By Laura Shin
Posting in Environment
Not convinced we need to curb greenhouse gas emissions? Well, maybe you should do it to prevent the little green men from destroying us all.
This story has been updated with new information. See author's note at bottom.
Scientists propose that we curb our greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent aliens from blowing us up.
The researchers argue that if extraterrestrials detect the alarming rate at which our atmosphere is changing due to the incredible amounts of carbon dioxide we spew into it every year, they may decide to eliminate us in order to prevent the damage to Earth from worsening.
I wish I could call this a modest proposal, but it seems to be an earnest one.
I'm all for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to keep Earth's climate suitable for human habitation, but even I find their ideas far-fetched.
Let's take a look at their argument.
Potential types of alien contact
In Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis (pdf), two scientists at Pennsylvania State University and one scientist who is a post-doc in NASA's Planetary Science Division explore three potential types of contact with aliens: beneficial, neutral and harmful.
The 33-page paper depicts some scenarios of beneficial contact: One is that the aliens advance our knowledge and help us solve global afflictions like hunger, poverty and disease. Another is that interplanetary travelers help us fend off an attack from other space invaders.
The neutral scenarios involve situations in which aliens hide from or cannot communicate with us.
The harmful scenarios are a bit more dramatic: ET and his brethren could attack us, enslave us, eat us or spread alien diseases among us or among crucial food species. They could also conduct an apocalyptic physics experiment that makes part of the galaxy uninhabitable.
Protecting ourselves from 'green' aliens
To prevent these disasters from occurring, the scientists recommend that we refrain from sending signals into space, particularly broadcasts that contain information about our biological makeup. After all, Martian aggressors could use such info to create weapons of mass destruction.
The researchers also say that we should be careful not to get the aliens' environmental hackles up. The extraterrestrials could become especially suspicious of humanity because our rapid expansion is a threat to other species. They might annihilate us in order to save other life forms on Earth from going extinct.
The researchers write:
A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilization may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI [extraterrestrial intelligence] because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions.
The authors also suggest that environmentally minded little green men might decide to "save Earth" by killing humans and that we should stop climate change to prevent them from doing so -- which would make sense if it weren't for the high probability that climate change will wipe us out long before aliens make their way here.
The researchers conclude their paper saying that even if we never make contact with aliens, analyzing these scenarios is still useful for imagining the future of humanity. I, for one, wholeheartedly agree and am so glad scientists spend their time on this instead of -- oh, I don't know -- stopping the catastrophic effects of climate change.
via: The Guardian
UPDATE, 3:30pm ET: The researcher affiliated with NASA released a sheepish statement saying that his work on this paper has nothing to do with his employer:
So here’s the deal, folks. Yes, I work at NASA. It’s also true that I work at NASA Headquarters. But I am not a civil servant… just a lowly postdoc. More importantly, this paper has nothing to do with my work there. I wasn’t funded for it, nor did I spend any of my time at work or any resources provided to me by NASA to participate in this effort.
There are at least a hundred more important and urgent things to be done on any given work day than speculate on the different scenarios for contact with alien civilizations… However, in my free time (what precious little I have), I didn’t mind working on stuff like this every once in a while. Why? Well, because I’m a geek and stuff like this is fun to think about.
Unfortunately, there is not enough time for fun. Indeed, I felt guilty at times because this has led to a lack of effort on my part in my interactions with Seth and Jacob. Beyond adding some comments here or there, I did very little for the paper.
But I do admit to making a horrible mistake. It was an honest one, and a naive one… but it was a mistake nonetheless. I should not have listed my affiliation as “NASA Headquarters.” I did so because that is my current academic affiliation. But when I did so I did not realize the full implications that has.
Whoops! For more on the backstory, check out this Houston Chronicle blog post.
Aug 18, 2011
I guess some people feel that they must let their mind wander. Seems to me that it would be better to work on something positive rather than contribute a lot of baloney, messing up the universe. with baloney bits. I mean, all of this is going out in messages taking up memory space, some people are probably printing it up to show their friends and relatives (more pollution). I seriously don't think that we need such a thing.
