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Deception and misdirection

Why scientist-activists are always wrong (Part 1)

The collapse of Global Warming theory puts a harsh spotlight on the involvement of scientist-activists in efforts to deceive opinion leaders and policy-makers.

Later this year, I’ll attempt to explain why scientist-activist groups are always—yes, always—wrong about politics and public policy. This week, here’s a quick look at one of the reasons: that scientists may be good at analyzing the results of replicable research and experimentation, but they’re not good at analyzing things that are unrepeatable.

Consider this problem in political analysis: The period of strong economic growth that began in late 1994/early 1995—Was it more the result of President Clinton’s economic plan, which became law in August 1993, or was it more the result of the election of a Republican Congress in November 1994?  Without one factor or the other or both, would the economy have grown faster or slower?  There is no way to determine the answer—not  in a scientific way.  We cannot rewind history, change one or two factors, and do the experiment over.  Scientists who get involved in public policy often get confused and frustrated, because they don’t understand the difference.  (Policymakers have little understanding of physical science, too, but that presents different problems.)

Even Albert Einstein, who sought to organize scientists for political causes, recognized the limitation of applying scientific methods to political problems.  In 1949, in the first issue of the Marxist publication Monthly Review, Einstein wrote:

It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible.  But in reality such methodological differences do exist.  The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately.

Most political questions are unrelated to science.  Science may tell us something about the stages of development of a fetus, but it cannot answer the question of when a fetus (or an embryo) becomes a human being who should be subject to the protection of the law.  Thus, science has nothing to say about abortion laws or about whether the federal government should increase funding for embryonic stem cell research.  It may be able to tell us whether a particular spot on earth, at a particular time on a particular day of the year, has a higher temperature than on the corresponding day and time a year before.  But science has nothing to say about whether the U.S. should ratify the Kyoto treaty.

That limitation is particularly important in light of the fact that there is no evidence scientists understand politics any better than chicken farmers understand politics, or that scientists understand politics any better than politicians understand science. We should listen to what the scientific community says on political issues, just as we listen to the janitorial community or the truck-driver community, but no more so.

Einstein wrote that “we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.”  Einstein, who strongly endorsed centralized economic planning—perhaps the most discredited-yet-popular idea of the 20th Century—knew what he was talking about when he warned us “not to overestimate science and scientific methods.”

Richard Pipes, who headed the famous Team B of intelligence analysts during the Cold War, addressed the problem. [A note on terminology: “Idiographic” is a term from Kantian philosophy describing the effort to understand the meaning of contingent, accidental, and often subjective phenomena.  It is contrasted to “nomothetic,” a term that describes the effort to understand objective phenomena.]  In a chapter in the 1982 book Intelligence Requirements for the 1980s: Analysis and Estimates, Pipes wrote:

In the natural sciences, once you arrive at a validated law, any subsequent experiment will always yield the same result.  That assurance of repeatability is the essence of the natural sciences. Once you have found, for example, that water boils at a certain degree on the thermometer (atmospheric pressure being constant) it will always do that. In contrast, the idiographic sciences, of which history is one, have to deal with concrete situations which contain certain elements familiar from other phenomena but the combination of which is always unique and therefore unrepetitive.  For this reason, there can be no science of history.  There are certain ancillary disciplines within history, such as statistics and demography, which are close to science.  There may be a science of analyzing documents.  But the actual process of arriving at historical conclusions is never precisely the same because every situation is unique.  For this reason history is so very appropriate as training for intelligence analysts, in as much as the situations which confront the intelligence analyst also are forever concrete, unique, and unrepeatable

Pipes was too generous regarding statistics and demographics. For example, the U.S. census does a pretty good job manipulating information in those fields by, for example, targeting certain groups for inclusion in the Census and by creating or eliminating ethnic groups to create false impressions (e.g., the fake and racist “America will soon turn into a non-white country” meme). But his general point about the different types of science was correct.

To be continued.

Trolling Facebook

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

This week I’m giving our faithful blog-readers some insight into various aspects of deception and/or Big Government, as noted in comments I posted on Facebook.

