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The Eternal Silence of Infinite Space

Launched in 2016, the $100 million search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, “Breakthrough Listen,” continues to come up empty, as do numerous other high-tech endeavors. Author Bryan Appleyard describes the daunting task. The universe contains “perhaps 2 trillion galaxies each containing hundreds of billions of stars and hundreds of billions of planets. And yet still we see and hear nothing. There seems to be only what the French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal called ‘the eternal silence of these infinite spaces.’”

The big question is, does it really matter if we make contact? True believers have been observed as needing it to be true. “An alien revelation would explain or heal the undefined unease they felt about the human condition. This unease could be expressed as suspicion of governments, apocalyptic anxieties, religious longing or simply a need for their lives to become less banal, less limited.”

In his distinguished book on the subject, Are We Alone? physicist Paul Davies writes that,

The most important upshot of the discovery of extraterrestrial life would be to restore to human beings something of the dignity of which science has robbed them. Far from exposing Homo sapiens as an inferior creature in the vast cosmos, the certain existence of alien beings would give us cause to believe that we, in our humble way, were a part of a larger, majestic process of cosmic self-knowledge.

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