With the advent of high-powered telescopes that can peer billions of light years into the cosmic void, over the past few decades we have learned much about our unremarkable place in the Universe. Potentially habitable planets are more plentiful then we once thought: there are trillions in the Universe, and an estimated million in the Milky Way alone. Looking inward at our own small life-sustaining planet, we've also discovered that life isn't nearly as delicate as we had imaged: lifeforms exist buried in the Earth's crust and deep underwater, in extreme heat and extreme cold. So why, in every search for intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, have we come up so utterly empty?

The Fermi paradoxwas named after the 20th-century Italian physicist Enrico Fermi's enduring observation that it seems very strange that we're so alone. This video The Fermi Paradox sheds light on some of the possible reasons why we have yet to come into contact with complex life from other worlds, and why we probably shouldn't hold our breath. The video was crafted by the Munich-based design studio Kurzgesagt (German for 'in a nutshell') as part of an ongoing series of animated shorts on big questions.

For more on humanity's ongoing search for alien life, read Sean Raymond's 'Life in the Dark', Paul Gilster's 'Distant Ruins', and Lee Billings' 'Onward to Europa'. ...[Continue reading on Aeon Magazine]