Why We Won't Find Alien Life In 2020

In our relatively short occupation of Planet Earth, humanity has made spectacular technological leaps forward. It took less than a thousand years to go from living in mud huts to building towers that scrape the heavens. In a single generation, we went from the invention of the automobile to putting a man on the moon. With the blink of an eye, we took the art of computer generated imagery from the unsightly T-1000 in 1991's T2 to the universally acclaimed mustache-free Caville of 2017's Justice League.

But with remarkable development comes impatience for further progress, and the impressive scientific acumen that gave us blinking Ewoks only makes us ask "why haven't we found real Ewoks yet?" It's a perfectly reasonable question. If we're so smart, how come we haven't discovered the aliens from Avatar yet, domesticated them, and taught them how to use a litter box? Will 2020 be the year when we, at long last, make contact with an alien organism?

No, probably not. Here's why.

Rest easy, George Tsoukalos

First off, most researchers are hesitant to put an exact year on their predictions for when, if ever, intelligent extraterrestrial life will be found. It's damned close to impossible to put a due date on any major scientific accomplishment, and nobody wants to be remembered as the quack who keeps predicting a world-changing event only to backpedal a few months later.

That said, there are plenty of solid reasons why we won't be reliving Mac and Me in 2020, no matter how desperately we want to. Science.com interviewed a number of researchers at SETI on our prospects of joining the United Federation of Planets in the coming year, and they were pretty uniformly skeptical. Michael Michaud, author of the 2007 book "Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials," pointed out that "we still don't cover all frequencies, all skies, all of the time," and that research is generally fleeting and poorly funded.

Still, hope springs eternal. New scientific developments have allowed for the ability to predict an exoplanet's atmospheric makeup, making it easier for researchers to narrow their search to planets with more accommodating climates. Maybe 2021's hot Christmas gift will be a real life chestburster egg after all.