A new calculation using the Drake formula showed that mankind is lonely in its galaxy with a probability of 53–99.6%

    While working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi asked his colleagues the famous question: “Where are they?” . The Nobel Prize winner drew attention to the discrepancy, which he found strange. Given such a large number of stars in our galaxy, even a tiny chance of life near any particular star means having a large number of alien civilizations. Further, assuming reasonable probabilities about the ability of aliens to interstellar travel, physical changes in the surrounding space or communications, we should already see evidence of their existence. And we do not see. This discrepancy has become known as the Fermi paradox., and the corresponding absence of life in the observable Universe is called Fermi observation .

    Many hypotheses tried to explain the Fermi paradox. For example, that other civilizations deliberately hide themselves or self-destruct before they learn to travel between the stars or establish communication over a long distance. The main problem of such hypotheses is that the supposed mechanism of concealing one’s existence or self-destruction must be extremely reliable: if only 99% of civilizations destroy themselves, this will not help much in resolving the paradox.

    Thus, all these hypotheses remain highly speculative and largely rely only on assumptions about some universal motives or social dynamics of aliens, while we cannot claim to have similar knowledge about our own world. These hypotheses are not considered because of independent scientific credibility, but only because they offer a solution to the Fermi paradox.

    Scientists from the Institute for the Future of Humanity at the University of Oxford published a scientific paper in which they show that "correct handling of scientific uncertainties dissolves the Fermi paradox." In other words, our uniqueness in the Universe and the absence of observable alien life is not at all a “paradox” and not an unlikely event.

    The authors of the scientific paper criticize the fact that the Drake formula is used with point estimates. However, such point estimates "imply knowledge of the processes (especially those related to the origin of life), which are untenable, given the current state of science." According to British scientists, taking into account realistic uncertainty, point estimates should be replaced by probability distributions that reflect current scientific understanding. And then, according to the Drake formula, a completely different picture is obtained - and all sorts of reasons already disappear to be sure that the Galaxy (or the observable Universe) contains other civilizations.

    The second result of scientific work: scientists have shown that, taking into account the observed limits of the prevalence of other civilizations, "our updated probabilities suggest that there is a significant likelihood that we are alone." The authors found qualitatively similar results in two different methods: using author's estimates of modern scientific knowledge related to key parameters, and using divergent estimates of these parameters in astrobiological literature as an intermediate parameter for current scientific uncertainty.





    The calculation by this method showed a rather high probability that humanity is alone in its own Milky Way galaxy (53–99.6%) or even in the entire observable Universe (39–85%). Accordingly, the authors of the scientific work answer the famous question “Where are they?”: “Probably very far, and quite possibly, beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unattainable.”

    From the above, a third conclusion follows that pessimism for the survival of humanity, based on the Fermi paradox, is unfounded. In other words, humanity has good chances for survival , and it is impossible to draw conclusions about the inevitability of self-destruction of civilization on the basis that there is not a single sufficiently developed civilization in the observed Universe. Perhaps this is the most optimistic result of the published scientific work.

    Article published June 6, 2018 on the site of preprints arXiv.org (arXiv: 1806.02404v1).

    Ilon Musk reacted to the calculations of British experts. "It's strange," - he wrote he tweeted.


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