SETI's Alien Telescope Array (ATA) listens day and night for a signal from space. Credit: SETI

If ET Calls, Would We Be Told?

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

If a verified message from aliens is ever received, would the public be told about it? SETI — the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence – does have an international protocol that if an alien signal is ever received, it would be disseminated among the astronomical community and made public. And of course, says Mac Tonnies at the SETI Blog, “international cooperation might be necessary in order to distinguish a legitimate alien signal from any number of phenomena capable of generating false alarms.” But what if the signal is more than just extra-terrestrials saying hello? Tonnies believes SETI’s plans for full disclosure only makes sense if the message is fairly benign. If the signal was a notice of impending doom from a black hole, supernova, or alien invasion –something we on Earth had little power to do anything about — Tonnies questions whether governments would choose to make such information public. But could something of this magnitude really be kept under wraps?

Frankly, I hadn’t really considered this scenario. When I think about SETI and the possibility of communication with an alien species, I envision, perhaps naively, what Tonnies calls the “lofty, abstract dialogue immortalized by Carl Sagan.” But of course, we have no idea of what any alien intelligence would like to say to us. If it was bad news, would governments of the world elect to withhold the information from the public?

Intrigued by Tonnies’ blog post, I contacted him to ask that question.

“I think it’s a very real possibility that generally goes unspoken,” said Tonnies, an author, essayist and blogger. “In the event of a bona fide signal, the public may only be made privy to part of it. It depends on the content and context of the message.”

Tonnies questions whether governments would elect to gamble with their respective economies and socio-political agendas for the sake of imparting knowledge that might only cause mayhem.

But wouldn’t governments want the people of the world to know so that intellectual resources could be pooled to try to find a solution to the problem? And what about the concept of an alien message bringing the world together?

“I think uniting the people of the world is the last thing governments want,” said Tonnies. “A rush to counter some cosmic threat is likely to have a war-time character, at least among scientists. And this is assuming that the threat we’re being warned about is something that can be acted upon with the technology available to us. If we happen across a generic warning, there’s no promise we’ll have the savvy to do anything about it given our level of development. If that’s the case, why would we expect prompt disclosure?”

Logically, however, it seems unlikely that aliens would call just to tell us we’re doomed. “It’s pretty foolish to expect aliens to conform to our definition of altruism — although I’m drawn to the idea of a ‘Galactic Emergency Broadcast System,'” said Tonnies. “Maybe ETs feel compelled to give less advanced civilizations a “heads up” in the event on some interstellar crisis because we might make for meaningful companionship a few million years from now.”

Maybe I’ve watched too many movies, but I’m still doubtful that an alien message, whether good news or bad, could be withheld from public knowledge. It would be too big, too transformational, too altering an experience not to be shared.

Original News Source: SETI BLog

73 Responses

  1. Victor Sheckels says:

    “I believe life is pervasive throughout the universe, but just as on our planet, the “intelligent” creatures are far outnumbered.”

    That works WITHIN a species too… as we’ve seen…

  2. Yael Dragwyla says:

    Gray Goo Lovechild — I’m not worried about an avalanche of cosmic spam, because I’m already getting that in my email inbox, from completely terrestrial sources. No, the *real* danger is from cosmic *phishing* attempts and those Aldebaranian Scams, you know, “Good day to you, I am by the Grace of God Hakuna Matata, the nephew of the late etc. etc. etc. . . .”

  3. Yael Dragwyla says:

    David Raven Moon tells us where to look: they’re under our noses, crawling across the baseboards and up the wall, along the countertop, looking for food and water — somebody hand me that can of Raid!

  4. Don Alexander says:

    It probably strongly depends on how it is sent. The signal in “Contact” was very powerful, anyone with a decent radio telescope could pick it up. If it’s a laser signal at the 20th magnitude, then it’s something that can be kept secret.

  5. H-town Mack says:

    Something tells me that “they” already know that E.T’s exist. I honestly think they’ll never tell us because too many people would go nuts.

  6. Gray Goo Lovechild says:

    We received the call in 1989. Needless to say, it was a harrowing moment in history. We are here today because of a brave anonymous captain against a villain known only as “CATS”.

    I have the complete transcript:

    Narrator: In A.D. 2101, war was beginning.
    Captain: What happen ?
    Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.

