Is There Anyone Out There and Does It Matter?

For at least 100 years, our civilization has been fascinated by the prospect of encountering extraterrestrial intelligence. Star Trek and Star Wars are just two of the entertainment mega-franchises set in a fictional universe where inter-stellar commerce and conflict are standard fares. Not surprisingly, researchers continue to probe the cosmos looking for hints that “life” in any form exists beyond the Earth. And various news outlets routinely reexamine evidence regarding extraterrestrial life and interactions humans may already have had with it. This multidimensional quest raises important questions about our culture, our science, and our priorities. What are the prospects that humans will encounter extraterrestrial civilizations at some point? What are the chances that we will be able to conclusively identify even primitive life forms resembling bacteria and fungi living beyond the Earth? And what does our fascination with the possibility of extraterrestrial life tell us about our 21st-century world? We’ll show you.

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