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Scientist: We'll meet aliens within 20 years

Russian astronomer declares that there are so many planets that resemble Earth that very soon we will encounter some of their inhabitants. Also: a mild frenzy on YouTube over video that claims to show a UFO over London.

Just as Bigfeet tend to emerge during the summer period, so it is with UFOs.

It is natural to be skeptical. If these strange phenomena really did exist, why haven't their captains exposed themselves on our streets? Why haven't they sat down with Katie Couric and Oprah?

And yet two events have conflated to, yet again, send a frisson of excitement through the bones of those who seek extraterrestrial contact.

First, as reported by Reuters, a top Russian astronomer, Andrei Finkelstein, director of none other than the Russian Academy of Sciences' Applied Astronomy Institute, declared that we would meet aliens within 20 years.

His rationale is lofty, but strong.

He reportedly said that of the planets that circle the many suns out there in the black beyond, 10 percent have some similarity to our own Earth. From this he extrapolates that, sooner or only slightly later, there will be a cross-cultural encounter between ourselves and selves that may or may not resemble little green elves.

"They may have different color skin, but even we have that," Finkelstein curiously offered.

Such positing has been going on since before H.G. Wells tried to scare people listening to the radio. Indeed, not so long ago, Stephen Hawking said that we should be most concerned that aliens will actually despise us and simply want to pillage our land for its, um, fast food joints. (I paraphrase slightly.)

Perhaps we'll find out sooner than 2031. For currently there is a mild frenzy occurring over on YouTube with the emergence of videos that purport to show a UFO mothership and her fleet over London, scouting, perhaps, places to stay during the 2012 Olympics.

My first reaction to these videos was "there's yet another alien summer blockbuster movie coming out?" Yours might well be the same. And yet, as more of these YouTube videos have emerged, more than 1 million people have been lured to watch them and wonder.

Those with a sanguine perspective will have considered whether aliens already exist in our midst and have been sent to examine our way of life. I know a couple of people who, for example, wonder where Keanu Reeves might originally be from.

The only definitive answers will come when we can be sure that we can believe our own eyes and our own news media providers.

But if Finkelestein happens to be correct, humans' perspective on life-- even on technology-- might change drastically well before today's youths are able to pay off their student loans.