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August 3, 2017 – When Will We Find E.T. and What Happens If We Do?

Are we alone in the universe? The scientific hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence is now well into its fifth decade, and we still haven’t discovered any cosmic company. Could all this mean that finding biology beyond Earth, even if it exists, is a project for the ages – one that might take centuries or longer?

New approaches and new technology for detecting sentient beings elsewhere suggest that there is good reason to expect that we could uncover evidence of sophisticated civilizations – the type of aliens we see in the movies and on TV – within a few decades. But why now, and what sort of evidence can we expect?

Also, if we do find E.T., what would be the societal impact of learning that something, or someone, is out there?


Dr. Seth Shostak is the Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute in California, and is part of the research team using large radio telescopes to search for evidence of intelligent life elsewhere. His educational background includes a BA in physics from Princeton University and a PhD in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology. His research work on galaxies, using radio telescopes around the world, included 13 years at the State University of Groningen, in The Netherlands.

Other activities include a software startup in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a computer animation company in Holland.

For most of a decade, Seth was a Distinguished Lecturer for the International Academy of Astronautics, and for ten years was chair of the IAA’s SETI Permanent Committee.

In addition to publishing more than 60 papers in refereed research journals, Seth is heavily involved in science outreach. He has appeared on hundreds of national and international TV and radio shows, and is host of the SETI Institute’s weekly, one-hour radio show, “Big Picture Science,” now broadcast on more than 100 stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has penned more than 500 popular articles on science, technology, photography and film. He is the author of four books, including a college textbook on astrobiology.

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