Hollywood has loved to imagine what it will be like to discover intelligent alien life one day, as have books and comics, and most other creative mediums for as long as we can remember. Sadly, science is starting to wonder whether or not the chances are actually good that we’re not alone.
According to a new study out of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, researchers applied existing knowledge of biology, chemistry, and cosmology to the Drake equation, created by astronomer Frank Drake in 1961 in an attempt to calculate the number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.
The equation takes into consideration things like the average rate of star formation and the average lifespan of intelligent civilizations, among other things. Using Drake’s model combined with modern astronomy, the researchers at Oxford estimate there’s a 53%-99.6% change we’re alone in the galaxy and a 39%-85% chance we’re the only intelligent life to be found in the entire universe.
They’re also relying on the class Fermi Paradox, which asserts that intelligent extraterrestrial beings exist and that they should have visited earth by now. Since they have not, the conclusion is that they are “probably extremely far away and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.”
Others, like Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, are dismissive of the recent claims, mainly because there remains too much unknown about the universe to make any such claims.
“I could walk outside here in Mountain View, California, and not see too many hippos strolling the streets,” he told Mental Floss, “but it would be incorrect for me to say on that rather limited basis that there’s probably no hippos anywhere. It’s a big conclusion to make on the basis of a local observation.”
Not only is so much of the universe still shrouded in mystery, there’s also the idea that scientists and astronomers here on earth aren’t even looking for the right type of communication. So far, we examine potential radio and light signals, but there’s a chance that alien beings are trying to contact us in ways we haven’t designed yet.
The bottom line is that the truth may still be out there, just waiting for our feeble human science to catch up enough to find it.