Do You Believe Aliens Exist?

Do You Believe Aliens Exist?

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Did you hear about the meme-inspired Facebook event encouraging people to “storm Area 51,” a secret military site that has long been rumored — in television shows, movies and online forums — to be the home of extraterrestrial life?

Well, the event took place last week, and several hundred people showed up. Do you wish you had been among them? Do you think intelligent extraterrestrial life exists?

In “Area 51 Raid: They Come in Peace, So Far, in Search for Aliens,” Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs writes about the event and its enthusiastic participants. But he also takes on the mystery at the heart of the gathering:

The event has revived an age-old question: Do aliens really exist?

Seth Shostak is a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. (SETI is short for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.) Researchers there are searching for intelligent aliens — ones that “can at least use a radio transmitter,” Mr. Shostak said.

Mr. Shostak said his phone had been ringing all day on Friday.

“We don’t investigate reports of sightings here,” Mr. Shostak clarified at the beginning of an interview. “Although I have to tell you, also, that I get phone calls from people that are having difficulties with aliens in their personal lives, so I do deal with the idea.”

While Mr. Shostak said the evidence of alien life in the universe is, at this time, “essentially none,” he also contended that in all the space of the universe, it would be surprising if Earth alone was the home to intelligent life.

“It’s like saying, ‘Will we ever cure the common cold?’ I would say, we will,” he said.

As far as the green little guys that some imagine waddle through Area 51’s hallways, Mr. Shostak said there was almost no chance. Secrets like that, he said, would get out.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Are you curious about aliens? Do you think intelligent life exists on other planets? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think conspiracy theories about Area 51 persist despite denials from the American government? Have you ever wondered what goes on there?

  • In general, how interested are you in stories about aliens, unidentified flying objects and the like? Why do you think some people are so fascinated by this topic?

  • Do you think extraterrestrials have ever visited Earth? What do you imagine alien life to look like? Like us? Like little green beings with large dark eyes? Something else?

  • If you were to make contact with a being from another planet, what message would you send and why?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.