U.N. to Establish Protocols for When We Make Contact With Aliens

The United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has announced that it will consider drafting protocols for what to do when we finally make contact with extra-terrestrial civilizations in space. What's prompting the UN to consider this possibility is the fact that astronomers are expected to announce, perhaps later this year or next year, that our satellites (such as Kepler and Corot) have identified earth-like planets in space. So far, almost 500 large Jupiter-sized planets have been discovered, but earth-like planets are much more difficult to identify.


The KEPLER SATELLITE

THE COROT SATELLITE

Personally, I think it is a bit premature to draft official protocols for such a historic event. However, at some point, such protocols should be drafted, if only so that the earth can give a unified, coherent response to such an event.

There are several problems facing such an attempt, however. If the SETI Project can eaves drop on messages from extra-terrestrial civilizations, then it will take many decades to centuries for us to return the message, because the aliens could be many light years away. So it would be a one-way conversation. Even a simple conversation would be impossible. All we can do is listen to their communications.

Second, most earth-like planets we find in space, even if they have oceans and life forms, will probably only have microbial life on them. So simply finding such planets is not enough. Advanced civilizations in space are probably very rare. Third, we should wait until we find out if the aliens are hostile or not. We should monitor them for years before actively trying to reach out to them.

The only way that a two-way dialog can take place with such aliens is if they actually visit us, e.g. land on the White House lawn. Then we can make direct contact with them. (But the problem here is that, if they can travel such vast distances to reach us from distant stars, then they have probably already done so, and have been observing usfor  years. So, even if we find evidence of earth-like planets, it does not guarantee that our protocols will mean anything.)

So, personally, I think it is prudent to draft such protocols. However, there is no guarantee that we will ever have to use them.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
Keep reading Show less

Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

Credit: Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study
Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Climate change is no longer a financial problem, just a political one.
  • Mitigating climate change by decarbonizing our economy would add trillions of dollars in new investments.
  • Public attitudes toward climate change have shifted steadily in favor of action. Now it's up to elected leaders.