Scientists Predict Contact With Aliens Will Happen in 1500 Years

Wednesday, 15 June 2016 - 4:21PM
Astronomy
Alien Life
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 - 4:21PM
Scientists Predict Contact With Aliens Will Happen in 1500 Years
By now you've probably heard of the Fermi paradox, which essentially boils down to: "if there is highly intelligent life out there, why haven't they contacted us by now?" Well, a team of Cornell University researchers may have the answer - the mediocrity principle. 

The mediocrity principle, devised by 16th-century mathematician Copernicus, suggest there's nothing unusual or special about Earth, humanity, and our place in the cosmos, and, as the name suggests, we're actually quite mediocre. 

In a new study, astronomers Even Solomonides and Yervant Terzian combine the Fermi Paradox with the Mediocrity Principle to show that we shouldn't expect to communicate with aliens for the next 1,500 years. 

"Even our mundane, typical spiral galaxy... is vast beyond imagination," Solomonides said in a statement. "Those numbers are what make the Fermi Paradox so counterintuitive. We have reached so many stars and planets, surely we should have reached somebody by now, and in turn been reached." Solomonides thinks that it is because of this incredible vastness that we haven't received a signal from an alien civilization. 

For the past eight decades, we've been broadcasting radio signals, and they've been spreading out into space like ripples in a pond. Aliens who receive our message would have to first detect them, then recognize them as foreign, and then they'd have to go about deciphering them, a laborious and time-consuming task for even the most advanced civilization. 

Though Earth's radio broadcasts have reached every star within 80 light-years of the Sun, Solomonides explains that this only represents about .125 percent of the planar area of the Milky Way. These same parameters apply to alien broadcasts that we could possibly receive, which means that in order for us to have been reached by extraterrestrial signals, we'd need to be in an especially populated, proportionally tiny area of the galaxy, "and we know we're not special," write the researchers. Realistically, we shouldn't expect to hear from another alien civilization until we've signaled at least half of the Milky Way, a feat that will take us until approximately 3516. 

However, this study does have its faults. First, it exclusively assumes that the radio broadcasts of SETO are the exclusive mode of interstellar communication, when there are many ways for alien intelligences to make their presences known to one another. Second, the researchers grossly underestimate the degree to which radio signals degrade over vast distances. And finally, the paper also fails to address some important aspects of the Fermi Paradox, namely the suggestion that intelligent alien civilizations eventually embark on interstellar colonization. 

Though there is compelling evidence both for and against the mediocrity principle as an explanation for the Fermi Paradox, we'll just have to wait until 3516 to find out which side was right.
Science
Space
Astronomy
Alien Life

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