Scientists will soon be able to look for life on other planets by checking out their pollution levels.
This will be possible by the launch of a £1 billion European space telescope in 2024.
Astronomer Don Pollacco from Warwick University is heading a consortium of scientists involved in what is called the Plato mission.
And he believes alien life forms could be discovered by looking for signs of pollution in the atmosphere of planets similar to Earth.
“You would have to interpret that as a sign of some kind of civilisation,” he says.
I find it terribly sad that pollution is now seen as a sign of civilisation.
The logic behind it also suggests that our pollution is flaring like a beacon in the stratosphere to let other life forms know our location.
“Here! Here! We’re Planet Earth! We like burning oil, poisoning rivers, stripping forests, melting our ice caps, destroying our natural environment, changing our climate and damaging the air that we breath!
“We are also great at wars, racial and religious intolerance and, in a large part of our world, treating women like second class citizens or even slaves without any rights.
“Come and visit!”
The thing is, more advanced aliens might do just that. Their equivalent of Thomas Cook might see the potential of activity holidays here:
“You’ve seen Grand Theft Auto and Call Of Duty video games – now try the real thing on Planet Earth. This is the world where anything goes and, as a tourist with an alien visa, you can go anywhere that piques your fancy. We will teleport you down from the Mother Ship and you can take part in urban mayhem, be a member of a police SWAT team or take your choice from eight ongoing wars for no-holds barred action in places like the Sudan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. Or, pick which side you want to be on in the Mexican Drug War that has taken 112,000 lives in the last eight years. They won’t notice a few more when you start shooting.
“A chance in a lifetime to kill, maim, have gratuitous sex and return home to Planet Og with a portfolio of video memories. Safety guaranteed: all aliens will have full body protection. Only humans will be the victims.”
By the way, the Plato mission is named after Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars and not the Greek philosopher.
If it is successful and planets with pollution are identified, let’s hope we don’t develop the technology to go and visit. If we send a Starship Enterprise we would probably end up with another war and I think we have enough of our own.
What the mission should be looking for are signs of life on unpolluted planets. This would indicate that these aliens have a genuine civilisation.
We may even find our forebears on one – humanoids who sent missionaries to Earth to found Atlantis and build pyramids and give mankind a push in the right direction.
It was, of course, Plato who told us about Atlantis, the fabled civilisation founded by creatures who were half-god and half-human.
These demi gods would have indulged in the usual cross-jostling and inter marriage with ordinary humans while they were here.
When Atlantis sank beneath the waves the gods presumably went back to their home planet and left the humans to evolve on their own.
It would be ironic if Plato instigated contact with them again. And won’t they be sorry when we turn up like delinquent relatives.
“Oh no. It’s that lot from Earth. Turn the lights off. We’ll pretend we’re out.”