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We Are Not Alone: Why We Have Already Found Extraterrestrial Life

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This Harvard scientist believes alien life may be nearby

Mini Colour Rocking Horse. Rs 50 Rs The Fault in Our Stars -. But there's no reason why that should be true. You don't even need to step off the Earth to find life that is radically different from our common experience of it. These single-celled creatures have been found in boiling hot vents of water thrusting through the ocean floor, or at temperatures well below the freezing point of water.

The front ends of some creatures that live near deep-sea vents are C warmer than their back ends. We're at least as extreme compared to them as they are compared to us. On Earth, life exists in water and on land but, on a giant gas planet, for example, it might exist high in the atmosphere, trapping nutrients from the air swirling around it.

And given that aliens may be so out of our experience, guessing motives and intentions if they ever got in touch seems beyond the realm's even of Hawking's mind.

Is Stephen Hawking right about aliens?

Paul Davies, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and chair of Seti's post-detection taskforce, argues that alien brains, with their different architecture, would interpret information very differently from ours. What we think of as beautiful or friendly might come across as violent to them, or vice versa.

I don't think you can put human views on to them; that's a dangerous way of thinking. Aliens are alien.

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If they exist at all, we cannot assume they're like us. Answers to some of these conundrums will begin to emerge in the next few decades. The researchers at the forefront of the work are astrobiologists, working in an area that has steadily marched in from the fringes of science thanks to the improvements in technology available to explore space. Scientists discovered the first few extrasolar planets in the early s and, ever since, the numbers have shot up.

Today, scientists know of planets orbiting around more than stars. Most are gas giants in the mould of Jupiter, the smallest being Gliese , which has a mass of 1. In , Nasa launched the Kepler satellite, a probe specifically designed to look for Earth-like planets. Future generations of ground-based telescopes, such as the proposed European Extremely Large Telescope with a 30m main mirror , could be operational by , and would be powerful enough to image the atmospheres of faraway planets, looking for chemical signatures that could indicate life.

How would the world change if we found extraterrestrial life?

In all the years that Seti has been running, it has managed to look carefully at less than 1, star systems. With the full Allen Array, they could look at 1, star systems in a couple of years. Shostak is confident that, as telescope technology keeps improving, Seti will find an ET signal within the next two decades. If this is going to work, it will work soon. And what happens if and when we detect a signal? But his colleague, Shostak, says we should have no such concerns. Are you going to ask them all not to tell anybody where you're pointing your antenna?

There's no way you could do that.

Are you afraid people will broadcast their own message? They might do that but, remember, The Gong Show has already been broadcast for years. Topics Alien life. Stephen Hawking Astronomy Space features.