I barely pick up my home telephone anymore. Literally about 66% of the phone calls I receive are telemarketers trying to sell me some crap I don't need. But let's hope any aliens out there are more tolerant I am, as cold calling might become our preferred method of contacting alien life.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) are considering taking their search for extraterrestrial life up a gear. Originally, the program has mostly been concerned with attempting to passively receive messages from other civilizations. However, now it is considering sending out our own messages to distant solar systems in the hope of starting communications (and selling expensive cable packages).
Astronomers and researchers hope to use powerful radio telescopes and transmitters to broadcast a welcome message to hundreds of star systems in a 20 light year radius around the Earth. David Black, an astrophysicist and SETI's chief executive told The Sunday Times:
There could be many civilisations out there but if they are all listening and no one is broadcasting then nothing will happen. One question is... if we go ahead, what message should we send? Should it be the work of a few scientists or should we involve the whole world, perhaps through the internet?
Douglas A. Vakoch, the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at SETI added:
For half a century SETI has been searching for something that we ourselves do not produce: deliberate transmissions towards distant worlds.
The plan is to use powerful radio telescopes - such as Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico - to transmit and reflect radio light off of planets in our solar system in order to send them further into space.
The search for extraterrestrial life, and the receiving of messages from aliens, has long been the central crux of several science-fiction films. Let's just hope our first interaction is a little bit less creepy than in the movie Contact:
Is This A Good Idea?
Currently, the project has yet to be greenlit or receive the broader cooperation of the space field, although it will be discussed at the annual meeting of the American Association of Advancing Science next week.
One of the issues sure to be discussed is concerns that this whole endeavor could backfire rather disastrously. Some have suggested it's probably not a great idea to send out a message letting unknown alien strangers know where we are. Furthermore, this isn't the concern of basement dwelling conspiracy nuts, people who actually know what they're talking about are saying it too.
World famous physicist Stephen Hawking has previously issued warnings about attempting to find advanced life beyond our solar system. In a 2010 documentary, he stated:
If aliens do visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans.
If the project is approved this would be the first serious effort by humanity to phone up an alien civilization. Other than radio signals, Earth has made other attempts to communicate with extraterrestrial life. For example, the Voyager 1 probe - which is currently entering interstellar space 12 billion miles away - carries with it a golden record containing music, images and recorded messages from Earth. You can listen to Voyager 1's first greeting message below:
However, whereas Voyager 1 is more akin to a random message in a bottle, the proposed SETI program will be deliberately targeted at nearby solar systems.
Personally, I think this is a brilliant idea. Although, I'm not exactly expecting to find alien civilizations in my life-time, I think the mere fact we're searching ultimately says something positive about this race of hyper-intelligent apes who life on a rock floating insignificantly around one of the billions of stars in the universe. Perhaps discovering we're not alone in this intergalactic mortal coil is the one thing were supposed to do as a species?