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What lies behind stories of alien abduction and invasion? And can aliens or outsiders sometimes be a force for good? With Nnedi Okorafor, Chris Thomas and Richard McNally.

What do you think about the possibility of extra- terrestrial life? Are we alone in the universe? And what do aliens reveal about us? Bridget Kendall asks ecologist Chris Thomas, science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor, and psychologist Richard McNally to pool thoughts about what aliens mean to us.

(Illustration: Artist impression of alien spaceship hovering over a city landscape. By Shan Pillay)

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41 minutes

Last on

Mon 29 Sep 2014 02:05GMT


  • Biologist Chris Thomas

    Why we should welcome alien species

    Duration: 12:05

  • Science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor

    What aliens might be like

    Duration: 10:55

  • 60 Second Idea:

    Have an alien friend

    Duration: 04:32

  • Psychologist Richard McNally

    Alien abductions?

    Duration: 12:58

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Professor Chris Thomas is a biologist at the University of York who believes that alien species of plants and animals can make a positive impact on native communities. While a great deal of money has been spent world-wide trying to get rid of non-native plants and animals, Chris argues this fear is irrational, and that for instance Britain appears virtually immune to extinctions from imported species. Moreover, he suggests the UK could become an ideal rescue place for endangered species from elsewhere. 

Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is an award winning Nigerian-American science fiction writer, and a Professor of Creative Writing at the University at Buffalo, New York. She discusses her latest book "Lagoon", a science fiction novel about an alien invasion, set in the Nigerian city of Lagos. In her portrayal of aliens, Nnedi says she wanted to challenge our arrogant belief that we would recognise and understand aliens if we were to encounter them, by showing they could be quite different from anything we can predict. 

Richard McNally

Richard McNally

Professor Richard McNally is from the Psychology Department at Harvard Medical School and a world expert on anxiety disorders. He tells us about his studies of sincere non-psychotic people who believe that while they slept they were abducted by aliens. He argues that this is very likely a result of sleep paralysis and is connected to false memory syndrome. He also believes these “abductees” tend to be very creative and spiritual people.

60 second Idea to Change the World: Have an Alien Advisor

60 second Idea to Change the World: Have an Alien Advisor

Nnedi Okorafor imagines digital alien personalities that would evolve from our artificial intelligence programmes, and become our new personal assistants. They could be made to permeate our mobile phones and would be like normal thinking beings who advising us on all issues in our lives, from booking flights to relationship problems.  


  • Sat 27 Sep 2014 21:05GMT
  • Sun 28 Sep 2014 09:05GMT
  • Mon 29 Sep 2014 02:05GMT