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What you need to know about humankind's search for alien life

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I've been timid to talk about space aliens for the past couple decades. As a kid, I loved everything extraterrestrial. My father introduced me to conspiracy theories in the early 1990s through trashy hour-long primetime specials on Fox like Alien Autopsy. At the local roller rink's arcade, I'd earn enough tickets to purchase a new glow-in-the-dark alien necklace or UGO flashlight. The X-Files felt life-changing — when I was brave enough to watch it.

But as I got older, my interest in aliens felt, well, childish. I wanted to be perceived as mature and sensible, a man of science. And aliens, they didn't belong in that worldview, or so I figured. More recently though, discussions of extraterrestrial life have become mainstream. Brilliant minds like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson have made headlines with their thoughts on how humans should or shouldn't make contact. This week, I invited my friend and colleague Loren Grush to explain how science thinks about alien life. It's a bit spooky, like a Halloween-ish episode, airing just a few days late for the horror holiday.

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