Do Earthlings need to be prepared for the potential of an alien cyber attack?
That’s the question almost no one is asking but at least two astrophysicists are answering.
In a rather unusual (non-peer reviewed) research paper, the scientists explored the unlikely possibility that planet Earth received a complex message from space.
They paint a scenario in which three decades from now, we intercept the message from an unknown extraterrestrial intelligence. The world’s best and brightest are brought in to decipher the message but just as they do, our digital networks, power grids and internet connected devices all crash.
It turns out the aliens sent a type of galactic malware.
“A complex message from space may require the use of computers to display, analyse and understand. Such a message cannot be decontaminated with certainty, and technical risks remain which can pose an existential threat,” the researchers wrote.
The paper was produced by Michael Hippke from Sonneberg Observatory in Germany and John Learned, a fellow astrophysicist from the University of Hawaii.
They suggest that receiving an extraterrestrial message could potentially invite destruction and social chaos.
They outlined a number of different scenarios, including a friendly message that contained a form of downloadable artificial intelligence to allow for communication between us and the alien species. This scenario explored the difficulties of ensuring the safety of the planet when accepting such a technology.
The two astrophysicists concluded that ultimately, the potential benefits would outweigh the inherent risks of actively receiving such a message.
“Overall, we believe that the risk is very small (but not zero), and the potential benefit very large, so that we strongly encourage to read an incoming message,” they said.
It’s a fun thought experiment but probably not something we will need to worry about in our lifetime.
This week however, scientist said humanity may need look no further than our own Solar System in the search for alien life.
ONE OF SATURN’S MOON COULD BOAST ALIEN LIFE
Researchers probing one of Saturn’s moons said Tuesday that the icy orb known as Enceladus may boast ideal living conditions for single-celled micro-organisms known as archaeans found in some of the most extreme environments on Earth.
They reported the news in the science journal Nature Communications.
A methanogenic (methane-producing) archaean called Methanothermococcus okinawensis thrived in laboratory conditions mimicking those thought to exist on Saturn’s satellite, the team said.
On Earth, this type of archaean is found at very hot temperatures near deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and converts carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas into methane.
Traces of methane were previously detected in vapour emanating from cracks in Enceladus’ surface.
“We conclude that some of the CH4 (methane) detected in the plume of Enceladus might, in principle, be produced by methanogens,” the researchers in Germany and Austria wrote.
They also calculated that sufficient hydrogen to support such microbes could be produced by geochemical processes in Enceladus’ rocky core.
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun, separated from Earth only by Mars and Jupiter. It has dozens of moons.
Previous research suggested that Enceladus sports an ocean of liquid water — a key ingredient for life — beneath its icy surface.
The moon is also thought to contain compounds such as methane, carbon dioxide, and ammonia, and its south pole sports hydrothermal activity — a combination of traits that makes it a key target in the search for extraterrestrial life.
— With AFP
This story originally appeared in news.com.au.