Who Speaks for Earth? The Controversy over Interstellar Messaging
The prospect of alien invasion has sent shivers down the spines of science fiction fans ever since H. G. Wells published his classic “The War of the Worlds” in 1897. Drawing on the science of his times, Wells envisioned Mars as an arid dying world, whose inhabitants coveted the lush blue Earth. Although opponents of METI seldom explicitly invoke the spectre of alien invasion, some do believe that we must take into account the possibility that extraterrestrials may mean to harm us. The illustration from Well’s novel shows a Martian fighting machine attacking the British warship HMS Thunderchild.
(credit: Henrique Alvim Correa, 1906, for the novel “The War of the Worlds”)
Should we beam messages into deep space, announcing our presence to any extraterrestrial civilizations that might be out there? Or, should we just listen? Since the beginnings of the modern Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), radio astronomers have, for the most part, followed the listening strategy.
In 1999, that consensus was shattered. Without consulting with other members of the community of scientists involved in SETI, a team of radio astronomers at the Evpatoria Radar Telescope in Crimea, led by Alexander Zaitsev, beamed an interstellar —> Read More Here