Professor Stephen Hawking has warned that trying to make contact with aliens by calling out to the cosmos could invite disaster.
It comes as a scientist, leading plans to seek out ET, believes that one way he could convince advance aliens that we’re an intelligent species by teaching them the rules of cricket.
Members of Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) are preparing for the next step in actively calling out to aliens – instead of just listening.
- What is known as Active Seti will be under serious discussion this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose, California.
Seti spokesman Dr Seth Shostak outlined methods being explored of conducting Active Seti within the next two years – including the possibility of nurturing an alien interest in cricket and rock music.
The idea would be to flood the ETs with lively content from the internet, rather than bore them with mathematical concepts or chemical equations.
But the Cambridge physicist has warned against inviting an unwelcome visit from aliens, pointing out: “The outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”
A number of other experts agree with Prof Hawking – including scientist, author and futurist Dr David Brin, who is taking part in the AAAS symposium.
He said: “If you bring human history into the discussion, there is a cautionary tale. Name one example of a meeting between an advanced civilisation and a less technically advanced one that did not end in tears.
“Just because the probability of a negative outcome is very low that does not mean it is zero. The existence of low probability outcomes that might be devastatingly negative is worth pondering.”
On the methods, Dr Shostak, director of the Centre for Seti Research in Mountain View, California, said: “I think you’d want to send lots of information. I recommend that we send the entire internet, the Google servers.
“Send it all. If they look up cricket, there are descriptions, pictures, diagrams showing a pitch, footage.. They’ll cross-correlate all this and put it together and if they are clever at all, they will figure out something about cricket.
“Honestly, what do they want to hear from us? Do they want to hear what the structure of the hydrogen atom is? No, they know that. They want to know about our rock ‘n roll.”
Seti dates back to 1960 when a young astronomer called Frank Drake conducted the first microwave radio search for intelligent signals from other solar systems.
Since then about 100 searches have been made for radio or laser-transmitted messages from the stars, none of which have confirmed the existence of an extraterrestrial civilisation.
A few isolated attempts have also been made to contact ETs directly by broadcasting signals. But now a number of scientists, including Dr Shostak, believe what is needed is a full scale co-ordinated Active Seti operation.