The Professor also said that we're not even really know anything about how should look like a foreign planet inhabited by intelligent life, and it is therefore possible in their search we miss them without even realizing it.
He accepts that the speed of light and interstellar travel may prove to be "an unbreakable barrier, over spans of thousands of years", but that we shouldn't operate under an automatically constrained set of possibilities. In his estimation, aliens may end up transitioning away from carbon-based "machinery" and end up becoming artificial lifeforms, leading him to speculate that our first encounter with an alien explorer might be "an extremely tiny super-intelligent entity", though it's unclear why he expects it to be so small.
NASA is now searching the universe for signs of life through its Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - SETI - programme.
Colombano also suggests that extraterrestrials may have figured out technology that humans cannot comprehend yet, making tasks such as interstellar travel possible. "We need to become more flexible", Colombano asserts, "in our assumptions".
That paper, titled New Assumptions to Guide SETI Research, suggests that scientists should re-evaluate their assumptions about the likelihood of alien contact, based on our newer understanding of technology and the universe. With this in mind, Colombano argues that if alien civilizations formed on planets that old, they might have reached a level of technological and evolutionary advancement that's nearly unimaginable to us.
In a report, he wrote: "I simply want to point out the fact that the intelligence we might find and that might choose to find us (if it hasn't already) might not be at all be produced by carbon based organisms like us".
Prof Colombano is a computer scientist at NASA Ames Research Center.
Colombano then concluded that people should adopt a new set of assumptions or expectations about the probable actual forms of higher intelligence and their technology to keep pace with how the extraterrestrials may be evolving. In the very large amount of "noise" in UFO reporting there may be "signals" however small, that indicate some phenomena that can not be explained or denied.
He called for physicists to take part in "speculative physics", grounded in our most solid theories but "with some willingness to stretch possibilities as to the nature of space-time and energy" and to "consider the UFO phenomenon worthy of study".
The report continued: "In the very large amount of "noise" in UFO reporting there may be "signals", however small, that indicate some phenomena that can not be explained or denied".