British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking made an assertion earlier this year that reignited the debate over whether space aliens would have hostile intentions toward earthlings. Hawking believes that initiating contact with aliens would not be a good thing:
“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”
Wang Sichao. a researcher and astronomer at the Purple Hills Observatory, stated last week that his view is not entirely aligned with Hawking’s. He believes that preparedness for a potential invasion along with a “wait and see” approach is in order:
“If they are friendly to us, we can promote the human beings’ civilization through exchange and cooperation with them. If they are not, as long as we prepared for their invasion, we can beat them back based on their weaknesses. After all, they are life entities, they would show their slips.”
For those who might have missed it, the debate really heated up earlier this month, at the SETICon Convention held in Silicon Valley, California.
Douglas Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition, SETI asked:
“Even if they tend to be hateful, awful folks, can they do us any harm at interstellar distances?”
John Billingham, former chairman of the SETI Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics said:
“Personally, I agree with Hawking and think it may be unwise to transmit.
On whether we just listen for transmissions or transmit messages, Billingham recommended establishing an international conference to get feedback from the entire world on the matter.
SETI Institute senior astronomer Seth Shostak took the most logical view out of the entire SETIcon bunch. He argued that the whole issue is moot because Earth has been radiating signals into space for decades, in the form of “leakage” from radio and television broadcasts. Extraterrestrials could detect us if they really wanted to.
“This horse has left the barn. Any society that could possibly be a threat to us can easily know at least that we’re here. There’s no point in losing sleep over this.”
Plus, why are they all worried about it anyway?
The continuation of this debate comes two years after NASA deliberately sent a transmission into space – in 2008. They sent a song by the Beatles called “Across the Universe”.
NASA has sent transmissions to our astronauts in space during each and every space mission. This transmission was aimed further than our astronauts have gone before. Specifically, across the universe at the North Star, Polaris.
The song, “Across the Universe”, was chosen to commemorate both NASA’s and The Beatle’s 50th anniversary, as well as the 40th anniversary of the recording of the song. At the time of the transmission, NASA publicized the reactions of Former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono.
McCartney said of the transmission:
“Amazing! Well done, NASA! Send my love to the aliens.”
Well, Sir Paul McCartney, that’s exactly what they did!
Ono said of the transmission:
“I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets throughout the universe.”
Yoko Ono’s view was very optimistic and in tune with most earthlings.
Neither of them seemed very worried over it. Most of earth’s population isn’t worried about it, either. The experts seem to be worried about it. So…
What about the telescopes and robotic equipment we’ve hurled at different targets in space? We are aiming that equipment further and further into space all the time. The equipment transmits information back to us all the time in our search for alien life. Well, extraterrestrial bacteria life does count. Couldn’t an intelligent extraterrestrial follow those transmission trails, like bread crumbs, from our equipment in space back to Earth anyway?
If extraterrestrials can be that intelligent to receive a transmission and come strip mine Earth as the experts assert as a possibility, then yes. They can just follow the information that the telescopes, landers, and other equipment broadcast back our way to the planet Earth.
Whether we are sending messages out or receiving them though space via our own equipment, I think it’s really too late to waste the time debating over it.
I also think that there’s no point in hiding if we want to learn anything, good or bad. We’ve broadcasted ourselves from outside of the earth in some form or another for well over 50 years. That’s a long time to be broadcasting ourselves without receiving a a single response in the form of an alien invasion.
We’ve got signals and data bouncing off of those satellites, leaking noise all over the place. We are a very noisy civilization on this planet called Earth.
The United States Space Surveillance Network has tracked 26,000 space objects since Sputnik I was launched by the Russians in 1957. Some of those objects have re-entered earth’s atmosphere and either disintegrated or impacted Earth’s surface. Remember the international media frenzy over Skylab’s re-entry and subsequent impact on Earth in 1979? There are still more than 8,000 man-made orbiting objects orbiting Earth and sending and receiving all sorts of data. Personally, I worry about space debris impacting earth more than I worry about aliens invading it.
So, back to those experts, I do lean towards the expert opinions of two of them. Seth Shostak and Wang Sichao get my vote.
We should be prepared for any attack whether it comes from an earthbound threat or from space invaders.
We also should quit worrying about it.
I, for one, think that Earth should turn up the volume and be the official ghetto blaster of the universe. Let’s blast our noise as far as we can get it and just vibrate the heck out space. If an extraterrestrial does come all the way to earth to visit us, I also think that it is very important to follow that age-old advice: Don’t show fear.
It’s good advice that applies to many situations. It really does go a long way.
In the meantime, enjoy the love transmitted into space by NASA. Hopefully the love will be returned back to us someday.