"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 (Bill Watterson)
If the aliens have FTL capability, then we stand a chance of their being benevolent. From what we know about physics, FTL capability isn't likely. Which means they come here, it's a one way trip. And nobody would come this far one way without planning on it being a colonization venture. Which means competition for resources. Which means war, and whomever wins wipes out the losers. Since they came here, and are in space, they have the technological advantage AND the high ground. Odds are we'd lose, fast and badly. Biggest reason I know of to support ALL space exploration, development, energy, and propulsion technologies; governmental, corporate, and private. Otherwise, we're likely to all end up like the TaÃno. Gone.
Preposterous. If little green men exist they would be more concerned with us not destroying our planet. If we kill ourselves off we are less of a long term threat to them. Why on earth would they wish to punish us for doing the job for them?
Hello, Public. How many of you actually read this paper? The WHOLE thing? Do you realize that the media jumped on what amounted to a few paragraphs of 28 page paper on beneficial, harmful, and neutral scenarios of encounters with other life in the universe? This isn't fringey bullshit science. This is something people think about and do research on, in a field called Astrobiology (or Exobiology.) These people ARE educated in Earth's natural history (as someone below assumed they were not.) Exploring the possibilities of things like microbes on mars does eventually lead to questions and pondering about other types of life elsewhere in the universe. Just because something does not have an immediate concrete use, does not mean it isn't valuable. Also, it's quite easy to complain about forgotten details after the fact, when someone else has done all of the footwork. Don't agree with this paper? Great! The scientific process suggests that you write up your own paper with your own expertise and submit it to a journal as a rebuttal. I should not "Google" the coverage of this article anymore because it makes me far too angry. My advice to you: read the paper first. It is YOU, the public, who are not thinking, rather than the scientists. The purpose of this paper was apparently lost on most of you. You, who live in a highly literal world and live a reactionary sheeplike existence. Of course, an alien encounter may be very unlikely. It may not be. Regardless, this is a philosophical exploration of what it might mean for humanity and our place in the universe if other life was discovered. This paper is an independent, unfunded project of three friends that they did in their very limited free time who wanted to propose an interesting idea to what now appears to me to be a humanist, self absorbed, simple minded society. So much for curious thought experiments that might help usher in a perspective shift. The anti-intellectual sentiment in the world today greatly disturbs me. I find it even in circles where I would least expect it.
I would hope that any species capable of figuring out the technology/science behind travelling millions of miles, millions of light years to come to our planet would also be equally as capable of having mastered solar/neutrino-powered self-replicating nanotechnology to such a degree that they can use our planet's primary power-sources (the sun, neutrinos, radioactive decay from our core, simple background radiation) to supply them the energy necessary to break our planet's materials down to their base properties (protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks-even further down if so their science prove this to be the case) and recombine them in anyway they see fit to do so. Such that, they can not only change our atmosphere and/or our planet into any shape form or function that they desire, but also do so in such a way that whatever condition they may come to said planet (ours in this case) and find it in, any readjustment from that base condition is seen as a mere inconvenience, and not one worth of intervening on previous to this terraforming. Basically, I think we aren't even comparable to an 'ant hill in africa' to butcher the line from the movie Contact. Thus, no sleep lost here.
Which aliens? What about the aliens who live on a colder planet that need a warmer planet to grow their food, as in "Teenagers From Outer Space"?
The very worst man-made global warming scenarios won't raise the earth's temperature more than it was during the time of the dinosaurs. We might not survive (possibly a good thing), but life surely will. Where were these aliens 65 million years ago when a meteorite took out the dinosaurs and most life on earth? Where were the aliens 250 million years ago when the formation of Pangea caused massive volcanism, the release of greenhouse gases far exceeding anything we can do today, and the near total extinction of all life on earth? Where were they when when the earth turned into a snowball? Where were they 2.5 billion years ago when cyanobacteria showed up and started churning out oxygen, killing all previous life on earth? Just what life do they favor, anyway? It amazes me that someone could reach the lofty status of post-doc and not have a clue about the natural history of our earth. Just what do they teach in graduate school? If they guys are so over-specialized that they don't have time for basics, just what good are they????
