We’re Alone…for now

This is actually something I know about!!! *raises hand like overexcited child in class* Or, maybe, the Fermi Paradox has just been preying on my mind lately.
 
For background, read this article.
SETI (Image NRAO/AUI)
SETI (Image NRAO/AUI)

So, according to the Fermi Paradox, we should have made contact with aliens by now, based on complicated math (don’t ask) of the number of stars, planets, etc.

 
However, we haven’t. Unless you believe the guy with the crazy hair on Ancient Aliens (which I watch purely for the comedic value).
 
Add in the Mediocrity Principle from Copernicus (which basically says: “there’s nothing unusual or special about Earth, humanity, and our place in the cosmos, and that if anything we’re actually quite banal in large scheme of things”), and things get even murkier.
 
This article discusses some of the reasons and possibilities as to why we haven’t made contact yet. This paragraph below – taken from the article – is very clearly written and enlightening.
 
“The researchers also took the age of the Milky Way Galaxy into consideration, and calculated that humanity is somewhere in the median 90 percent of the population of galactic species as far as broadcasting history is concerned. This means humanity is not among the first nor last five percent of civilizations to develop radio transmitting technology. Quite pessimistically, they figure that there have been fewer than 210 intelligent communicating civilizations in galactic history, implying that we are among the first to develop radio broadcasting technology. The researchers also figure that the average civilization has been broadcasting for about 80 years, and that the upper limit for radio broadcasting is about 1,600 years.”
 
So, given all that, it seems like humanity is among the “beta testers” of alien communication.

Guardians of the Galaxy…or at least its history

But wait, there’s more! Another article I read in Astronomy magazine points out that there is an even more interesting and thought-provoking side to this whole debate.
 
If we are among some of the first civilizations to catalog the heavens, then our astronomical data will be critical to the future – not just ours, but to any alien civilizations that come later.
 
Why?
 
Because the universe is expanding. Because what we see for stars and hear for blips have come from millions of years ago (that whole time/distance problem). Because the radiation that we can now detect as among the very first moments of the Big Bang is dissipating over time, like smoke.
 
Basically, the astronomical data available in 1,000 years will be very different – and not nearly as old – as what we have now. The echoes of the Big Bang will have faded – meaning other civilizations just coming into existence may never know how the universe started without our knowledge.
 
This is why science matters. This is why astronomy, space exploration, and funding for NASA still matters.
 
We may be alone – for now – but that just means our chronicle of the universe is more important than ever. It makes us real-life “Guardians of the Galaxy.”