Scientists are willing to wager that ET will call
11 feb 05
ARE we alone in the universe? Definitely not, say scientists such as Seth
Shostak, senior astronomer with the SETI Institute in Mountain View,
For him the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI, of course) is
likely to hit paydirt, just as the search for planets beyond our solar
system did. Already more than 150 have been found.
The discovery of those extrasolar planets fuels Shostak's passion to find
ET. "When I was a kid, planet formation was widely thought to be the
consequence of a close 'fender bender' between the sun and another star.
If so, then planets would be rarer than rhinos in Australia," he says.
Shostak isn't troubled by the fact that planet hunters haven't so far
found a world that would support life as we know it: watery, cloaked by a
protective atmosphere and nestled at just the rightdistance from a warming
star such as our sun.
That will change, he says, as the technology improves: "I'm optimistic
that we'll find that Earth-like worlds are as common as click beetles."
That means, Shostak confidently says, that the odds that something smart
is out there are very good indeed. What's more, he believes the chances
that SETI searchers will eventually pick up radio signals from the home
world of our cosmic cousins are also good.
Given that astronomer Frank Drake launched the first SETI search about 40
years ago and nobody has thus far been heard from, when will Shostak and
his colleagues make contact? "The answer is some time close to the year
2025," he says. "I'll bet you a flat white on that!"
© The Australian