There are trillions and trillions of planets throughout the universe. It is almost impossible to imagine the greatness of the universe and yet mathematical models show us the insignificance of our planet compared to the total universe. We are ephemeral beings that live in a rock, so is it possible that we are the only beings in such a vast space?
The Milky Way is what we know most about and can hope to learn about the universe. Due to our technology, it is impossible to think that we will be able to travel outside of it. With more than 400 billion stars, knowing perfectly this minimum space in the universe is a titanic and impossible task. Some models produced by scientists explain that there are 20 billion sun-like stars and a fifth of these appear to have planets the size of our own.
If just 0.1% of those planets had life, that would leave a million planets with life in the Milky Way, which is 13 billion years old, while Earth is only 4 billion.
That implies that many civilizations could have existed in the past and others could be developing at the same time as us, so where is the extraterrestrial life?
This is the Fermi paradox and although there is no answer to it, there are theories that speak of something as logical as it is terrifying, since it does not give us hope of knowing those civilizations and also seems to condemn humanity to destruction.
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Some believe that there are filters that have not allowed life on other planets. That means that maybe life in the past was more difficult to gestate, that would leave us as one of the first, if not the first intelligent civilization in the Milky Way.
Another filter implies that life existed but on all planets it has met an end, one that we have not reached and that will eventually be our end. Maybe it’s climate change or a nuclear war that will destroy all life on earth or maybe it’s something we haven’t yet imagined could happen.
Finally, it is believed that superior extraterrestrial races may exist, so advanced that when determining that a planet has reached a degree of understanding and complexity, it is destroyed and that is why we cannot find anything similar to us. That leaves us as a defenseless organism against much more intelligent creatures that perhaps it is better not to know anything about.
Without a doubt the universe is complex and as Carl Sagan said “If we were the only ones in the universe, it would be a great waste of space”. Although we have not got proof, it is a bit self-centered to think that the entire universe has only been able to give intelligent life to us, so then we find ourselves with this paradox, what is it that we still do not discover?