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When Jack Sarfatti was 13 years old, he began receiving phone calls from a strange metallic voice that told him he would someday become part of an elite group of scientists exploring uncharted territory. Those calls, which he believes may have come from a computer on a spacecraft, proved a seminal influence on his life and led him to pursue a career that combined mainstream physics with an enduring interest in UFOs and the far-out reaches of science.

For those who might dismiss Sarfatti as a crank, he is quick to point out that he is not interested in debating the reality of little green men, but rather whether the existence of UFOs might prove that the technology required for interstellar travel is possible. “It’s the physics that interests me,” says Sarfatti, who received his PhD in the subject from the University of California.

That experience, and interest, also helped make Sarfatti one of the key figures invited last year to help formulate an unusual government programme: the 100-Year Starship (100YSS).

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