Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist,
best known for his work on Chicago Pile-1 (the first nuclear reactor), and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics. He is one of the men referred to as the “father of the atomic bomb”. Fermi held several patents related to the use of nuclear power, and was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity by neutron bombardment and the discovery of transuranic elements.
He has also become known as the developer of the Fermi Paradox, a concept that attempts to explain the size of the universe, the potential for extraterrestrial life, and the lack of evidence for that life. The basic points of the argument, made by physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael H. Hart, are:
- The Sun is a young star. There are billions of stars in the galaxy that are billions of years older;
- some of these stars probably have Earth-like planets which, if the Earth is typical, may develop intelligent life;
- presumably, some of these civilizations will develop interstellar travel, a technology Earth is investigating even now;
- at any practical pace of interstellar travel, the galaxy can be completely colonized in a few tens of millions of years.
According to this line of thinking, the Earth should already have been colonized, or at least visited. But no convincing evidence of this exists. Furthermore, no confirmed signs of intelligence elsewhere have been spotted, either in our galaxy or in the more than 80 billion other galaxies of the observable universe.
All that may change at any time, and the consequences unforeseen.