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FOIA: "Where is Everybody" An Account of Fermi's famous question

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posted on Nov, 16 2007 @ 03:44 PM
"Where is Everybody" An Account of Fermi's famous question
Fermi’s famous question, now central to debates about the prevalence of extraterrestrial civilizations, arose during a luncheon conversation. Fermi’s companions on that day have provided accounts of the incident.

Document date: 1984-12-31
Department: Los Alamos National Laboratory
Author: Eric M. Jones
Document type: report
pages: 20


Archivist's Notes: Good quality document. Copies of letters between Jones and participants. Marked for unlimited distribution. Document appears to have been microfilmed. Date of report is an estimate based on letter dates of 1984.

posted on Nov, 17 2007 @ 01:15 PM
Fermi’s Paradox is one of the most famous thought exercises when contemplating the existence of Extra terrestrials. The question is simply put “Where is everybody?”, with “everybody” meaning extraterrestrials. The debate started at a luncheon with Enrico Fermi being one of the attendees, but it has reached legendary status with several aspects and conclusions being drawn.

This document was the result of inquiries from Eric Jones to remaining members of the original luncheon to get a historical account of the origin of Fermi’s Paradox.

Related ATS Discussions:
The Fermi Paradox
Fermi paradox- What's your opinion?

Other Related Links:
TinWiki Link: Fermi’s Paradox
Wikipedia Link: Fermi Paradox

posted on Nov, 20 2007 @ 12:00 PM
reply to post by Hal9000

Life may indeed arise all over the universe, and a certain amount of that life should become intelligent. I think most people will agree to that basic concept, excepting those that hold with Earth being the sole repository of intelligence.

But we have no way of knowing where on the ascending curve of intelligent life we ourselves are positioned. If we are in the first 5,000 such civilizations to acquire space flight, then neighbors might be few and far between, much like someone on a station in the outback.

If we are in the 5,000 to 20,000 range, then the "area" is still not crowded by any means, and we would be much like someone living in Yellow Knife, Northwest Territories, Canada.

Even the range from 25,000 to 75,000 would still be no more crowded than perhaps the Pampas of South America, or the plains of North Dakota.

And all of this has to be viewed in the context of time itself. Civilizations may be strong for some major length of time, but there is no reason to think them immortal. Birth and death, waxing and wanning seem to be universal constants of nature.

All in all, IMO, contact would be by fits and starts, and have a fifty-fifty chance of happening at any point in time and space.

A great area for thought on what could be our greatest moment.

posted on Nov, 20 2007 @ 06:39 PM
Yes i agree NGC2736.
You have to think, would life on other planets be like us anyway.
What if space flight is not a necessary requirement in their development.
Would silicon based lifeforms even bother visiting an organic life form based planet. What of life that evolves in ammonia seas, it may still be intelligent but would see no need to interact with us.
There are too many variables imo to automatically surmise that if life is rife in the universe then it must visit us.

Going to look over the document anyway, should make fascinating reading. Well done Hal.

posted on Nov, 25 2007 @ 01:02 PM
Seeing how large the universe is there is no way to guarantee or back up anything that has been stated here...The ability for life to have sprouted on any planet is infinite and unknown- We know there are other planets yet we've only seen just a few. Just because they appear to not sustain life doesn't mean that on other planets its the same. Human beings are only thousands of years would think that there would easily have to be a species millions of years old- which would be far more advanced than anything we've read or seen in a movie or book. Why would they bother interacting? Well probably out of curiousity and hopefully if they are benevolent- for peace. I think your all shorting yourselves here...and if anyone disbelieves- then why waste time trying to debunk everyone else's beliefs? We are probably one of a kind- and barely scratching the surface of technological advances- anything thats flying around out there is flying out there all over because they've been around WAY longer than us.

posted on Nov, 25 2007 @ 01:14 PM
Thanks Hal!

I've long been drawn to the Fermi Paradox, Drake equation, Von Newmann probes, etc.

Being able to read more details of that historic luncheon is fascinating.

Much appreciated.

[edit on 11/25/07 by makeitso]

posted on Nov, 25 2007 @ 01:47 PM
I think this idea of our location in the Galactic arm of the Milky Way being 'out in the sticks' is erroneous.

As you get to closer to the Galactic center, what happens? Radiation goes up.

One of the biggest detriments to interstellar travel and of existence of relativel fragile, complex beings is the danger of cosmic, and solar radiation.

So I think we are actually in a 'prime real estate' location, or 'sweet spot' where incident radiation is fairly low. (likewise, the location of our orbit being 93 million miles from the Sun means lower solar radiation than the inner planets, but not so far that we don't have enough heat and light to sustain life).

In addition the other problem of being closer to the denser Galactic center is the danger of comets and asteroids which would be presumably more numerous. So the likelyhood of catastrophy would be much higher due to collisions and large impacts

So I think this idea that there are potentially lots of civilizations the closer you get to the galactic core has not been well thought out - even, surprisingly, by the august Dr Teller:

"I do not believe that much came of this conversation, except perhaps a statement that the distance to the next location of living beings may be very great and that, indeed, as far as our galaxy is concerned we are living somewhere in the sticks, far removed from the metopolitan area of the galactic center" - Edward Teller

When you take this to the logical conclusion, there may actually be a fairly narrow band of galactic space where the risk of collisions and impacts is lower, and the amount of radiation is not high. It's basically a situation where we are in one of a few areas of oasis in a vast, and hostile galactic desert.

[edit on 25-11-2007 by Badge01]

posted on Dec, 3 2007 @ 10:57 AM
The brain power at that particular luncheon was mind blowing...

