It's a scientific prediction that will get dollar signs pinging in Steven Spielberg's eyes: We could make contact with aliens in less than 100 years.
But according to one of the United Kingdom's leading physicists, it is a matter for governments rather than Hollywood who should start preparing for our first extra-terrestrial encounter now.
Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum conference in Dublin, Jocelyn Bell Burnell said: 'I do suspect we are going to get signs of life elsewhere, maybe even intelligent life, within the next century. How well prepared are we? Have we thought of how we approach them? Should we put them in a zoo, eat them, send in GIs to bring them democracy?'
She said we are most likely to find alien life where we find rocky planets with carbon dioxide and ozone in the atmospheres. The Oxford University professor said: 'If we do suspect there is intelligent life out there, are we going to make ourselves known to them or not?
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'There are interesting questions about who you would tell first the Press, the Prime Minister, the Pope? We should start thinking now.'
However, she said that even if we do find signs of alien life, it is likely to take decades to talk to them from Earth via radio or lasers.
Professor Bell Burnell said: 'Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. So you are probably talking of conversations that could take 50 or 100 years, just one way.'
- Daily Mail