The Fermi Paradox and The Great Filter with Fraser Cain

Purpose: Fraser Cain is back to talk with Dustin and Tony about the Fermi Paradox and why we haven’t encountered any other life in the universe.

Fraser Cain: You know him, you love him, Fraser Cain is still the popular science guy he’s always been! He has been deeply entrenched in exploring the cosmos for years and theorizing about what could be out there.

This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • What the Fermi Paradox and The Great Filter are
  • Many, many arguments for and against life in the universe
  • How we might detect advanced civilizations if they exist
  • Why there’s so much uncertainty about the future

Notable Quotes:

“If life is easy, then it should be everywhere” - Fraser Cain

“The Great Filter is most likely something we are incapable of preventing.” - Fraser Cain

“The universe doesn’t care if we understand it or not.” - Dustin Gibson

Main Topics:

7:27 -Where are the aliens, Dustin?

It hasn’t been long since we’ve been able to send out and receive communications via radio waves, so our window for noticing or being noticed is very small in the grand time frame of the universe. Conversely, considering how old our universe and solar system are, Fraser believes any advanced civilization in that time would have to have shown some trace of themselves in one way or another. A technologically advanced species could potentially populate the entire Milky Way Galaxy in less than 10 million years, and the amount of opportunities for this to happen in the billions of years of the universe seems like it should be inevitable. Thus, we come to The Great Filter.

14:05 -The Great Filter

This concept puts forth the idea that every civilization thus far has encountered or engineered for themselves an event preventing them from continuing with space travel or even existing at an “advanced” level. Perhaps the society was wiped out by a bio-weapon, or a massive asteroid struck them, or a physics experiment gone wrong turned their planet into a black hole. No matter what the case may be for any particular civilization, The Great Filter would be what stops them in their tracks completely. Now, if one civilization was able to break through this filter we would have to assume that there would be some signal, some trace, of their massive engineering projects in the solar system. But what if we aren’t important enough to advanced life to care about us, or if we’re even able to detect whatever they’re emitting?

25:54 -Detecting Others and Being Detected

There is, of course, the possibility--no matter how small, that advanced civilizations do exist, but have hidden among the cosmos. Whether we would detect their traces or not is another question, and is there a danger in being detected? This does not seem too likely, as even technology available to us now and in the near future could detect biological life signals on any given planet. It’s possible that a planet does have civilized life but is not scientifically advanced, and this could also be detected. Something that seems inevitable with science and the opportunities it provides is that science used maliciously can easily destroy us. We might not be able to find anyone if they’ve already wiped themselves out, and we must be careful not to do the same.

43:21 -Potential Answers to the Fermi Paradox

Maybe we’re the first. It is possible that we as the human species are the first life forms to make it this far in scientific progress, and it is only a matter of time until we make our way across the universe. Another potential answer according to Fraser is that The Great Filter is absolute. This is the idea that no matter what we do, we are doomed to be wiped out at any particular level of technological advancement. That last one, in particular, is a scary idea that we should be actively aware of. Humans have always wanted more, and technology has provided that as we attempt to reach stage 1 of the Kardashev scale. Eventually, we will want to harness the power of the sun for one reason or another. From there, we will try to harness more and advance ourselves even further, but through it all, we must be wary to not destroy ourselves in the process.

55:31 -What Do You Really Believe?

Dustin decides to cut through all of the theoretical discussion, the playing of devil’s advocate, and wild sci-fi concepts and get to the heart of it all. When it comes to the Fermi Paradox and The Great Filter, what do you truly believe to be the case in reality around us?

Do you think life is out there? What do you think The Great Filter could be? Is there even one at all? Let us know in the comments below!

Next Episode - Virtual Astronomy with Skylias

Skylias is back! There’s a lot changing in the realm of astronomy these days with all of the opportunities offered by technology. Nowadays we can stream to anywhere on the planet for essentially no cost. What is it like nowadays being a science communicator?

Previous Podcast - Telescopes, Balloons, and Beer with Dr. Nick Galitzki

Dr. Nick Galitzki joined our hosts along with special guest Hans Haas to talk about his Antarctic projects to drink some beer! Find out what Dr. Nick has learned about the origins of our universe so far in this super interesting exploration on the structure of the cosmos.

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