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Earth's First Close Encounter of the Alien Kind Will Be More Toaster Than Number Six

Illustration for article titled Earths First Close Encounter of the Alien Kind Will Be More Toaster Than Number Six

Forget little green men, Vulcans or super-sexy Number Six's slinking about the 'verse in little red cocktail dresses—some scientists say our first encounter with E.T. will likely involve a simple robot. For proof, says Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, you need only to look at our own species' advances in robotics. But then the 'scientists' in this MSNBC Battlestar Galactica puff piece get a little crazy. Human-cyborg relations? Marriage? That'll only work in Massachusetts!

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Illustration for article titled Earths First Close Encounter of the Alien Kind Will Be More Toaster Than Number Six

If humans do start charging the batteries of an alien robot, Astronomer Jeffrey Bennett doubts it will resemble the tryst between Dr. Gaius Baltar and Number Six. "I think people get it wrong when they assume the aliens will be young lovelies," Shostak said. Instead, experts like David Levy-who's job is to write papers about humans and robots getting it on (TRUE!)-says we'll approach our love-making like we do our cars, with human-machine hybrids. And then we'll marry them. "My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots," Levy said.

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But enough fluff. In the end, a majority of researchers agree that the sure bet on alien life is with tiny microbes buried beneath the red sands of Mars or under the ice of our solar system's many moons. Then a whole new slew of questions will arise to muddy the issue. What defines life? Did it start on Mars? Does that make humans the real aliens? On second thought, forget the hot humanoid robots-I'm having an existential crisis here. [MSNBC]

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DISCUSSION

If a probe were robust enough to make the trip here I'd have to imagine it would be fairly simple is design. Maybe just a locator beacon in some fancy metal alloy. This is assuming the intelligent alien life doesn't use worm holes or other ways of space travel we don't know about yet.

Bob_of_Mars, I like you're way of thinking, but isn't a probe supposed to relay information? I think we're pretty inefficient probes if it took us billions of years to evolve from single cell microbes to interstellar communication relay points.

I'd be more colorful here but it's Monday morning and I'm only on my first cup a joe.