► A friend posted this picture:

sja America sideways looks like a duck 140908 1509695_276960175794812_34656293_n

[My response, focusing on how our perception of images and ideas depends on perspective:] Try this: Take one of those beautiful “birth of stars” pictures from NASA, and turn it upside down (there is no “up” in deep space) and change the color scheme (which is artificial and computer-generated), and you can make it look kinda disgusting. In other words, the awesome beauty is there because someone put it there.

sja Hubble turn it around and change colors deception 140908 hubble-web1…/uploads/2011/03/hubble-web1.jpg


► A friend linked to this article:

…which led to this exchange:

 [name redacted: Let’s call him “Bob”]  It is amazing to me that people whose main interest in life is politics, who have little interest or background in science, should be such experts on scientific matters because of scattered articles that seem to support their contrarian views. We Americans just can’t stop being know-it-alls, especially the most ignorant of us.

[Me:] Given the record of the “scientific community” in support of white supremacy and eugenics and the Population Bomb concept (resulting in China’s murderous one-child policy), and its support for the species collapse idea and Nuclear Winter and action-reaction arms control theory and homosexuality-as-a-psychological-disorder and spinach-as-rich-in-iron and canals on Mars and phrenology and scurvy-caused-by-bad-hygiene and ulcers-caused-by-stress, along with the “impossibility” of missile defense and of biological weapons and of the survival of 24-week fetuses and of continental drift, and its belief in SETI (based in part on a failure to understand math), you might think that the utter collapse of Global Warming theory would put an end to people trying to justify their extremist political positions (e.g., the War on Coal) with half-baked or fake “science.” But don’t worry. They’ll never run out of [baloney].

[Bob:] SJA: you might have added fusion energy. Your idea of science and mine differ. Science is self-correcting; lots of s**t is proposed, only the good stuff survives. And, yes, sometimes too long. The alternate to science is eternal truths everywhere, including that humankind need never worry about over-population or the end of fossil fuels or the harmlessness of spewing poisons into the air.

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The President’s deliberately deliberative policy of deliberation

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

The word of the day is “deliberative.”

Last week, President Obama let slip that “we have no strategy’ for dealing with ISIS (also called ISIL, based on a variant translation of the group’s name). Lest anyone accused me of taking his out of content, here are 200+ words of the exchange with NBC’s Chuck Todd:

QUESTION: Do you need Congress’s approval to go into Syria?

OBAMA: You know, I have consulted with Congress throughout this process. I am confident that as commander in chief I have the authorities to engage in the acts that we are conducting currently. As our strategy develops, we will continue to consult with Congress, and I do think that it’ll be important for Congress to weigh in and we’re — that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate.

But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet. I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are. And I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military, as well. We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them. At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard.

But there’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.

“We don’t have a strategy yet.” That’s an astonishing admission, given that one of the key jobs of the national security community is Read all »

Business Insider story: What Dorian Johnson said about the Brown shooting

One of the main ways in which the media lie is simply to leave out relevant information. Here’s an example: a Business Insider account, posted at (accessed 8/26/14) that was based on an MSNBC story. See if you can spot the key fact that was left out.


This Is The Version Of The Ferguson, Missouri Shooting That Police Don’t Want You To Hear

A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an unarmed, black 18-year-old named Michael Brown on Saturday, sparking riots and protests in the St. Louis suburb. At least 50 people were arrested in three days.

Details have been hazy about the shooting, but two competing stories have emerged. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says Brown assaulted the officer first, and then the two began to struggle with the officer’s gun.

The police version is at odds with another story, corroborated by multiple witnesses, including 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend who was “within arm’s reach” of Brown when the first shot was fired. Johnson spoke to MSNBC last night and gave his account. Here’s a summary of his version of the events. (Police have reportedly refused to interview Johnson.)

On Saturday afternoon, somewhere between 1:40 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., Johnson says he saw Brown walking on the street and went to talk to him. As the two caught up, they headed back to Johnson’s house. When they were a 1-minute walk away, they went to cross the street. As they walked in the middle of the road — jaywalking — a police car drove up. The officer told the two to go on the sidewalk, according to Johnson.

“His exact words were get the f—k on the sidewalk,” Johnson told MSNBC.

