Top Scientists: Alien Life Will Be Found In 10-20 Years

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Top Scientists: Alien Life Will Be Found In 10-20 Years

Chief NASA scientists believe discovering alien life isn't a question of "if" but "when."

We've all felt the sting of scientific predictions that never quite panned out, like how we'd have flying cars within 50 years or meet alien races in 20. Usually the issue is we're overly optimistic, but sometimes it works out the other away around. For example, top NASA scientists are re-evaluating those alien life predictions - and there's a pretty solid chance we'll find indications within 10 years.

"I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years," chief scientist for NASA Ellen Stofan told a Washington panel on Tuesday. "We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology."

Why so soon, when SETI put a strong emphasis on the extra decade just last year? Because more and more studies are finding, water has a bigger presence in the universe than we first suspected. Liquid water was once believe to thrive in key "habitable zones" a certain distance from the sun, but now our criteria for finding water - and life - has expanded immensely. "We now recognize that habitable zones are not just around stars, they can be around giant planets too," Jim Green, director of planetary science explained. "We are finding out the solar system is really a soggy place."

"We are not just studying water and habitability in our solar system, but also looking for it in planets around other stars," director of astrophysics Paul Hertz added. "Once we get beyond Mars, which formed from the same stuff as Earth, the likelihood that life is similar to what we find on this planet is very low."

Now to be fair, alien life isn't the same thing as intelligent alien life. "We are not talking about little green men," Stofan continued. "We are talking about little microbes." It's more probable to find fossils of microbial life than Star Trek-like civilizations. Regardless, the idea that we could definitively prove alien life exists is very promising, even within our solar system.

"It's definitely not an if," interim director of heliophysics Jeffery Newmark said, "it's a when."

Source: LA Times, via Washington Post

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Don't they say the same thing every year? That they are "close" to finding alien signals or finding life on other planets? I don't know about anyone else but it seems to me that SETI is starting to get desperate to justify itself.

Coreless:
Don't they say the same thing every year? That they are "close" to finding alien signals or finding life on other planets? I don't know about anyone else but it seems to me that SETI is starting to get desperate to justify itself.

This isn't SETI. This is NASA.

Although I suppose if you're considering intelligent life, SETI's prediction might still apply.

If it's just life in general then I'd expect it within just a few years since that opens things up to even just bacteria.

Sentient life though? That's what I think really matters to us. Non-sentient life might as well be just another strange species we found in the rain forest.

Fanghawk:

Coreless:
Don't they say the same thing every year? That they are "close" to finding alien signals or finding life on other planets? I don't know about anyone else but it seems to me that SETI is starting to get desperate to justify itself.

This isn't SETI. This is NASA.

Although I suppose if you're considering intelligent life, SETI's prediction might still apply.

Yea your right, this is NASA, but I guess the whole idea of finding intelligent extraterrestrial life to me is just starting to seem more and more just a fool's errand.

Yawn.. 10-20 years

What a convenient time frame. Because at the lowest end there'll be no one around in 10 years to remember this prediction, and those who made the prediction will likely be further along in their careers that it's no their problem.

Seriously NASA until you actually find signs of life just stop talking about it. I know you have to keep looking like you're on the verge of something so the general public doesn't cotton to the fantastic waste of money that you are. But other wise just stop talking. It's like your agency has been channelling Peter Molyneux.

"Chief NASA scientists believe "

Stopped reading

What is far more interesting is juice

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_Icy_Moon_Explorer

... How do you know this? You can't know this, you can't even really guess it. I believe alien life exists... do I know when we'll find it, hell, if we'll every find it? Hell no! No one can guess that. This just screams "we mentioned aliens, so give us money!"

Jesus Christ, think before you post something as news. This isn't news. It's an empty statement. Most long-term predictions are. They're so common in the information age you should have learned how to recognize them by now. If they find alien life in the next 10-20 years then they can brag about how right they were. And if not, it's not like anyone will fuckin' remember what some scientists said 20 years ago.

Adam Jensen:
Jesus Christ, think before you post something as news. This isn't news. It's an empty statement. Most long-term predictions are. They're so common in the information age you should have learned how to recognize them by now. If they find alien life in the next 10-20 years then they can brag about how right they were. And if not, it's not like anyone will fuckin' remember what some scientists said 20 years ago.

This is news because the person making the empty, long-term prediction is important enough to know better.

Finding Microbes of life outside the the earth is a magnitude harder than finding intelligent life. For intelligent life we don't have to leave the earth. We just have to verifiably detect their noise. For us to detect non-intelligent life in the next 10 to 20 years we only have a few candidates. Anyone who believes this nonsense believes that Mars, Titan, or some other solar system body that we've already been to probably has life, or unquestionably evidence it had life at one point in time. Beyond that we have to actually leave our solar system, and get to another. That's not happening in 10 to 20 years. That's not happening in the next century baring the development of FTL, or Extra Dimensional Travel. Which any timeline for the discovery of such things is pure science fiction.

Lightknight:
If it's just life in general then I'd expect it within just a few years since that opens things up to even just bacteria.

