Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Meet the optimistic scientist who thinks humanity's first E.T. contact won't end in extinction

Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, Mike Garrett, thinks we can plan for that kind of thing. Good for him.

It’ll probably look a lot like this.
It’ll probably look a lot like this.
Photo: Joaquin Sarmiento / AFP (Getty Images)

Aliensunlike ghostsare totally real and hanging around Earth. Hell, even Obama said as much recently (okay, not exactly, but he obviously intended for us to read between his lines). But rather than constructing, like, some contingency plan involving a mobilized human-robot hybrid army, or a ragtag insurgency team serving as our species’ last hope, many experts are favoring the ponderous, poignant route by figuring out the best way to essentially shake hands and/or tentacles with our extraterrestrial neighbors.


Obviously this is a terrible idea, but scientists at the top are nonetheless still pressing forward with the latter option, as a recent Vice interview with Mike Garrett details. Garrett—who serves as both the University of Manchester’s inaugural Sir Bernard Lovell chair of astrophysics and as director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics—has long been hard at work establishing the proper protocols for vetting, announcing, and subsequently dealing any potential first contact scenarios.

“We absolutely have no idea what’s out there, and we have no idea how we’re going to discover the first SETI signal,” Garrett, who is also vice-chair of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) SETI Permanent Committee, reassuringly told everyone during an interview on Motherboard’s The Space Show. Garrett explains that, for news as mind-blowing as potential first contact, experts are well aware that any announcement would need to be based on near-absolute certainty to avoid misinformation and panic... because that will surely prevent both fallouts from occurring.

“There’s a set of protocols that have been agreed on by most of the organizations that are involved in SETI that we should try and follow the rules to make sure that when we do come out with an announcement that we made a detection, we are 99.999 percent sure that it really is something,” said Garrett.

It’s somewhat reassuring to hear that SETI experts have been working on slowing down our inevitable alien enslavement the best ways to communicate peacefully for entirely foreign intelligences, but we’re still putting our money on more well-developed ragtag teams of insurgents... if only because Aaron Eckhart deserves better roles than Battlefield Los Angeles.

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