19 August 2011

Friday Funny - Deniers Risk Alien Attack

This from an academic paper by researchers at Penn State and NASA (here in PDF, note that ETI = extraterrestrial intelligence and METI = messages to ETI):
Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of Earth’s atmosphere (e.g. via greenhouse gas emissions), which therefore changes the spectral signature of Earth. While it is difficult to estimate the likelihood of this scenario, it should at a minimum give us pause as we evaluate our expansive tendencies.

It is worth noting that there is some precedent for harmful universalism within humanity. This precedent is most apparent within universalist ethics that place intrinsic value on ecosystems. Human civilization affects ecosystems so strongly that some ecologists now often refer to this epoch of Earth’s history as the anthropocene [79]. If one’s goal is to maximize ecosystem flourishing, then perhaps it would be better if humanity did not exist, or at least if it existed in significantly reduced form. Indeed, there are some humans who have advanced precisely this argument [80-82]. If it is possible for at least some humans to advocate harm to their own civilization by drawing upon universalist ethical principles, then it is at a minimum plausible that ETI could advocate harm to humanity following similar principles.

The possibility of harmful contact with ETI suggests that we may use some caution for METI. Given that we have already altered our environment in ways that may viewed as unethical by universalist ETI, it may be prudent to avoid sending any message that shows evidence of our negative environmental impact. The chemical composition of Earth’s atmosphere over recent time may be a poor choice for a message because it would show a rapid accumulation of carbon dioxide from human activity. Likewise, any message that indicates of widespread loss of biodiversity or rapid rates of expansion may be dangerous if received by such universalist ETI. On the other hand, advanced ETI may already know about our rapid environmental impact by listening to leaked electromagnetic signals or observing changes in Earth’s spectral signature. In this case, it might be prudent for any message we send to avoid denying our environmental impact so as to avoid the ETI catching us in a lie.


  1. The fallacy of the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still still lives. Planets with ecosystems should be, relatively speaking, a dime a dozen. Planets with an ecosystem and an intelligent life form, OTOH, would be much rarer. It would be irrational to destroy a rarely occurring intelligent life form to protect a far more common ecosystem.

  2. Well this proves it.

    Aliens are little Green men.

    Somewhere, Al Gore is smiling.

    Or is that Al Gort?

    Klaatu Barada Nikto !

  3. I note with relief that this work does not seem to be federally funded, except for the last authors' salary. It will therefore not join the shrimp treadmill in Tom Coburn's rogues gallery of federally funded junk science.

  4. Like the radio waves that we have been transmitting for the last 100 years wouldn't be detectable or those little EMF pulses from our dabbling with nuclear weapons wouldn't be detectable.

    According to the maintenance man at the Very Large Base Array Radio Telescope in Brewster Washington radio telescopes can see a lot deeper into space then optical telescopes.


    Surely ET must have one and is currently enjoying watching Oprah and Dr Phil or maybe ET is watching Glen Beck and Keith Olberman in which case we are doomed.

  5. They really are in full kook mode now, aren't they?

    If I was in the hard-core Inhofe/Limbaugh anti-green club, I'd be publicizing this stuff to middle America. Nothing would chase reasonable, uncommitted people away from environmental-inspired policies than a look at what the true believers are up to these days. It's this kind of thing that could prevent any action on global warming for a generation.

  6. Or the ETIs may turn out to be Vogons. That speculation is just as likely and sensible.

  7. Researchers at Penn State and NASA really should have kept up with the posts from Anthony Watts at WUWT (at the least to offer comment about the apparent findings).
    Anthony wrote, “The Earth’s biosphere is booming, data suggests that CO2 is the cause, part 2” on March 24, 2011 then saying the following:
    “I first ran a story with this title in 2008, with these graphics from **SEAWIFS**, showing a growing biosphere. Now a new study using a different methodology, Leaf Area Index (LAI), have determined that indeed, the LAI is on the increase. Those global warming proponents, who
    consider themselves “green” get very upset when it is pointed out that CO2 is “plant food”, yet here we have even more evidence that Gaia’s greenery likes it.”

    **Under a graphic, the caption reads in part, "SeaWiFS instrument aboard the Seastar satellite has been collecting ocean data since 1997. By monitoring the color of reflected light via satellite, scientists can determine how successfully plant life is photosynthesizing. A measurement of photosynthesis is essentially a measurement of successful growth, and growth means successful use of ambient carbon."**

    Thus, aliens with universalist ethics should at least pause when considering intentional harm to humans. However, consider the scenario played out in "The Arrival", where invading aliens are surreptitiously causing global warming (and, thereby the increase in CO2 and in the biosphere). Perhaps, they're here already. If so, beware the big green pods!! ;>)

  8. It should be noted that the affiliation with NASA is purely through one author's employment.

    The paper has nothing to do with NASA beyond that.

  9. An old science-fiction scenario of the 1960s adapted to the ideology of AGW. It is so a waste of money.

  10. From Keith Kloor by email:

    "Roger, It is inaccurate to characterize this paper as being NASA-affiliated. http://paleblueblog.org/post/9110304050/some-important-points-of-clarification As I said over at my blog (in a comment thread), the Guardian story is an example of a responsible paper that has chosen (in this instance) sensationalism over responsible science reporting. --kkloor"

  11. I guess the poor NASA post-doc wasn't properly vetted on publication guidelines for government employees.

    How many times have we all read a statement along the lines of "the views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of (EPA, NASA, NOAA, etc).

    Maybe cowboys like James Hansen have given starry eyed kids the wrong impression about "freedom" wrt to government employment and public expression.

  12. Any number of science fiction authors have dealt with this more credibly in their fiction.
    And none of their work cost the tax payers any money.
    I think we are owed a refund, and those who decided to fund this work should be investigated and at the least halted form using this sort of bad and frivolous judgement to spend more tax payer money.