne) represents the number of planets that can support life, (fl) the number of planets that will develop life, (fi) the number of planets that will develop intelligent life, (fc) the number of civilizations that would develop transmission technologies, and finally (L) the length of time that these civilizations would have transmitted signals into space.

The number of scientific uncertainties derived from their calculations was highly distributed and those uncertainties lead them to a conclusion that humanity is most likely alone in the galaxy.

"We found that even using the guesstimates in the literature (we took them and randomly combined the parameter estimates) one can have a situation where the mean number of civilizations in the galaxy might be fairly high - say a hundred - and yet the probability that we are alone in the galaxy is 30%," explained Sandberg.

This does not mean, however, that humans should stop pursuing the quest for the extraterrestrial life. In fact, according to Sandberg, the level of uncertainty they calculated was tremendous enough to need the intervention of astrobiology and SETI to reduce those uncertainties of the parameters.

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