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Humans have pondered aliens since medieval times

Wonder about civilizations on other worlds goes back centuries

10:30am, April 20, 2016
Allen Telescope Array

TO AN ANCIENT QUESTION, NO REPLY  The Allen Telescope Array, a suite of radio antenna dishes in California, has been seeking signals from alien life since 2009, so far without success.

For beings that are supposedly alien to human culture, extraterrestrials are pretty darn common. You can find them in all sorts of cultural contexts, from comic books, sci-fi novels and conspiracy theories to Hollywood films and old television reruns. There’s Superman and Doctor Who, E.T. and Mindy’s friend Mork, Mr. Spock, Alf, Kang and Kodos and My Favorite Martian. Of course, there’s just one hitch: They’re all fictional. So far, real aliens from other worlds have refused to show their faces on the real-world Earth — or even telephone, text or tweet. As the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi so quotably inquired during a discussion about aliens more than six decades ago, “Where is everybody?”

Special report:
In search of aliens

People have contemplated the possibility of extraterrestrial life since medieval times. We’re still

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