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Scientists Debate If We Should Be Sending Messages to Alien Worlds

Image: Scientists Debate If We Should Be Sending Messages to Alien Worlds
(AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 28 Jun 2017 09:30 PM

A new look at a message sent into space by astronomers in 1974 asks whether humans should be worried about contacting other civilizations in the universe.

The New York Times examines a new push to beam Earthly messages. The consensus on whether or not to broadcast to the universe is mixed.

Kathryn Denning, who works as an anthropologist at Toronto's York University, told the Times she does not believe astronomers and other scientists should get to decide what we broadcast and how often. She alluded to the possibility of other societies waging an attack on Earth after detecting our location.

"It's inevitable that there will be significant disagreement about the advisability of transmitting, and I don't think this is the sort of thing where a simple majority vote or even supermajority should carry the day," Denning told the Times. "So this keeps bringing us back to the same key question: is it OK for some people to transmit messages at significant power when other people don't want them to?"

When asked directly what her view is on sending messages to outer space, Denning replied, "Why should my opinion matter more than that of a 6-year-old girl in Namibia? We both have exactly the same amount at stake, arguably, she more than I, since the odds of being dead before any consequences of transmission occur are probably a bit higher for me, assuming she has access to clean water and decent health care and isn't killed far too young in war."

The Times also spoke with Frank Drake, who was in charge of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico that sent the aforementioned radio signal in 1974. Drank founded the SETI Institute, which strives to detect extraterrestrial life.

Drake said he does not support organized efforts by a group known as METI to beam messages into outer space.

"We send messages all the time, free of charge," Drake said, referring to standard TV, radio, and other types of transmissions. "There's a big shell out there now 80 light years around us. A civilization only a little more advanced than we are can pick those things up."

The Times does note that if another civilization were to detect a signal sent from Earth, that civilization is likely to be be more advanced than humans — which may or may not spell disaster for Earth.

One scientist predicted that humans will detect life on another planet within 10 or 15 years.

Another recent report, meanwhile, claimed that a radio signal detected by a telescope in 1977 may have actually been a signal from another civilization.

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A new look at a message sent into space by astronomers in 1974 asks whether humans should be worried about contacting other civilizations in the universe.
scientists, messages, alien, worlds
431
2017-30-28
Wednesday, 28 Jun 2017 09:30 PM
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