Where Are All the Aliens? Struggling and Hustling, Just Like Us

Sweeping across the Milky Way and establishing a unified galactic empire might be inevitable for a monolithic super-civilization, but most cultures are neither monolithic nor super — at least if our experience is any guide. Spaceships break down. Overactive stars roast otherwise desirable targets. Economic crises and government shutdowns kill nascent starships before they get off the ground. Using a blend of theory and simulation posted last week to the paper database arXiv, currently under peer review, Adam Frank and his colleagues explore the substantial middle ground between a barren and brimming galaxy — one where some civilizations may succeed in going multi-stellar, but without any establishing a spatial and temporal stranglehold on the entire Milky Way.

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