The Fermi Paradox: Too Hard to Contact? II

I will continue with the hypothesis that it is too difficult to make contact over interstellar distances.

  1. Interstellar communication is too difficult. I
  2. Interstellar travel is too difficult. I
  3. We have not been searching long enough.
  4. We have not been searching for the right kind of evidence.
  5. We already have evidence of ET’s, but we don’t recognize it.
  6. We already have evidence of ET’s, but we are unwilling to recognize it.

So with this post, I conclude my discussion of this possibility.

We have not been searching long enough

That is a very serious possibility. Our searches have covered only a small fraction of the stars in our Galaxy, and they have only been sensitive to very strong signals.

I note in this context that our most persistent signals have been analog-TV broadcast signals. But in recent years, analog TV broadcasts are being converted to digital ones. These ones apparently have less signal power, making them harder to detect. If other civilizations have been going through a similar technology-development sequence, then they may be relatively easy to detect for only a very short time by cosmic standards.

There is also the problem of reverse engineering the signals. Analog signals are direct imitations of the originals, and analog TV broadcasts include horizontal and vertical synchronization (sync) signals as out-of-range intensities. So if one has a clear enough radio and TV signals, one may have little trouble reverse engineering them. But digital broadcasts have some complications. Their data may be compressed, they may use error-correcting codes, and they may be encrypted. All three of them will make the signals look much like noise, with no clues for decoding them. So reverse engineering digital broadcasts will likely be impossible.

We have not been searching for the right kind of evidence

They may be doing something that we don’t know about. As a parallel, if one looks at past centuries, people then did not think of communication with radio waves, because they did not know about radio waves.

We already have evidence of ET’s, but we don’t recognize it

This is related to the previous possibility. We may not know what to look for in what we have.

As a parallel, evidence for continental drift had been observed for some centuries, but it was not considered good-enough evidence of it by most geologists. In the early 20th cy., a common theory for similarities across continents was land bridges that sank or got flooded, and it was only in the mid to late 20th cy. that seafloor spreading and paleomagnetism were discovered, and it was those discoveries that many geologists considered convincing evidence of continental drift. They also found that it explained several other geological mysteries, something that added to its support.

We already have evidence of ET’s, but we are unwilling to recognize it

Unwilling? That is what some people claim about ancient aliens and about UFO’s as extraterrestrial spacecraft, that the scientific community has been unwilling to recognize their reality.

Some UFOlogists, as they call themselves, bring up how the scientific community was once very skeptical about the extraterrestrial origin of meteorites, preferring to believe that those were super hailstones or rocks that were struck by lightning or rocks blown by the wind. Thus claiming that skepticism about extraterrestrial spacecraft is as unjustified as skepticism about extraterrestrial rocks.

But what settled the issue was a meteorite fall in L’Aigle, France, in 1803. A certain Jean-Baptiste Biot was sent to investigate this fall, and he found numerous witnesses, lots of broken branches and other such physical evidence, and lots of odd rocks that were nevertheless much alike. So, he concluded, an extraterrestrial rock fell on that town, a rock that broke into numerous fragments on its way down. JBB wrote a report on what he found, doing so in a pleasant and easy-to-read style, and that report was widely reprinted.

UFOlogists have yet to do anything comparable for the extraterrestrial-spacecraft hypothesis, and that must also be said of ancient-aliens advocates.

So I finish my discussion of why contact may be difficult or impossible.

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