Sentient life though? That's what I think really matters to us. Non-sentient life might as well be just another strange species we found in the rain forest.

I'd be open to us finding nothing except alien bacteria for a while. Baby steps, y'know?

As far as sentience goes, isn't that a subjective concept? If we find a group of beings that are actually sapient but that don't fit our observable criteria for it, we're liable to miss 'em entirely.

Adam Jensen:
Jesus Christ, think before you post something as news. This isn't news.

I know you didn't ask for this Adam, but it's exciting to hear someone from a large organization (and not a tin-foil hat one) claiming such a thing. To hear this and to force our governments to understand that we may one day have to deal with intelligent life and for the sake of the world, to get our crap together.

If only we spent as much money on space exploration and the improvement of humanity as we do trying to blow each other up.

If it's anything like what was going on before the events of Titan A.E., maybe we could later team up to take on a super-sentient alien race because even aliens agree with us on the "not negotiating with [alien] terrorist" mindset...

Other than that, I hope the process goes off swimmingly in the end...

Imagine a scenario where we find a planet full of primordial ooze; a planet on the verge of exploding with life. We could send stuff out there to observe the evolutionary process from the earliest stages.

And while we silently observe, they slowly (as in billions of years) reach the stages where we're currently at now. Sentient lifeforms wonder to themselves if there is intelligent life in the galaxy, not knowing that an ancient species has already inhabited large swatches of it.

And that ancient civilization is us.

I find this interesting because I'm curious if they find microbial life elsewhere in our solar system whether it's DNA (if it runs on DNA) has the same right handed chirality that all DNA possessing organisms on Earth have.

I'm writing a Sci-Fi novel right now and that question is one of the questions because...reasons. <_<

Ok so im a little confused, they say water is more common then they think so then there is more places for them to look, but at the same time they are saying its gonna be faster for them to find it because they have to look at more places?
So how does having to look at more places = faster find that one special place that has a trace of life?

NickBrahz:
Ok so im a little confused, they say water is more common then they think so then there is more places for them to look, but at the same time they are saying its gonna be faster for them to find it because they have to look at more places?
So how does having to look at more places = faster find that one special place that has a trace of life?

First off, it's more common than they thought, not more common than they think. And with more water around, it's more likely they'll find life in it. Like you have a higher chance to win the lottery if you have a thousand tickets than if you only have one.

As others have touched upon, it would be more interesting if we ever did find evidence of sentient life (even if they were extinct). I wonder how people would react to that, especially if they were far more advanced than us. Someone had speculated that perhaps we may find life on the cusp of evolving, and we could "watch" them as they progress through the years. What if we were them instead, and they are watching us as we evolve?

I think Futurama had an episode similar to that, except the people were actually transplanted aliens. Kind of like a cosmic Survivor Island.

It'll be interesting if we do find an organism that is not carbon-based, and has a different set of dna than us. We'd have to re-classify a few things, but that's what they do when new discoveries are made anyway. Hopefully they do find something before I die, but considering how huge the universe is....it would almost have to be a random occurrence. Well, one can hope.

That would be nice. Let's try and treat it better than we have in any piece of science fiction though eh humanity.

IamLEAM1983:

Lightknight:
If it's just life in general then I'd expect it within just a few years since that opens things up to even just bacteria.

Sentient life though? That's what I think really matters to us. Non-sentient life might as well be just another strange species we found in the rain forest.

I'd be open to us finding nothing except alien bacteria for a while. Baby steps, y'know?

As far as sentience goes, isn't that a subjective concept? If we find a group of beings that are actually sapient but that don't fit our observable criteria for it, we're liable to miss 'em entirely.

Sentience isn't a subjective concept, it's merely the ability to feel or perceive. Sapient is more subjective in that it requires a high level of intelligence.

However, I wouldn't consider it subjective enough to allow something to fall through the cracks. We really just want to see complex forms of communication and tool use or construction beyond the basics that our animals can accomplish. There is some gray area between animals and sapience where we would dismiss them as non-sapient albeit very smart animals but anything with that little sapience would have very little to teach us that we didn't already learn from our animals and ourselves when we crossed that threshold.

What we really want are people we can collaborate with and learn from. Not a species we recognize as the equivalent of a 13 year old.

Basically what we're talking about is finding a high percentage of oxygen in an exoplanet atmosphere. We will soon have the capability to do this (by examining starlight passing through). That would tell us that there's a biosphere. It wouldn't really tell us much about what's in that biosphere; intelligent higher life, cyanobacteria, chirality, none of that would be evident (although we might be able to pick up signs of industrial pollution, but probably not, or at least not that could be confirmed as such).

Fermi paradox I think will hold for a long long time to come. We are possibly hundreds of years from even attempting to answer this question.

Lightknight:
Sentient life though? That's what I think really matters to us. Non-sentient life might as well be just another strange species we found in the rain forest.

Actually, I disagree with this. Finding life on another planet would, in my view, be one of, if not THE most world-view shattering discoveries in human history. Particularly for a lot of religious groups' more fundamentalist factions, the difficulty in denying life as an exclusively Earthly development would be very, very interesting to watch.

frizzlebyte:
Particularly for a lot of religious groups' more fundamentalist factions, the difficulty in denying life as an exclusively Earthly development would be very, very interesting to watch.

