While driving to the Astrobiology 2010 Conference last week, I and a graduate student from my lab briefly discussed Stephen Hawking’s recent declaration that humans should try to avoid contact with what would surely be hostile aliens. It seemed odd to be attending a conference where a primary aim is finding extraterrestrial life while the news media and the blogosphere was reverberating with Hawking’s hawkish alien opinions. What really made the whole situation even more odd, however, was the almost total absence of any reaction to, or even general acknowledgement of Hawking’s remarks at the conference. Here were 500 scientists who are in some fashion or another actively involved in the truly exciting field of astrobiolgy, and it seemed that Stephen Hawking’s somewhat paranoid remarks simply didn’t register as anything important. It was as if Mel Gibson warned against hostile aliens. He’s not an astrobiologist. He’s a celebrity, and celebrities get media attention when they say apparently controversial things. It was as if Paris Hilton had warned against disturbing the inhabitants of underground cities on Mars. I was listening for conversations about Hawking in the hallways, but didn’t hear any. I brought it up with several attendees. Everyone I spoke to acknowledged that they had heard about it, and then shrugged it off with something like “kind of funny, huh?” There were three different “open topic” sessions at the conference, where anyone could say anything they wanted for 5 minutes. I didn’t go to all 3, but at the 1.5 of them I did go to, no one was talking Hawking. I really liked that. Everyone was going about their business, reporting on new species of extreme life on Earth, or on attempts to understand how life originated, or on designing new hardware or assays for detecting life on other planets, or debating on where and why life might be found on Titan or Europa, et cetera, and no one seemed to be even remotely concerned about the impending invasion.