Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” I: A Lunchtime Conversation- Enrico Fermi and Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi won the 1938 Nobel Prize for a technique he developed to probe the atomic nucleus. He led the team that developed the world’s first nuclear reactor, and played a central role in the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb during World War II. In the debate over extraterrestrial intelligence, he is best known for posing the question ‘Where is everybody?’ during a lunchtime discussion at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His question was seen as the basis for the “Fermi Paradox”. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives.
It’s become a kind of legend, like Newton and the apple or George Washington and the cherry tree. One day in 1950, the great physicist Enrico Fermi sat down to lunch with colleagues at the Fuller Lodge at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and came up with a powerful argument about the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, the so-called “Fermi paradox”. But like many legends, it’s only partly true. Robert Gray explained the real history in a recent paper in the journal Astrobiology.(…)
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