By Mark Memmott
So, the world's most famous astrophysicist has some advice about whether we should or shouldn't try to make contact with creatures from outer space:
Don't do it, Stephen Hawking advises.
It would be much better for humans to keep a low profile, he says. There's a good chance we don't want aliens to come calling, Hawking says, because they very likely wouldn't be the cuddly, ET types we hope for.
"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," Hawking warns in a new Discovery Network TV series.
Basically, as the BBC says, Hawking fears "aliens might simply raid Earth for resources, then move on."
And, yes, Hawking does think there is other life out there somewhere.
Well, what do you think?
Update at 2:35 p.m. ET. More on Carl Sagan (see our previous update, just below), who firmly believed in searching for life: Earlier this year, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich reported for Radio Lab and Morning Edition about the "Golden Record" that is hurtling through space. In their story, you can hear some of the sounds that are on that disc and learn about the love song that brought Ann Druyan and Sagan together.
Update at 12:45 p.m. ET: It's worth noting that another familiar figure to many Americans when it comes to space-related issues had a hand in creating a message that extraterrestrials might one day see.
Carl Sagan of Cornell University was among those who created the "Golden Record," as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reminds us. That 12-inch, gold-plated copper disk contains:
"Sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. ...
"Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim."
Copies were put aboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft that were launched in 1977 and are still "exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before" -- now at the edge of our solar system.
Sagan, who died in 1996, was a major advocate of searching for signs of life elsewhere.
Update at 9:07 a.m. ET. From London, Larry Miller has filed this report for the NPR newscast:
As Larry adds, the good news is that Hawking thinks most aliens are likely "the equivalent of microbes or simple animals." It would be the highly evolved ones we'd have to watch out for.