In 1975, a paper by physicist Michael Hart inspired Enrico Fermi to ask the question: where is everybody? He asked it because of the silence of the universe around us–no radio signals, nobody coming in for a landing, indeed, nobody approaching us in anything like a conventionally understandable manner.
Now, whether you believe that extraterrestrials are here or not, a good argument can be made that, even if many of them present such an unconventional picture that we literally cannot recognize them as what they are, some, at least, should be in some sort of more conventional contact with us.
Instead, you have two possibilities: either you can choose high strangeness and say that some of the evidence suggests that they might be here; or you can say that’s all an illusion and there’s nobody here but us.
Let’s look at some rather interesting statistics. First, our vision of our galaxy, and by extension the rest of this universe, has come into much sharper focus since Fermi originally asked his question. In those days, we weren’t even sure that other stars had planetary systems orbiting them. Now we know that planets are ubiquitous, and thus that the probability that there is intelligent life out there is much higher than we used to believe. Second, the idea that travel across the vast distances of space would be completely impractical is also changing. Not only that, there is building evidence that parallel universes may be physically real, so the possibility that others could visit us from, in effect, right here can no longer be rejected.
The latest research suggests that wormholes might not be all that difficult to create, and not only that, but that it would be much easier to open such a door between parallel universes than it would to open one to a different part of this universe.
The numbers that are involved in just this universe, though, are so enormous that the conclusion is inescapable that, if travel among the stars is possible, then somebody is doing it. If the rest of the universe reflects what we can see in our own galaxy, in which something between 5% and 20% of stars are similar to our sun, then, taking the universe as a whole, there are 500 billion billion sun-like stars. AND there is building evidence that there are other physical universes beyond our own. In fact, recent studies of the microwave background radiation suggests that our universe might have collided with other universes at least six times in its history.
But let’s just stick with our own universe. According to a recent National Academy of Sciences study, our observation of our own galaxy suggests that there might be living planets orbiting around 1% of the sun-like stars in the universe. The number is so gigantic that it’s beyond comprehension. Look at it this way: for every grain of sand on earth, there are probably a hundred earth-like planets in our universe.
Looking just at our own galaxy, there are likely to be something on the order of a billion earth-like planets. How many might, at any given time, harbor intelligent life. We have no idea, but statistically it is almost inevitable that some do. Perhaps it’s only a tiny fraction–even an infinitesimal fraction. That would get it down to, say, a hundred thousand intelligent species in this galaxy right now.
So the Fermi Paradox becomes a howling question: where IS everybody?
When I look across the vast outpouring of anecdote and the enormous amount of research that has emerged as a response to the UFO phenomenon over the past sixty years, I have to conclude that something unexplained is happening here. However, my own personal observations and experiences, and those of many other direct witnesses, do not suggest that it involves what might be thought of as alien contact, at least not in any way that such a thing might be conventionally understood.
One of the reasons is the proliferation of encounters that involve not only seeming aliens but also the apparent reappearance of dead people. When having close encounters, people commonly see the dead as well.
This flies in the face not only of conventional wisdom, which is that no aliens are here, could ever come here or have ever been here, but also the general belief in among UFO researchers, that alien scientists are here studying us.
It tells me that my reaction to what happened to me was exactly correct: I don’t know what in the world it was and is, for it still happens from time to time.
This, in the end, is what we have to face: we don’t know. We don’t know what this phenomenon is or what it may mean. We don’t know where it has come from or where it is going. And if we are ever to understand it, we’re going to have to ask much better questions than we have so far done.
Dismissing the phenomenon is not a useful or correct stance. Even if it’s entirely cultural, it still exists. Closing the question with the claim either that it cannot be aliens or that it must be aliens is obviously premature. What we need, and urgently, is for our best minds to readdress the whole phenomenon, and to do so without preconceptions.
So far, we have not been up to that task. It’s time to take a new look at why not, and seek once again to open the door that is the most tightly closed of all: the door of our own mind.