During the Q&A session after a talk given by Dr. Jill Tarter of SETI in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this week, a member of the audience took the microphone and revealed himself to be a UFO true believer by asking whether SETI could “actually, practically, even if unwittingly, an agent of disinformation” when it comes to the “mountain of factual evidence of contact” with aliens “throughout time, across space.”
The UFO news website Open Minds reports this as a “confrontation” and talks about “accusations” but really, it was a polite (if misguided) question to which Dr. Tarter gave a reasoned and reasonable reply. No confrontation happened, as you can see here:
One of the perennial questions you hear whenever the discussion turns to the subject of encountering extraterrestrial intelligent life is, “Will they be hostile?”
Certainly, if you go by the content of most of the science fiction movies and TV shows out there, the answer seems crystal clear–they are going to raid us, enslave us, exterminate us, eat us, hunt us, experiment upon us, and blow us up. In fact, we’d be lucky to last one day as a species should any aliens drop by Earth unexpectedly.
Of course, drama needs conflict, and a bunch of hostile aliens is just what you need to spice up a movie or TV show. Reality, thankfully, is likely to be much less dramatic, and I would argue that there are very few reasons for believing that a visiting alien fleet would be hostile toward the people of Earth.
I’ve long been a fan of the idea of the space elevator ever since Bradley Edwards published his famous feasibility study, but his elevator is not the only game in town when it comes to alternative systems for launching cargo and people into orbit.
Gizmag has just published an article about the Startram launch vehicle, which is based on the tried and tested magnetic levitation (maglev) propulsion system, albeit amped up to a speed some 50 times faster than the top speed of today’s maglev trains. But unlike the space elevator, which is still awaiting the advent of carbon nanotubes that are strong enough and long enough to be spun into a ribbon thousands of miles long, the Startram system could be built entirely from technology that exists today.
Unfortunately, the clip isn’t terribly informative. The choppy editing doesn’t help, certainly, but he seems a little unprepared and scattered in his comments. Mind you, asking someone what they would say to an alien is kind of like asking how long is a piece of string. What you would say or ask depends very much on the nature of the ETIs and on the circumstances of the encounter.
Welcome to the SETI Blog, the home of rational, considered debate about the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) and what might happen on and after that fateful day we first make contact.
My name is Mike Walker, I’m a software developer and writer living in Austin, Texas. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the notion that there are other intelligent beings somewhere out there in the Universe, and quite possibly somewhere within our own galaxy.
If so, what are they like? How do they think? Is their civilization more advance than ours? What could we learn from them? How do we make contact? Could we ever visit them? The questions are endless and, as yet, the answers are few.
But we sometimes forget how far we have come in just a short time. It is still less than 100 years since Sir Edwin Hubble finally presented conclusive evidence that the Universe was far larger a single galaxy, and yet today we have cataloged over a billion stars, counted more than a million individual galaxies, and have probed the farthest reaches of our vast Universe, almost back to the time of the Big Bang itself.