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Surprising Science

Alien Invasions—Should We Be Worried?

The latest episode of Sci Fi Science, as usual, has generated e-mails from viewers that I would now like to address:

Question One: You discuss evil aliens that might want to take over the Earth. But can’t the aliens be friendly? 

Answer: Yes. In fact, I personally believe that alien civilizations will be benign, if only because they have had thousands of years in which to work out their differences. We have another program that addresses the possibility that they are friendly. But since we don’t know their intentions, the point of this program was to address the possibility that they might be hostile. 

Question Two: Why would they want to invade the earth? To take our resources? 

Answer: I personally believe that a friendly alien civilization will choose uninhabited planets in the search for resources. Any civilization advanced enough to reach the Earth would also be advanced enough to mine dead, uninhabited planets. Hence, more than likely they will leave us alone. 

Question Three: Why haven’t the aliens announced their presence? If they are friendly, then why don’t they land on the White House lawn? 

Answer: Probably because we are not that significant to them. We are arrogant enough to believe that the aliens will actually want to make contact with us and give us their technology. Maybe we are not on their radar screen, being so primitive. We might have nothing of interest to offer them. 

Question Four: What might their intentions be? If you are deer in the forest, whom do you fear the most: the hunter (with his gun) or the developer?

Answer: The hunter may pose the greatest immediate danger, but actually it is the developer who is the most dangerous from the deer’s point of view. The developer may be kind and benevolent, but the deer might simply get in his way, so the deer must go. Similarly, one danger we may face is a super advanced civilization that is friendly, but views humanity as being in the way. So let’s hope that we do not get in the way of a type III civilization. 

Question Five: When might we make contact? 

Answer: Perhaps sometime in this century. We now have satellites (the Kepler and Corot) specifically designed to find earth-like twins in space. And the SETI project has gotten a huge grant from billionare Paul Allen to expand its radio telescopes at Hat Creek outside San Francisco. So perhaps in this century we might actually receive messages from an alien civilization. But it’s anyone’s guess.


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