Are we alone? Humans have been asking this question throughout history. We want to know where we came from, how we fit into the cosmos, and where we are going. We want to know whether there is life beyond the Earth and whether any of it is intelligent.
Since the middle of the twentieth century we have had tools that permit us to embark on a scientific exploration to try to answer this old question. We no longer have to ask the priests and philosophers what we should believe about extraterrestrial life; we can explore and discover what’s actually out there. Our tools are getting ever better. We have discovered extremophiles in the most unexpected places on this planet and we have discovered that there really are far more planets than stars out there. We haven’t yet found life beyond Earth, but there is a vast amount of potentially-habitable real estate to explore. The 21 st century will be the century in which we will find some answers to this old question; there are many paths we will investigate.
As we look up and look out, we are forced to see ourselves from a cosmic perspective; a perspective that shows us as all the same, all Earthlings. This perspective is fundamental to finding a way to sustain life on Earth for the long future.
Speaker: Jill Tarter, Emeritus Chair, SETI
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