Exploring Fermi’s question

Posted on December 20, 2012 by admin

I4IS researcher Stephen Ashworth discusses the famous Fermi Paradox:


Given that I am now on record in JBIS as saying that Fermi’s question (“Where are the aliens?”) does not lead to a paradox, I had better say some more about the range of possible answers to that question.

The really big mystery remains the location and the manner of the origin of life itself, of the first living cell. Professor Paul Davies makes it clear in his recent books The Fifth Miracle and The Eerie Silence how far we still are from uncovering the origin of life. For all we know at present, it could have taken place in Darwin’s “some warm little pond” on the surface of Earth or of another earthlike world (such as Mars), or subsurface in the oceans at a location similar to today’s black smokers, or in the layer of shattered rock under the oceans, or in space.

A critical stage is the invention of the whole system of storing information in the form of the genetic code, and it is not yet known how, when or where this happened.

So the question of the prevalence of life in space should be split into two: what is the origin and prevalence of microbial life?, and, once established, how often does this evolve further into advanced creatures capable of extending their influence, or at least of being detected, over interstellar distances?

Read more: Exploring Fermi’s question | Interstellar index.

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