A group of scientists have ignored the warnings of Stephen Hawking with plans to reveal Earth’s location to possible alien lifeforms.
The Beacon in the Galaxy (BITG) project appears alarming in more ways than one.
Not only does it contain an unsolicited nude image of a naked man and woman, but it also reveals information about our solar system, DNA and the Arecibo Radio Telescope – which transmitted a message in 1974 to try and scout out any extra-terrestrial life.
In 2015, at the launch of the Breakthrough Listen – a $100 million-funded project to search for intelligent alien communication in the universe – Hawking warned against reaching out to alien life.
He said: “If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilisations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced.”
The cosmologist explained that aliens ‘might not see us [humans] as any more valuable than we see bacteria’.
However, Jamilah Hah, who is involved in the BITG project, disagrees.
She told Newsweek: “Stephen Hawking’s quote is absolutely inspiring and my personal conclusion was that any species capable of understanding and interpreting our message will likely be equally if not more intelligent and wary of our existence.
“Thus, as long as contact is approached with a clear sign of peace, it can be assumed that the hopeful possibilities and discoveries that come alongside communication outweigh the risk.”
The project’s proposed message is written in a binary code made up of mainly 0s and 1s, in a bid to use language which is as universal as possible.
As well as ‘basic mathematical and physical concepts’, the message includes ‘information on the biochemical composition of life on Earth, the Solar System’s time-stamped position in the Milky Way relative to known globular clusters, as well as digitised depictions of the Solar System, and Earth’s surface.’
Co-author of the study and Cambridge University physics and maths student Matthew Chong explained: “Extended from the 1974 Arecibo message and the 1999/2003 Cosmic Call, the main part of this BITG Message contains a new set of graphical information in the form of images and special ‘alphabets’ to represent numbers, elements, DNA, land, ocean, and human, etc., starting by an artificial header and footer that consists of prime numbers.”
While attempts to get in touch with alien life have proven unsuccessful for 150 years, exoplanet Gliese 832 c is thought to possibly be habitable.
Although, as per Science Alert, Hawking warned in his 2016 online documentary series Stephen Hawking’s Favourite Places: “One day we might receive a signal from a planet like Gliese 832 c, but we should be wary of answering back.”
Hawking is part of a growing number of scientists who think intelligent extraterrestrial life isn’t just real, but probably a lot more common than we might assume. But unlike many of his more optimistic scientist-celebrity colleagues, Hawking thinks contact with aliens would probably spell doom for our species.
In fact, he advocates slinking back into the background and keeping our presence in the universe shrouded until we have a better understanding of how to deal with alien affairs.