There are some people who spend a lot of time looking for
extraterrestrials, and some of them are quite serious about it. Have a
look at The SETI Institute
web page. A search is underway analyzing radio telescope data for
patterns that may indicate some kind of intelligent life out there is
sending us signals. The universe (and even our galaxy) is really really
big, so you have to look in lots of places for signals that could be
very weak and buried in all kinds of naturally-occurring background
noise. The SETI project even enlists people with internet-connected
computers to help analyze their data for them.
One of the goals of NASA's Mars Rover Mission
is to search for signs that life could have existed at one point on the
surface of Mars. We haven't found much evidence of any kind of life on
Mars, so we scale back our expectations a bit and now are looking for
evidence of life as small as bacteria, or, failing that, just
conditions that might allow life to exist would make us excited.
There's evidence that Mars had more water on it at one time than is in
There may be other kinds of searches for extraterrestrials, but many of them fall below the line of being scientific.
(republished on 07/19/06)