Read More: Scientific American
What do a strangely fading faraway star, an oddly shaped interstellar interloper in the solar system and a curious spate of UFO sightings by members of the U.S. military all have in common? They are all mysterious, for one thing—eye-catchingly weird, yet still just hazy outlines that let the imagination run wild. All have recently generated headlines as possible signs of life and intelligence beyond Earth, of some mind-bogglingly advanced alien culture revealing its existence at last to our relatively primitive and planetbound civilization. Yet their most salient shared trait so far is the certainty they provoke in most scientists, who insist these developments represent nothing so sensational. Ask a savvy astronomer or physicist about any of these oddities, and they will tell you, as they have time and time before: It’s not aliens. In fact, it’s never aliens. Far from being close-minded killjoys, most scientists in the “never aliens” camp desperately want to be convinced otherwise. Their default skeptical stance is a prophylactic against the wiles of wishful thinking, a dare to true believers to provide extraordinary evidence in support of extraordinary claims. What is really extraordinary, the skeptics say, is not so much the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence but rather the notion that its existence nearby or visitation of Earth could be something easily unnoticed or overlooked. If aliens are out there—or even right here—in abundance, particularly ones wildly advanced beyond our state, why would incontrovertible proof of that reality be so annoyingly elusive?