Intelligent Civilisations are out there, according to Edinburgh Scientist

According to Edinburgh scientist Duncan Forgan, current research suggests that there could be anything between 361 and 38 000 Intelligent Alien Civilisations in our galaxy.This has been partly based on the recent discoveries of more than 330 exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) which includes a clearly "earth mass" planet found orbiting a sun like star Gliese 876.

This has led to the belief that exoplanets are much more commonplace than anyone has previously considered.

Even if the reality is at the higher end of the scale however, it is very unlikely that contact could be established with these alien worlds. Regarding possible alien contact, Duncan said:

"If alien life forms do exist, we may not necessarily be able to make contact with them, and we have no idea what form they would take"

He also explained that to reach his current calculations, he simulated a galaxy much like ours, allowing it to develop solar systemsbased on what is now known from the existence of so-called exoplanets in our galactic neighbourhood.

These simulated alien worlds were then subjected to a number of different scenarios.

1) The first scenario began with the assumption that it is difficult for life to begin but easy for life to evolve and the results suggested approximately 361 intelligent civilisations in our Galaxy.

2) The second scenario made the assumption that life wasy easily begun but struggled to evolve and gain intelligence, under these cvonditions the results suggested 31 513 Alien civilisations.

3) The third and final scenario explored the theory that life could be passed from one planet to another during asteroid collisions which is a popular theory of how life evolved on earth (with some even suggesting that Mars was the originator of the material). The results for this scenario suggested some 37 964 civilisations in the milky way.

While this is all based on our current understanding and knowledge, there are many estimates and guesses that could adjust these figures and Duncan advised:

"It's a process of quantifying our ignorance, it is important to realise that the picture we've built up is still incomplete.". He also went on to say:

"Life on other planets may be as varied as life on Earth and we cannot predict what intelligent life on other planets would look like or how they might behave"

The work is currently reported in the International Journal of Astrobiology.