Nautilus

The Trouble with Counting Alien Civilizations

You might imagine that in the midst of a global pandemic and all of its social and economic fallout that our minds would be laser-focused on immediate, Earthly woes. But apparently not entirely. A case in point is the recent virus-like spread of news headlines to the effect that there should be “at least 36 alien civilizations” in our galaxy. Not 10, not a thousand, or a billion, but 36. There you have it, three dozen other sets of intelligent life dotting our cosmic neighborhood, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

It’s at times like these that you can almost hear the collective sigh from astronomers and astrobiologists who realize that they have to roll up their sleeves to gently, politely, carefully try to explain why these headlines are, shall we say, of the same

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