Some astronomers are growing tired of waiting for intelligent alien life to reach out to the human race. While many alien hunters think contact will happen any time now, a group known as Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligences (METI) is taking the initiative and sending signals out into space with the goal to reach them first.
METI, based in San Francisco, California, wants to start sending transmissions to alien life sometime before the end of 2018. The project will target nearby stars, particularly ones that have orbiting planets capable of sustaining life.
One issue astronomers have to solve when attempting communication with alien life is what messages to send. In the past, the solution was to transmit information on a variety of subjects, including music, math, and human anatomy. In 1974, the Arecibo radio telescope did just that.
Scientists at METI want to take a different, simpler approach. The messages will essentially contain information specifically related to math and physics.
“Some of the most prominent messages of the past have tried to cover everything,” said Douglas Vakoch, president of METI, as reported by CNET. “Rather than trying to communicate everything [about math, science, and life on Earth], we are focusing on saying a few things very clearly. For our first messages, we are emphasizing the essentials of math and physics.”
While proactively trying to reach out to extraterrestrials sounds like a good idea, some prominent scientists, Stephen Hawking included, fear contacting aliens could lead to some dire consequences. Sending messages to aliens not only tells them we are here but also gives them a potential attack target if they are hostile.
“There’s a possibility that if we actively message, with the intention of getting the attention of an intelligent civilization, that the civilization we contact would not necessarily have our best interests in mind,” said astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz, as cited by the Daily Mail. “It could be something that ends life on Earth, and it might be something that accelerates the ability to live quality lives on Earth.”
Professor Stephen Hawking famously warned that aliens that do find Earth will likely conquer and colonize the planet. He believes first contact with extraterrestrials will be much like when Columbus first discovered America, “which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”
Regardless of whether aliens treat us as adversaries, irrelevant creatures, or friends, most astronomers look forward to the day when contact is finally achieved. Whatever scenario happens, life on Earth will obviously never be the same.
[Featured Image by Bill Ingalls/NASA/Getty Images]