Daily Archives: August 19th, 2010

Hawking Makes Waves At SETIcon

It seems that Dr. Hawking’s statements about nomadic ETIs being voracious hunters has created quite a stir in the mainstream science community.

Especially the crowd Uncle Seth Shostak is in charge of at the recent SETIcon in California:

Even if humanity could reach out to an intelligent alien civilization, scientists are polarized over whether we should.

Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has argued that the extraterrestrials we contacted would be likely to harm us, a view that divided the experts here at the SETIcon convention.

“No one can say that there is no risk to transmitting,” John Billingham, former chairman of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics, said via a statement read at the convention Sunday. “Personally, I agree with Hawking and think it may be unwise to transmit.”

However, Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at the SETI Institute, said of aliens: “Even if they tend to be hateful, awful folks, can they do us any harm at interstellar distances?”

Up to now, the efforts of SETI have concentrated on receiving and recognizing signals from non-natural sources in space.

Hawking, 68, claimed that any civilization with which humanity could communicate is likely to be much older and more technologically advanced than ours. So they would probably have the ability, and possibly the motive, to eradicate humanity and strip-mine our planet for parts. It would be safer not to actively broadcast our presence, he said.

Billingham said listening for signs of life is safe, but sending out signals of our own could be asking for trouble. He recommended establishing an international conference to decide whether the whole world supported “active SETI,” or METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

Canadian science-fiction author Robert Sawyer agreed that international opinion should be consulted before a small group of scientists made any “arrogant” choice on behalf of the planet.

“We’ve got to stop and think about this, whether this is a wise thing to do,” Sawyer said.

But Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the California-based SETI Institute, said such a conference is unlikely to be productive. “The idea that we can solve this problem with international consultation strikes me as naivete of the first order,” Shostak said.

He argued that the whole issue is moot because Earth has been radiating signals into space for decades.

Every radio and television broadcast in history has beamed out electromagnetic radiation to the cosmos — an effect scientists refer to as leakage. While these signals haven’t been particularly powerful or targeted to extraterrestrials, a sufficiently advanced civilization would have no trouble detecting them, Shostak said.

“This horse has left the barn,” he said. “Any society that could possibly be a threat to us can easily know at least that we’re here. There’s no point in losing sleep over this.”

Furthermore, he and other experts questioned the logic of an alien civilization wanting to attack Earth.

Vakoch said it would take quite a lot of time and energy for extraterrestrials to come all the way to Earth to wage war or try to extract resources from our planet. The cost of traveling here to collect them, not to mention transporting those resources back to the aliens’ home, would far outweigh the benefit, he said.

There’s a point missing about all the pros and cons of sending out strong beacon like signals into the Universe to draw attention to ourselves and I’m surprised these scientists haven’t even thought of it; Survival of the Fittest.

Yes, that old Theory of Evolution Paradigm in which the strongest of tooth, claw, nail and guile gets to continue to eat, breath, sleep and screw.

If the Universe is part of Nature, wouldn’t that rule apply?

Advanced aliens, presuming that they haven’t attained a technological singularity, but have technology of a Kardashev Type 1 civilization have indeed been observing us through nano-Bracewell type interstellar probes at a distance of say…four light years. Time enough to be real time, but a safe enough distance where they know we can’t get at them. Just yet.

All they would have to do is shoot a “relativistic missile” at us, like an asteroid, or Oort Cloud object that could be a “planet killer.”

The only reason they would need is to preserve their own safety; to kill a potentially powerful competitor before we could out compete them on the evolutionary stage.

Nothing personal. “It’s either us or you.”

IMO, Hawking’s close, but his reasons are wrong.

Do we dare let aliens know we’re here?

hat tip