    (spoken in the Flash animation as Someone set up us the bomb)

    Operator: We get signal.
    Captain: What !
    Operator: Main screen turn on.
    Captain: It’s you !!
    CATS: How are you gentlemen !!
    CATS: All your base are belong to us.
    CATS: You are on the way to destruction.

    Captain: What you say !!
    CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time.
    CATS: Ha Ha Ha Ha ….
    Captain!! *
    Captain: Take off every ‘ZIG’ !!
    Captain: You know what you doing.
    Captain: Move ‘ZIG’.
    Captain: For great justice.

  7. Rue says:

    There is another scenario. What if the message is too boring?

  8. Gray Goo Lovechild says:

    What if answering back causes an avalanche of intergalactic spam?

    A thorny question indeed.

  9. OutofOffice says:

    “We are away from the galaxy on vacation in the LMC and will return in …”

  10. Earthbound says:

    The message will say “Hey guys whatever you do, DO NOT ELECT GEORGE BUSH” but will have been a few years late in its million year journey. Doh!

    Really though I think time is a commonly overlooked factor in the question of alien intelligence. It’s only been about a century since we’ve even been able to detect a signal from space, and the timelines we’re talking about for star system and planet formation are just goliath in comparison. I believe life is pervasive throughout the universe, but just as on our planet, the “intelligent” creatures are far outnumbered.

    We’re very concerned about missing a signal from ET, but I think more than likely we’ll be the ones sending signals to deaf ears for a while. Bacteria and fungi don’t quite get the whole electromagnetic spectrum thing.

  11. Crissysdad says:

    Read Charles Stross’s “Accelerendo”. It is the ‘2001. A Space Odyssey” of the early 2000’s.

  12. Robbo says:

    I suspect our own signals have already been duly noted and whatever more intelligent species exist out there in the dark are, wisely, keeping their distance.

  13. Leg3nd says:

    Ok, lets see the universe is 13-15 billions years old the earth is about 4-6 billion years old and modern humans have only been around for a few hundred thousand years….

    Intelligent life could have destroyed its self. Either something done to the planet, Engineered virus, Technology(Nano tech\AI), War or a whole host of other things…..

    Intelligent life might have evolved to a point that this tiny blue dot we call earth is not important enough to take notice.

  14. DavidRavenMoon says:

    Why would we think they would be using radio waves, and that we would have the proper equipment to understand them?

    We can’t even read old formats of computer disks after 30 years!

    SETI is a big waste of time, as they are looking in the wrong place… but that keeps everyone distracted.

    Plus.. we are listening as if someone is sending signals meant to be found.. but are we sending similar signals? maybe they aren’t either!

    Then you have the big issue of how long the signals take to get here. If we do pick up something, they might long be gone by now.

    We need to look closer.. much closer. They are under our noses.

  15. Bridventure says:

    Lets us think outside the Box called English. For instance, how would an Aboriginie communicate with an Eskimo If they were to meet, say, in the Sahara Desert? MInd you … no English.

    Alien signals for sure won’t be in Endlish ;-)) and hence the very basics of HOW TO INTERPRET WHAT IS EXPRESSED needs to be very clearly delineated. This further could lead to various possibilities and conflicting conclusions … GOOD LUCK!!!

  16. Emission Nebula says:


    Yes, SETI is a waste of time. Created when we thought “radio signals” was some great accomplishment.

    For us on Earth it is. But I just dont honestly think that, if there were some highly intelegent species out there, they would be using the same old technology that weve been using for over 50 years.

    And, we have been sending radio signals out to space. Ever since the very first TV broadcast was broadcast, its been flying out into space ever since.

    I dont think anyone will ever hear it though.

  17. RubineBoy says:

    Hello folks!

    Don’t worry … You’re not alone out there! I am currently orbitting your little blue planet. Sorry it took me a while to get here but well … lightyears you know.

    Actually I hoped you guys could help me out. I have a little problem with my flying dish, hehe … I ran out of gas.

    Now … hola! I get a blipblip here! My sofisticated sensors tell me that your mother earth also ran out of gas! Damn … That means I am stuck here.

    Well anyway … Is there anyone out there with a free bed and a glass of water? I think I’ll have to stay here for a while …

    Oh! And don’t forget … Don’t make this conversation public … I hate paparazzi.

  18. kcuhC says:

    If non-Earth intelligent life is discovered or strongly suspected, it will be hidden — if it can be. Then, once the aliens are standing on a street corner, some will still not believe it.

