Questions for ‘Should we call out to space aliens?’


Earth is the only planet known in the universe to harbor life. But some scientists think we should start broadcasting a message, welcoming any other life forms that may be out there.


To accompany feature “Should we call out to space aliens?


Before Reading:

1.  Do you think life exists beyond Earth? Explain why.

2.  If you were informed that life was definitely likely, would you want to reach out and contact those space aliens? Explain why or why not.

During Reading

1.    What does SETI stand for?

2.    How would “active” SETI differ from what has been done in the past?

3.    What are at least three arguments that people make in the story for why calling out to space aliens may not be wise?

4.    What are at least three reasons that scientists in the story argue life is likely to have evolved on planets beyond Earth?

5.    What are “Goldilocks” zones, and how do they relate to the likelihood of life beyond Earth?

6.    What benefits does Douglas Vakoch offer for communicating with extraterrestrials — if that were possible?

7.    What does David Brin mean when he says there has been a history of “pain” when representatives of a new culture arrive and interact with an established one?

8.    Why does Philip Lubin argue that it’s too late to hide from more advanced civilizations in space?

9.    What are the “Protocols” that Vakoch refers to in the article, and who developed them?

10.  What does David Grinspoon argue is the greatest threat to human survival?

After Reading:

1.  Were you persuaded by the article that active SETI is a worthwhile venture? Explain why or why not?

2.  Who do you believe should make the decision about whether to begin active SETI? Explain your choice(s).

Social studies:

1.  The article compares the idea of visiting aliens to European explorers making contact with native societies in Europe or North America. Choose one of those “contacted” societies and do some research on what “price,” if any, those explored communities ultimately paid. (Hint: How did their lives change in the first decade or two after the Europeans arrived?)

2.  If you learned from SETI broadcast transmissions that “friendly” aliens were on their way to Earth and would be arriving within five years, what preparations would you recommend that Earthlings make? (Hint: Don’t forget environmental issues.)