The scientific approach to ‘Are we alone in the universe?’


Editor’s note: “Tech Please” takes a sideways look at all things of science and technology in China, revealing trends you won’t hear about anywhere else – from cutting-edge developments to the bizarre and whimsical in the world’s most exciting tech market.

The question of “Are we alone in the universe?” has been brought back to life with the presenting of two alleged non-humans in a public congressional hearing in Mexico

Mexican journalist José Jaime Maussan brought in two specimens of alien bodies that he said were discovered in Peru in 2017. They were claimed to be about 1,000 years old. He also brought in a military doctor to back his claim that the bodies’ DNA wasn’t that of humans.

To many scientists, it’s an already-debunked – perhaps criminal – stunt. Maussan has a history of making similar fabricated claims, and he’s now facing potential criminal charges for possessing these species and bringing them out of Peru. 

Nonetheless, the discussion highlights the importance of discovering other life forms beyond planet Earth with a scientific approach. 

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson called for shifting the conversation “from sensationalism to science.”

Yang Yuguang, vice chair of the Space Transportation Committee at the International Astronautical Federation, told CGTN that so far no high-level life forms have been found in the solar system beyond Earth, based on scientific exploration missions.

“But we cannot deny the possibility that during the past or at the current stage, there are some simple life form(s) such as germs, bacteria or other life forms or viruses,” Yang said.

“We cannot deny this possibility.”

There’s a lot we don’t know about our universe yet, and we have to continue the journey from a scientific approach. There’s, in fact, a variety of means to trace life forms outside planet Earth.

China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), also known as the “China Sky Eye,” is one of the scientific approaches for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), Zhang Tongjie, professor in astronomy at Beijing Normal University, told CGTN.

Zhang said there were three main methods for SETI detection, namely radio SETI, optical SETI and astrobiology research.

“The radio SETI involves scanning the radio spectrum for narrow band signals that could be indicative of artificial communication between ETs and our Earth,” said Zhang, adding that some institutes are doing such research by examining a wide range of frequencies and analyzing the collected data.

“But so far, they did not find any E.T. (Extraterrestrial) signals,” said Zhang.

He said SETI in China is a relatively new field, with the first SETI observation at FAST starting four years ago.

Astrobiology research, with instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope and some ground-based observations, aims to understand the conditions and requirements for life to exist elsewhere in the universe, said Zhang.

“These surveys provide valuable data for understanding the distribution of planets in our galaxy, helping we SETI researchers target our search for potentially habitable worlds,” he said.

Scriptwriter and Host: Zhao Chenchen

Copy Editor: Moosa Abbas

Director of Photography: Qi Jianqiang

Cameraman: Yang Ze

Post Production: Yang Yiren

3D Designer: Pan Yongzhe

Cover Image Designer: Yu Peng

Producers: Cao Qingqing, Wu Gang

Chief Editor: Qin Xiaohu

Executive Producer: Wen Yaru

Read more: How is China to find exoplanets?


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