  19. Al says:

    But would we believe it if we did see the message? Look at how many bogus emails we get, how many urban legends are floating around–would we believe a bunch of emails from unknown sources, alledging to be reliable, that we will crash into an asteroid in 50 years or that a Klingon warship is coming to incinerate our planet?

  20. pieropiero says:

    I wish the signal will be in french. Because my english is not so god.

  21. Corey says:

    From the Website:
    “The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to scientific research, education and public outreach.”

    “Institute projects have been sponsored by:
    * NASA Ames Research Center
    * NASA Headquarters
    * National Science Foundation
    * Department of Energy
    * US Geological Survey
    * Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
    * International Astronomical Union
    * Argonne National Laboratory
    * Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
    * David & Lucile Packard Foundation
    * Paul G. Allen Foundation
    * Gordon and Betty Moore
    * Universities Space Research Association (USRA)
    * Pacific Science Center
    * Foundation for Microbiology
    * Sun Microsystems
    * Hewlett Packard Company
    * William and Rosemary Hewlett
    * Bernard M. Oliver
    * And many others”

    They may be receive sponsorship from some government programs such as NASA, but SETI is not controlled by the government.

    Also, the source,, does not seem to be related to the SETI project,, in any way. Does the author have any idea how the SETI program operates? This just sounds like another crazy conspiracy theory.

  22. Assume they are a few million years more advanced than us. They wouldn’t bother to contact us since they would be capable of simulating us so completely, they would know anything we would be likely to do. In such a case its pointless, like playing tic-tac-toe, you know the outcome before you even start. You can plan through all moves. Humans are very predictable.

    If they wanted someone interesting to talk to, they would have created such a creature themselves, as we may perhaps do and call it the son of man 🙂

  23. brent says:

    I second “Joseph H Guth PhD ” thoughts..

    Well said.

  24. jewkesy says:

    Maybe the problem will be trying to detect a genuine message for the interstellar spam.

    “Your alien-wife loves planet-sized bell-rope but the trouble is that you have a small moon.

    Don’t worry! You have wonderful chance to solve this intergalactic trouble.

    This light-year you can enlarge your girth to orbit length.”

  25. Gray Goo Lovechild says:

    G1v3 ur wifee a nu meaning for “ringworld”. Enlarge 4 her pleasure.

    The real problem is that we will never get away from being in the intergalactic boondocks. Our sun is on the outer third spiral of a 100k light year wide galaxy.

    Because of porn and video games, we have doomed ourselves already. There will be no drunken rides into deep space.

  26. TallRod says:

    Why does everyone always assume that life “out there” is way more advanced than we are? In a world/galaxy/universe of infinite possibilities it’s conceivable that we are the most adavanced life form anywhere.

  27. Chris says:

    I don’t see why (almost) everyone is saying that ETs would be so much more intelligent than us. Sci Fi films much?

    Isn’t it just as likely that they could be just as technologically evolved as we are? It just makes sense to me that, since technology based on electromagnetic waves is used to study more sophisticated science (in ther ehere and now, at least), any ET species probably would have developed that technology first too, rather than just jumping straight to somthing more complex.

  28. Chris says:

    Nice, TallRod 🙂

    I guess my page loaded before you commented.

  29. Donut says:

    What is it’s the wrong number?

    “Hi – whoops! – bye!”

  30. Poster says:

    there’s a standing wave in the universe. you should read signals from that carrier, since signals on that wave are up to date.

    but this raises again the question: do we want people to receive messages? go buy coca cola, watch more tv, spend some money.

  31. Bryan says:

    Sure it’s conceivable that we are the most advanced form of life anywhere, just at it is conceivable that there I am really an alien from a world somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse who just stopped by to say hi and offer my two cents. Doesn’t mean it’s particularly likely, though, now does it?

    The assumption that most operate under is not that any life out there is far more advanced than we, but rather, that any intelligent life out there is far more advanced than we. This is simply because we haven’t been at this civilization game for very long, cosmologically speaking. We’ve been sentient for a couple hundred thousand years, whereas it’s wholly plausible that similarly intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe could have arisen millions of years prior to the advent of human civilization, giving them a pretty heft head start.

  32. greg your last name says:

    “what is your favorite color?”

    i can see it now, all over the front pages of the world:


  33. Steve says:

    This is old news. Galactic Emperor Xenu has already come here in his golden DC-8’s.