Johnson told the officer they were almost at their destination. Thinking the officer was giving them leave, they began walking again. Instead of driving away, the officer switched his police truck in reverse, tires screeching, and nearly hit the two, according to Johnson.

At that point, Johnson said, he and Brown were in line with the officer’s side door. The officer asked them what the two had said and then tried to push his door open, according to Johnson. Because the two were so close to the door, Johnson says the door hit Brown and closed. The officer then allegedly grabbed Brown by the neck.

Brown then tried to pull away to avoid being choked, Johnson says.

“They’re not wrestling so much as his arm went from his throat to now clenched on his shirt … It’s like tug of war. He’s trying to pull him in. He’s pulling away, that’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you,’” Johnson said.

The two realized the officer had pulled out a hand gun and pointed it at Brown. The officer repeated, “I’ll shoot.” Seconds later, the first shot went off. Johnson says the officer let go after he shot Brown.

Brown and Johnson then ran towards a line of three cars on the side of the street. Johnson went behind the first, but Brown ran past. Brown yelled “Keep running, bro!” But by the time he got to the third car, the officer shot Brown in the back, according to Johnson.

Johnson says Brown stopped, put his hands up, turned around, and yelled he didn’t have a gun.

The officer allegedly shot several more times, Brown fell to the ground, and Johnson ran to his apartment.

“It was just horrible to watch … It was definitely like being shot like an animal,” Johnson told local news station KSDK.

The account of another eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, 19, seems to match Johnson’s.

The St. Louis County police department have opened its investigation of the incident. Meanwhile, the FBI has announced that it will open a parallel civil rights investigation of the shooting.


So that’s the version police don’t want you to hear, right? That’s the account of Dorian Johnson, whom police “have reportedly refused to interview,” right?

Johnson, of course, was Brown’s accomplice in the robbery/assault that Brown committed at a convenience story within 10 minutes prior to the shooting. Does the story mention this, oh, slightly relevant fact? No, it doesn’t.

Obviously, it should have been corrected once Johnson’s role was known, and appended-to when it became known that Johnson previously served jail time for lying to police. This is the Web, after all, where you can post corrections with the original stories. (I accessed this version of the story on August 26.)  But even the original story should have evidenced skepticism toward a “friend” of Michael Brown and his account of the altercation in which Brown was shot. A real journalist would take the word neither of the police nor of Brown’s friend.


The Court of Memes: Why people believe fake facts

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

A meme, as it’s called by experts in communications theory, is an idea that spreads in the manner of a virus from one person to the next. You may be familiar with the use of the term to describe a particular sort of meme, a graphic commentary of the type often posted on Facebook.

People can be infected with false memes as they are infected with viruses. How many of us believe that 97 percent of scientists believe in Global Warming theory, or that Columbus was warned he might sail off the edge of the world, or that the United States was responsible for wiping out most of the American Indians and taking their land, or that Thomas Jefferson, who was in favor of slavery, probably fathered one or more children with Sally Hemmings? All false memes.

After the death of the great actor/comedian Robin Williams, one TV tribute included a section from one of his performances in which he made fun of Sarah Palin for saying she could see Russia from her house. Dan Harris, a resident leftist at ABC News, recently, on a news boradcast, made fun of Palin for saying she could see Russia from her house. One estimate was that 87 percent of Obama voters in 2008 thought that Palin made that remark, which was actually made by the “Sarah Palin” character on Saturday Night Live.

In the worlds of politics and public policy, false memes often have very real effects, providing the basis for bad laws that hurt people, or twisting people’s view of history to make them easier prey for extremist politicians.


As I write this, the radio in my office is carrying news from Read all »

A Culture of Lies

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

If you’re politically knowledgeable and not crazy, living in Washington, D.C. is tough.

As a D.C. resident, I’m surrounded by people who are ignorant and/or out of their minds, who believe the talking-points version of Progressivism that they are fed by most of the news media.

In just the past few days, at social occasions, I’ve overheard comments along the lines of the following:

  • “The Republicans in the South today are just the old segregationist Democrats. That’s because of the Nixon Southern Strategy.”
  • “After Hobby Lobby, women’s right to birth control is threatened.”
  • “Photo ID laws are an attempt to keep people from voting. Vote fraud isn’t a real problem in this country.”

