by Janice Friedman
vchal / Getty Images
This is why
most people haven't seen extraterrestrials, and how that could
change - M.E.T.I.
At any moment, mankind could receive a signal from extraterrestrial
In the last twenty years,
we have detected planets like Earth which orbit around virtually
every distant star, but as of yet, we haven't gotten a clear
In light of this "Great
Silence," astronomers have speculated that Earth may be a kind of
cosmic Eden or a "galactic zoo."
extraterrestrials could be watching from behind a kind of one-way
mindlessly pacing our Earthly cage while the extraterrestrials
maintain their distance and keep watch," suggested Seth Shostak
Are aliens watching
but operating on the code of conduct from Star Trek, the "prime
directive" that forbids the Federation from interfering with
Are these cultures so
advanced that they are taking the high road, refusing to meddle
in our affairs?
Or are they waiting
for the moment when they detect that life here has finally
advanced to the point where we are finally ready to advance to
the next level?
For Douglas Vakoch,
the president of METI, which stand for Messaging Extraterrestrial
Intelligence, the more we reach out to advanced life in the
universe, the more we signal that we are ready.
Our culture is no longer
dangerous and fearful but open to the idea of starting up a
Vakoch suggests there is no better time to reach out than right now.
"There's an old adage
that says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and
the second best time is now. Well, the same goes for
interstellar messaging. The best time to transmit is right now,"
Using a comparison to
animals in a zoo: maybe we need to start rattling the bars.
"If a zoo animal
suddenly starts barking through the bars, saying 'I'm here and I
think you're out there,' those on the other side might respond."
"Simply put, METI's
deliberate transmissions might lead to a discovery of cosmic
company because the broadcasts would tell the aliens that we no
longer require their helicopter parenting. We're adult enough
for them to get in touch."
The belief that our alien
"zookeepers" will respond to our communication relies on reaching
aliens who have more than just a passing interest in humanity.
What if they know we're
here, have seen our messages, but are indifferent, apathetic, and
unwilling to respond?
"My great fear in the
search for extraterrestrials is extraterrestrials will be like
intelligent cats. They know we're here, but they don't care,"
Hoping to trigger a
response, Vakoch and METI are working diligently to create and
deliver messages that might find common ground, even to alien
Some of the universal
languages they think might work the best include:
If the aliens can
decipher our message, then they would likely be able to respond in
Of course, it's not just METI who are reaching out to higher
lifeforms in the universe. Right now there is a global competition
to deliver a "New Arecibo Message" from the Arecibo Observatory in
The competition is open
to kindergarten students up to undergraduate students.
Staff scientist Alessandra Abe Pacini believes that kids might be
better than seasoned astronomers or scientists at seeing the big
picture. They might deliver a message that will inspire a response
scientists are so focused on their topics and they can see stuff
very deep but they cannot see very broad," she said.
"Students know a
little bit about everything, so they can see the big picture
better. For sure they can design a message that is actually much
The next time you gaze
out at the night sky, remember that there are infinite other planets
orbiting near stars, just like our own Earth.
The likelihood that we
not alone in the universe is exponentially high. Likewise, the odds
that alien civilizations are far more advanced than ours is almost
The fact that these advanced cultures have kept out of
sight doesn't necessarily mean they don't exist, but that they have
don't believe we are ready.
Let's face it:
When you look at the
state of the world today, there is not one among us who could
reasonably blame them for keeping their distance.
Yet maybe if they knew
how much we needed their help, our alien zookeepers might finally
decide to intervene.