Of course, there is a certain fear of contact with a hypothetical extraterrestrial mind, but this may be one of the most important things for humanity. At least scientifically.
The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope in Puerto Rico at night. In 1974, an interstellar radio message was sent from here to M13, carrying basic information about humanity.
Are we alone in the universe? People have been asking this question for many centuries, but only in recent decades has the opportunity to find an answer.
In SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) we use radio telescopes to search for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. This is a relatively passive system, as we sit back and listen to possible signals.
But there is also an “active SETI”, namely METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence - a message to extraterrestrial civilizations). This is a system for sending messages to a specific place, to inform potential alien astronomers about our presence.
But the METI concept is controversial. Some scientists warn that this strategy is dangerous. The famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who warned about the negative consequences of such contact, joined this opinion. He thinks that advanced aliens can perceive us as backward forms of life, like bacteria. This will remind Columbus’s arrival in America, which did not end well for the natives.
But Douglas Wakoh, a professor at the Department of Clinical Psychology at the California Institute of Technology and president of METI International, believes that scientists exaggerate and exaggerate. “Many agree with me,” he says. “We know that our brain constantly focuses on hazards, even if the perceived risk is not credible. Therefore, the awesome picture of Stephen Hawking simply does not allow us to think rationally. ”
Wakoh says that Hawking's assumption that advanced aliens can travel through space, but still haven’t caught our radio signals, simply does not make sense.
For 100 years on Earth, radio and television transmissions have been distributed, the signals of which are transmitted into space as electromagnetic radiation. They should be spread over the next 100 light years. And our powerful devices show that at this distance there are thousands of exoplanets. And there is a possibility that some of them are earth-like.
“Any civilization that can hear our message has probably already caught this leak. So they know about our existence, ”says Wakoh.
The image is located on the METI International website, showing an excellent opportunity to exchange messages with aliens.
Then why send a message? For the sake of science!
Considering the pros and cons of METI, Wakoh took into account the scientific potential, rather than emotional arguments. The principle of science - the importance of constant assumptions that allow you to adjust the course for development.
“I don’t know a single astronomer who is in contact with SETI, who thinks it’s dangerous,” he said. “But when the most ingenious cosmologist (Hawking) catches horror, we must take a step back and rationally assess the situation.” It’s important to consider the real risks of METI, and not just tremble from the ominous images of aliens. ” And in choosing the merits of specific METI projects, we must rely on the scientific method to make logical judgments.
“It’s agreed with me that a peer review makes a lot of sense,” says Wakoh. “Why invent something new if there are proven scientific methods? Using peer review, scientists can impartially evaluate a specific proposal. ”
“It is important to evaluate a specific METI project and see if it is worth it,” Vakoh continues. “For example, one could test the hypothesis of a zoo, which believes that extraterrestrial intelligence can be much more common than we think. They live in the nearest star systems, but they expect the first step from us. And this can be verified by sending powerful intentional signals. And in the next decades we will see if there will be an answer. ”
Since the mid-1970s, there have been about two dozen deliberate messages sent into space. They all carried one message and aimed at a specific point. But Wakoh believes that this approach needs to be changed.
“When they see a signal once in SETI, it’s not convincing,” he says. “If other civilizations think like us, then you need to transmit a signal several times, then they will take it seriously.”
ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) (European Southern Observatory) during the observation of the Laser Guide Star (LGS) of an adaptive optics system that allows astronomers to eliminate the effects of atmospheric turbulence.
In addition, METI supporters say messages need to be sent to stars in our neighborhoods. What for? For example, in 1974, a short, symbolic message was sent to the side of the M13 star cluster, located 25,000 light-years from Earth. “Why send a signal to where it will return from within 50,000 years?”, Vokah wonders. - “We need to choose objects that will respond in the coming decades. It is more realistic to test the hypothesis. ”
Also, the project could test several empirical ideas. For example, to explain the Fermi paradox, which suggests that if the Universe is full of complex races and civilizations, then why haven't we heard of anyone?
Wakoh and colleagues are going to send strong, repetitive and intentional messages to the nearest star systems. But this will require additional scientific discussions.
“At METI International, we encourage a broader discussion of the benefits and disadvantages of sending messages to space,” he says.
To do this, they hired an advisory board of more than 50 leading scientists from 16 countries, representing a wide range of disciplines in the field of natural sciences, humanities and the arts. They also organize events for the public.
“First, how can one discover that life (microbial or technological) is no longer visible due to radiation leakage? Is it too late to worry? ”Said Wakoh. “Secondly, how to balance the risks and benefits of METI, and how does this relate to political and ethical issues? All this is of great importance for society. ”
And if you sent a message to an extraterrestrial civilization, then to say?