The German phrase “Kurz Gesagt” meaning “in short” or “in a nutshell” lends itself to perfectly naming one of the most fun educational YouTube channels out there. The channel does a fantastic job of explaining fairly complicated concepts in a simplified and, more importantly, a respectful way that doesn’t dumb anything down for the audience. They recently put out two videos to explaining The Fermi Paradox.
Simply put, The Fermi Paradox is an idea about the existence/non existence of extraterrestrial life. If we exist because Earth was able to develop life over time due to – among many other factors – the composition of the planet and the proximity to our sun, then it’s logical to assume that there are similar stars with similar planets with similar conditions that also had the chance to thrive. The problem comes in with the idea that with so many possible Earth-like planets, why haven’t we heard from any of them yet? Supposing a planet capable of sustaining intelligent life got a head start by a few million years, shouldn’t they have visited by now or at least made contact?
Human beings are still in our infancy on this rock, but we’ve been broadcasting messages out for decades. One of the first deliberate ones was back in 1974 when the Arecibo message was broadcast out into the stars. The message was sent out after the rebuild of Aceribo telescope in the form of frequency-modulated radio waves.
The graphical representation looks a bit like an old Atari game or the world’s worst tile mosaic, but it was a brilliant packet of data. It detailed the following information:
- The numbers one (1) to ten (10)
- The atomic numbers of the elements hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus, which make up deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
- The formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA
- The number of nucleotides in DNA, and a graphic of the double helix structure of DNA
- A graphic figure of a human, the dimension (physical height) of an average man, and the human population of Earth
- A graphic of the Solar System indicating which of the planets the message is coming from
- A graphic of the Arecibo radio telescope and the dimension (the physical diameter) of the transmitting antenna dish
As technology has advanced, people smarter than I have continued to send out intricate messages into the vastness of space and still haven’t heard anything back. Is Earth getting passive aggressively ignored by the Universe? Are we absolutely alone? Are we the only ones left? Or are we ahead of the curve? Paradox is right! It just gets more frustrating when you think about it which is why Kurz Gesagt’s videos about the Fermi Paradox are so darn great.
Personally, I would think it an awful waste of space if we are the only ones in the Universe. I want future generations to trek the stars; I want them to hitchhike and quest the galaxies. To me, the wonderful science fiction humanity has produced serves as a clue that we’ll get out there someday, in a way like the Doctor always talks about, because it’d be awfully depressing if we were alone in the Universe. As far as the paradox goes, my theory so far is that the first messages we sent out might have been received as the equivalent of getting a post card from a friend who just moved to a boring town while the rest of the Universe is an exciting city. Aliens read the Aceribo message as “Hey man, town’s alright. People are OK, I guess. There’s no cable but we might get it next year. Circus comes next month, so there’s that, I guess. Oh! There’s one bar. It’s an Applebee’s, though,” and decided there’s no need to ever visit but will be totally fine if we come and crash on their couches.
Kurz Gesagt does such a good job explaining things, I hope my ranting didn’t ruin it. What’s your take? Are we alone in the Universe? Let us know in the comments below!