Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The problem with reaching out

Hawking warns against contacting aliens

Does the Pentagon have a battle plan in event of extraterrestrial aggression?
Probably not, though some scientists believe it might be a good idea.

Since the dawn of time, humans have watched the stars for the arrival of something, some arrival, some vehicle, being, or god. Galileo imagined beings on the moon and the Voyagers, which last saw the Earth’s atmosphere in the 1970s, have passed Pluto, the last planet in our solar system. In August 2012, Voyager 1 left us all behind and hit interstellar space—the void between our solar system and the next solar system in the Milky Way. We’re in it now, folks. All we need now is for a spaceship from another civilization to see it and wham! the nose of the craft turns toward Earth, and maybe it’s four miles long, contains smaller planetary invasion ships hanging from racks like shirts in a dry cleaners. It’s all automated, sniffing out life like Voyager, except with an entirely different intent.

Steven Hawking, the genius whose extraordinary mathematical and interstellar mind is not trapped in a wheelchair, warned that this might happen when talking about SETI, the scientific project that sends electronic signals into deep space in hopes of receiving a response from other life forms.

I imagine they might exist in massive ships," Hawking said, "having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach."

Uh Oh. That sounds familiar. It happens all the time in nature. Humans invade other countries and try to eradicate their citizens. Locusts, ants, even chimpanzees overrun their fellows when there’s not enough food or other resources.

The U.S. military plans for everything to protect us, but the Pentagon does not plan South Africa’s response to invasion by other countries; France does not plan England’s response, nor does Italy plan Australia’s response. In other words, if Earth is attacked there must be a coordinated plan in place that includes the militaries of all nations.

Such a coordinated, world-wide battle plan to defeat insect bastards swarming over our planet from vehicles hanging in our daylight skies does not exist. So we might as well admit it: we’re goners if Voyager catches something’s attention. We have a 50-50 chance. Either they’re going to be kindly researchers or deadly pests.

Of course, the visitors could be something worse: passive aggressive. The aliens would act like everything’s OK between us but would leave nasty comments on sticky notes on cars, trees, and windows on buildings.

I’ll take a direct attack any day.

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