NASA Scientist Suggests Extraterrestrial Life May Take the Form of a 'Tiny Super-Intelligent Entity'

Professor and NASA researcher Silvano Colombano’s recent “paper” on alien life has been misrepresented by various news outlets (as LiveScience has helpfully pointed out), but what he’s proposing is still pretty wild: Colombano says we need to expand our thinking regarding pretty much all aspects of alien life, especially interstellar travel, carbon-based life-forms, and UFO reports. “We need to become more flexible,” Colombano asserts, “in our assumptions.”

Colombano’s arguments were spurred by a recent discovery made by the Kepler space telescope, which found planetary systems that are 10.4 and even 11.2 billion years old, which are ancient compared to our relatively young Earth, which is only about 4.5 billion years old. With this in mind, Colombano argues that if alien civilizations formed on planets that old, they might have reached a level of technological and evolutionary advancement that’s almost unimaginable to us. This, he says, means we need to revise a lot of our base assumptions about what aliens will look like and what they’re capable of.

Colombano’s first major challenge is to the idea that long-distance interstellar travel is pretty much impossible for any alien civilization that wants to visit us. Though he acknowledges that we don’t currently know how to efficiently cross distances, he says “we are able to fathom possibilities of achieving much greater understanding and control of matter-energy and space-time…over spans of thousands of years civilizations could probably make interstellar journeys, depending on what assumptions we make about the forms of life that they will comprise.”

That’s the next big thing: Colombano says we need to expand our idea of what form “alien life” will take. In his estimation, aliens may end up transitioning away from carbon-based “machinery” and end up becoming artificial lifeforms, leading him to speculate that our first encounter with an alien explorer might be “an extremely tiny super-intelligent entity,” though it’s unclear why he expects it to be so small. “I simply want to point out the fact that the intelligence we might find and that might choose to find us (if it hasn’t already) might not be at all be produced by carbon based organisms like us,” he writes.

Finally (and this is going to set off a firestorm in the UFO community), Colombano has called for scientists to actually delve into the world of UFO sightings and attempt to separate the “signal” from the “noise,” as well as open their minds to the possibility that we have been visited by aliens at some point. “If we adopt a new set of assumptions about what forms of higher intelligence and technology we might find,” he says, “some of those phenomena might fit specific hypotheses, and we could start some serious [inquiry].”

You can read the full document here. Note that this is not a research paper, but rather notes Colombano used in a presentation about SETI.

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