Should We Search For Alien Life? Scientists Ask the Public if it's Worth It

A group of researchers hunting for intelligent alien life have asked the public if the search is worth the effort in an online survey.

The team think their quiz could be the largest ever survey to assess public attitudes towards alien contact, The Guardian reported.

Researchers with the UK Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research Network posted the questionnaire in conjunction with their "A Message From Afar" exhibit at London's Royal Society Summer Science event.

How should we deal with a signal from extra-terrestrial intelligence? Your opinion is sought at http://fromafar.world/opinion

Posted by A Message from Afar on Monday, July 1, 2019

The survey—which is available at www.fromafar.world/opinion—asked people if they think there is life beyond our planet, and whether they would care if there was.

It asked how people would respond to news of extraterrestrial intelligence—how they would feel about contact and if they would post about it on social media.

It also asked what sources recipients would trust to deliver news on the discovery of any alien radio signals.

The survey team think the results could inform international guidelines on how media outlets and governments would report on the detection of alien signals, The Guardian noted.

Martin Dominik, an astronomer at the University of St Andrews, told the newspaper: "There is absolutely no procedure enshrined in international law on how to respond to a signal from an alien civilisation… We want to hear people's views. The consequences affect more people than just scientists."

John Elliot, a reader in intelligence engineering at Leeds Beckett University, told the newspaper that scientists would share news of the discovery of any alien signals right away. But he added this news would quickly become distorted and confused online.

It would take a long time and a lot of scientific study to interpret any signals that might come from intelligent alien sources. "If that work starts to drag out and there is nothing new we can say, the information vacuum will be filled with speculation," he cautioned. "Conjecture and rumor will take over."

Exhibit organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek.

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File photo: An artist's impression of an alien spacecraft hovering over a forest. Getty

In other extraterrestrial news, scientists investigating mysterious interstellar visitor 'Oumuamua concluded the space rock probably wasn't an alien spacecraft.

The unusual cigar-shaped object, discovered back in 2017, was found to be accelerating through space, rather than slowing down. Some scientists, like Harvard's Avi Loeb, thought this might indicate 'Oumuamua was a kind of solar sail.

But an international group of researchers found this was unlikely in a recent study published in Nature Astronomy. The University of Maryland's Matthew Knight, who co-led the research, said in a statement: "We have never seen anything like 'Oumuamua in our solar system. It's really a mystery still… But our preference is to stick with analogs we know, unless or until we find something unique."

He continued: "The alien spacecraft hypothesis is a fun idea, but our analysis suggests there is a whole host of natural phenomena that could explain it."

Should We Search For Alien Life? Scientists Ask the Public if it's Worth It | Tech & Science