Mankind should construct an environmentally friendly starship powered by aneutronic fusion that does not produce any kind of radioactive waste to prove to aliens that humanity can be very neat and civilized. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSkxPghXTCg
The earth is enduring it's 5th or 6th Mass extintion right now. It will survive with or without Humanity. After all we Have only been around in our homosapien form for less than 100,000 years. Not enough time to blink an eye in cosmic terms. There is evidence albeit circumstantial going back to the dawn of our history, of extraterestrial visitations and interactions. There are a substantial quantity of recent on going reports. I think it is about time we started considering what are the possible benefits an adanced race of being could extract from us. Interstellar travel though impossible for us right now. May well be simple and not overly expensive, to a race +- 1000 years ahead of us. After all what is a mere 1000 years cosmically speaking ? Science fiction a few years ago is now science fact. Imagination is able to span the Universe and has no limits. Go for it. the time is always NOW!
Science, Physics and math, along with spiritual and philosophical writings all point to a reality that is far different than the reality of what we see and believe we are interacting with. Without getting into specifics, there is a large body of thought based upon the premise that we are replicating ecosystems, with identical foundations, going in and out, infinitely. This means that we as human beings are part of our ecosystem, have ecosystems within us and are part of larger ecosystems. Given the knowledge we have in science and medicine, and using the premise of ecosystems referenced above, it is not a very far leap to agree with the authors conclusion. I am going to use cancer as the example since most everybody understands this to a degree. In the simplest terms a cancer cell is a cell that has lost its ability to communicate (science has discovered that cells, bacteria, etc. speak languages and communicate). In doing so cancer replicates without regard to the body, its support system. Ultimately if cancer is not put in check, it kills the body. Our current most popular line of defense right now is to destroy the cancer cells in order to save the body. Human beings are the cells in the body of humanity, and one of the many parasites that lives off of the earth. The earth, in essence, would then be considered an important component that is comprised of cells that makes up an organ or some other part of this larger body. So for discussion sake let's think of the earth as the liver of the larger ecosystems body. We as human beings could very easily be considered a cancer to planet earth, as we multiply and destroy more and more of our supporting ecosystems. Using the premise that the foundations of all ecosystems are identical (not in appearance but in structure) then it is not a far leap to believing that the destruction of the earth by human beings could be life threatening to this larger body, just as liver cancer would be life threatening to the human being. This larger body may not have the ability to communicate directly to us, just as we do not have the ability to communicate with the cells and organs in our bodies (science is working on this too!). When a human being's cancer reaches a certain point there are symptoms that send that person to the doctor, who in turn may order up chemo therapy. Similarly global warming may be a cancer symptom in the larger ecosystem and its doctor may order up it's version of chemo therapy: "Destroy the cancer (human beings) to save the body." Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one...Albert Einstein
Come on- this is nothing more than a restatement of the plotline from the recent remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still". This is hardly original. The only reason that I can think of even posting such clearly speculative AND non-original "information" is to advance a global cooling-global warming climate change (or whatever it's called today) agenda. This is not to say that I don't agree that human CO2 and other noxious gas production does, in some way, contribute to the problem- the only debate is what PERCENTAGE of the change is caused by human activity and whether or not that percentage is significant enough to warrant exteme reduction solutions that could further sabotage our global economy, which is also rather fragile, at the moment. It's garbage like this that helps discredit VALID arguments proposing reduction of CO2 and other emissions
"Star Trek IV" was about an alien race that was about to kill off people for killing all the hump backed whales. There are other stories beyond this that are presented as cautionary tales. Cautionary tales are a good way to learn a lesson without suffering the consequences in the tale. Roger Zelasny wrote a story called "Today, We Choose Faces". The story is about conservation with a twist, the aliens are already here but are using the humans to terraform earth to match conditions of their home planet. Humans were like yeast, producing waste products beneficial to the aliens and expected to die after the atmosphere changed. This would be a fourth possible alien interaction in addition to the beneficial,neutral and malevolent forms of possibilities. While the idea of being wiped out by aliens for messing up our planet has low probablility, it is still good to use this idea to look at ourselves dispassionately. We have already done this, it is called fiction or science fiction.
or for NASA. The original article in The Guardian has the following at the end "This article was amended on 19 August 2011. The subhead said the report was "for Nasa". This has been corrected." The factual content and quality of articles on SmartPlanet keeps going down like the stock market...
Holy crappy article Batman! This is the dumbest thing I've EVER seen on Smart Planet. I think Laura should look for a new job.
