Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Life On Other Planets?

During a lecture he gave on Monday, scientist Stephen Hawking expressed the opinion that he believes that it is likely that life exists on other planets in our galaxy. He said that given the size of the universe, it is unlikely that Earth is the only planet to develop some sort of life.

"While there may be primitive life in our region of the galaxy, there don't seem to be any advanced intelligent beings," he said, though he did not discount intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe.

In his opinion, the lack of success by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project to discover signals from an alien civilization suggests that none exist within several 100 light-years of Earth. He offered two reasons why this could be so: aliens intelligent enough to beam signals into space may also be smart enough to build civilization-destroying weapons like nuclear bombs, he said. More likely, he added, is that primitive life is likely to develop, but intelligent life as we know it is exceedingly rare.

I would add a couple of other possibilities: there could be intelligent alien life that simply isn't at the level of technology to send or receive such signals or to recognize signals as such and it could be that our receiving equipment isn't sophisticated enough to receive signals or we're already getting them but not recognizing them.

Hawking, however, dismisses UFOs and stories of alien vistation and abductions. "Why would they only appear to cranks and weirdos?"

He also stressed the importance of ongoing space explorations, primarily as a way to ensure the long-term survival of the human race. "If the human race is to continue for another million years we will have to boldly go where no one has gone before," Hawking said.

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