Galactic Settlement and the Fermi Paradox

spacefaring species could easily settle the entire Milky Way given billions of years. Yet the fact is that there is no obvious one in our solar system right now. The supposed inconsistency between these statements is the Fermi Paradox, named for the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who supposedly first formulated it. In a trenchant formulation of the Fermi Paradox, American astrophysicist Michael H. Hart called the lack of extraterrestrial beings or artifacts on Earth today “Fact A.” He showed that most objections to his conclusion—that a spacefaring civilization could have crossed the galaxy by now—stem from either a lack of appreciation for the timescales involved (it takes a small extrapolation from present human technology to get interstellar ships, and even slow ships can star-hop across our galaxy in less time than the galaxy’s age) or else the dubious assumption that all members).

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