Humanity could be waiting 400,000 years to meet alien civilisations, say boffins

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If you were hoping to meet an extraterrestrial aboard one of Elon Musk's rockets, think again: scientists reckon it could be hundreds of thousands of years before we can contact aliens.

New research suggests that the universe is so big, and the chances of life so low, that humanity might have gone extinct by the time we manage to make first contact.

Researchers at Beijing Normal University suggest that the chances of intelligent life existing at the same time as humans is extremely low. They argue that the soonest we might hear from another civilisation is 2000 years, but it could be as long as 400,00 years.

For comparison, humans have only been on the planet for roughly 300,000 years.

The researchers attempted to calculate the chances of Communicating Extraterrestrial Intelligent Civilisations (CETIs) existing. This takes into account the likelihood of a planet being in a habitable zone relative to its nearest star, how evolved alien life might be, and the odds of them being able to communicate with us.

The researchers write: “As the only advanced intelligent civilization on the Earth, one of the most puzzling questions for humans is whether our existence is unique. There have been many studies on extraterrestrial civilization in the past few decades."

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They continue: “However, it has been proposed that the lifetime of civilizations is very likely self-limiting, due to many potential disruptions, such as population issues, nuclear annihilation, sudden climate change, rogue comets, ecological changes, etc.

"If the Doomsday argument is correct, for some pessimistic situations, humans may not receive any signals from other CETIs before extinction.”

Space agencies such as NASA already spend millions of dollars a year on SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). If the researchers are correct, however, they might as well not bother.

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