What Finding Alien Life Could Mean for Earth

Imagine that tomorrow morning scientists tell the world they’ve found evidence for a colony of aliens living only 35 million miles from Earth.

Do you think your neighbors would wig out – stocking up on Ramen noodles, and secluding themselves and the family schnauzer in the basement? Or do you believe most folks would simply mutter “whatever,” and go back to checking out new Facebook friends?

The question’s not altogether fatuous, because this kind of discovery could happen soon, thanks to the efforts of astrobiologists – researchers who study the origin, nature and distribution of life.

Although we still haven’t found any biological activity elsewhere, it’s hardly inconceivable that before your car gets its next oil change, robot spacecraft could discover a horde of microbes hidden beneath the Martian sands. Or maybe a few years down the road, some astrobiology experiment will stumble across alien pond scum floating in Titan’s rime-frosted lakes, or pick up a radio signal beamed earthward from the star system Gliese 581.