Bill Nye's Answer to Fermi Paradox: Be Patient

Illustration for article titled Bill Nye's Answer to Fermi Paradox: Be Patient

The Fermi Paradox is a question that stumps and fascinates scientists (and pretty much everyone else, let's be real.) The question, originally posed by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, wonders at why there are theoretically so many habitable planets in the universe, but humanity has yet to make contact with any form of intelligent life.


Bill Nye decided to tackle the question in a short YouTube video. And for the famous science educator, the answer is simple: be patient. Nye believes that the one of the biggest barriers to making contact with alien life is just timing.

The answer, I think, is not that complicated. We've only been listening for other civilizations for 50-70 years, depending on how you count. You have to acknowledge that civilizations have to emerge and be able to communicate at the same time. When you have something that's been going on for 13.6 billion years, there's a lot of opportunities to miss each other.

This explanation skews more positive when it comes to possible reasons for that silent blackness that we call space. Other theories believe that our civilization has yet to reach the Great Filter, an evolutionary wall that's nearly insurmountable but one all species face if they wish to survive. Others believe we have already passed the Filter, and we just haven't found another species that is as fortunate.

Hopefully the answer is as rosy as Bill Nye suggests—a classic case a telephone tag.



Maybe civilizations only use radio waves for a short period of time.

The thing is, if you are an interstellar civilization, or intergalactic (!), it would pretty much be a necessity that you have a way to travel and communicate faster than light. Or should I say effectively traveling / communicating faster than light.

It's kind of disheartening really because what we know of physics right now would seem to indicate that traveling to planets further than a couple light years will never be possible. Yeah, there are theories involving wormholes or warp drive, but we don't even know if wormholes exist and if they do we don't know if we could make one going where we want and have it big enough to traverse through. Same with warp...maybe it's possible. But it requires something (negative energy or mass) that we don't even know if it exists. NASA is looking into warp right now. But who knows if that will go anywhere. Sigh.