In reality, Republicans in the South trace their roots to the (relatively) anti-segregationist wing of the Democratic Party of the 1950s/1960s, while the so-called Nixon Southern Strategy was never implemented. Hobby Lobby has nothing to do with anyone’s right to birth control, merely with whether people who don’t believe in abortifacients can be forced to pay for them in violation of a law signed by President Clinton. Voter ID laws, such as the ones in Canada, Mexico, and Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, protect people’s rights by preventing the fraudulent cancellation of their votes; that’s one reason that most people of all ethnicities support them. And voter fraud is so common that, before it became Politically Correct to claim that such fraud isn’t a problem, political reporters like me, covering political conventions and the like, used to sit around until 2 a.m. sharing stories about it. (My first scoop as a young reporter was when I caught a local mayor rigging an election.)

Mythology is the common currency of the Left. Read all »

1998 wasn’t what you think, and why you shouldn’t take advice from your opponent

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

About 35-40 percent of Americans lean to the Left. Of those, only 18-23 percent are liberals. And, of those, only 5-10 percent are Obama-style leftists (Progressives, i.e., liberals who, unlike traditional, JFK-type liberals, do not believe in limits on the power of politicians and bureaucrats). Despite their status as members of a small ideological minority, activitists on the Left dominate politics at the national level, controlling the executive branch of the federal government as well as the Senate, while the “Republican-controlled” House is dominated by RINOs who are justly ridiculed as hapless.

How can this be? Here’s how:

A key to strategy is tricking your opponent into taking action that is against his or her own interest.

For example, you might trick your opponent as to your capabilities and weaknesses. Sun Tzu, as the presumed author of The Art of War, advised, “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” If you are successful in this regard, your enemy will attack you where you are strong rather than where you are weak.

The Left may be disasters when it comes to running domestic policy and foreign policy, but they’re great at politics, especially this aspect of political strategy.

From the Demographic Doom that supposedly faces Republicans (so-called “minorities” growing so fast that Republicans may soon become extinct) to Karl Rove’s claim that Tea Party candidates do less well than RINOs in November, the Left and their Republican enablers use bogeymen to scare the GOP away from following strategies that would bring then political success. (In future columns, I’ll analyze those concepts, the Demographic Doom and the supposed relative incompetence of Tea Partiers.)

Currently, Republicans in Washington are panicking over the I-word, impeachment. Now, impeachment-and-removal Read all »

Questions that give away the answer

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

It’s considered unethical to publish the results of a public opinion poll without publishing the exact questions, in the order they were asked, because the wording of a given question and of the preceding questions has a significant effect on people’s answers.

I encountered this effect a few years ago when I was working in the campaign to defeat a tax increase in Northern Virginia (the DC suburbs in Virginia).  The tax hike was to be decided in a referendum, and the Washington Post reported that, according to a poll, most voters supported the measure. That didn’t seem right to me, so I asked to see the questions, pointing out, to the Post editor I reached on the phone, that there is an ethical requirement that the questions be published.  To their credit, the folks at the Post posted the questions.

It turned out that the poll had pushed respondents toward a Yes answer by minimizing the impact of the increase and by  listing, one after another, all the favorable results that supposedly would come from a tax increase. Better roads, shorter commutes, and other positives were listed, in the context of questions like “Would you vote for a small increase in the gasoline tax if the effect was to reduce the commuting time in Northern Virginia?” (I’m working from memory, but the question was along those lines.) Only after a respondent heard this list of tax hike benefits was that respondent asked how he or she would vote.

Despite that poll “showing” support for the increase, it was defeated – although, as you might expect, corrupt pols in Virginia eventually overruled the voters and pushed a tax hike through, anyway.


This biasing effect in polling is related to Cold Reading, a common deception technique.

Cold Reading is a set of techniques used by magicians, intelligence operatives, and con men (including many politicians) to elicit information from a targeted individual, often in order to create the impression that the reader has special knowledge about the target. That psychic who passed along messages from your dead uncle was probably using techniques of Cold Reading.

