Messages beamed to aliens amid an international debate over perils


#Alien #Science – Messages beamed to aliens amid an international debate over perils : More than 3,000 messages were beamed toward the North Star today by a powerful radio telescope – and although the exercise was largely symbolic, it serves to revive a debate over whether we should be trying to contact aliens.

Today’s transmission by the European Space Agency’s Cebreros deep-space tracking station in Spain was the culmination of a yearlong effort known as “A Simple Response to an Elemental Message,” spearheaded by Irish-born artist Paul Quast.

With support from ESA and other organizations, Quast and his collaborators solicited 3,775 text-only messages from around the world in response to this question: How will our present environmental interactions shape the future? The 14-minute digital transmission with all those answers was beamed toward Polaris, the North Star, at 8 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. PT).

There’s no evidence that Polaris harbors a habitable planet. Even if the Polarians exist, they won’t get the message until around the year 2450. But if they’re able to pick up today’s message, they’ll already have known about us from a Beatles song that NASA had transmitted toward Polaris in 2008.

Some scientists worry that such attempts to contact E.T. could just get us in trouble, a la “Independence Day.” British physicist Stephen Hawking has been among those warning that it might be “too risky” to alert the rest of the galaxy to our existence.

“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet,” he said back in 2010.

That view resurfaced this August, in a column published by Nature Physics. Physicist Mark Buchanan argued that earthlings should resist the temptation to broadcast powerful signals to the stars. “At worst the consequences could be catastrophic. … At the very least, the idea seems morally questionable,” he wrote.