Extraterrestrials may have already spotted us and are observing us… The hypothesis seems to come out of a science fiction film, but it is taken completely seriously. In 2019, scientists, meeting in Paris, tried to develop the best possible strategies to contact aliens.
Are we alone in the universe ? Probably not. Gathered on Monday March 18, 2019 at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris, around sixty scientists, astrophysicists, paleontologists and sociologists of science from METI (Messaging for Extraterrial Intelligence, an international organization based in the United States) discussed the best strategies for contacting extraterrestrials.
They start from the observation that there are more than 4,000 exoplanets (planets outside our galaxy, the Milky Way, which therefore do not revolve around the Sun), some of which resemble the Earth and could potentially harbor a form of life… Statistically, some scientists believe that it is unlikely that man is the only form of civilization that could have appeared.
For Jean-Pierre Rospars, honorary director of research at the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA), “there is no reason to think that humans have reached the highest possible cognitive level. Higher levels could evolve on Earth in the future and already be reached elsewhere,” he says in Forbes magazine.
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Aliens would have quarantined us
For these scientists gathered in Paris, it is not so much the existence of extraterrestrials that raises questions, but their silence. As early as 1950, an Italian physicist named Enrico Fermi presented this paradox: “If extraterrestrial civilizations are not just possible but probable, their representatives should already be here. Why haven’t they contacted us? »
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To answer this question, METI scientists are seriously considering the ancient hypothesis of the “galactic zoo”, developed in 1973 by John Ball, an American astronomer. According to him, extraterrestrials would observe us as we do animals, perhaps to protect us or avoid us. His hypothesis would, according to scientists, explain the silence of our alien neighbors.
Douglas Vakoch, American astrobiologist and president of METI, believes that we need to find the right way to talk with extraterrestrials to verify this hypothesis. “If we went to a zoo and suddenly a zebra turned towards us, looked us in the eye and started hammering out a series of prime numbers with its hoof, this would establish a radically different relationship between us and the zebra and we would feel obliged to respond »he explained Monday in Paris.
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Some METI researchers go even further: the extraterrestrials would have quarantined us. And this for many reasons. Either, as in the zoo hypothesis, to protect us from too much cultural shock with them, or to protect themselves from us.
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In 2016, a Scottish astrophysicist, Duncan Forgan, tried to question the “galactic zoo” thesis. According to him, if the Earth is indeed in quarantine, this would require a certain organization for extraterrestrial civilizations which would have structured themselves into a sort of intergalactic UN. But a problem is immediately highlighted: communication between different civilizations would be extremely long, counting in hundreds or thousands of years… Not the easiest way to organize the confinement of a planet.
For Duncan Forgan, this postulate would not be tenable for potential alien civilizations. He then envisioned that they might have come together into smaller “regional” organizations. But for such hegemony to be possible, there would have to be more than 500 types of intelligent extraterrestrials installed for at least a million years in the Milky Way, our galaxy… An improbable hypothesis according to the researcher.
Duncan Forgan’s conclusions were subsequently discussed. He has been criticized in particular for not taking into account certain elements in his reasoning, such as the fact that the stars move over time, which can shorten distances and communication times. Some scientists also believe that he did not consider that the Earth could be controlled by a single group, close to our planet, which would not need to discuss with other civilizations more distant.