WANTED: An intelligent life form to meet the aliens
Remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure, how amazingly unlikely is your birth. And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space, ‘cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.
Well, except for some astoundingly bright people who do things such as theorise about dark matter and the existence of the Higgs Boson field and who develop fascinating things like the Drake Equation.
One of those enormous and overactive brains belongs to British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell – a tracker of quasars, and discoverer of pulsars.
Dr Bell Burnell reckons we could run into intelligent life in the next century, and she says we need to get ready.
She told the Euroscience Open Forum conference in Dublin:
I do suspect we are going to get signs of life elsewhere, maybe even intelligent life, within the next century. How well prepared are we? Have we thought of how we approach them? Should we put them in a zoo, eat them, send in GIs to bring them democracy?
Her assumption we would have that much control over the encounter is quaintly reassuring.
There are other people who’ve spent a lot of time thinking about First Contact, including the folks at SETI – the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Their senior astronomer Seth Shostak reckons we’ll make contact by 2025 – probably through their computer processing information from the sky, rather than through someone stumbling across a bass beat through headphones, a la Jodie Foster - and he says at this stage no one is in charge of what happens next.
Oh, there may be a black ops unit at the CIA with a dusty folder containing instructions on how to kill them with the common cold. And surely some tinfoil hat wearers at Roswell are practising how to say ‘Take me to your leader’ in the universal language of mathematics.
But it appears Earth, as such, hasn’t got a plan for what canapés and cocktails to serve at the first intergalactic dinner party.
Even if we did, the fact we still don’t have peace in the Middle East probably shows we’re not that good at dealing with awkward social situations.
It seems likely the US would hustle to take the lead. And Barack Obama wouldn’t be a bad ambassador for homo sapiens – assuming it’s still him in power. It might be George Bush IV, who’d come out slinging guns and shouting in English, possibly sparking the deployment of a Death Star.
You wouldn’t really want Kim Jong-un on the case, although his delightful sounding girlfriend could possibly charm them with a rendition of ‘Excellent Horse-Like Lady’.
If Australians were to join a global party, Skype-ing across the galaxy, whose face would be best to beam into an alien lounge room?
Unless it all happens very quickly, Julia Gillard is probably out of contention. If 2025 is the first hypothetical playdate, it’s more likely to be a post-precocious Roy Wyatt heading up the Australian team.
Or should we steer clear of politicians altogether? Maybe Dame Edna Everage’s plumage would be an acceptable vision of other life. Or we could get Bindi Irwin to destroy their brains with automaton cheerfulness. Or that annoying Alice on Masterchef could communicate with them using undergraduate theatre games.
We’ve come a long way since Carl Sagan first designed the Pioneer Plaques (below) to go on the Pioneer 10 in case it was found by an extraterrestrial civilisation. He went with a man and a woman – nude and perfectly defoliated – the man brandishing his opposable thumb. This was to be our first communication with ET.
The world has changed since then. How, now, should we present ourselves to an alien race?
Maybe we could talk to them on Twitter: @ToryShepherd
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