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A recent newspaper story about the discovery of a huge Earth-like planet 560 light-years away was headlined: ‘New planet brings hope of life in space.’

A few years ago, that sort of claim would just have been laughed off. But this has changed in recent times: indeed, only a few days ago, a leading astronomer made a quite staggering claim.

‘It is not hyperbolic to suggest that scientists could very well discover extra-terrestrial intelligence within two  decades’ time or less.’ 

And this was no deluded alien bug-hunter.

This was Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in California, addressing the U.S. Congress. 

SETI stands for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. It was co-founded by astronomer and author Carl Sagan, and two Nobel prize-winners have worked there.

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