Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “If alien life exists, why haven’t we found it yet?” Good question. Timely too. (No room for the usual clever quips about your nastier notations. We need to get right to it, mmmkay?)
Our guest speaker Sarah Kaplan, contributor to The Washington Post, and Geoffrey Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley and a participant in Stephen Hawking’s $100 million search for alien life, confirm that “the universe is apparently bulging at the seams with the ingredients of biology.”
So, as Kaplan puts it, “if the universe is so full of the ingredients for alien life, why haven’t we found any yet? Or . . . why haven’t any aliens found us?”
She confirms there are three popular answers:
1. We are actually alone: We’re an accident of The Big Bang. Other planets that could have spawned life went through something that nipped the process in the bud. (Since our question assumes that alien life does exist, we can skip this one.)
2. Life is there; we’ve just not heard from it: As reported on several sites including here on ALW, water —an essential indicator of conditions for life — is ubiquitous. NASA reports there are significant amounts of water in the atmospheres of at least four other planets in our solar system and ice on numerous other celestial bodies.
The issue could be that the life that is out there—organic microbes—cannot reach out to us.
Astronomer Carl Sagan believes that alien life may have already tried to contact us but we cannot translate or don’t even notice the attempts. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has thinks the aliens could be so intelligent our brains are not advanced enough to even notice them.
Maybe the aliens were already here but they’re long gone now. Another twist on this idea is that the alien life is out there but it’s staying quiet because you just don’t know how aliens will react when you try to communicate with them. Elon Musk agrees with a group of scientists who believe we ourselves should be quiet because we don’t know anything about the intentions of aliens. They could be benign or hostile.
3. They came, they saw, they don’t care:Alien life came, played with rocks at Stonehenge, and left. At best, Earth is a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.
Another take, they’re already here running things and most of us just don’t know it. Maybe the aliens became adventurous and decided to live among us and even mate with us in an attempt to fit in—got any weird friends?
Finally, Kaplan confirms “there’s the unsettling ‘Zoo hypothesis’ proposed by researcher John Ball. He writes: “Extraterrestrial intelligent life may . . . have set us aside as part of a wilderness area or zoo.” (It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!”)
If alien life exists, why haven’t we found it yet? Now you know.
You ask the questions. We provide the answers.
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