  34. tontotoo says:

    We also keep assuming that aliens will all be versions of us living on Earth like planets. This is why SETI has failed so far.
    Plus we have only looked at a fraction of the galaxy for brief perionds over most of the time we have started looking. And humans so arrogantly think an alien species is going to contact us in such a short time.

  35. Khyron says:

    Niven’s Theorem: Most species on THIS planet are less adaptable than humans. Some die from circadian rhythm upset, or from the wrong ph drinking water, or can’t reproduce without a certain narrow range of temperatures.

    Imagine an intelligent form of one of them; they can engineer around some of their limitations – like we engineer around our need for a certain atmosphere – but may never be able to travel faster than one of them can walk (due to circadian rhythms.) That’s not even touching on the limitations of aquatic sentients (no fire, thus no refined metals, thus no radio transmitters…)

    We may someday travel to the stars and find thousands of planets with civilizations crippled by biology. We just don’t know how much the odds differ for “intelligent life” versus “intelligent, highly adaptable life.”

  36. ed says:

    All human race should be told specially if the message was of doom.

    In time of crisis is when we give the best of us and mybe we would come up with an idea to save ourselves. That role should not be left alone for astronomers since they are not the ones that will save us, it takes all of us thinking and innovating to do that.

  37. ManicV says:

    “Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.” -Calvin & Hobbes

  38. cd says:

    There may be no one else.
    We are aware of only one planet where life, much less intelligent life, exists. It may much harder for intelligent life to develop than we think.
    And if there are other intelligent beings, would they be in a rush to communicate with us? I ‘m not sure I would be, if I were them.
    Leave us alone. See if we make it out into space. We can’t even go to the moon anymore. See if we can live without mucking up the planet (more). See if we can keep from blowing ourselves up (the Cold War is over but nuclear weapons and stupidity still exist, we are not neccessarily out of the woods yet.)
    They would wait, and watch. At least, until they find out how Battlestar Galactica turns out. >;>}

  39. eivind says:

    If the aliens are as badass as we are, they will communicate only to set us up for harvest in the best way, Most likely they will just show up one day and start munching resources. Cant blame our scientists for not getting that though, they are taught to think we are alll nice and gentle.

    but truth is, if i were the ruler of Planet X wich just was out of water and fuel, id send my ships to the first planet who stuck its bald scientist head out.

  40. Dave Ocame says:

    David RavenMoon and all:

    SETI may indeed be a waste of time, but how can we know that? How do you? We’ve only been listening for~ 40 years and have only covered ~3-4% of the sky, and not even at every wavelength. We don’t just listen at radio. we are also looking in the optical.

    As for what makes us think they are even using radio (or optical)? News flash dudes, it’s what we’ve got to work with. We don’t have sub-space telecoms or whatever. We only have what we have. We can’t use what we don’t have. Trust me, as new technology becomes available, we are using it. Don’t worry. Just sit back and let us do all the work.

  41. Jamie KItchen says:

    Assume they are a few million years more advanced than us. They wouldn’t bother to contact us since they would be capable of simulating us so completely, they would know anything we would be likely to do. In such a case its pointless, like playing tic-tac-toe, you know the outcome before you even start. You can plan through all moves. Humans are very predictable.

    If they wanted someone interesting to talk to, they would have created such a creature themselves, as we may perhaps do and call it the son of man

    I agree. If the past 100 years shows us anything, it is how poor we are at imagining how technology will evolve and how it will affect our development, cultural norms etc.

    Even if the rate of computer development slows by a factor of 4 or 5, we will still have computers hundreds of thousands of times faster than what is curerntly state of the art by the end of this century.

    Bio engineering is just starting and what do we concern ourselves with now?? Aurguments about God, morality etc. In other words, our social and cultueral development lags behind the technology. This is the same screen we use to interpretate what we see. In thousands of years, we will be immortal and have intellectual capabilities many magnitudes greater than we have now along with the greatly advanced way of intereptating what we see as a by product of this development

    Do you think you’re cat ponders what it would be like to have a technology as great as ours?


  42. Five years ago I wrote:

    “…To me, the main goal of our messaging is to bring to extraterrestrials the long-expected message that “You are not alone!”. And if everybody in the Universe would follow this moral goal, than is a hope that someday we shall get a message, too.

    It will not be a reply from our proposed correspondent, but from some other one.”

  43. Genesis says:

    Well, um, like any other group of people, there will be good and bad ET, if they exist at all. After all, space and time are infinite… how could we possibly be alone?

    No doubt they are hovering around the world, watching to either help us or take advantage of our mineral and other resources. Just like we do to other countries. Or maybe both.