If the con man spies on you using traditional techniques in order to make himself appear knowledgeable about you, that’s Hot Reading. For example, a psychic might have an associate pick your pocket and examine your wallet photos or use the information on your driver’s license to Google you or find your Facebook page. Perhaps you showed your ID as you entered the studio for the taping of a psychic’s TV show, and the psychic’s confederates pulled the information at that point.  Thus: “I see you with two children at Disney World. One of the children is wearing Mickey Mouse ears,” and “You live on a street with… wait, it’s coming to me… it’s a plant. The name has a plant in it. And it starts with an M. Is it… Mulberry Street??”

In Cold Reading, the con man figures things out about you without any information except your facial expressions and  body language. Typically, his tricks consist of shotgunning (making a broad range of statements, some of which are likely true, such as the psychic asking people in an audience if anyone has a brother named John who’s had cancer, then narrowing his attention to the person in the audience who suddenly becomes attentive); the rainbow ruse (making a statement that covers the gamut of possible situations, such as “You are usually a happy person, but there are times in your life when you’ve been really sad”); and Barnum statements, which apply to pretty much everyone (“You had a pet as a child, or wanted one very much”).

The effect demonstrated in Barnum statements is often described as the Forer effect, named after a psychologist named Bertram Forer. In 1948, Forer gave his students personalized profiles that included 13 statements such as “You have a great need for other people to like and admire you” and “You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.” Asked to gauge the accuracy of the personalized statements on a scale of 0 to 5, they gave the statements an average score of 4.26. As you might have guessed, the statements weren’t really created for individual students; each student got the identical “personalized” profile, one compiled from statements in an astrology book.


In polling, there are many types of deception, such as presenting members of the general public as having an opinion on a complex or obscure issue or on a term-of-art whose meaning is known to relatively few people. For example, pollsters have asked people whether they’re for a “nuclear freeze,” whether they’re for a particular “chemical weapons treaty,” whether they’re for “a moratorium on fracking,” and whether they’re for “a path to citizenship” for illegal aliens (or “undocumented immigrants,” as they’re falsely called by people trying to rig polls). None of those results can be taken seriously, except, perhaps, in a comparison to people’s response to an identical question in an earlier poll.

Some of the deception in polls is related to Cold Reading, in that people are pushed toward a particular response, as in the Washington Post tax hike poll noted above. Often, people’s ignorance on complex issues (see last week’s column at is used as a cover for the “push” in the poll. The language that pushes people toward a particular answer is explained as necessary to explain the issue so that people can express their opinions.

There’s the rub, expressed as one of Allen’s Rules: No joke is funny that must be explained, and no poll question is valid that the pollster must “explain” to the respondent. If the issue is “explained,” the respondent is not responding to the issue itself but to the pollster’s explanation.

Correspondingly, Allen’s Limitation is this: If a poll question is longer than roughly 12-18 words, it’s not a valid question.

(…unless, of course, the stated purpose of the poll is to test out different arguments for or against a particular position.)

The limit of 12-18 words is a rule of thumb, based on the fact that, the longer the question, the stronger the effect of the question’s inherent bias and the weaker the effect of the underlying opinion of the respondent.

Examples, from a Pew poll published June 20:

► “Right now, which ONE of the following do you think should be the more important priority for addressing America’s energy supply? Developing alternative sources such as wind, solar, and hydrogen technology, or expanding exploration and production of oil, coal, and natural gas?” That’s 42 words, in which the pollster implies that “wind, solar, and hydrogen technology” are legitimate “alternative sources” (solar and wind being ancient technologies to which oil and gas were the alternative, not the other way around, and “hydrogen technology” being something unfamiliar to 99 percent of Americans).

► “Should the U.S. Supreme Court base its rulings on its understanding of what the U.S. Constitution meant as it was originally written, or should the court base its rulings on its understanding of what the U.S. Constitution means in current times?” That’s 41 words, and completely misstates the positions of the two sides in the great debate over the interpretation of the Constitution. Originalists believe in following the Constitution’s words based on the meaning of those words at the time they were written into the Constitution, not “as it [the Constitution] was originally written.” (The Constitution was “originally written” at a time when slavery was considered legal. Originalists reject the idea that slavery is legal, and interpret the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, based on the meaning of the words at the time the 13th Amendment was written.) And proponents of the “Living Constitution” interpretation believe that the meaning of the Constitution’s words change due to the fads and fashions of later times, not based on their  understanding “of what the U.S. Constitution means in current times.” For example, Living Constitutionalists such as former Justice David Souter have argued, in effect, that school segregation was properly judged as legal until society changed and that practice became illegal.

