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Sure, E.T. wanted to “phone home,” but according to Princeton researchers, it’s unlikely there were extraterrestrials on another planet to answer his call.

Dashing the hopes of alien enthusiasts — not to mention Hollywood filmmakers — astrophysical sciences professor Edwin Turner and former postdoctoral researcher David Spiegel analyzed the expectation that life has or will develop on other planets. They concluded that scientists’ excitement about the possibility of extraterrestrial life was fueled by a very unscientific component: optimism. 

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January, they found that the idea that life could arise on another planet has only a small amount of supporting evidence, and is based largely on the assumption that living creatures — from bacteria to sentient beings — would develop under the same conditions that allowed life to flourish on this planet.

But the development of life on Earth “simply doesn’t reveal much about the actual probability of life on other planets,” Turner said.