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Could Something as Pedestrian as the Mitochondria Unlock the Mystery of the Great Silence?


I dozed my way through twelfth-grade biology dreaming about my next-door neighbor. What little I crammed about DNA, RNA, and ATP for my finals was promptly discarded in the junkyard of my adolescent mind.


Decades later, a burning obsession with the Fermi paradox — a hint that we might be the only civilization in the galaxy — forced me to dust off my otherwise forgotten biology lessons. Where are the aliens? Hundreds of explanations have been proposed for their apparent absence in our cosmic neighborhood, many grounded on science, others on pure mysticism, but Fermi’s question remains unanswered after 70 years of debate.


Rewinding into the history of life on Earth, we find some pretty astounding accidents. No, not the dinosaur-killer asteroid, although it was the perfect size and stroke at the right time. In 4.5 billion years, life had many miraculous close-calls before reaching consciousness and, even after then, we survived self-annihilation a few times.


“In 1974, astronomer Michael Hart published the first paper building on Fermi’s argument. Hart proposed that if an alien civilization had evolved in our galaxy, it would have developed interstellar travel and colonized its neighboring stars. These colonies would, in turn, launch colonizing expeditions to their neighboring stars, and so on, occupying the entire Milky Way within two million years.” -Excerpt from my novel K3+


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