The Fermi Paradox – Where are all the Aliens?

Enrico Fermi. Not an alien.

In the 1950s, a group of astrophysicists were walking to lunch discussing the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe apart from Earth. One of those physicists, Enrico Fermi then casually asked “But where is everybody then?

The basic idea is that given the vastness of observable space and time with which life should have had time to evolve – how come we don’t see any evidence of life anywhere else? Therein lies the paradox. Fermi’s paradox, if you will.

Immediately obvious solutions or explanations include :

  • Earth is special and there is no life elsewhere.
  • Our technology is not advanced enough to have found life elsewhere.
  • Space is too damn big.

Less obvious but no less unprovable include :

  • Aliens have already contained us and are observing us (Zoo hypothesis).
  • Once life becomes advanced enough it will destroy itself (The great filter).
  • We are actually in a simulation without any other players.

What Bintel Thinks

“Space is a big canvas full of the unexplored – who knows what else is out there.” – Clare


“It’s so complicated for intelligent life to form and SO much had to go right for us, that it’s too rare for it to happen more than once at the same time. And even more rare that they would be able to locate each other.” – Mick


“We are likely the only species who have advanced this far so far and we are possibly incapable of recognising intelligent life that has advanced further than ours due to our conscious limits.” – John


“Either we have just recently surpassed a nearly impossible feat of becoming conscious lifeforms and nobody else has happened to join us here yet (because it’s very, very hard) OR we are coming up to the next great filter and may all die from it, just like all the conscious lifeforms before us hence why we cannot find them.” – Jess


“Space is very big with physically difficult limits like the speed of light that prevent us from reaching across even minor distances in space and time to verify the possibility of life elsewhere. Although life is mathematically probable we are trapped on a gravity prison island in an impassably large ocean in space.” – Dylan

What do you guys think?

There is no wrong answer (yet) so give us your best explanation in the comments or respond to some of these or others on why you think they may be incorrect!


9 Comments. Leave new

  • Our tiny brains cannot begin to grasp the vastness of the universe. My favourite quote sums it up.

    “The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”
    ― Carl Sagan, Contact

  • Well, perhaps in the next few decades we will have wisened up to the point of not warring amongst ourselves and will instead achieve technological advances such as warp drives that will allow interstellar travel.

    Let us not forget that what Jules Vernes was writing about in the 1800’s has come to fruition: the moon landings, submarines, etc. So perhaps Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek is the shape of things to come – we have achieved the impossible, so let us never say that lightspeed travel is impossible…

    The sad thing is that most of the great technological advances of the 20th century were made during the two World Wars and the cold war. So that great filter will either apply or we survive and go forth to explore interstellar space.

    Who knows what the future has in store for us as this 21st century progresses …?

  • We are not yet advanced enough to begin counting out the probability of intelligent life nearby. Take Enceladus: we knew next to nothing about it until very recently when we discovered it’s potential for harbouring life. If we know so little about a potentially life friendly rock floating next door, then how can we even begin to hope to know enough about nearby Proxima B, let alone planets like Kepler 452b. Through our scopes we observe distant galaxies – yet we haven’t even explored our own. We know so little yet speculate so much.

    Further to this, even if we had observed a close planet between say 400 and 500 light years away, we would not know the state that planet is in until 400 to 500 years from now.

    Intelligent life elsewhere probably exists. It may be millions of years more developed, or millions of years behind us, but it likely exists.

    The random dice roll that ended in our situation on Earth, is highly unlikely to have only happened once in such a large universe. We also must be open to the possibility that other intelligent life may not take the same physical form of our own. The universe is full of surprises. Life could easily be closer than we think.

  • Steve Mashiter
    November 14, 2019 9:52 am

    I watched a documentary called “Birth of the Earth” many years ago and it depressed me. I’d always thought we would, one day, meet another intelligent race.
    Besides the problems of how short a race will survive in the big scheme of the universe and the massive (insurmountable) distances between stars the documentary described how many things had to happen for intelligent life to start up on Earth.
    If we didn’t have the moon (created by a fluke collision with a Mars sized planet which also affected the tilt of Earth to give us our seasons) or our Goldilocks location relative to the Sun, or the lucky fact that our core has remained molten to give us a magnetic field that deflects the solar wind around the planet (that didn’t happen with Mars so its atmosphere was torn away and the water it collected was lost to space or frozen).
    There are many other “flukes” that have happened in the life of Earth to make it so habital for us including the fact that the Earth has experienced 5 mass extinctions.
    We’ve also had the luck of having Jupiter where it is to vacuum up so many solar system objects that could have destroyed Earth.
    The list is a lot longer but that’s probably enough to start with.

  • When you look at a night sky, someone is looking back……..

  • Until we can get our minds beyond the limits of scientific limitations we have set that if life were to exist, it must resemble life as we know it, I can’t see us finding life anywhere else. In my humble opinion it is not only possible that life exists elsewhere but it is incredibly likely.

  • Anthony Walton
    December 27, 2019 4:24 pm

    Aliens (to us) have been visiting Earth for thousands of years, even today would they really want to drop in on the Middle East …?! 🙄👽

  • Who ever said we were intelligent life…!
    Can’t even live together.
    Why would an intelligent spieces want to get involved in our lives.
    Except maybe… 10pm tonight on intergalactic reality tv. Earth stuffs up again!

  • I’m not at all sure that Fermi was setting up a “paradox”. He was just throwing a cat among the pigeons. We in this world see what we think are stars and galaxies on the same time-scale as we are, when in fact they are hundreds, thousands, millions, even billions of years older than we are. They are not on the same time scale. How do we know that we haven’t been visited innumerable times, and that there’s simply no record left? When it takes all that we can do to (re)discover what went on only 2 to 3 thousand years ago, and what the record says about what lived on earth hundreds of millions of years ago, it seems to me impossible to work out where the aliens are. They might, in the fastnesses of their own star systems be wondering how we are getting on – who, or what is now the top species here.


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