The aliens could make contact tomorrow and we need to know what to tell them, scientists warned, as they launched a new research center to prepare humanity for first contact.
The University of St Andrews has joined forces with the UK’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) network to establish protocols and procedures in the event of alien detection.
The team warns that although measures are in place to address the threats posed by asteroid impacts, there is no agreed answer if a radio signal has been picked up by another intelligent life form.
The Seti Post-Detection Hub will bring together experts from around the world to decide how to decipher methods, enact spatial laws and anticipate impacts on society.
Dr John Elliott, honorary researcher at St Andrews School of Computer Science and Hub coordinator, said, Will we ever get a message from ET? We do not know. We also don’t know when this will happen.
“But we know that we cannot afford to be unprepared – scientifically, socially and politically without rudder – for an event that could become reality tomorrow and that we cannot afford to manage badly.
“We need to coordinate our specialist knowledge not only to assess the evidence, but also to consider the human social response as our understanding progresses and what we know and what we don’t know is communicated. And the time to do it is now ”.
The truth is out there
The potential for problems in communicating with alien life was explored in the fourth installment of the Star Trek franchise, The Voyage Home.
In depicts an alien probe sending a message that inadvertently disrupts human technology with the crisis resolved only when Kirk and his crew realize he is trying to communicate with the planet’s whales.
Many scientists now think intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is a real possibility, and NASA recently launched an eight-month investigation to investigate hundreds of unexplained UFO sightings.
The investigation into “unidentified aerial phenomena” is led by Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, of NASA’s science mission directorate, and is expected to report next summer.
Last year, the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force released a report on 144 UFO incidents between 2004 and 2021, many of which were spotted by military pilots.
Although investigators concluded that there was no evidence that the objects came from space or a foreign adversary, they said most could not be explained.
Protocols need to be updated
Currently, the only agreed “contact” protocols in existence for encountering alien life were developed by the SETI community itself in 1989 and have not been revised since 2010. But they focus entirely on scientific conduct.
The Royal Society held a scientific discussion meeting on “The detection of extraterrestrial life and its consequences for science and society” in 2010, but there was no global agreement on how to manage the contact.
Learning to decipher an alien language or method of communication will likely be one of the biggest obstacles that experts will need to consider.
In a recent BBC documentary First Contact: An Alien Encounter, scientists admitted that it may never be possible to understand what aliens are trying to tell us.
Dr. Alexander Rehding, a professor of music at Harvard University, said that humans have not yet learned how to translate animal communication.
“Whales are a great study and are somehow the closest thing we have to aliens here on Earth,” he said.
“Whales are very intelligent and their environment is completely different from ours. The patterns we hear are purely patterns that we recognize as music, repeating patterns.
“It’s a form of vocalizing but we don’t really know what it’s for. Is it music, is it a language? What does it mean? It can give us an idea of how difficult the task is. “
Dr. Elliott admitted that deciphering an alien language would be complicated without some sort of extraterrestrial Rosetta Stone.
“However, a lot can be gleaned without this. Language for intelligent species has a structured system that is multi-layered and has an internal structure, “she said.
“By identifying any patterns within the signal and calculating how these patterns interact, we will then be able to know if it passes this initial surface structure test to show evidence of being language-like.
“If so, we will then be able to move on to identifying the internal structures shown by all known intelligent species. Once that is done, we can then move on to deeper levels of “syntax” to where it “meets” the semantics.
William Borucki, a former NASA space scientist, added: “When I look at how Hollywood portrays contact, one of the things I think is unreal is that people who can communicate readily and have similar ambitions, similar responses.
“But when I think of intelligent life and the variety of it on Earth, we have dogs, we have monkeys, we have octopuses that have their intelligence in their arms, not in their heads.
“We cannot speak to most creatures on Earth intelligently. How will we talk to intelligent civilizations? I’m not sure we’ll ever understand. “