Indeed, where is everybody? Not that I doubt there is life out there in the Universe other than ourselves, if they are advanced enough to be visiting us now, where are the older signals that would tell us that they were like us once...

I realize that the Universe is vast beyond any sort of easy comprehension, but shouldn't we have heard something, other than ambiguous signals that really could be anything?

posted on Dec, 8 2007 @ 08:34 PM
It is believed by astrophysicists that the center of the galaxy is probably not very hospitable to life despite the greater density of stars.

The stars there are from an "older generation" and so have generated much less heavy elements to make planets, and also the radiation from one another is likely to be quite disruptive to whatever planets are there.

It is possible to answer Fermi's question of "where are they" with "they came here and didn't find anybody worth talking with and left" (e.g. 100,000 years ago).

My real question is, "why don't we hear them?" If there were even the hint of a galactic civilization which takes off anywhere the radio frequencies should be buzzing with them. They may use some other magic communication as well, but EM is much too useful to ignore. We shoudl be able to hear their backscatter and crap.

We should have discovered ETs when we first turned on a radio telescope. We didn't.

posted on Aug, 7 2008 @ 12:30 AM
reply to post by Badge01

It's basically a situation where we are in one of a few areas of oasis in a vast, and hostile galactic desert.

A very good point. However, it makes assumptions in the same way drake's equation does... it assumes other life is nearly identical to ourselves.

posted on Aug, 7 2008 @ 04:39 AM

Originally posted by Scramjet76
reply to post by Badge01

It's basically a situation where we are in one of a few areas of oasis in a vast, and hostile galactic desert.

A very good point. However, it makes assumptions in the same way drake's equation does... it assumes other life is nearly identical to ourselves.

Uh-huh. All theories make assumptions. Another way to think about is 'other life (that we would want to meet) is (will be) nearly identical to ourselves.

Is there any value to meeting truly strange non-terrestrials? What about a 'rock culture' where the beings are made of stone and live life on a time-scale equivalent to that of geological time (mountain formation). We might be able to detect they are 'alive', but would we be able to communicate?

Super-fast life, like the ST:OS Scalosians might also be impossible to talk to, and other sentient life may just be too strange or too frightening.

Aliens who are super-tough might be dangerous up close.

So, yeah, it's an assumption, but it is based on some good theory, imo.

posted on Aug, 7 2008 @ 09:45 AM

Is there any value to meeting truly strange non-terrestrials?

Lol of course there is. Why would scientists look for ET bacteria? It's not like we can sit down for tea with the bacteria.

As for your theory about the center of the galaxy having more radiation, it's interesting in that it ties into the whole hypothesis that: aliens live underground because they are very sensitive to radiation. Perhaps they were like us many many years ago and after generations of flying around in space became a radiation plagued sickly species?? Perhaps the Earth is an oasis. And living underground is the "sweetest spot" in their view. They certainly don't seem interested in taking our real estate. *phew*

edit: spelling

[edit on 7-8-2008 by Scramjet76]

posted on Aug, 7 2008 @ 10:03 AM
reply to post by Scramjet76

Heh, that's a possibility. Myself, I hope we don't come across any non-terrestrial bacteria, though fossilized would be acceptable.

One of my extinction event scenarios is that during the early stages of space-faring, such fauna is encountered and accidentally brought back to the home planet.

This may indeed be responsible for the low numbers of space-faring sentients. I'd estimate there may only be 1 per 10e2-10e3 Galaxies. Just a hunch.

Edit: Forgot to mention I'm generally speaking of 'now'-ish, though that's a bit of a paradox because of the distances between star systems. IOW if we went 'there' to meet up with a sentient space-faring civ they may not be there by the time we arrive, and so forth.

[edit on 7-8-2008 by Badge01]

posted on Aug, 7 2008 @ 10:23 AM
reply to post by dj05544

I agree, it's hardly a paradox if we don't detect life. There are a zillion and one ways life could be present and we just don't notice. Sure we don't even know 99% of the bacteria around us or how most of the animals and plants in the oceans live!

posted on Aug, 7 2008 @ 10:24 AM
reply to post by mbkennel

Totally wrong, you have totally ignored the factor of time (10 billion years and counting) and distance....what is your logic?

posted on Aug, 13 2008 @ 09:35 AM
reply to post by Badge01

This may indeed be responsible for the low numbers of space-faring sentients. I'd estimate there may only be 1 per 10e2-10e3 Galaxies. Just a hunch.


That is a loaded statement. Space-faring we have no reference point being that we are type-0 civilization. Sentient is not very well defined (or understood by nature). And 10e2-10e3 galaxies.... I'm assuming that is just poking fun.

posted on Aug, 13 2008 @ 12:41 PM
reply to post by Scramjet76

The following is my opinion as a member participating in this discussion.

What I mean is that there may only be one space-faring civilization per every 100 to 1000 galaxies. Is that low or high, I don't know.

A nearby galaxy of sufficent composition and age of stars and ample Goldilocks zones may have 50.

But going by the apparent lack of Type II civilizations (who would use the stellar output of whole galaxies and, no doubt produce many Type III) it might be just about right.

Remember we're talking temporally in the same millenium as we are, and not including planet-bound intelligences.

I'm pretty sure if there were any Type II in the Milky Way, we'd know it. YMMV.

As an ATS Staff Member, I will not moderate in threads such as this where I have participated as a member.

[edit on 13-8-2008 by Badge01]

posted on Aug, 13 2008 @ 04:02 PM
reply to post by Badge01

Ok fair enough. I agree with your curiousity... "is that low or high?"

Even if there is only one intelligent (by our definition) civilization per 1000 galaxies that still would equal to 100 billion / 1000 = 100 million. Which is obviously a huge number in itself.

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