The Sparrow had an interesting premise: while the great nations of the world hemmed and hawed about what to do when intelligent life was detected on a relatively nearby planet, the Catholic church sent a frikken mission - as in missionaries - as soon as they could cobble it together. XD

Perhaps in twenty years or so we'll find microbial life, but I don't have any beliefs that we'll find something much sooner (or more advanced) any time soon.

Pyrian:

frizzlebyte:
Particularly for a lot of religious groups' more fundamentalist factions, the difficulty in denying life as an exclusively Earthly development would be very, very interesting to watch.

The Sparrow had an interesting premise: while the great nations of the world hemmed and hawed about what to do when intelligent life was detected on a relatively nearby planet, the Catholic church sent a frikken mission - as in missionaries - as soon as they could cobble it together. XD

Ooh, that looks like my kind of book. I'll be Amazoning that ASAP (yep, just coined a new super awkward verb right there, folks).

OT: To be fair, I was talking more about Protestant fundies rather than Catholics. That whole worldview (one that I have a LOT of experience with, mind you) is based on biblical literalism and the Sola Scriptura doctrine, the latter of which is something that the Catholic church pretty much lacks.

That's why I say it would be interesting to watch fundamentalists deal with the discovery of even fossilized, single-cell life-forms. Some of them just couldn't deal with it.

frizzlebyte:
OT: To be fair, I was talking more about Protestant fundies rather than Catholics. That whole worldview (one that I have a LOT of experience with, mind you) is based on biblical literalism and the Sola Scriptura doctrine, the latter of which is something that the Catholic church pretty much lacks.

That's why I say it would be interesting to watch fundamentalists deal with the discovery of even fossilized, single-cell life-forms. Some of them just couldn't deal with it.

I've seen no evidence that they let any scientific evidence of any kind interfere with their deeply held beliefs. If they can rationalize away dinosaurs, plate tectonics, astronomy, and, let's face it, the bulk of Jesus' teachings (dirty commie hippy that he was), how is exo-slime going to challenge them?

NickBrahz:
Ok so im a little confused, they say water is more common then they think so then there is more places for them to look, but at the same time they are saying its gonna be faster for them to find it because they have to look at more places?
So how does having to look at more places = faster find that one special place that has a trace of life?

Well water is made up of two very common elements: Hydrogen(probably the most common in the universe) and Oxygen. So duh there's gonna be a lot of water.

As for finding life? It's possible, perhaps complex life.

As for finding sentient life? That's a tricky question as there are probably civilization far older than our own. It might be that we discover them, or it could be that they find us first.

It's also quite possible that we start finding life so alien to us that we'll have a hard time classifying. Like what if we find people that are living stone and anaerobic? Or life that can literally survive with no atmosphere, lay half under a sun, and half in the shade most of the time using the heat exchange to drive their bodies.

I'd be really hesitant with new microbes though. They could be very dangerous to us.

There are really only two alternatives.
Either earth is unique, which would be pretty sad and scary.
Or it is not, in which case the universe should be littered with extinct civilizations.

Either way, I highly doubt we'll actually meet anything.

These predictions seem to come about so often that I am quickly getting to the "yeah yeah, wake me up when you have actually found this evidence" stage. It'll be neat when they do and I fully intend to throw a massive "we aren't alone in the universe" party, but until then it isn't really news.

Faiiirly certain that when we do make contact with alien life, it will be in the form of a satellite broadcasting about their abuse of limited resources, consumerism, and a call for other races to not repeat their mistakes.

And to appease the laws of dramatic irony, that satellite will be found during our frantic space rush to escape that smog cloud over China.

Piorn:
There are really only two alternatives.
Either earth is unique, which would be pretty sad and scary.
Or it is not, in which case the universe should be littered with extinct civilizations.

Either way, I highly doubt we'll actually meet anything.

My guess is that they already have found us.
Then observed all our bullshit for few decades and decided that they do not wan't participate in this.
Most probably there are several beacons floating around our solar warning any possible visitor to avoid humans at all cost.

Pyrian:
I've seen no evidence that they let any scientific evidence of any kind interfere with their deeply held beliefs. If they can rationalize away dinosaurs, plate tectonics, astronomy, and, let's face it, the bulk of Jesus' teachings (dirty commie hippy that he was), how is exo-slime going to challenge them?

Exactly. And we aren't likely to have pictures of exo-slime to talk about anyway. It'll be a spectroscopy chart showing a spike at the oxygen frequency or something. They'll just say that scientists faked it or that it's caused by natural forces and that either way it's a test from God, so we'd better believe the right way or else.

I want to believe alien life will be found in my lifetime, but I take all of these predictions with massive piles of salt. Oh, and before people ask, a few squiggly bacteria on another planet is still enough to interest me with its implications, but I'm still not certain we will even be finding that. Not that it's unbelievable or anything, but people make amazing predictions all the time, so excuse me if I reserve my hype until we have more than speculation and hopes.

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