►”In general, do you think affirmative action programs designed to increase the number of black and minority students on college campuses are a good thing or a bad thing?” That’s 29 words, which includes loaded terminology (“affirmative action,” which sounds a lot better than an accurate term such as “racial discrimination”) and a blatant falsehood (“designed to increase the number of . . . minority students,” which sounds a lot better than an accurate statement such as “designed to reduce the number of Asian-American students”).


Finally, here’s an exercise: The next time you see a news story based mainly on the results of a public opinion poll, call the reporter, producer, or editor who prepared the story and demand to see the poll questions. If he or she doesn’t produce them or point you to them, and refuses to retract the report, he or she is acting unethically. Call ’em on it. I’ve done it, and it’s loads of fun.


Progressives and the “dumb” factor

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

Sometimes you can learn a lot about people from Facebook. I have a number of Facebook Friends who use the social network as a medium for political commentary, usually making brief comments on news stories or sharing those humorous or sardonic graphics-with-text that have come to be called “memes.” (Technically, a meme is an idea that spreads from one person to another in the manner of a virus.) My friends run the gamut ideologically from conservatism and libertarianism to Progressivism (or, as a founder of Progressivism, H.G. Wells, called it, “liberal fascism”).  If there’s one theme that runs through the political posts of my Progressive friends, it’s this: Progressives are smart, and conservatives/libertarians/Republicans/Tea Partiers and the like are stupid.

The idea that Progressives are intellectually superior is important for two reasons. First, Read all »

Searching for intelligent life at NASA

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) is the U.S. government agency responsible for the government’s civilian space program and for research on aeronautics (the science and art of flying machines) and aerospace (earth’s atmosphere and outer space in the context of flight).

Forty-five years ago, during the Apollo 11 mission, every American, including every schoolchild, knew that NASA was the agency that got us into space. Nowadays, I feel obliged to explain what NASA is, because the agency itself doesn’t seem to know.

It seems to have re-imagined its mission to include conducting outreach to the Muslim world by emphasizing the contributions of 10th Century Muslim scientists <>, outsourcing its work to companies owned by people with political connections <>, and promoting a belief in Global Warming theory <>.  It’s a re-imagining – and abandonment for the near-future of manned spaceflight – that has left the U.S. dependent on, of all countries, Russia <>. This dependence is something that has been recognized even by some on the Left <>.

Not to worry. NASA is going to find complex life outside the earth. In the next 20 years. Like Babe Ruth’s home run in that legend about the “called shot”: It’s guaranteed.


NASA: Humans Will Prove ‘We Are Not Alone In The Universe’ Within 20 Years – CBS Connecticut

NASA predicts that 100 million worlds in our own Milky Way galaxy may host alien life, and space program scientists estimate that humans will be able to find life within two decades.

Speaking at NASA’s Washington headquarters on Monday, the space agency outlined a plan to search for alien life using current telescope technology, and announced the launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017. The NASA administrators and scientists estimate that humans will be able to locate alien life within the next 20 years.

“Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe,” said Matt Mountain, director and Webb telescope scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.

“What we didn’t know five years ago is that perhaps 10 to 20 per cent of stars around us have Earth-size planets in the habitable zone,” added Mountain. “It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever.”

. . . “I think in the next 20 years we will find out we are not alone in the universe,” said NASA astronomer Kevin Hand, who suggested that alien life may exist on Jupiter’s Europa moon.

“Do we believe there is life beyond Earth?” asked former astronaut and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “I would venture to say that most of my colleagues here today say it is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the universe we humans stand alone.” . . .

“Sometime in the near future, people will be able to point to a star and say, ‘that star has a planet like Earth’,” said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. “Astronomers think it is very likely that every single star in our Milky Way galaxy has at least one planet.”

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