Well, one good thing about this article is that it makes it fairly easy to pinpoint some of the fraud, waste and abuse in NASA.
What would be the percentage of greenhouse gasses generated by us compared to that generated by active volcanoes 10% to the volcanoes 90%????? The only greenhouse gasses we should be concerned about is that generated by the cigarettes of - uh, herbal nature - smoked by these scientists while they are being paid astronomical salaries to actually THINK!
I kept waiting for the punchline but then I realized it must have been a serious post. There are so many great ideas NASA could/ should be working on. Some of them might be considered far out, like space elevators and orbiting solar panels. This kind of fantasy "research" however does enhance NASA's reputation very much. It is no wonder that powerful corporations that have heavily invested in defeating climate change legislation can convince so many people that all the research is baseless and merely scare-mongering.
I'm praying that Brooklyn Decker actually came from an alien race as a scout...and that she sent back a good report...and that the rest of her all female alien clones are on their way right now! But, that's probably as likely as the scenario you just "reported."
once more that this is the most pathetic website on the internet! I've yet to see even one article with any meat to it, and this is just plain ludicrous! I pray you didn't get paid for this..............
The locust aliens come to use up all the resources but the green aliens save the day by killing all the locust aliens
...that NASA has reorganized its priorities: "Muslim Outreach" and "Threats from Alien's Due to Global Warming". And then they wonder why the taxpayers have lost interest.
Yes, I agree! You have just made me smile. Thanks. Bill Watterson has a lot of unrecognized wisdom indeed!
I congratulate you for probably being in the minuscule percentile who has both the attention span and intelligence to actually read a paper before going off into wild speculations about it. Apparently my 90% estimate does in fact hold true ... lol I may have been too conservative actually, hmm...
Most people like to prove themselves by waving small pieces of paper about, either money, or some educational certificate. The sad fact is that just because someone has either of those, very rarely means they have any form of wisdom at all. It is my opinion that at least 90% of humanity is woefully inadequate at common sense and capable thinking. 9% invents everything, and 1% controls the rest. So much for "equality". If aliens did come here, they would have a reason; most likely for resources. Water is cheap, it is everywhere, so is most metals, and others elements. What do we have here, that is NOT easily found elsewhere. That is what they would be coming here for. Well, we have cheap labour, abundant genetic material, plant life, and many ecosystems that can be studied and experimented upon. Hopefully if they did come here, they would try to educate us before doing something radical. Humans are very quick learners. If you gave us any technology, we would adopt it within 20 years and start to improve upon it; no matter how far advanced it was. We are only now ( in the last 10 years) reall making large and steady strides in molecular and materials science. We are just starting within the the realms of creating molecules and substances for specific needs and with nanoscale engineering.
As for Your question about where the aliens were 65 million years ago: They were here resqueing the mammals from extinction, and brought them back 1209 years later to repopulate the earth. You seem to miss the whole point: we make hundreds of species go extinct every year because on our ignorance and carelessness. We do not have to do that. If I was an alien and saw what humanity is doing to this planet I might make some "cleanup" plans as well. It's not just about global warming, that's just a tiny fraction of what we do wrong. It's about destroying, killing, ruining, polluting etc. And we do it on purpose.
Why go back millions and billions of years? We know there is also a 25,000-year earth cycle. We know the earth' ecological balance must stay in balance. Man???s actions is changing this balance. We may not by our own actions create the temperatures you mentioned, but that is not the problem. Our actions are changing the climate, faster than if nature itself would have made these changes. This is the problem; some people stick their heads in the sand not to see the problem for the sake of the almighty dollar and self-gratification they can get today. ???I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.??? Tomorrow may be too late!
Take it one step further. We are the product of a super-race of beings. As we treat cattle and other species claiming ownership so they may look upon and treat us in kind. If we've outlived our usefulness and/or the experiment is concluded, it's time to say bye bye. Physicist Michio Kaku is fond of saying that ETs may simply want to "pave over" this part of the galaxy for some mega-project they have in mind, and if we're in the way that's too bad for us. Think twice before you step on that anthill.
