- Scientists say that we must be prepared for what we do if we detect alien life.
- They have set up a dedicated research hub at the University of St Andrews.
- The group will focus on analysing evidence and developing potential protocols .
A new group at the University of St Andrews in Scotland wants to put together a plan for what to do if we encounter aliens here on Earth.
With help from experts from across the world, they will be putting together robust protocols and treaties, as well as assessing any evidence of intelligent civilisations.
Their preparatory work will take place at a new research hub at the university, dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
‘Science fiction is awash with explorations of the impact on human society following discovery of, and even encounters with, life or intelligence elsewhere,‘ said Dr John Elliott, a computer scientist and coordinator of the SETI Post-Detection Hub.
‘But we need to go beyond thinking about the impact on humanity.’
He added: ‘We need to coordinate our expert knowledge, not only for assessing the evidence, but also for considering 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 this is now.
‘Scanning signals of assumed extra-terrestrial origin for structures of language and attaching meaning is an elaborate and time-consuming process during which our knowledge will be advanced in many steps as we learn “Extra-Terrestrial”.’
The group feels that limited attention has been given to the consequences on society if alien intelligence is detected.
While the United Nations has processes and entities established for the threat of asteroid impact, nothing similar is in place for extraterrestrial life.
Over the course of nine months, scientists are looking at current data into UAPs, and establish which sightings are naturally-occurring or not worth further investigation.
The Hub’s researchers wrote: ‘Social interest has risen considerably recently, due to the detection of thousands of planets around distant stars in our own galaxy and, closer to home, through the exploration of nearby worlds such as Mars and Venus, looking for signs of life, present or past.
‘The potential discovery of microbial life will likely raise different types of concern that would follow the discovery of intelligent life – we are as yet entirely unprepared as a species for the latter.’
The SETI Post-Detection hub provides the first permanent ‘home’ for developing a comprehensive framework for what happens after an alien radio signal is picked up.
Scientists will manage the full process of searching for evidence, confirming detections, their analysis and interpretation of language patterns and managing the 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 decipherment, data analytics, space law, regulation development and societal impact strategies, to help close the policy gap.
Dr Elliott said: ‘Will we ever get a message from E.T.? We don’t know. We also don’t know when this is going to happen.
‘But we do know that we cannot afford to be ill prepared – scientifically, socially, and politically rudderless – for an event that could turn into reality as early as tomorrow and which we cannot afford to mismanage.’
In July, a study found that aliens could send messages through interstellar space using quantum communication.
A team from the University of Edinburgh ran calculations on the movement of X-rays across the emptiness of space to see if they would encounter any obstructions.
Quantum particles, like photons of light, are fragile and could easily break down if they meet any kind of interference, like from a gravitational field.
However it was determined that the quanta could survive travelling hundreds of thousands of light-years at least – a greater stretch of distance than the entire Milky Way galaxy.
This is largely due to average density of matter in space being very small, decreasing the likelihood of a quantum particle being knocked off course.
The level of information that can be securely transferred using quanta at high speeds could make it a viable method of communication to other life forms, according to the researchers.
There are currently no known objects that naturally transmit quantum messages that could be mistaken for alien signals, the researchers claim.
It is currently only speculation, but the research does give experts another sign of life to look out for.
They added: ‘In principle, it should be possible to detect a quantum signal coming from an astrophysical body or even an intelligent signal from an extraterrestrial civilisation.’
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Read more on First Contact: Ex Head of Israel’s Defence Ministry’s Space Directorate Says US In Contact With Aliens
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