From Space.com :
For years scientists have wrestled with a puzzling fact: The universe appears to be remarkably suited for life. Its physical properties are finely tuned to permit our existence. Stars, planets and the kind of sticky chemistry that produces fish, ferns and folks wouldn’t be possible if some of the cosmic constants were only slightly different.
Well, there’s another property of the universe that’s equally noteworthy: It’s set up in a way that keeps everyone isolated.
We learned this relatively recently. The big discovery took place in 1838, when Friedrich Bessel beat out his telescope-wielding buddies to first measure the distance to a star other than the sun. 61 Cygni, a binary star in our own back yard, turned out to be about 11 light-years away. For those who, like Billy Joel, are fond of models, think of it this way: If you shrank the sun to a ping-pong ball and set it down in New York’s Central Park, 61 Cygni would be a slightly smaller ball near Denver.
The distances between adjacent stars are measured in tens of trillions of miles. The distances between adjacent civilizations, even assuming that there are lots of them out there, are measured in thousands of trillions of miles – hundreds of light-years, to use a more tractable unit. Note that this number doesn’t change much no matter how many planets you believe are studded with sentients – the separation distance is pretty much the same whether you think there are ten thousand galactic societies or a million.
Interstellar distances are big. Had the physics of the universe been different – if the gravitational constant were smaller – maybe suns would have been sprinkled far closer together, and a trip to your starry neighbors would have been no more than a boring rocket ride, kind of like cruising to Sydney. As it is, no matter what your level of technology, traveling between the stars is a tough assignment.
This has been an old argument against ET intelligence and interstellar travel for over 150 years. While the author concedes the possibility of other civilizations in the Galaxy, he uses the old saw, “Distances between stars are just too great and energy requirements are too astronomical” to mount credible interstellar missions. And those are the reasons that, “ETs haven’t contacted us yet.”
I find his hypothesis flawed, highly anthropic and totally discounts the possibility of a Technological Singularity, or any other significant discoveries or inventions. I agree that distances between stars are great and we are only starting to grasp the immensity of the galaxy and the Universe at large. But what I cannot understand is the author thinks that humanity will always age and die the same way we have for millenia and that we’ll always use chemical rockets to launch probes and explore the cosmos (at the moment he’s right about that). And if mankind is stuck in that technological rut, so will other civilizations. Said civilizations will forever be separated from contacting each other except by radio.
And this could also be an explanation for the Fermi Paradox he posits.
I’m not even going to offer up the UFO side against this for the fact that I don’t need to. There are plenty of plausible methods of interstellar travel and communication without going that route. One only needs to visit Paul Gilster’s site, Centauri Dreams to get the low-down on credible methods of star-flight.
It just goes to show that ossified reasoning lasts a real, long time like a Tootsie-Pop. Sometimes one just has to take a “bite” out of it!