Latest Issue

Alien megastructures: we shouldn’t search for ourselves in the stars

Extraterrestrial civilisation would look like nothing we can imagine

By Philip Ball  

We have no idea what an alien civilisation would look like

I spoke recently at a scientific gathering about a theory suggesting that life, far from being very rare in the cosmos, might be expected to spring up wherever planetary circumstances permit. Afterwards, an eminent cosmologist asserted that this idea couldn’t be right, because then intelligent civilisations would have spread throughout the universe and we’d be surrounded by neighbours—who would surely have made themselves known by now. He was invoking…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect