[Ads-l] Fermi's Question

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 18 02:17:04 UTC 2017

Interesting topic, John and Bill.

Edward Teller used the expression: "If there is life out there, then
where is everybody? " during a June 1960 talk.

[ref] 1960 June 23, The Racine Journal-Times,  1st Star Traveler May
End Up in Zoo, Says Noted Scientist, (Associated Press), Section 2,
Quote Page 1, Racine, Wisconsin. (NewspaperArchive)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
"In concordance with the laws of physics, someone in this lifetime
could go to Andromeda, but I recommend against it," Dr. Teller told a
University of California Extension series Wednesday night.

"If there is life out there, then where is everybody? Is it possible
that it's a form of life that we may not recognize as such, and isn't
it even more possible that we in our galaxy may just be suburbans
living in a God-forsaken outpost? There is a possibility that we may
soon be able to tune in via radio on noises 20,000 light years away in
the center of the galaxy, and if we hear what I think we will hear,
then I will become an isolationist with regard to space exploration."
[End excerpt]

Fermi received credit in a 1961 book mentioned in a UPI article:

[ref] 1961 March 19, The Sunday Courier and Press (Evansville Courier
and Press), Hello! Is Anyone at Home Out There? (UPI), Quote Page 14A,
Column 5, Evansville, Indiana. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Fermi once asked, "Where is everybody?" referring to intelligent life
elsewhere under circumstances described by Dr. Ralph E. Lapp of
Washington, in a new book titled "Man in Space."
[End excerpt]

The 1966 book by I. S. Shklovskii and Carl Sagan appears to credit
Enrico Fermi and presents a 1943 date. This information is based only
on the text visible in a snippet. I do not know what else is said
within the book.

Year: 1966
Book: Intelligent life in the universe: Vselennaja zizn'razum
Authors: I. S. Shklovskii, Carl Sagan
Note: A translation, extension, and revision of [the author's
Vselennai?a?, zhizn', razum]".
Publisher; Holden-Day, San Francisco, California
Quote Page 448
Database: Google Books Snippet; should be verified with hardcopy


[Begin extracted text]
Where are they?
Enrico Fermi (1943)
[End extracted text]


On Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 4:49 PM, MULLINS, WILLIAM D (Bill) CIV USARMY
RDECOM AMRDEC (US) <william.d.mullins18.civ at mail.mil> wrote:
> Jones's letter to Teller (reproduced in your linked paper) says that "It was Sagan who first used it in his book with Shklovski, but Carl has forgotten where or from whom he heard it."
> The _LA Times_ science editor, Irving Rengelsdorf, quoted Fermi asking the question in articles (see _LA Times_ Mar 8 1964, p B10; and Jun 19, 1966 SPACE section supplement, p 34 ), as did Frank Drake (see _Minneapolis Star Tribune_, 30 Nov 1964, p 14).  Ben Bova brought in up in an essay titled "Where is Everybody?" in _Amazing Stories_, May 1963.
> A series of books titled "Men of space; profiles of the leaders in space research, development and exploration" had a chapter on Simon Ramo (the "R" in TRW) in vol 2 (1961).  He asked the same question (p. 153), based on the same premises, but with no credit to Fermi.
> Other early places the same question and premises appear, without credit to Fermi.
> Stuart J. Inglis, _Planets Stars and Galaxies: An Introduction to Astronomy_. NY: John Wiley and Sons, 1961 P. 444
> Roger Revelle, "Sailing in Old and New Oceans" in _Proceedings - National Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Space  Seattle May 8-10 1962_ NASA p.24
> Edward Teller, "Nuclear Power Potential for Space Vehicles" _Proceedings of the Bureau of Naval Weapons  Missiles and Rockets Symposium, Concord CA 18-21 Apr 1961._ U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot, Concord. p. 17
> "Years ago I was involved in an interesting discussion:  Where is everybody?  Why have we been neglected here on earth, not only by Martians, but also by the inhabitants of other plants [sic] which revolve around other stars.  Is it, perhaps, true that we are the only peculiar things in the universe? "  [no mention of the other participants of the discussion]
> So Jones giving credit to Sagan for first using it is sloppy, and there are any of a number of places Sagan could have run across the question even if he didn't get it first-hand from one of the parties at the conversation.
>> Of course, I'd rather hear comment on the substance of my post, but the source I linked is sufficiently comprehensive that it's hard to know
>> what else might be said.
>> John Baker
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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