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Searching the Skies
In 1950, Enrico Fermi posited the question,"Where is everybody?" when consideringthe apparent contradiction between highestimates of the likelihood of the existence05of extraterrestrial life and mankind's lack ofcontact with, or evidence for, such civilizations.Later referred to as the Fermi Paradox,his provocative query was founded on theassumption that since the Sun is quite typical,10other Earth-like planets surely exist andhave intelligent life, and by now, should havevisited or contacted Earth. Extraterrestrialintelligence, or ETI, refers to hypotheticalintelligent civilizations that are assumed to15exist based on the existence of human intelligenceand the vast size of the universe. Whilepopular and scientific opinion on ETI variesgreatly—from certainty to skepticism todownright incredulity—the search for alien20intelligence is extensive and substantive.Whether you anticipate the stringy wormguys with serious fire power in Men In Black;the eternally wise Jedi Master, Yoda; StanWinston's nightmarish predators; or Steven25Spielberg's sweet-loving E.T.; the search forintelligent life outside Earth is on. SETI, or"the search for extraterrestrial intelligence,"is the collective name for activities undertakento seek intelligent extraterrestrial30life, and most recently involves constantmonitoring of electromagnetic radiationwith radio telescopes in hopes of detectingnon-natural radio emissions or other signsof transmissions from civilizations on other35worlds. In March 2014, UC Berkeley beganan all-sky survey using the Arecibo radiotelescope.Although we have been listening for messagessince the 1960s, there have also been40recent efforts to communicate with andpurposely send out our own messages. ActiveSETI is the attempt to send messages to intelligentextraterrestrial life via radio signals.CETI, on the other hand, is any number of45efforts to communicate with ETI that focuseson composing and deciphering messagesthat, theoretically, could be understood byanother technological civilization. And thepursuit of ETI contact is no longer limited to50the few and far between. SETILive, launchedin February 2012, uses data from the AllenTelescope Array to allow the public to searchradio signals themselves.Many astronomers and physicists attribute55the renewed efforts to establish contactwith alien civilizations to the present-dayescalation in the discovery of exoplanets, orplanets that orbit a star other than our Sun.According to NASA's data, as of June 2015,60there have been 1,838 confirmed exoplanets,where, just 20 years ago, it seemed that oursolar system was destined to be the extent ofour planetary discovery. A significant part ofthat escalation can be attributed to NASA's65Kepler Mission, an unmanned space observatorycraft launched in 2009 to find Earth sizedand smaller planets orbiting other stars.More than 800 systems like our own solarsystem with stars and orbiting planets have70been identified.So why is it, with a rejuvenated effort tofind evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence,that Fermi's question is still so pertinent?Despite billions of dollars and years of75research, SETI has nothing substantial toshow for itself. In fact, the closest thing toETI contact is the Wow! Signal: a strongnarrowband radio signal detected in 1977by Jerry R. Ehman of Ohio State University's80Big Ear radio telescope project. Ehman wasable to successfully observe the signal for a72-second window, circling its non-naturalwaves and writing "Wow!" next to it—hisenthusiasm led to its name, but not to any85significant breakthrough. Since 1977, effortsto relocate the signal have failed again andagain.The theoretical explanations for Fermi'sparadox differ greatly. Some simply believe90that few, if any, other civilizations exist. TheRare Earth Hypothesis suggests that Earthis unique, and so, therefore, is intelligentlife. Others theorize that intelligent life hasa tendency of destroying itself quickly; they95hypothesize that self-annihilation occursbefore contact can be made. On the otherhand, many postulate that ETI's do exist, butwe see no evidence for a variety of reasons.Perhaps we are too far apart in space or time.100Perhaps humans, a relatively new species,haven't searched long enough. Or maybe wearen't listening properly. What if our distantneighbors are using different frequencies?Regardless of how certain or uncertain105you are that extraterrestrial intelligent lifeexists, the venture to solve Fermi's Paradox isprevailing, and many believe the stakes arehigh. Some argue that the enormous expenseinvolved in such projects is only surpassed110by the futility of seeking aliens when we havehad decades without success; but, otherscounter that the discovery of 1,838 exoplanetsis hardly unsuccessful.
NASA Space Program Budget
1. What is the purpose of this passage?
2. According to the passage, the general scientific attitude toward the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is best described as
3. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
4. Which of the following is the best paraphrase of the Fermi Paradox (line 7)?
5. As used in line 19, the word "incredulity" most closely means
6. The example in lines 72-83 primarily serves to demonstrate that
7. The purpose of lines 99-103 ("Perhaps we . . . frequencies") is to
8. As used in line 106, the word "venture" most closely means
9. Based on the trends in the graph and the information in the passage, which of these best represents a logical next step in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence?
10. According to the graph, between the years 2008-2015, the growth in which of these budget components most closely mirrored the growth of NASA's entire budget?
11. Suppose that a scientist wants evidence that would support NASA's funding decisions with respect to space stations and space shuttles as outlined in the graph. Which option gives the best evidence from the passage?
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