E.T. will not be phoning home, or Earth, anytime soon.
We might be waiting a while to hear from aliens. New research by astronomers at Cornell University (CU) concludes that extraterrestrials likely won’t give Earth a dingle for 1,500 years. This timeline was reached by deconstructing the Fermi Paradox and pairing it with the Mediocrity Principle in a new equation.
The Fermi Paradox states that there are billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy, the universe even, that are capable of supporting life, and that millions of intelligent species are out there, but none of them have visited earth — the paradox. The Mediocrity Principle asserts that Earth’s physical attributes are not unique and that the planet’s natural processes are likely common throughout the universe, so we don’t stand out to aliens.
“We haven’t heard from aliens yet, as space is a big place — but that doesn’t mean no one is out there,” said CU student Evan Solomonides and co-author of the study, in a CU news release. “It’s possible to hear any time at all, but it becomes likely we will have heard around 1,500 years from now.”
“Until then, it is possible that we appear to be alone — even if we are not. But if we stop listening or looking, we may miss the signals. So we should keep looking,” Solomonides continued.
So how do we keep looking and listening? First, we have to continue to send out signals, such as television broadcasts. Luckily, this is something we do every single day. TV and radio signals are sent into space as a byproduct of broadcasting, which means that for about 80 years, these signals have been traveling from Earth at the speed of light. Consequently, Earth’s broadcast signals have reached every star, and every planet, within roughly 80 light-years, which equates to about 8,531 stars and 3,555 Earth-like planets.
This may seem like a big number, but it’s not. The Milky Way galaxy contains about 200 billion stars, so we have only reached 0.0000042655 percent of them. We still have a long way to go.
“Even our mundane, typical spiral galaxy — not exceptionally large compared to other galaxies — is vast beyond imagination,” said Solomonides.
However, even if aliens did receive our transmissions, they would likely be unable to decipher them. Extraterrestrials would first need to decode light waves into sound, and then determine what language the transmission is in — and there is a plethora to choose from.
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence by the California-based SETI Institute is the best chance humanity has to find alien neighbors, explained Solomonides.
“I think what SETI has been doing is exactly what we should be doing,” Solomonides told The Huffington Post. “If we stopped paying attention for a year, a month or a week — if that is when we finally get a signal, the one powerful signal from a civilization that indicates that they’re there — we’ve missed it and there’s no way to ever get that back.”
Why did the researchers settle on 1,500 years? Around that time our signals will have traveled through approximately half of the Milky Way. However, Solomonides notes, “[t]his is not to say that we must be reached by then or else we are, in fact, alone. We simply claim that it is somewhat unlikely that we will not hear anything before that time.”
Or maybe advanced civilizations are just avoiding us. After all, Solomonides told Space.com that Earth’s first broadcast was Adolf Hitler’s Olympic remarks. Could we really blame them?
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