It’s reported that a Nasa-led team of international scientists is planning to beam a message across the galaxy in the hope of making first contact with intelligent extra-terrestrials.
The message, including details about humans and Earth’s location, would be sent to a dense ring of stars near the centre of the Milky Way – a region considered to be the most promising for life to have developed.
The project is headed by Dr Jonathan Jiang at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
A preliminary paper about the proposal by the NASA scientists’ states, ‘Humanity has, we contend, a compelling story to share and the desire to know of others – and now has the means to do so.’
It won’t be the first time that humans have hurled a message into space telling any possible aliens out there that, “We’re here!”
In 1974 a message called ‘Arecibo’ was sent from an observatory in Puerto Rico to a cluster of stars around 25,000 light years away – so it will take a long time to reach its target (by which time the Earth might not even exist).
The Guardian reports that ‘a host of messages have been beamed into the heavens, including an advert for Doritos and an invitation, written in Klingon, to a Klingon Opera in The Hague.’
But is it such a good idea to tell clever creatures on other planets where we are?
Professor Stephen Hawking thought not. He warned a decade ago that humans should stop sending messages into space.
He said then, “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.”
But Dr Jiang and his colleagues at NASA, intent on making first contact with an ET, put a counter argument.
They say that aliens intelligent enough to communicate across the cosmos may have learnt the value of peace and collaboration.
“We believe the advancements of science that can be achieved in pursuit of this task, if communication were to be established, would vastly outweigh the concerns,” they write.
Mm, I wonder.
When I was much younger (and probably stupid – I’m older now!) I used to think that intelligence was somehow correlated with compassion. But is that true?
I’ve met some so-called very intelligent people who seemed to have little compassion, and others who may not have been so bright, but have shown empathy, kindness, and charity.
Today, war is raging in Europe once again, but that doesn’t seem a clever way of ‘communicating’ with each other.
The EU was founded to create lasting peace between its members – but a majority of those who voted in the referendum rejected that concept, in favour of closing the channels of communicating with our European neighbours.
Of course, it could be very exciting to discover intelligent life in outer space. But maybe the problem is that we haven’t yet discovered it on planet Earth.