Monday, September 28, 2009

100. Fermium


The Fermi Paradox

The Fermi paradox, in its most succinct form, may be stated as follows: If Enrico Fermi truly existed, why isn't he here now?

Which is to say, given an infinite universe, every possible configuration of matter must eventually occur, among which by definition must be an infinite number of Enrico Fermis. More than enough, one would think, to ensure that there would be one with us now, to help us consider the problem.

Yet there is not.

Briefly, a solution was thought to exist in the Closed Universe model, which postulates that the universe not being infinite in either extent or duration, we were lucky to get even one Enrico Fermi, much less asking for a limitless supply. But then came Frank J. Tipler's Omega Point hypothesis, which states that there is enough time between now and the end of our finite universe for intelligent beings to grow into Godlike intellect and power. In which case they must inevitably bring about all possible desirable configurations of matter. Among which must surely be our infinite number of Enrico Fermis.

So why hasn't it?

The universe is a great mystery, and yet one that is ultimately understandable. Enrico Fermi himself would tell us so, were he here.

Which, inexplicably, he is not.

© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.

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