    And if they can hover around in space (as i’m sure we can – maybe do – as well) then i’m sure there is probably little we can do to stop them.

    Unless we’re kick ass like in Stargate!

  44. Luis T says:

    It’s all fun and games until the Vogons come rolling in…

    Wouldn’t it be something else if our first contact told us that all we had to do was send CW out into space? Here we are sending laser discs, am, fm, shf, uhf, vhf, ehf, etc radio signals and video, microwave and all other types of signal. But have you ever noticed that the majority of the time the Foo Fighters were around when we had to communicate with CW? There is something about those dots and dashes, hmm…

    Anyway, had they (ET’s) wanted to comunicate it would of happened many times in different places in different ways, not just on a CB saying “Breaker, breaker, what’s your handle big buddy?”

    Have we demonstrated the sofistication required for such a meet? Regardless of our society, I believe the first contact will be based on our display of knowledge and nothing else (Mystery Theatre? Ouch).

  45. Dave Stump says:

    The aliens have been here for some time. They work in carnivals upon first arrival. With more experience they are promoted to Cirque du Soleil.

  46. Gray Goo Lovechild says:

    Tailrod: are you a representative of the Flat Earth Society?

    Hypothesis: We are the greatest living organisms in the universe because…

    –Earth is flat. We are special because we’re on it.

    False. Earth isn’t flat.

    –Ok…Earth is round. But Earth is surrounded by 7 layers of crystal which decorate the heavens(Aristotle) for us, because we’re special.

    False. The sky isn’t made of crystal. Those are other stars and a few nearby planets.

    –Ok… earth has to share the universe with other stars and other planets. But they all revolve around earth because earth is special because it has humans on it.

    False. They don’t revolve around earth.

    –Ok… they have their own systems but everything in our system revolves around us (geocentric model). Furthermore, while those systems have their own central planets, all those systems orbit earth his earth is the center of the galaxy.

    False. Earth is orbiting a star involved in its own orbit around the galaxy.

    –Well, dammit, our star is special. It’s the center of the galaxy. It serves us because we’re special.

    False. Our star system is an intergalactic trailer park on the outer third spiral of a 100,000 light year wide galaxy.

    –I don’t see anybody else. If anybody else could contact us, they would. People need to stop assuming other intelligent life is better than us and wake up to the fact that humans are the best of the best of the best.

    In short, Tailrod, you’re a medieval ignoramus. Thank you for attempting to advance humanity.

    Please try again later.

  47. Joseph H Guth PhD says:

    When Aliens Call

    Regarding the subject of whether an alien message received by a governmental research project would be released to the world’s peoples, none in the current SETI blog discussions ( has addressed the more likely possibility that the message could be one that alerts us to the fact that the aliens themselves are of an aggressive or militant nature or simply looking to conquer new worlds for food sources, additional living space or other needed resources. This has been the most common theme of science fiction since it began over a century ago.

    If a civilization is compelled to develop interstellar space flight, it has an instinct to survive and propagate. If it has those instincts, then it would have developed both defensive and offensive weapons, tools and tactical knowledge just as Man and other life forms on earth have done. Darwinism would be at work anywhere in the universe. If that were the case, we should be holding our right hand out in friendship and reserving our left hand for possible defense with a very big stick. In any case, it has been very imprudent of us to have been broadcasting our presence to the universe over the last 100 or so years through the radio and microwave spectrum without considering and preparing for this possibility. We should be watching any potential alien explorers or conquistadors from a well-concealed location to see what their real intentions are before we attempt to contact them. Only after assurances that they are benign and not bringing any alien infection with them should we actually establish communications and contact with them. Otherwise our world’s civilizations should adopt a stealth defense and be invisible to the rest of the universe.

    It is true that most governments would have more reasons not to share such information with their populations than reasons to actually do “the right thing”. But when have governments ever done the very best for those who live under them? Never. It would be foolish in the extreme if the peoples of the world continued to think that nation identities, national boundaries, national economies, national histories, ethnicities, languages, racial differences, organized religions and other human constructs that keep us divided and at odds and pitted against each other would continue to exist unchanged into the indefinite future. The world is finally crowded enough like an overgrown Petri dish as per Thomas Malthus for globalization to bring down all of these dividers one way or the other. And one of the overriding ideas and needs that most people intrinsically feel is a need to have themselves respected, recognized and their voices heard. That is human nature. That is the underlying psychological reason for the idea of a pure democracy.

