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January 10, 2004
Whence The Aliens?
I've been chatting with a few folks, and after Brett introduced the concept to me, I'm amazed at how relatively rare the concept of Fermi's Paradox is. The basic gist of it is that based on some relatively simple math, we should have been colonized or at least visited by another intelligent alien lifeforms. Fritz Freiheit seems to have the best summary of the concept and the math on the web.
Brett and I were most recently talking about If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life. The quick summary Brett gave is that Stephen Webb concludes that the most likely answer is that life is far more unique than our modesty gives credit or more succinctly, the universe is much more hostile to life than we give credit.
All this brings me to hope that we take new plans for lunar and martian colonization very seriously. Expanding life beyond the planet moves our long term survival chances up dramatically, but we will not be relatively safe as a species until we move extra solar. Even then there are major risks, but having the technology to complete self sustaining lunar and martian colonies will alone protect us as a species pretty dramatically. If life is as rare as it may very well be, we have the obligation to sustain ourselves.
To bring home the economic and thus practical import of the new plans, a lunar colony that can make metals and sustain itself could radically decrease the cost of satellite manufacture and launch. Launching earth orbiting satellites from the moon is dramatically cheaper if they are physically built there. US Government support for a lunar colony, and then a martian colony are really the transcontinental railroad of the modern area.
Update: A friend pointed out this great essay from Omni.
Posted by hoffmang | January 10, 2004 01:34 PM