The Technocracy column "Why send naked pix to space aliens?" asserts that we, as human beings, quite naturally wonder if there is intelligent alien life somewhere in the universe. It is only natural to wonder if one is alone; it is part of the human condition, part of what drives us to create, to innovate and to educate ourselves. We see a fence – and we wonder what is on the other side. We see a door – and we wonder what lies within. We look up into the incredible, endless depths of space – and we wonder what could be out there, stretched across a vista that is incomprehensibly eternal. Contemplating such mind-bending mystery, we often turn to God and wonder if the answers might lie there.
It's just possible God has seen fit to create worlds like our own. Astronomers, the National Monitor reports, think they've found a solar system that bears multiple planets the size of Earth. "While studying four years of data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft," writes Justin Beach, "researchers found planets orbiting Kepler-444. The star is 117 light years from Earth and 25 percent smaller than our own sun. According to the researchers it is also 11.2 billion years old and has five Earth-size planets." The planets are ancient and orbit their sun very closely, making them unlikely candidates to host life. But as Beach points out, the discovery raises some interesting questions.
"Our own solar system is 4.5 billion years old, and our civilization is less than 12 thousand years old," Beach goes on. "We now know that other stars have been generating planetary systems for billions of years before ours got started. That also means that life and civilizations have had billions of years longer to evolve in other places. If that is the case, where are they? After all, our relatively young civilization is already exploring real estate opportunities on Mars."
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In other words, if we're already knocking on our neighbor's metaphysical doors, with our relatively young civilization, worlds as old as those found by the Kepler spacecraft present many more opportunities for life to evolve and to reach out to the stars. Quite possibly these civilizations seek the same answers that we, in our naiveté, so recklessly hunt among the heavens. It is just possible, with all the messages we beam into space, with all the searching we do of the stars, that one of those alien civilizations has answered us.
And that could mean we're in big trouble.
Until (perhaps) recently, the discovery of alien life was the purview of science fiction. There is a good reason that so much of our science fiction depicts pitiless aliens wiping out our planet and killing its inhabitants. As I've said before in this very space, we have no grounds on which to assume aliens would be any wiser, any more prone to deep and abiding insights into the nature of existence, or any more desirous of harmonious coexistence than are we. For that matter, if the aliens are more advanced, it would be pretty damned stupid of us to act as the traveling Amway salesmen of the universe, beaming our address and phone number into the galaxy and asking that people we don't know stop by for lunch. If science fiction has taught us anything, it is that when the talking apes from the future land on the beach in their space capsule, you should help them out of the spaceship – and immediately murder them. They don't have your interests at heart, and neither do the visiting space aliens. It's a cookbook, as the old saying goes. If they have to tell you they come in peace, they probably don't.
Now the first alien signal has been overhead "live." As Rob Waugh writes, "A mystery 'alien' radio signal from space has been captured 'live' for the first time by radio dishes here on Earth – but the source is still unknown. Astronomers have speculated the signals could come from evaporating black holes, or even from distant alien civilizations. The high-energy radio bursts last for just a few milliseconds, but their sources are thought to emit as much energy in that time as the Sun does in an entire day." Unlike previous transmissions, which were discovered long after they occurred, this one was recorded as it happened. So is it a signal? Is it space noise? Is it another alien civilization trying to get our attention?
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According to Business Insider's Andy Kiersz and Jessica Orwig, a mathematical formula called the Drake Equation estimates the number of intelligent civilizations we could conceivably detect or communicate with. Many of the variables in the equation represent things we simply cannot know at this time. "The total number of civilizations that we calculate relies very heavily on our assumptions," conclude Orwig and Kiersz. "Our optimistic estimates suggest a fairly crowded galaxy, with around 140,000 species like us living in the Milky Way. Turn the inputs down a couple orders of magnitude, as we do in our pessimistic assumptions, and life is so rare that only around 1 percent of galaxies like our own will be likely to host even one complex civilization. ... The Kepler mission and other planet searches have made it pretty clear [however] that planets themselves are common in our galaxy. There are even 47 exoplanets that have been dubbed potentially habitable due to their similarity to Earth."
If we are lucky, the transmissions we have overheard are anything but deliberate communication. If we are lucky, we are alone in the universe. If we are lucky, there is no one on the other end of the noise, no one to come to look, and no one to whom we will be forced to explain ourselves for our galactic queries. No matter how optimistic we are when we look to the stars, there is no reason to assume space aliens will treat us any better than more advanced human societies have treated their less advanced brothers and sisters throughout history. If other-worldly life has indeed come knocking, we would do well to hide under the bed. It would be best if the aliens ignored Earth, believing nobody was home to receive them.
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