We’re All Alone in the Observable Universe, Suggests a New Oxford Study

According to scientists at NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, there is a chance they could find signs of life on exoplanets, and they’re doing everything they can to detect it.

But last week, the Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute released a study suggesting a depressing theory: humans might be the only form of life in the Milky Way and the observable universe.

“Where Is Everyone?”

The study analyzed the Fermi paradox, which analyzed the discrepancy between the likelihood of alien life, considering that there are billions of stars like our sun, but there is no evidence that the alien life really exists. The paradox was named after Enrico Fermi, the physicist known for his famous question at Los Alamos: “Where Is Everyone?”

The authors of the study examined the hypothesis and equations which resolved the Fermi paradox, concluding:

“Our main result is to show that proper treatment of scientific uncertainties dissolves the Fermi paradox by showing that it is not at all unlikely ex ante for us to be alone in the Milky Way, or in the observable universe. Our second result is to show that, taking account of observational bounds on the prevalence of other civilizations, our updated probabilities suggest that there is a substantial probability that we are alone.”

Anders Sandberg is an Oxford researcher and one of the study’s authors. He explained to a science news blog that “one can have a situation where the mean number of civilizations in the galaxy might be fairly high—say a hundred—and yet the probability that we are alone in the galaxy is 30%!”

Extending Life to Other Planets to “Preserve the Light of Consciousness”

Considering the conditions that are needed to host intelligent life, Sandberg and his co-authors concluded that the possibility of humans being alone is “fairly high.”

However, the study argues that, according to their state of knowledge, “this is very scientifically plausible and should not surprise us,” and that the conclusions shouldn’t be despairing.

On the other hand, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk observed the story and wrote on his Twitter account that the study is strange and that its conclusions should make us want to “preserve the light of consciousness by becoming a spacefaring civilization & extending life to other planets.”