There are billions of stars in the galaxy, so there must be billions of planets in the galaxy. For many years people have speculated that there must be intelligent life out there and even civilizations that have developed space travel. In a casual conversation among scientists in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi asked, “If these civilizations do exist, where is everybody?” That question came to be known as the Fermi Paradox, and it led to the picture, which we will explain.
The Fermi Paradox points out the lack of any evidence for what many see as a high probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. Since no space aliens have landed on Earth and announced their arrival, some scientists decided to search for them by electromagnetic radiation. In 1960 astronomer Frank Drake began a coordinated project which became known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Ever since then, millions (or billions) of dollars and millions of hours have been spent listening for any transmission of any intelligent beings on other planets. The results have been zero. Where is everybody?
In 1995 the SETI Institute established Project Phoenix, which concentrated only on the 800 closest stars and their planets. Working from 1995 until 2004, the project concluded that there is no species as technologically advanced as humans in the universe within 200 light-years of Earth.
Because of the laws of physics and the dangers of space, any space traveler would be limited to no more than one percent of the speed of light. (Exceeding, or even approaching the speed of light is only possible in the movies.) So traveling at maximum speed from the nearest possible location, a space alien would need 20,000 years to reach the Earth. You could add to that another 5,000 years to dodge space objects (including stars, planets, and asteroids) on the trip. So for a space alien to reach Earth would take at least 25,000 years, and probably much longer.
So what is the picture? It’s a digital representation of what is called the Arecibo message. In 1974, scientists sent out a radio message from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. They aimed it a star cluster called M13, which is 25,000 light-years away. If there is any intelligent life there able to receive and decode it, the message tells about planet Earth and humanity. (You can find the “decode” HERE.) Of course, if there are any intelligent beings in M13 wondering “where is everybody,” they should receive the message in 25,000 years.
The Fermi Paradox is still unsolved. As the leader of Project Phoenix, Peter Backus, said, “We live in a quiet neighborhood.” God, on the other hand, being unlimited by time and space (remember that He created time/space and matter/energy) is always near and ready to hear our prayers unless we are unwilling to acknowledge His existence.
— Roland Earnst © 2020