FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
July 15, 2014

At NASA's Washington headquarters on Monday, a panel of space program scientists announced their estimation that humans will find extraterrestrial life within 20 years, going as far as to say that the estimate is a "conservative" one.

NASA outlined its plan to search for alien life and said it would launch the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017. The agency predicts that as many as 100 million worlds in the Milky Way galaxy may be home to alien life.

"Just imagine the moment when we find potential signatures of life," Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said at the announcement. "Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we're no longer alone in the universe."

NASA astronomer Kevin Hand seconded Mountain's opinion, saying that within the next 20 years, "we will find out we are not alone in the universe," suggesting that extraterrestrial life may exist on Jupiter's moon Europa. The scientists at the panel said NASA's efforts are focusing on finding alien life on planets or stars outside the Earth's solar system.

For more detail about NASA's current projects and search for alien life, watch the video of Monday's panel below. --Meghan DeMaria

11:27 a.m. ET
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

John Kasich is keeping his expectations low for the upcoming Feb. 20 primary in South Carolina. After pulling off a comfortable second-place finish in the GOP's New Hampshire presidential primary Tuesday, the Ohio governor admitted in a Thursday interview with CNN's New Day that he doesn't expect South Carolina's election to go quite as well. "We're going to compete here," Kasich said of South Carolina's primary. "We don't expect to win here."

Kasich's defense of his campaign — and his concession about South Carolina — follows Republican opponent Jeb Bush's jab that Kasich "has nothing in South Carolina." "But on the other hand, if you look at the person who says that, they spent like well over $100 million — something like that — and they got like nothing," Kasich said, reminding Bush that, for spending more money than any other candidate, his results so far have fallen short.

Bush finished two spots behind Kasich in New Hampshire and two spots ahead of him in Iowa, where Bush came in sixth and Kasich came in eighth. Becca Stanek

11:01 a.m. ET
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

One day after civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton sat down for a meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders, he remains unconvinced that the Democratic presidential candidate is adequately addressing the issue of race in income equality.

"One of the things that I was saying to Senator Sanders is saying that you've got to deal with income inequality and wages is fine, but what about the race element of that?" Sharpton said Thursday on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "He did not address that directly," Sharpton added.

As it stands right now, Sharpton says, all he is hearing from Sanders is "rhetoric" and him "talking about his ideology," but he has yet to hear "a list or enumeration of the kind of things we can do to redress or overturn these things." That, he says, is what he pushed Sanders to do in their sit-down over breakfast in Harlem Wednesday. "Are you going to talk about affirmative action?" Sharpton said. "Are you going to talk about racial disparities in terms of promotions and access to capital?"

Sharpton says that addressing these issues is going to be key as Sanders moves forward in the race. "As we leave the New Hampshire/Iowa states, which are basically white electorate, they're going to have to deal now with issues across the board," Sharpton said of both Democratic presidential candidates.

Sharpton is set to meet with Sanders' Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, next Tuesday. Becca Stanek

10:53 a.m. ET

A survey of 141,189 incoming college freshmen found that the class of 2019 is politically engaged, committed to volunteering, and historically ready to protest.

The 2015 poll participants reported "substantially greater likelihoods of participating in student protests and demonstrations while in college" compared to previous years, clocking the highest level of protest plans since the first such survey in 1967.


(Higher Education Research Institute)

But not all freshmen are equally ready to take to the streets. Sorting the answers by race, the pollsters found that black and Latino students are significantly more likely to anticipate protesting on campus than their Native American, Asian, and white counterparts. Bonnie Kristian

10:49 a.m. ET

Albert Einstein's 100-year-old theory of general relativity has been confirmed by the detection of gravitational waves, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics reported Thursday. The researchers observed a warp of space-time generated through the collision of two black holes, which marked the first time scientists have detected gravitational waves.

The finding could change the way we understand astronomy and the universe. "There is a novel in it — there is no doubt," said the Institute's Professor Karsten Danzmann, likening the find to the discovery of the Higgs particle or the determination of the structure of DNA.

Professor Stephen Hawking, an expert on black holes, reinforced the seriousness of the finding. "Apart from testing [Einstein's theory of] general relativity, we could hope to see black holes through the history of the universe. We may even see relics of the very early universe during the Big Bang at some of the most extreme energies possible," Hawking told BBC News.

"The information carried on the gravitational wave is exactly the same as when the system sent it out; and that is unusual in astronomy. We can't see light from whole regions of our own galaxy because of the dust that is in the way, and we can't see the early part of the Big Bang because the Universe was opaque to light earlier than a certain time," Professor Bernard Schutz of Cardiff University explained. "With gravitational waves, we do expect eventually to see the Big Bang itself." Jeva Lange

10:31 a.m. ET
Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

As the jury president of this year's Berlin International Film Festival, it was up to Meryl Streep to answer the press' questions about diversity and the festival's all-white jury panel. However, Streep dismissed the criticism on Thursday by telling reporters, "We're all Africans, really."

The other members of the jury are German actor Lars Eidinger, British film critic Nick James, French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, British actor Clive Owen, Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher, and Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska, The Associated Press reports. Together, Streep and the jury will award Europe's first major film prize of the year, the Golden Bear, as well as several Silver Bear awards.

"There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we're all from Africa originally," Streep said. "Berliners, we're all Africans really."

Streep also defended herself against an Egyptian reporter who questioned if she understood films from North Africa or the Arab world by saying, "I've played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures."

Additionally, Streep insisted she was committed to the inclusion of "all genders, races, ethnicities, religions."

"This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that's an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions," Streep said. "So I think the Berlinale is ahead of its game." Jeva Lange

10:20 a.m. ET
Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images

Being the first black president has had political advantages as well as disadvantages, President Obama said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times released Thursday.

"I have no doubt there are people who voted against me because of race... or didn't approve of my agenda because of race," he said. "I also suspect there are a bunch of people who are excited or voted for me because of the notion of the first African-American president... Those things cut both ways."

Returning to the issue at another point in the conversation, Obama conceded that "there are pockets of the country where some dog whistles blow and there's underlying racial fears that may be exploited." But at the same time, he said, "You've got a whole generation of kids growing up where the first president they've known is an African-American. Even if they're hearing their parents say he's terrible, it kind of seeps in that it's not a crazy thing. So that sometime later, if there's a Hispanic, or a woman or another African-American, that won't seem as exceptional. These things change over time." Bonnie Kristian

10:08 a.m. ET
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

When the Secret Service is talking about Sen. Bernie Sanders, they refer to him as 'Intrepid.' The Democratic presidential candidate's code name surfaced Thursday in a report by The Bill Press Show, just weeks after Sanders' request to receive Secret Service protection was approved by the Department of Homeland Security.

The socialist senator's name is reportedly a reflection of his resolute stand against Wall Street and the establishment. Though Sanders' campaign has yet to confirm his code name, The Bill Press Show says that it's an "absolute fact," citing a source.

Sanders is the fourth candidate in the 2016 race to get Secret Service protection. Fellow Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, code name "Evergreen," also receives protection, as do Republican candidates Donald Trump ("Mogul") and Ben Carson ("Eli"). Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads