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A bureaucracy for responding to space aliens?

Here’s Sam Roberts at the New York Times on what to say to a space alien (February 11, 2012):

The news last week that a concerted scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence by the SETI Institute in California has resumed raises fundamental questions: If we made contact, what would we say? And what answers would we anticipate?

The first words of a conversation initiated by aliens were immortalized in a 1953 New Yorker cartoon by Alex Graham: “Kindly take us to your President!” Our own greetings have already been inadvertently transmitted, if not delivered, in random radio broadcasts that are just now reaching roughly 100 light-years away. Among the first images that escaped the earth’s atmosphere was a 1936 telecast of the Nazi-produced Olympics.

Okay, so now we know why they never write, they never phone …

Bureaucrats apparently do have a protocol for what to do if they do contact us:

“There is, in fact, a protocol developed by the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Institute of Space Law,” said Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI Research. “It boils down to, if you get what looks like a signal from another civilization, then let the whole world know, but don’t reply until there’s been international consultation. The real challenge is to get that international consultation going before we know if anyone’s out there.”

International consultation? Excellent! Soon, the aliens will be saying “It takes just about forever to get any reply from there … ” Serve ‘em right, too.

Here’s a site where you can try to send a message to ET.

You can always tell us here what you would say. We won’t snitch. ;)

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