From SETI’s Seth Shostak, who surely doesn’t welcome this news, at NBC:
A recent paper by three researchers at the University of Oxford is throwing shade on those who feel confident that the cosmos is thick with extraterrestrials.
If we own up to the true extent of these uncertainties and do the requisite math, the Oxford study finds that there’s at least a 53 percent chance that we’re alone in the Milky Way and at least a 40 percent chance that we’re alone in the visible universe. Homo sapiens could be the smartest thing going.
This result, they claim, melts the Fermi Paradox like butter on a hot griddle — maybe no one has colonized the galaxy because no one else inhabits it.
But Shostak, who has spent his career looking for extraterrestrials, is not easily discouraged:
The discovery of microbes on one of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn — something that might happen while you still have your teeth — would strongly boost the chance of finding life elsewhere, and essentially guarantee that biology is as universal as door dings in a parking garage. At that point, the analysis by the Oxford team could itself dissolve. More.
Of course, They’re Out There, Seth. As long as human beings have imagination, They’ll always be Out There.
Seriously, one wonders what will happen if we find microbial life on Mars and it turns out to be of Earth origin. How would that change the picture?
Paper. (open access)
See also: Researchers: We have dissolved the Fermi Paradox!