    When a group of people come together to live in close cooperation, ground rules must be established. Those ground rules are like Rousseau and Locke’s Social Contract. Each gives up some of their own power of self determination in exchange for a harmonious and just way of working together, enjoying the rewards of joint efforts and balancing their own self-interests against the interests of the greater good. Outlaws and outliers are “culled from the herd” through law enforcement and judicial review. In such a Utopia, all finally gain the maximum benefit of being a part of the greater group’s efforts. Each can specialize in their work and contributions and have access to the same from all others. That is where globalization, education and economic development is directing us to evolve. Wars and mass conflicts will cease once the benefits of peace outweigh the short term gains of continued competition, conflict and conquest. The efforts of the majority would be constructive rather than the historical sad mix of constructive and destructive cycles.

    Population control will be mandated to keep everything in balance with our energy and resource supplies, and with our ability to perform end-product recycling. It will keep Man in balance with his finite living space. But that will only happen if either all of those divisional institutions fall or are cast by the wayside or if a strong enough uniting reason comes from elsewhere. Space is unimaginably immense. Most stars are now thought to have material bodies and planets revolving about them. The laws of probability counsel us to expect that life, and in particular, intelligent life will have sprung up in uncountable numbers of places. The currently developing future-view is that there are limitless numbers of alien races out there and not all of them are friendly. Thus it behooves us to begin working on getting rid of those dividing institutions as quickly as possible to clear the way to our next stage of development, a democratically-run society based on one-world identity, one-world government and one-world economy. National currencies will be replaced by a single world currency that will eliminate the instability of money-changing. Trade between different regions would allow unfettered access to all the world’s different regional needs to be fulfilled. Worldscale projects like freshwater redistribution systems would eliminate droughts, crop failures, and bring industrial development and improved living conditions to the entire planet. We would actually be able for the first time to terraform our own planet with a single development plan. This would teach us how to accomplish that ultimate feat for the time we have to emigrate and colonize new and pristine worlds.

    Knowledge breeds success. Fear and ignorance breeds failure. Education and rational philosophical doctrine are the delivery systems and a peaceful world with the ability to survive, prosper and defend itself from external threats is the prize. It is time we all began to prepare for this eventuality.

  48. Emission Nebula says:

    Dave Ocame,

    I apologize for what I said. When I read this article I had just woke up. And Ive never liked the idea of “radio waves” being the only thing SETI was looking for.

    I hadnt thought it through. Im glad that SETI is using more advanced means, and searching for different things then just radio.

    I guess I said what I said in ignorance of what SETI is actually up to these days.

    I truelly hope SETI finds what its looking for. It would be a great thing indeed.

  49. JLP says:

    Bridventure, we wouldn’t transmit just in English, we transmit in English French German Spanish everything, but they are just standard greetings. What SETI transmits are: prime numbers, mathematical algorithms and …Radio waves. All of which are signs that we are intelligent life.

    We send radio waves because its basic. If we assume that people on other planets are looking for us much in the way we do for them, they are probably looking for radio too… even if their much more advanced.

  50. Teabinge says:

    After a fairly short amount of time, an advanced civilization would ask itself: What if…the others, out there, aren’t nice people?

    And they would develop communication systems that does not result in leakage of “vital” information into space. Maybe they would listen, for instance on us, but not respond.

    That would be the safest thing to do.

    What GOOD would come out of some interstellar communication??

    Even if they would not come to eat us, the impact of such a contact could be rather devastating in a number of ways, foremost psychological-cultural. Our self-esteem would go havoc. We would feel like infantiles and react to that in some contra-productive way.

    How could we ever trust a superior race just because they seem “nice”?? Lots of us would be in grave fear.

    It would be a lot of turmoil and crisis.

    The only probably nice type of contact I can imagine is with a culture that is very much at the same ladder of development as we are, or maybe a bit behind us, in the “1930-1960” range.

  51. William says:

    While not a government program, SETI operates in the same way. Once set up it is self perpetuating in somuch that that it obsorbs vast amounts of money, and at best is not really expected to show any progress. It does give a lot of work to those who otherwise woul be unemployed with very little prospects of gainful employment elsewhere.

  52. ScepticTim says:

    If we accept the assumption that any civilization having gone through the bottle necks of overpopulation, pollution, and overexploitation of natural resources, would develop and keep the habit of moderation, one can assume that the universe could be filled with very advance star faring civilizations and the reason we don’t see a trace of them is because they are a bunch of immortal tree hugging hippies.

