Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Coming Alien Invasion

Apparently in their spare time NASA scientists and university astrophysics professors like to speculate on alien invasions (while also rehashing sci-fi plotlines). That's the one conclusion to draw after seeing this story about a new report: "Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis", published by NASA's Shawn Domagal-Goldman and researchers from Penn State University, though Domagal-Goldman was quick to point out that he was doing this in his spare time and that the report was not an official NASA study.

The authors say that global warming might serve as a sort of interplanetary “welcome” mat – that any extraterrestrial intelligence (or ETI for short) monitoring the Earth would be able to detect the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, infer that it was the result of industrial processes and further infer that this indicated that we Earthlings were reaching a critical level of development that would suddenly warrant the ETI's attention. What that attention would be is the subject of the 33-page report, which at times reads like a compendium of sci-fi plots. One option is that the ETIs could take a beneficial tack, offering to use their superior technology to help us solve Earth-wide problems, like famine, which is in part the plot of the excellent Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man” (which if you have never seen, you should do so immediately). On the other hand, the authors warn, that ETIs may see us as a potential threat to galactic order and may decide to try to destroy us now before humankind achieves the technology to travel beyond Earth in any meaningful way, which is roughly the plot of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Star Trek: First Contact, and a host of other movies.

The authors go on to make the rhetorical leap that the potential for an alien invasion should be reason enough for us to get a handle on greenhouse gas emissions, stating that: “these scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets,” since, according to the authors, the Earth would not be able to resist a large-scale alien invasion.

Apparently they never watched Independence Day.
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