Starts With A Bang

Afraid of aliens? The science doesn’t back you up (Synopsis)

The crashed X-Files' alien spaceship, used as a promo for season 10 of the show, represents our hopes and fears concerning making contact with an intelligent alien species. Image credit: X-Files / Fox / Rodrigo Carvalho.

“Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.” -Stanisław Lem

One of the questions that’s fascinated humanity since we first began looking up at the night sky is whether or not we’re alone in the Universe. Although we now know of other stars, other planets, and potentially inhabited worlds, we have yet to make contact with another intelligent species. Despite our curiosity, a great many people live in fear that if we did begin communicating with extraterrestrials, it would serve only to announce our presence to a potentially hostile (and more advanced) civilization.

Our fear of aliens, and their potential hostility towards humanity, has driven much of our public sentiment and presentation of extraterrestrial life. Image credit: plaits / flickr​.

No one wants humanity wiped out, of course, but no one wants to bury our heads in the sand and to cease the search for one of the ultimate truths about our Universe. If you take a detailed, logical look at the problem, three possibilities for aliens emerge: they’re uninterested in us, they’re interested and benign, or they’re interested and malevolent. But even if they’re malevolent, they likely pose no danger to us, which you only learn if you put your fears aside and view the situation rationally.

The southern Milky Way as viewed above ALMA is illustrative of one way we search for signals of intelligent aliens: through the radio band. If we found a signal, or if we transmitted a signal that was then found and responded to, it would be one of the greatest achievements in our planet’s history. Image credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi/TWAN (twanight.org).

There’s so much to potentially gain and so little to use, yet some of our greatest minds succumb to fear on this topic. Come take a look for yourself and see what you think!