The search for life elsewhere in the universe is one of the most compelling aspects of modern science. Given its scientific importance, significant resources are devoted to this young science of astrobiology, ranging from rovers on Mars to telescopic observations of planets orbiting other stars.
Speculating about what aliens look like has kept children, film producers and scientists amused for decades. If they exist, will extra terrestrials turn out to look similar to us, or might they take a form beyond our wildest imaginings? The answer to this question really depends on how we think evolution works at the deepest level.
Many scientists believe that alien civilisations exist. For them, the question is now whether we will encounter them in the near future or a very long time from now, rather than if at all. So let’s imagine that we suddenly stand face-to-face with members of an alien species. What would we do first? Surely communicating that we come in peace would be a priority. But would we ever be able to understand each other?