  53. marcellus says:

    The people that think SETI is a waste of time remind me of the Global Warming fanatics. They are just sitting around waiting for the end to come. In effect, they are already dead.

    Get out there. Live your life. If you think global warming is real, plant some trees (a lot of trees) to absorb carbon dioxide. If you think the future is real, look for confirmation of that in the radio spectrum of the skies.

    SETI is NOT a waste of time. Believing in gloom and doom is.

  54. Emission Nebula says:

    “Immortal tree hugging hippies”?

    So theyll live forever hugging trees? lol 🙂

  55. ringo says:

    Hello, open your eyes.. they hd already contact us,,, have you heard of Crop circles?
    look on youtube for you think men are actually doing this…?

  56. Kevin M. says:

    If there are more intelligent species, then they already know we are here, and are clearly avoiding contacting us directly, which would only harm us.

    Can encountering someone far less or far more developed than us really be considered “contact”, or just domination or exploitation?

    Someone on our own level would be the only peoples worth “contacting”, and it will then occur to us that they are just more people like ourselves.

    Advancement of any society must involve a long-term development of an “ethics of contact” for handling encounters with less-developed peoples.

    Meanwhile, the reality of scale which we are slowly grasping is that we are too far away from anything to travel or even pick up the rarest of signals. We may soon grasp that space exploration is largely futile and unaffordable,

    If we do pick up a “signal” it will be controversial and take us centuries to decipher, much less respond to.

    Based on our current progress, it seems that we will have to expand very far before we can reasonably expect any meaningful contact. We may well colonize our own corner of the galaxy before that happens.

  57. Toolman59 says:

    The political pond life that we are cursed with would be sure to screw it up somehow. If they told me that the Pacific ocean contained saltwater, I would still want a second opinion from an independent source.

  58. rpdelgado says:

    Hello all,

    Where can I download the image above (VLA), in a higher resolution ?

    Thank you all.

  59. alokmohan says:

    I hope ETs speak in bengali.

  60. Teabinge says:

    Any sane civilization would HIDE fron potential alien nazis.
    I would not be surspised if some out there are listening to our radio transmissions, judging us to better be unresponded to.

    This greedy, violent, immature race of homo sapiens could possibly in a few centuries or millenia pose a threat to other civilizations (if they exist).

  61. I would like to repeat — it is the “childhood disease” in SETI & METI to talk profusely about

    “If ET Calls, Would We Be Told?”

    We must become aware of huge distances (and propagation delay) in the Universe and thus single-channel communication!

    All our and ETI’s transmissions are principally monologues, not dialogues…


  62. Rapax says:

    I seriously doubt that ‘governments’ would have any saying about it getting out or not. After all, the guys working on SETI are mainly scientists, and not just any scientists, but mostly those who chose this particular calling because they honestly love the subject (it’s pretty hard to get into that field, and once you do, it’s not very well paid). As true scientists, the vast majority of them have a strong natural aversion to secrecy. Free distribution of information is one of the basic pillars of successful research. Add to that fact that the work is fairly complex, not something just any governement or military layman can ‘take over’. The guys working on this are pretty much the only ones that CAN do it. And finally, any signal will not be recorded by a single location, scientist or team, but rather will have to be pieced together by many teams working from several countries around the world.
    I think it’s rather safe to assume that it would be all over teh intarwebs before any three letter agency could react.

  63. alphonso richardson says:

    I bet,given current attempts to contact ‘ET’ we’d get the answering service – in several milion years time.
    No-one would be around to call them back.

  64. QED says:

    I think it is a good thing to think positive about all posibilities ….
    As a matter of fact I run a SETI distributed processing program thru BOINC on my little insignificant computer , along with 23 or so other BOINC projects which are related to ;
    Protein folding , Cancer research, Cosmology , Climatology and Global warming, Cryptography, Artifical Intelligence, Astronomy, Pulsars, Milky Way, Mathematics search for prime numbers , Orbit …which will search for Earth like planets etc.
    Think positive and don’t always be a complainer or a Couch Potato….Try to avoid negative people but , because you too are a child of the Universe , consider and listen to everyone because even the Dull and Ignorant have something to say …its just that it takes a little time to figure out who the dull and ignorant really are.
    We probably are not edible to these Aliens who wish to communicate with us any way so show a little trust. It very well may be that many of them have listened to us and have determined that we are dull and ignorant and are avoiding us…If this is the case we must prove ourselves to them by our future actions , for example by not being warlike or seeming too deranged like some of our leaders and politicians.
    Just a random thought … not a sermon.

