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Stephen Hawking aliens theory doesn't scare planet hunters

British scientist Stephen Hawking says that aliens might 'conquer and colonize' Earth. His colleagues disagree.

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“We are in a position to learn a lot more about what else might be out there in the cosmos and in particular we’re on the verge of finding … planets which support the kinds of conditions which might allow life as we know it to exist,” says Dr. Haynes, who adds that a new planet is discovered almost every day.

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Most of the new planets that have been discovered since 1992 tend to be more like Jupiter and closer to their star, so it’s highly unlikely that they support intelligent life like that found on Earth.
 
 Techniques for detecting Earth-like planets are improving though, says Steve Rawlings, head of astrophysics at Oxford University in England. In 2020, for example, a new generation of radio telescopes will be able to rule out or whether the nearest 100 or so planets have intelligent life like our own, says Professor Rawlings.
 
 “Most calculations suggest that we would be unlikely to find anything that close to us in the universe,” he says. Although the number of astronomers searching for extraterrestrial life constitute a relatively small fraction of the field, he adds, “I certainly think that most astronomers think that work is valuable, particularly as instruments become more sensitive.”

Though most scientists agree with Hawking that the vast majority of alien life will not be intelligent, most argue that the potential benefits of not reaching out far outweigh the risks of doing nothing.

U text, don't you?

There remain logistical questions about how we would communicate with extraterrestrials. Communications technology on Earth has evolved rapidly in just the last 50 years, for example, so if aliens are just 50 years ahead of human technology we may have a hard time connecting.

“Aliens that we contact are likely to be far in advance of us, and may well have the capability to find out a great deal about us even if we don't talk formally with them, so I think talking would be OK. Moreover, it could be very interesting,” David E. Pritchard, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes in an e-mail to the Monitor.

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(Editor's note: The original version misspelled Stephen Hawking.)

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