Seth Shostak: We Will Find Aliens in the Next Two Decades

Seth Shostak: We Will Find Aliens in the Next Two Decades
July 04 10:11 2016 Print This Article

(The Guardian) – Astronomer Seth Shostak believes we will find ET in the next two decades; he has a cup of coffee riding on it. But don’t interpret such modest stakes as scepticism – the-72-year-old American has made it his life’s work to listen for life beyond Earth, and, according to the man himself, just isn’t the sort to bet a Maserati.

Shostak has spent the past 25 years of his career at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) Institute in California, where there are 42 antennas poised to pick up alien communication. He believes that Earth-like, habitable planets might not be rare at all; there could be billions.

“It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that we are not alone, if all those planets are completely sterile, you’ve got to think, wow there must be something really special and miraculous about Earth – but generally those people are not scientists,” he says.

“Finding life beyond Earth would be like giving neanderthals access to the British Museum; we could learn so much from a society that is more advanced than ours, and it would calibrate our own existence.”

Astronomy was a childhood interest for Shostak. He remembers picking up an atlas (he was very interested in maps) and becoming enthralled by a solar system diagram at the back. By age 10 he had built a telescope. And it was the sci-fi films being made during those formative years which sparked his interest in aliens. “Those movies really scared me, they made me ill all night – but I explained to my mother that I just had to see them,” he says, citing War of the Worlds, It Came from Outer Space and I Married an Alien as memorable childhood hits.

At 11, Shostak began making alien films of his own with friends; The Teenage Monster Blob, Which I Was, starred an alien monster made out of six pounds of Play-Doh. “When I was first making films, we tried to make serious drama. But audiences laughed, and we switched to making comedies and parodies,” he says.

Today he is called upon for his alien expertise by directors making sci-fi films and television shows. Contrary to said films and shows, he doesn’t spend his days sitting around with earphones on, straining to hear a signal. If you looked in at Shostak’s office during most days, you’d find him attending to that universal chore of the modern world: email. Apparently, even intergalactic explorers have admin. But he says the most productive hours of his day are spent discussing strategies with his Seti colleagues, writing articles about their research, and producing a weekly science radio show.

Is ET likely to look like he does in the Spielberg movie? Probably not. Any encounter is more likely to be with something post-biological, according to Shostak. Movie-makers are sometimes disappointed by that answer. “I think the aliens will be machine-like, and not soft and squidgy,” the scientist says. “We are working on the assumption that they must be at least as technologically advanced as we are if they are able to make contact. We aren’t going to find klingon neanderthals – they might be out there, but they are not doing anything that we can find.”

See the full article HERE