  65. Lionel says:

    While Ive read most of the post, there are a few things one must consider. 1: Our galaxy alone has about 300 to 400billion stars(more or less), about 270 planets outside our solar system has been discovered and still counting and these are just gas giants with one possible planet or two that shows some promise as being a class M type planet. So the idea that we are alone is rather idiotic and egocentric on humanities part.
    2: Why does a more advance civilization have to be millions of years ahead of us, Im quite certain that a civilization 100 to 1000 years ahead of us should have amazing technology and whether you want to admit it or not, I believe that US humans will be on the verge of a new revolutionary technology or technologies that will be available to us, notice I said revolutionary NOT evolutionary!!
    3: Its quite possible that SETI may, and I emphasize the word MAY pick up radio/optical signals with other civilizations that are technologically similar to us to a certain degree more or less..but I suspect that more advance civilizations are most likely using a technology in communications that is entirely different and based on physics (ie: like wormholes, hyperspace, etc) that we only have theories on but as of yet, not capable of engineering/building such an apparatus.
    4: My hunch is that we will SEE a class M planet waaay before we even pick up a signal, if such a planet has a civilization, they should be able to pick it up studying its atmospheric content (provided the alien technology is sufficient enough to leave pollutants in its atmosphere) WE will SEE proof of other civilizations by telescopic observation more so that SETI and perhaps a heck of a lot safer, for now.

  66. someguy says:

    Heres my favorite idea of a signal based on the spam hypothesis.

    “Would you like to increase the size of your glognor?”

    Glognor is what aliens call there male reproductive thingy. Get it? lol.

  67. auntiegrav says:

    You said, “Maybe I’ve watched too many movies, but I’m still doubtful that an alien message, whether good news or bad, could be withheld from public knowledge. It would be too big, too transformational, too altering an experience not to be shared.”

    To me, this is similar to the argument that the government is too incompetent to keep secrets about UFO’s or flying triangles or “gasp!” extraordinary renditions or drug smuggling to pay for covert operations. The can, they do, and they will continue to hide many major things from the public eye.

    SOMEONE got us to the moon. It wasn’t the politicians, the newspapers, or the PR reps. It was hard working, extremely capable and intelligent people who work in government agencies and government contractors. They have only gotten better at hiding things, not worse. The things we see falling out of the information portal to the newspapers are rare and minor. Especially here in the U.S., where news is a joke and investigation is a theatrical production to appear lawful. Nothing important in the government gets done through proper ‘channels’, and nothing important will be presented to the public unless the System of systems falls apart for lack of money.

    If we are looking and believing in an electromagnetic spectrum -based universe, but it turns out the universe is really 99% in a different form or spectrum, do you think anyone that has gone through our schools would find that other universe? If our schools and our food make us stupid and lazy, how would we know?
    If ET calls us on an aether-phone, how would anyone from the 20th century onward ever hear them? The aether doesn’t exist, remember?
    Check your premises.

  68. String says:

    Hi, have produced this video which looks at an exhibition studying Alien life. The exhibition is concerned with the forms in which aliens may take, and the lack of imagination and scientific thinking seen in media

    You can check the video out here:

  69. MoJo says:

    thanks for the news

  70. Funny Quiz says:

    i personally think we wouldnt be informed that they have mechanisms prepared to inhibit us from knowing

  71. DavidRavenMoon says:

    Marcellus, I don’t believe in doom and gloom. And by the way, trees only absorb CO2 during the day.

    You like to jump to conclusions, don’t you? That’s called a knee-jerk reaction.

    And for the record, I’m glad to see that SETI is using more than just radio. I was even part of the SETI at home thing for quite a while.

  72. william says:

    The more important half of the “Ethics of Contact” is the ethics observed or ignored by the alien visitors themselves.

    The Declaration of Human Sovereignty is an example of the rights the need to be honored by any ethical visiting extraterrestrials.

    Marshall Summers’ perspective on the Ethics of Contact is very important to the discussion. He spoke directly to this issue at the 2006 MUFON International Symposium:

  73. Jessica says:

    I am writing about this very cosmic conspiracy theory this new blog called What in the Universe that just launched on the Science Channel’s website:

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