spaceSpace and Physics

There’s A Surprisingly High Chance That We’re Alone In The Universe, Claims Study


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

Denis Belitsky/Shutterstock

There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe, each containing billions of stars and many billions of planets. You’d think, therefore, that life might be quite common.

We still haven’t found any other life, however, leading Italian astrophysicist Enrico Fermi to ponder in 1950 where all the aliens were. This became known as the Fermi Paradox, and it still doesn’t have a solution.


Now researchers from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University have sought to answer this. Using the famous Drake Equation, which attempts to predict the possibility of intelligent civilizations in the universe, they came up with a percentage chance of other intelligent life existing. Their results are published in a paper on arXiv.

The news? Uh, it’s not great. They say there’s between a 39 percent and 85 percent chance that we’re alone in the observable universe.

“[W]e find a substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our observable universe,” the researchers led by Anders Sandberg wrote. “’Where are they?’ – probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.”

They came to this conclusion by reducing uncertainties in the search for life as much as possible. This included “factoring in models of plausible chemical and genetic mechanisms,” noted Cosmos Magazine. They looked at current scientific uncertainties that produce different values for factors in the Drake Equation, and took a look at the results.


“The problem, according to the researchers, is that plugging numbers into the Drake equation as a ‘best guess’ implies certainty and results in misleading estimates,” said Motherboard. “Probability distributions, on the other hand, allows for uncertainty to be captured in the equation.”

That led to the suggestion that there is a 53 to 99.6 percent chance we are alone in our galaxy, along with the aforementioned odds of being alone in the universe.

Don’t give up all hope just yet though, as the researchers say their conclusion “does not mean that we are alone (in our galaxy or observable universe), just that this is very scientifically plausible and should not surprise us.”

So, if we never find intelligent alien life, don’t be too upset. The odds were never in our favor.


spaceSpace and Physics
  • tag
  • Universe,

  • alone,

  • SETI,

  • aliens,

  • intelligent life