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Scientists consider possible outcomes of alien contact (in a published paper, even)

Cover of "Sphere"
Cover of Sphere

Scientists from Penn State have published a paper in the journal Acta Astronautica detailing various scenarios that could play out if humanity came into contact with extraterrestrial life.

No kidding, it’s actually published. You can even download the PDF and read the whole thing. I intend to read it this weekend, but I just had to share this find with you as soon as possible.

Here’s the abstract:

While humanity has not yet observed any extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), contact with ETI remains possible. Contact could occur through a broad range of scenarios that have varying consequences for humanity. However, many discussions of this question assume that contact will follow a particular scenario that derives from the hopes and fears of the author. In this paper, we analyze a broad range of contact scenarios in terms of whether contact with ETI would benefit or harm humanity. This type of broad analysis can help us prepare for actual contact with ETI even if the details of contact do not fully resemble any specific scenario.

To hear the Guardian’s reporter describe the scenarios, it sounds like the authors summarized every plot of every alien-invasion/-encounter film from the past century. I’m sure there must be more science to it than that… though sometimes you never can tell.

In all, it reminds me of the paper written by the Norman character in Michael Crichton’s Sphere, remember, the one that got him assigned to a secret underwater project that happened to be a crashed spaceship? The authors of this study had better watch out for federal agents coming to spirit them away to crash sites in the middle of the night.

I look forward to reading it.