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Leading scientist reckons we’ll make first contact with aliens in the next two decades

An astronomer from the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute believes that we will find alien life soon.

Speaking to Futurism at the Worlds Fair Nano, senior astronomer at SETI Seth Shostak bet everyone “a cup of coffee” that we’ll find intelligent life within 20 years.

Although Shostak did concede that we have found no evidence of the existence of aliens yet, we have made some significant discoveries.

“We may find microbial life — the kind you’d find in the corners of your bathtub,” Shostak told Futurism. “We may find that a lot sooner, but that remains to be seen. But it’s gonna happen, I think, in your lifetime.”

I don’t know about his bathtub, but I try to keep mine clear of microbial life. Eww.

If and when we do make contact, Shostak says it might not be as smooth as we expect.

For example, if the aliens are 500 light years away, it could make for extremely long waits between messages and not the free-flowing conversations that we have seen in science fiction.

Shostak isn’t the only one who is optimistic about finding aliens.

In 2015, Russian tech billionaire Yuri Milner and his wife Julia set up Breakthrough Initiatives, a $100 million dollar program to search for life beyond Earth.

Breakthrough Initiatives is using astronomical observations to conduct a complete survey of the 1,000,000 nearest stars and the 100 nearest galaxies, with all data open to the public.

In August, Breakthrough Initiatives “Listen” program made headlines when it detected 15 fast radio bursts emanating from a distant galaxy. According to the University of Berkeley, the bursts could have caused by rotating neutron stars. But it’s also possible it was aliens, too.

The nagging question at the centre of the hunt for alien life is known as the Fermi Paradox.

Regarding aliens, it simply asks “Where are they?” The universe is huge, yet find no other evidence of life.

There are some possible explanations. For example, time is a factor. Humans are barely a blip in the cosmic scheme of things, so it’s quite likely we missed out on discovering alien life.

Another possibility is that we aren’t looking correctly. Just because we can send and detect radio waves, it doesn’t mean alien life works the same way.

We might not want to aliens showing up anyway.

As Stephen Hawking – who is involved with Breakthrough Listen – noted last year, if we do make contact we should be wary about answering.

Hawking compared our first contact with an advanced civilisation as similar to when the Native Americans met Christopher Columbus and, as we know, that didn’t turn out so well.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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    Tuesday 3 October 2017

    This again? I’m an old fart who remembers when it was optimistically announced with absolute certainty that we’d find alien life within 20 years – about 30 years ago. Excuse me for being less enthusiastic this time around.