An Oxford scientist has given a prediction which may get dollar signs flashing in the eyes of Hollywood directors: Humans could encounter aliens in less than 100 years.
According to one leading physicist in the UK, governments should start preparing for humans's first extra-terrestrial encounter now, reported the Daily Mail.
"I do suspect we are going to get signs of life elsewhere, maybe even intelligent life, within the next century," Jocelyn Bell Burnell said at the Euroscience Open Forum conference in Dublin.
"How well prepared are we? Have we thought of how we approach them? Should we put them in a zoo, eat them, send in GIs to bring them democracy?" Burnell said.
She said we are most likely to find alien life where we find rocky planets with carbon dioxide and ozone in the atmospheres.
The Oxford University professor added that, "If we do suspect there is intelligent life out there, are we going to make ourselves known to them or not? There are interesting questions about who you would tell first - the press, the Prime Minister, the Pope? We should start thinking now."
However, she said that even if we do find signs of alien life, it is likely to take decades to talk to them from Earth through radio or lasers.
Scientist Stephen Hawking has warned that aliens may plunder Earth for its resources.
"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," he said.