• What we might get from telling aliens where we are

What we might get from telling aliens where we are

Instead of listening for signals from intelligent alien life in the universe, SETI now proposes we beam signals into space telling these aliens where we are and how to get here.

Some scientists have attacked this idea of giving a superior alien race a roadmap leading to Earth as an invitation to invasion.

Like Us on Facebook

The idea of actively hunting for advanced alien life instead of just listening in on their signals seems to be gaining ground following the absence of any results from the 50 year-old Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project or SETI.

During these decades, radio telescopes have heard only deafening silence -- which is basically the hissing noise the Universe emits. Nothing out of the natural has been detected.

This failure has led more activist astronomers to propose the Earth go hunting for aliens, instead. This is precisely the goal of a new SETI project called Active SETI.

Champions of Active SETI, mainly belonging to the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, believe we should use our most powerful radio telescopes to send messages in the direction of the nearest stars such as Alpha Centauri where scientists believe some Earth-like exoplanets might exist.

Whether these exoplanets have intelligent life, nobody knows, but Active SETI wants to try.

 "In the past we've always assumed that any extraterrestrial civilization with the capacity to detect us will automatically take the initiative to make contact, sending us a powerful signal to let us know they exist," said Douglas Vakoch of the SETI Institute.

"But there may be civilizations out there that refuse to reveal their existence unless we make it clear that we want to make contact."

"The signaling of our intention to make contact is what it should take to trigger a response," said Vakoch. "The most critical reason to add Active SETI to our search strategy is that this may be the right strategy that lets us make contact".

Active SETI was first proposed decades ago and then, as now, some scientists are horrified at the idea of telling an advanced alien race how to get to the Earth. What if these aliens planned to invade and conquer us?

Noted astrophysicist Michio Kaku once said an alien invasion of the Earth would be the equivalent of Godzilla battling Bambi, with us as Bambi. It doesn't take a genius to figure out who'd win this fight.

The editorial board of the prestigious journal Nature has cautioned that "the risk posed by active SETI is real. ... It is not obvious that all extraterrestrial civilizations will be benign -- or that contact with even a benign one would not have serious repercussions for people here on Earth."

Science fiction writer David Brin who holds a Ph.D. in planetary science is a vocal critic of Active SETI. He noted the history of the Earth in which encounters between cultures of greatly differing technological sophistication didn't go well for the less technologically advanced peoples.

"We have many examples where a technologically advanced civilization contacted a technologically less advanced civilization," he says. (European colonizing efforts in Africa and the Americas are prime examples.)

"And in every one of those cases, there was pain. Even when both sides had the best of intentions."

There are many more others with Brin's mindset. Over two dozen scientists signed a position statement calling for a moratorium on Active SETI until "a worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion" has taken place. Among those that signed this manifesto is Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX.

The manifesto notes that "it is impossible to predict whether (extraterrestrial intelligence) will be benign or hostile."

Stephen Hawking is absolutely against the idea. He recently warned that an advanced alien civilization might be "looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach" after depleting the resources of its home planet.

He also cited the analogy of Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas, "which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

Heated discussions over active contact again reignited last February at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

On the other hand, Seth Shostak, director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, believes we have little to lose and a lot to gain by reaching out to advanced alien races.

He said these aliens probably already know we're here since our radio and TV broadcasts have been leaking into space for 70 years.

"Any society that's at least 100 or 200 years more advanced than we are will be able to pick up our leakage," said Shostak. "Unless they've stopped developing technology--which is of course possible, but then they're of no threat to us."

Shostak said we need to transmit the content of the internet into outer space. This data will include large amount of text, videos, sounds and pictures. In this way, aliens can learn more about the Earth, believes Shostak