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The esteemed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has assured us that even the biggest and baddest black holes will just evaporate away. But he’s not so optimistic about the mood of any advanced civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy that we might encounter someday.

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," he said on the Discovery Channel's "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking."

Hawking extrapolates from anthropology to point out that the inferior culture -- us in this case -- would get the short end of the stick in any such close encounter of the rude kind. Thirty-seven years ago Nobel laureate biologist George Wald expressed similar worries: "I can't conceive of a nightmare as terrifying as establishing communication with a so-called superior technology in outer space."

I’ve mulled over these warnings and have converged on what I think are some simple truths, from a purely astronomical perspective. The bottom line is that I'm not losing any sleep worrying about awaking one morning to see an alien mothership hovering over Washington D.C.

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