Starts With A Bang

Humanity may be alone in the Universe (Synopsis)

Moon and clouds over the Pacific Ocean, as photographed by Frank Borman and James A. Lovell during the Gemini 7 mission. Image credit: NASA.

“There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.” -Enrico Fermi

Given the huge number of stars, planets, and chances at life that the galaxy and the Universe has given us, it seems paradoxical that we haven’t yet encountered any form of alien intelligence or even life. The discoveries make in the field of exoplanet studies, particularly by the Kepler mission, make this an even bigger problem than we anticipated: more than 10^22 planets with Earth-like condition are expected to exist in our Universe.

Illustration of the planet-finding space telescope, Kepler, from NASA. Image credit: NASA Ames/ W Stenzel.

So does this mean that intelligent life beyond Earth is pretty much a certainty, as Adam Frank asserted in the New York Times last week? Hardly; what it means is that we have a long way to go in the sciences of astrobiology, abiogenesis and exo-evolution. There’s so much to learn that drawing conclusions about what’s out there is more than premature: it’s not even science.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Lucianomendez, under a creative commons sharealike license.

Come get the full story of what we know — and what we still need to learn — over on Forbes today.