01Jul2018

Oxford University Study Says Humans Are Alone In Universe

ET has not yet phoned home because he may not be smart enough to know how to do it. Or simply put, he may not exist at all. Its a conversation that divides people. How about you?

We are listening but there’s probably a reason we’re not hearing anything.

We are listening but there’s probably a reason we’re not hearing anything.Source:Getty Images

A new study from the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at Oxford University, aptly titled “Dissolving The Fermi Paradox,” suggests that humanity is alone in the observable universe, putting a dampener on the theory that there is intelligent life outside of Earth.

“When the model is recast to represent realistic distributions of uncertainty, we find a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it,” the study’s abstract reads.

“This result dissolves the Fermi paradox, and in doing so removes any need to invoke speculative mechanisms by which civilisations would inevitably fail to have observable effects upon the universe.”

The Fermi paradox, named after physicist Enrico Fermi, is the contradiction between the lack of any evidence that Earth has been visited by intelligent extraterrestrial civilisations and the high probability that one or multiple civilisations exist, due to a number of factors, which include: there are billions of stars in the galaxy similar to our Sun; many of these stars have Earth-like planets; and some of these civilisations may have developed interstellar travel, something that is being discussed now by experts, including theoretical physicist Dr Michio Kaku.

The study, published earlier this month, was conducted by Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler and Toby Ord. It also looks at the famous Drake Equation, a seven-term equation which attempts to look at the differing variables that would be relevant for intelligent life forms. This includes factors such as formed stars and their planets, the average number of planets that can potentially support life, the fraction of those planets that could develop life and the fraction of those civilisations to become intelligent.

In this study, Sandberg, Drexler and Ord reconsidered the Drake Equation, looking at adding chemical and genetic transitions to it. They noted that by incorporating these into the equation, it brings up significant amounts of scientific uncertainties.

It wasn’t that Fermi didn’t believe in aliens — on the contrary, he knew that statistically speaking they had to exist. He just wanted to know why nobody had found one.

It wasn’t that Fermi didn’t believe in aliens — on the contrary, he knew that statistically speaking they had to exist. He just wanted to know why nobody had found one.Source:Supplied

Speaking with Universal-Sci, Dr Sandberg said: “Many parameters are very uncertain given current knowledge. While we have learned a lot more about the astrophysical ones since Drake and Sagan in the 1960s, we are still very uncertain about the probability of life and intelligence.

“When people discuss the equation, it is not uncommon to hear them say something like: ‘This parameter is uncertain, but let’s make a guess and remember that it is a guess,’ finally reaching a result that they admit is based on guesses. But this result will be stated as single number, and that anchors us to an ‘apparently’ exact estimate — when it should have a proper uncertainty range

This often leads to overconfidence, and worse, the Drake equation is very sensitive to bias — if you are hopeful, a small nudge upwards in several uncertain estimates will give a hopeful result, and if you are a pessimist you can easily get a low result,” he said.

Dr Sandberg said that based on the equation’s parameters, they looked at the smallest and largest values they might have and came up with a probability of 30 per cent that humans are alone in the universe.

“We found that even using the guesstimates in the literature (we took them and randomly combined the parameter estimates) one can have a situation where the mean number of civilisations in the galaxy might be fairly high — say a hundred — and yet the probability that we are alone in the galaxy is 30 per cent,” he said. “The reason is that there is a very skew distribution of likelihood.”

Results of the study have drawn the attention of several experts, including SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Source: Fermi Paradox: Oxford University study says humans are alone in universe

 

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