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We are THE intelligent life

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FEBRUARY 20, 2013

The sanctity of human life is something we’re all rather familiar with, irrespective of whether those teachings stemmed from kindergarten playground bullying or esoteric college breadth courses. As humans, we pride ourselves on being the only intelligent life on the planet, and we’ve made that fact well-known to all other species by taking over their lands and lives. Sure, intelligent life is rare, but up until recently, we had no way of boosting our egos in a quantifiable manner.

Dan Werthimer is a UC Berkeley physicist whose life dreams are to make humans feel inferior by discovering some signs of alien life somewhere in space. Despite his intimidating title as head of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence — which could possibly skyrocket in popularity due to the excess number of nerds without a major — he has failed to deflate the collective human arrogance thus far. According to his research in The Astrophysical Journal — the most popular magazine for dentist’s office waiting rooms — all 86 stars his team observed were entirely devoid of advanced forms of life. By “advanced,” he’s implying that they are capable of producing high-intensity, narrow-bandwidth signals. In defense of these potential civilizations, 90 percent of us earthlings probably couldn’t produce anything to that effect.

Werthimer is now putting the chances of a planet having intelligent life at less than one in a million. At first, that may seem like a reassuringly safe number, but then again, only one in a million kids grows up to play basketball professionally. Considering that Allen Crabbe might be a viable candidate to go pro due to his recent surge, don’t count out your aliens before they reveal themselves.

However, take a second to think about the sentiments of awe and inspiration you may be feeling upon hearing this news. We suspect that UC Berkeley students regularly have this feeling — after all, it’s hard to find someone with whom you can hold an academically intelligent conversation once you stray past our borders. Soon — considering how Cal can apparently beat a fast-falling USC squad — it might be difficult to hold a respectable sports conversation with anyone else either. But as Werthimer and crew advised, we’ll just wait for our wins to happen.

Follow Uday on Twitter at @mehtakid

Image source: Fred Thomas under Creative Commons

Contact Uday Mehta at 


FEBRUARY 19, 2013