Free Anal Probes!

You just might have to wait 10 billion years or so for one.

Aliens need a lot more time to find us
* 09:30 20 January 2007

"So, where is everybody?" Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi reportedly quipped to fellow physicists in 1950, when discussing why we haven't seen any signs of alien civilisations if, as many believe, our galaxy is teeming with life. Now, a maths model may have an answer to Fermi's paradox.

Rasmus Björk of the Niels Böhr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, has calculated that eight probes - travelling at a tenth of the speed of light and each capable of launching up to eight sub-probes - would take about 100,000 years to explore a region of space containing 40,000 stars. When Björk scaled up the search to include 260,000 such systems in our galaxy's habitable zone, the probes took almost 10 billion years - three-quarters the age of the universe - to explore just 0.4 per cent of the stars (

So, Björk's answer to the Fermi paradox: aliens haven't contacted us because they haven't had the time to find us yet.

He adds that the search could be optimised by visiting only those stars that harbour habitable planets, which could be identified by planet-finding missions such as NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder. Björk is also "cautiously optimistic" about listening out for aliens with radio telescopes.


  1. Space indeed boggles the mind.

    When younger, someone told me to look at the Big Dipper on my 70th BD. What I'd see, is where it was when I was born.
    How cool is that to think it took the light of those stars 70 years to reach earth?

    One has to be in awe of life, even if we can't here on Earth sometimes! ; (

  2. Great thought there, coffee

  3. Michael,
    I don't think there is a such thing as "more friends" .... maybe more warm friendly associates.

  4. Since it's not at all likely that an alien civilization's first notice of us would be visual, we are left with the likelihood that they would first notice us by detecting our electromagnetic transmissions. In other words, radio, TV, and gamma ray emitting nuclear explosions.

    Regular broadcasting began 87 years ago, in 1920. This means that our electromagnetic footprint extends in a roughly spherical shape for a distance of 87 light years.

    The nearest galaxy to earth is the Dwarf Galaxy of Canis Major, which is 25,000 light years distant. Therefore, the earliest possible intergalactic response we could hope for will be some 50,000 years hence (25k out, 25k back.)

    Stars in our own galaxy are much closer. There are about 60 stars similar to our Sun within 50 light years of earth; about 500+ within 100 light years. (The volume of space in a 100 light year sphere is 8x the volume of a 50 light year sphere.)

    Still, these stars represent an infinitesimal fraction of the stars in our own galaxy (some estimates run as high as 400,000,000,000 (400 billion). recent estimates indicate that there are 130 billion galaxies in the known universe. Assuming our galaxy is of average size, we can calculate that there are 400 billion x 130 billion stars in the universe, or a total of 50,000 billion billion stars. Here's what a billion billion looks like:


    Simply multiply that x 50,000, and there's the number of suns in the universe.

    And they're gonna stumble across little old us, AND wanna take a look up our butts with an anal probe? By comparison, winning the lottery is a slam dunk. Actually, by comparison, stepping outside on a windy day, holding up your left hand, and having the winning Powerball ticket land in your mitt is probably more likely.

    Dude, we are soooooo tiny.

  5. Ditto Steve, Coffee. Even if the numbers are "loose", that's a great way to think about it man. Iree.

    "More" is the key word there, Ed. I'm no shut-in but, aside from occasional visits with m' s-daughter and her mom, there's only one - indescribably beautiful - person with whom I spend any time outside of work.

    This must change. I was never a bar hopper and I'm just not sure how to go about it at this point in my life. I'd like to hook up with so many of the folks I've "met" online, but y'all be scattered crost the freakin' country, and the Globe in some cases.

    (I'm whining here. I know this.) All the folks I know in zee flesh get bored with the things that drive me, but ... fuck it..

    To do the UU and join some political activities locally are the only things, short of gettin' my ass back into college, that I've come up with. The latter's not a financial option this year and neither of the former are thrilling me.

    (This unit will self-destruct in ... {-; )

    I'll figure it out.


    ...stepping outside on a windy day, holding up your left hand, and having the winning Powerball ticket land in your mitt...

    Hhmmm... There's an idea. Then I could buy me a freakin' entourage!


    Thanks, Roxtar!

    Hhmm... "Rock Superstar" by Cypress Hill just came up on the jukebox. Cool


  6. Personally, I'm of the school that thinks that it's a really good thing that we haven't been discovered yet. Didn't any of you see Independence Day?! ;-)

    (Course that didn't stop my from racking up about 5000 Seti@Home units.)

  7. "Independence Day"... Wasn't that that documentary on Area 51?


    I'm currently at 5691.30, Kvatch. Keep at it, frogmigo!


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