A new group of researchers at the University of St Andrews in Scotland wants to make a plan for what to do if we encounter extraterrestrials here on Earth.
With the help of experts from around the world, they will compile robust protocols and treaties, as well as assess any evidence of intelligent civilizations.
Their preparatory work will take place at a new research center at the university, dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
Dr John Elliott, computer scientist and coordinator of the SETI Post-Detection Hub, said: “Science fiction is filled with explorations of the impact on human society after life or intelligence has been discovered and even recognized elsewhere. But we need to move beyond thinking about the impact on humanity.”
He added: “We need to coordinate our expert knowledge, not only to assess the evidence, but also to look at the human social response as our understanding progresses and what we know and what we don’t know is communicated. And it’s time to do it now. Scanning signals from a supposed extraterrestrial origin for language structures and associating meaning is a complex and time-consuming process during which our knowledge is developed in many steps.”
The group feels that limited attention has been paid to the consequences for society if an alien intelligence is discovered.
While the United Nations has processes and entities set up to address the threat of asteroid impacts, there is nothing comparable to extraterrestrial life.
And in June, NASA announced it was launching its first-ever study of Unspecified Atmospheric Phenomena (UAP) – otherwise known as UFO’s.
Over the course of nine months, scientists are looking at current data on UAPs, identifying which scenes are naturally occurring or not worthy of further research.
The Hub researchers wrote: “Social interest has increased dramatically recently, due to the discovery of thousands of planets around distant stars in our galaxy, and those closest to home, by exploring nearby worlds such as Mars and Venus, in search of signs of life.”
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The potential discovery of microbial life is likely to raise the kinds of anxiety that would follow the discovery of intelligent life.
The SETI Post-Discovery Center provides the first permanent “home” to develop a comprehensive framework for what happens after an alien radio signal is picked up.
Scientists will manage the entire process of searching for evidence, confirming discoveries, analyzing them, interpreting language patterns and managing potential response.
They will work with academics in the sciences and humanities as well as members of the SETI community.
They will also coordinate with policy experts on message decoding, data analytics, space law, regulation development, and societal impact strategies, to help bridge the policy gap.
And in July, a study found that aliens can send messages through interstellar space using quantum communications.
A team from the University of Edinburgh performed calculations on the movement of X-rays through the vacuum of space to see if they would encounter any obstacles. Quantum particles, such as photons of light, are fragile and can break easily if they encounter any kind of interference, such as from a gravitational field.
According to the researchers, the level of information that can be safely transmitted using volumes at high speeds could make it a viable way to communicate with other life forms.
There are currently no known organisms that naturally transmit messages that could be confused with space signals, the researchers claim. It’s just speculation for now, but the research is giving experts another sign of life to look for.
Source: Daily Mail
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