We are very fragile creatures and are very specific captives of our environment. (Stop the world. I want to get off) To destroy us would be a very simple matter for a race of beings with a technology of interstellar travel. How can our existence benefit them? Assuming their interaction with us over the millinear is as reported or similar to the stone carvings and ongoing reports, arrond the world. There is just too much of it to dismiss it all as fantasy Chaos theory shows that the ratio of chaos to order is 4.6692 : 1. this roughly translates to the 80: 20 rule. Which means that we only perceive 20% of reality. The other 80% is chaotic and beyond our primative perception. Imagine, Imagine.
Problem is, the "scientist from NASA" is merely affiliated with the agency -- this research was his own doing. He misrepresented the source of the research in the paper itself, and recently posted an extensive correction. The Guardian has since updated their story; we're right behind them with a note explaining everything. I assure you, we do everything in our power to keep things factual, accurate and relevant. Don't like what we're doing? Send us a note using the Feedback link in the site's footer. We're listening.
Volcanoes leave a C13 signature in their CO2 emissions. Natural recent decay processes leave a C14 trace in their CO2 emissions. Fossil fuel combustion leaves no C13, or C14 traces in its CO2 emissions. Because fossil fuels are so ancient the C14 has long decayed away. So measure the percentage ratios of C12, C13, C14 in the atmosphere and compare with older and ancient ice samples and voila C13 and C14 are falling, which means almost all the CO2 increase is coming fossil fuels. The new CO2 from volcanoes (containing C13) is closer to a hundred times smaller than the general CO2 increase from fossil fuels.
Maybe we should fund them with a gazillian space bucks to come up with a defense grid to keep out the little green, "green" men.
The real fact is that a planet is not all that aware of the life upon it any more than you are aware of the millions of bacteria copulating and defecating all over your face on a daily basis. :P
... that many of these amusing articles put the American foreign policy into the minds of aliens and such. Hopefully a race that has reached such a level of technology has learned from their own mistakes and believes in respecting others and their freedoms. But, if it was the US who were the interstellar travellers, they would "bomb them for peace" and such moronic childish behaviour.
Again, I would really like to see some reputable publications with this research so that I may learn also. Obviously you got them from somewhere, we would like to see where YOU got those numbers.
The header on your comment points directly to a problem endemic in journalism - in all its forms - today. The media seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to print the most viciously defamatory statements, the most ridiculous of theses, and baseless statements presented as fact, as long as they can point to some other polluter of our collective consciousness as their 'source.' This has had the effect of reducing journalistic integrity to its lowest common denominator, exemplified by such tabloids as the Daily News and National Enquirer. Are you sure this is the crowd with which you want to associate Smartplanet in the public perception?
...where stories are just passed on and on with minimal (if any) critical examination of their validity or source. And it's ironic (or iconic) that it has to do with "global warming". This is not the first example of an article or paper from someone or somewhere less than credentialed working its way to the top. (IPCC reports and positions are full of embarrassing material like this) Please don't take this personally Andrew; I know it's your job and all, but this is a good object lesson in the phenomenon.
You're taking the header far out of context of the body of my comment. We don't just republish anything from anywhere. We just don't. We -- and everyone else -- thought this report came from NASA proper. That's why we wrote about it, despite taking pains to express deep skepticism about its findings from the very beginning. So why did we write about it, if it's so far off-base? (No pun intended.) We brought it to your attention because we believed it was amusing -- that word is important -- and curious research conducted by an important, reputable organization. That, clearly, ended up not being the case, thanks to a slip in semantics by the author himself. We swiftly corrected the story and prominently published an apologetic explanation. Look around SmartPlanet. We write about a lot of things, but "vicious defamatory statements," "the most ridiculous of theses" and "baseless statements presented as fact" are not among them. Everything we write about is substantiated by something, often ongoing research that we link to directly. And if it's not, we either don't write about it or poke holes in it. Like all good journalists, we're skeptical. Optimistic, but skeptical. This is not a content mill, nor is this a publication that trades on sensationalism. And yes, we do plenty of our own reporting alongside research briefs. Our award-winning video series and our all-original Pure Genius blog are just two examples. We find the inventors. We understand the advancements. We explain the significance. If I sound indignant, it's because we, from the beginning, have been trying to add to the quality of discourse around these topics. We wouldn't be true to our name if we didn't. Our reputation? Paramount. And if I haven't convinced you of that with this comment, I likely never will.