This summer, Earth is under attack. From action films like "Prometheus" and "The Avengers," to comedies like "Men In Black 3," aliens are appearing at the multiplex and threatening the fate of humanity.
But Jill Tarter, American astronomer and former director of the Center for SETI Research, believes that these films are just -- duh -- entertainment. If extraterrestrial beings were to come to our world, they'd be so technologically advanced that they wouldn't need puny human slaves or our meager food. Plus, there's a possibility they wouldn't look like anything we've seen before -- or could even think of.
"Whether our imagination is up to the task of really appreciating what nature might do somewhere else remains to be seen," Tarter told Metro World News. "Look at the body plan that evolved. Nature experimented and discarded some and modified other things. There are so many weird things on this planet that we are beginning to appreciate. I think that it might be weirder still from some other environment."
Most of Tarter's career with the nonprofit SETI Institute -- which stands for the "search for extraterrestrial intelligence" -- has been dedicated to examining the universe for other beings. Tarter, who recently retired, will be discussing her ideas about the possibility of aliens alongside real astronauts and Hollywood sci-fi actors at the upcoming SETIcon on June 22-24 in Silicon Valley, California.
Tarter believes that humans will discover extraterrestrial life in the next two years. It's a valid question to ponder, especially because for thousands of years humanity had to rely on priests and philosophers to tell them the truth about the universe. Now, thanks to tools like the Kepler space observatory, we have discovered more than 2,000 extrasolar planet candidates to date. Many of them are similar to our home planet.
"We can almost taste the idea that Earth 2.0 is going to turn up in the near future," she says.
We've only just begun looking
Recently, Tarter has been searching for signs of technology in the universe, using it as a proxy for intelligence. While she and her colleagues haven't found any spaceships or ray guns, Tarter doesn't believe that means we're all alone out there. The data that shows that there isn't any life is also consistent with the possibility that there is abundant life out there.
"We haven't been searching for very long," she admitted.