My UFO experience

Like Fox Mulder, people have a lot of strong opinions about UFOs.

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  • Extraordinary claims, such as that UFOs have visited our planet or that aliens exist, require extraordinary evidence.
  • Personal testimonies are simply insufficient to conclude that UFOs and aliens are real.
  • Good luck having a rational conversation about it with anyone on Twitter.
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False positive: Exoplanets could have lots of oxygen but no life

Oxygen is thought to be a biomarker for extraterrestrial life, but there are at least three different ways that a lifeless planet can produce it.

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  • If an exoplanet houses life, it almost certainly will have gaseous oxygen.
  • But a new study modeling the development of rocky planets identifies three scenarios in which oxygen can form abiotically.
  • The notion that oxygenated exoplanets are all candidates to host life should be treated with skepticism.
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Less-advanced alien civilizations may be nearby — but we're not looking for them

Humans are more likely to have "first contact" with an advanced alien civilization, according to a recent NASA-funded paper.

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  • A new paper outlines some of the most promising ways scientists and space agencies can search for evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations.
  • Because of a concept called "contact inequality," the researchers suggested it's relatively unlikely humans will discover evidence of alien civilizations that have similar levels of technology to us.
  • However, near-future technology could soon allow scientists to search for both highly advanced and less advanced alien civilizations.
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Can humans travel through wormholes in space?

Two new studies examine ways we could engineer human wormhole travel.

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  • Sci-fi movies and books love wormholes—how else can we hope to travel through interstellar distances?
  • But wormholes are notoriously unstable; it's hard to keep them open or make them big enough.
  • Two new papers offer some hope in solving both of these issues, but at a high price.
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If we do find alien life, what kind will it be?

Three lines of evidence point to the idea of complex, multicellular alien life being a wild goose chase. But are we clever enough to know?

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  • Everyone wants to know if there is alien life in the universe, but Earth may give us clues that if it exists it may not be the civilization-building kind.
  • Most of Earth's history shows life that is single-celled. That doesn't mean it was simple, though. Stunning molecular machines were being evolved by those tiny critters.
  • What's in a planet's atmosphere may also determine what evolution can produce. Is there a habitable zone for complex life that's much smaller than what's allowed for microbes?
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