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Unthinkable Solutions of Fermi's Paradox

"At some point, the gluons will no longer be able to hold the quarks together, and the hadrons will decay. Which will mean the end of matter in this universe." - Albert Einstein 1

As it seems, in our universe, nothing is made to last. Eventually, everything gets old and dies or changes or decays into something else and I am not refereeing to the life forms only but all matter in the cosmos. For all we know this might not be true within our own macro world alone but also deep below the same goes for particles in the quantum realm as well. The fact is that everything in the universe have a tendency to achieve the lowest energy state and to finally rest within a stable system even if that means going through various changes or decays. In the quantum world, this could be true for the Higgs field as well. According to Hawking, if it becomes meta-stable, the vacuum decay bubble will emerge and consume everything in order to eventually reach the lowest energy state possible. For Higgs field being everywhere in the universe this would mean instantaneous collapse of the whole universe and it's own ultimate change into new and ultimately alien environment with completely new set of laws of physic in the aftermath that could not be as friendly to the living beings as they are today.

But relax, this is just a theory - it might be wrong, nothing like it happened in previous 13,8 billion years (or did it?) and the quote from the beginning is not really formulated by the famous physicist. Well, fictitious Einstein did say it in the Phillip P. Peterson's 'Paradox', remarkable piece of science fiction driven by this scientific premise, but still, it might be something he would say if he was still alive today.

'Paradox' is relatively new novel series so I am not going to spoil the content but to really understand how vacuum decay relates to the well known Fermi's paradox or to better understand aliens' actions towards Earth and other star systems throughout universe I'd warmly recommend the read. As a science fiction fan for years and decades I could only say that I didn't stumble to the better science fiction in relation to concepts such as Dyson spheres, quantum mechanics, fusion engine, antimatter propulsion, warp drives, creation of Big Bang and inflationary space, virtual reality of enormous proportions, wormholes travel and communication... The list is going on and I can only speculate what is inside the third book that has just released (unfortunately, due to my illiteracy in German language I'll have to wait for the summer and it's scheduled translation in English). Anyway, this was one of rare book series with sequel even more interesting than the first book with perfect connected endings in both of them.

The idea of vacuum decay behind Peterson novels for the solution of Fermi's paradox is indeed new in scientific background but surely there is more logic we can think of and apply to the absence of aliens and the idea more than half an century old in recent years is getting renewed attention. What I am referring to is the simulation theory and/or holographic principle. It is triggered by the very research of black holes and information paradox, which states that physical information can be lost and swallowed by black holes despite quantum mechanics postulate that nothing, including information, can ever be lost, only transferred from one form to another. One of the solution for the paradox I discussed while ago with question in post title 'Are We Holograms?' and it answered the Fermi's paradox perfectly.

However and to get back to science fiction, on several occasion in the past, I mentioned "The Thirteenth Floor", the movie that portrays so far the best story about simulation of everything in existence. I don't know why, but I never read the backstory about this great film and especially for this post I went to check where the script came from in the first place and discovered that it was loosely based on the book called "Simulacron-3" written by Daniel F. Galouye way back in 1964. Needless to say, I downloaded the copy and liked it very, very much. Considering the year and the fact that it was written in the dawn of digital computers, the details and sophistication of the story was amazing. In relation to the Fermi's paradox, if we are indeed living in a simulated world created by aliens themselves and we all are nothing more than just a bunch of artificial intelligence characters in the game then the absence of other intelligent forms becomes clear. Or we will meet them when they become programmed and inserted in the simulation. Anytime now.

Next in line of the fictitious solution for the Fermi's paradox on the first glance is not something that much unthinkable. But if we reason about communications over long distances in space, calling the ET and/or receiving a message from aliens from deep space is not as easy as we might think. By using our current technology, that is. The most obvious is SETI project that was founded half a century ago based on only monitoring electromagnetic radiation in search for ET broadcast that after that many years of looking for the signal from the above failed to find anything so far.

The most interesting and one of the first science fiction in the this realm was Carl Sagan's 'Contact' with aliens managed to receive the Earth's earliest TV broadcast 25 light years away, decoded it and sent it back into SETI's antennas. Unfortunately, even though this looks much more plausible than vacuum decay or giant simulation it is really not. Engineering ans science behind are cruel. To broadcast anything at all in electromagnetic spectrum, signal must be focused and powerful enough to reach the destination without dissipation of the signal or to avoid for the data to be embedded in too much noise on the way or to experience path loss during spreading out over long distances. Our EM broadcasts from Earth are meant for Earth only (or to the Moon on occasion or two in the past) and they are not powerful enough to reach even closest stars without serious signal lost. To get weak transmissions like that, aliens around Vega might need solar system wide antennas to detect UHF broadcasts from us. The same goes for SETI on Earth, it is unlikely we will ever get anything that is not narrow, focused and aimed directly toward us. Nevertheless, ''Contact' will always stay on my physical and digital shelves for being one of the best science fiction in the history of the genre.

At least for this post, the last and final obstacle with life forms swarming the vast space throughout universe(s) is ... the life itself and it's potential limitations. Organic life based on carbon or something else exotic to us could be fragile and short in general. One small asteroid strike on the planet in Goldilocks zone and poof ... Everything dies and resets. Billions of years of evolution goes into oblivion in cosmic second. Even if major extinction events miraculously avoid the intelligent species they might be destined to destroy themselves at the end of the path. Even more unthinkable scenarios we are still not aware of yet can pop to the equation. One of the obstacles could be that life could exist only in networked scenarios or to be precise it could only work and evolve, more or less, in a form of a giant hive mind in relation to the mother planet. If that's true there could be a limit in distance for a small number of individuals to leave their world where they would ultimately loose connection to the hive and die. We never sent anyone or anything live behind moon orbit so if this is true, the border of life could be anywhere beyond that.

I am not sure that Arthur C. Clarke had this in mind when he wrote 'Rendezvous with Rama' back then in 1973. Probably not. However, it was not far from common sense that in this unthinkable scenario, in order to sail toward the stars the only way could be done is to build enormous space ships and giant cities that could carry everybody to the one way journey. There are countless hazards for that kind of travel and something along the way might happen to the people who originally populated Rama in the beginning. If we add to the story ultimate laws of physics and issues with limited speed of travel, vast distances between stars and sparse sources when it comes to little things like food and fuel, 'the hive mind' problem could be another perfect solution to the paradox to consider.

But let's stop here with imagining all potential reasons why we still haven't met ET. If I would like only to spice it up with more unthinkable reasons it would not be that hard. Just think about "Zoo Hypothesis" in which we are created and observed by aliens in their science fair experiment or the theory that we are first intelligent civilization to emerge so far or there is 'The Great Filter' that limits intelligent life species to reach the potential to dive into stars.

In the end, we could be all wrong. Evolution of species throughout universe might not be headed toward stars at all. Perhaps we have to reset our minds and look elsewhere, no matter how strange it sounds.

1 Quote by Albert Einstein character from Phillip P. Peterson's Paradox novel series


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