Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Fermi Paradox and Necrons

The Nobel prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi is rather famous in quantum science circles. He is also less well known for asking the question "Where are they?" in relation to the non-detection of aliens in the Universe at large. I'm going to go a little off topic today and suggest that necrons are one possible solution to Fermi's paradox!

What's this Fermi's paradox thing?
There's two aspects here. Firstly, we might suppose that life in the Universe is common. This can be deduced from something called the "Drake Equation". One form of the Drake equations looks like the following:
N(c) = N(Star) x f(p) x N(LZ) x f(L) x f(I) x F(s)
N(c) = the number of communicative civilizations in the Galaxy (the Milky Way);
N(Star) = the number of stars in the Milky Way;
f(p) = the fraction of stars that have planets orbiting them;
N(LZ) = the number of planets per star in the "Life Zone" - defined as where water is in a liquid phase;
f(L) = fraction of planets where life begins;
f(I) = fraction of life that evolves to intelligence;
F(s) = fraction of the parent star's lifetime during which a technological civilization survives.

Now, some of these factors are better known than others. N(Star) is the best know - it is in the region of 10^11 (ten to the power of eleven). f(p) is becoming better known - it certainly isn't zero and could be rather high! For our own solar system, N(LZ)=1 since the Earth is the only planet where water is in a liquid state given its distance from the Sun. As for the rest of the factors, you can plug in numbers between 0 and 1 till you're content.

If you plug in even some improbable values (e.g. f(L)<0.01), you might end up computing that N(c) is non-negligible. If so, then we've got to ask ourselves where the rest of these civilizations have got to. (okay - you might get a number below 1 as well...).

The second line of reasoning goes something like this. Let's suppose that somewhere, a technological civilization wants to spread itself out across the Milky Way and colonize everywhere. How long would it take to colonize the entire Galaxy? To answer this, let's also suppose that inter-stellar travel is tricky and said species only ever figures out how to travel at a fraction of the speed of light (current human-made craft travel at about less than 1/10000th of the speed of light). We'll assume these imaginary aliens manage to get this up to 1/100th the speed of light. It would only take them of the order millions of years to colonize every planet in the Galaxy. Compared to the age of the Universe (14ish billion years or 14 Gigayears), this is small. Hence if there were a civilization that had some inclination to colonize and managed to travel on spacecraft moving at 1 per cent of the speed of light (no wormholes or the like), then they would have already had ample time to do. More of this theory can be read about on wikipedia if you're interested in reading more about these concepts.

How do necrons resolve the paradox?
All of the above is standard scientific analysis that is taught at a good number of universities and colleges across the globe in undergraduate courses. Now, how do necrons impact on the Fermi Paradox?

Well, it occurs to me that necrons did colonize much of the Galaxy (by conquering and eliminating all other life encountered) in the background fluff before retreating to their tombs and sleeping away the millenia. The necron tombs are not necessarily located on every single large terrestrial planet, they could certainly be tucked away on asteroids and other debris from solar system formation or be floating in inter-stellar space. There would be no signs of life in the Universe (a "Great Silence") since the dominant species - necrons - are asleep elsewhere and not necessarily within reach of humans or their detection devices; QED.


Gamers World said...

Very nice ideas and all of it makes sense, I now the reactions some people will give to this but I actually think that in space somewhere there are aliens.

Siph_Horridus said...

Nice ideas! Maybe the egyptians didn't build those pyramids/monoliths! Ha. I do hope there is life out there... if it is just us - we might not make it through the nuclear age. That is another theory, to advance through technology (carbon based life) must survive or harness nuclear fission/fusion stage without wiping said life out. Hence the lack of communication... any advanced life already is wiped out by itself?
Mulder said. I believe.

jabberjabber said...

Life elsewhere in the Galaxy always provokes debate! Good to see you both are thinking and have opinions.

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