Media Page - Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis

This page documents the media attention given to my article Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis, co-authored with Jacob Haqq-Misra and Shawn Domagal-Goldman.

The story began when Jacob Haqq-Misra corrected a minor typo in the article's arXiv page. That put the article at the top of the arXiv Popular Physics recent submissions page, attracting the attention of Ian Sample, a science journalist for The Guardian. Dr. Sample wrote an excellent discussion of our article in Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists, published in The Guardian on 18 August 2011.

Initially, The Guardian's standfirst (sub-headline; not written by Dr. Sample) mischaracterized our article as a "NASA report". Shawn Domagal-Goldman is a NASA post-doc, but our article was written in our spare time and not as part of any NASA activities. Within hours, other websites were writing on this new "NASA report", with some claiming that NASA wasting its funds on this research. In response, Shawn posted Some important points of clarification on his blog, explaining that this was not a NASA report.

One scenario in our article attracted a lot of additional media attention. This scenario involves extraterrestrials launching a preemptive attack to prevent human civilization from expanding rapidly and causing destruction throughout the galaxy. Our article suggests that extraterrestrials might be alerted to human civilization expansion and destruction by the change in Earth's spectral signature caused by greenhouse gas emissions. While this scenario was only one of many discussed in our article, it attracted a large portion of the media attention.

The flurry of media attention lasted for about one week. Here is an overview.

TV/video interviews:
The O'Reilly Factor, Seth Baum - video stream, Jacob Haqq-Misra

Radio/audio interviews:
Talk Radio 702, South Africa, Seth Baum - podcast/mp3 download
Alan Colmes, Fox News, USA, Seth Baum
David Sirota, AM760, Colorado, Seth Baum - podcast/mp3 download
New Hampshire Public Radio, Jacob Haqq-Misra - podcast/mp3 download
talkSPORT (UK), Jacob Haqq-Misra - podcast/mp3 download segment 1 (begins at 23:20); segment 2
The Morning Splash, Big Froggy 101 * Jeff Brown, 93.7FM * Jerry Valeri, Majic 99 * WRSC FM103 (all State College, PA radio shows), Jacob Haqq-Misra

Of all of the written media coverage, I especially recommend the following:

Alan Penny, We need to talk about aliens. The Guardian.
A well-written op-ed supporting research on SETI, and on ETs more generally.

Norman Byrd. Report: Aliens Destroy Earth To Protect Universe -- Over Greenhouse Gases?. Huliq.
A thoughtful and well-written discussion of the article and the media frenzy.

Evan Ackerman. 17 ways humanity's first contact with aliens could go down. DVICE.
Nicely summarizes 17 contact scenarios, adding a new graphic to each.

Alan Boyle. What if E.T. thinks we're evil? MSNBC Cosmic Log.
Excellent article overview and original tie-ins to science fiction over the years.

Daniel Foster. Space Aliens Are Probably Progressive Liberals. National Review Online.
As with other right-wing coverage, this article is dismissive of the extraterrestrials topic. However, Mr. Foster nonetheless provides a thorough and well-written discussion of the paper's many scenarios expressed in terms of contemporary political frames. Mr. Foster also interviews Jacob Haqq-Misra at

Kate Sheppard. Right Wing Freaks Out About Aliens. Mother Jones.
A nice summary of the full paper, defense of this line of research, and discussion of the media frenzy.

Natalie Wolchover. New Report: Aliens Will Fix Global Warming... Or Kill Us. Life's Little Mysteries.
Features an interview with Jacob Haqq-Misra, explaining some technical detail behind the popular greenhouse gas/preemptive attack scenario.

Here are links to all (or at least a lot of) the written coverage:

General news sites: Yahoo! Associated Content * CBS CNET News * Reuters reprinted in InterAksyon (Philippines) * * The Atlantic * Fox News * Huffington Post * Daily Mail (UK) * The Independent (UK) * First Post (UK) * Metro UK * Korea Herald/Asia News Network reprinted in The Straits Times (Singapore) * Newsday * Times of India * The Nation (Pakistan) * TopNews (New Zealand) (1) * (2) * BreakingNews (Ireland) * Corriere della Sera (Italian) Centre Daily Times * GlobalPost * Op-Ed News * TG Daily * Business Insider * International Business Times (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10), (11 - video) *

Science & technology sites: Discovery News reprinted in ABC News * National Geographic News * Universe Today * io9 * Wizbang * Sync Blog * Gather * Network World * Digital Trends (1), (2) *

Blogs: Houston Chronicle Blogs * Media Matters * Think Progress * * AZ * The Volokh Conspiracy * AMERICAblog * (1) * (2) * (3) * II-I- (Exoplanests and Astrobiology, Andrew Rushby) * UppsalaInitiativet (Svenska) *

Environmentalists: * ecorazzi * Mother Nature Network * Planetsave * SmartPlanet * Inhabitat (Green Design site) * Milj÷Aktuellt (Svenska) *

Climate skeptics: Anthony Watts/Watts Up With That? * Rush Limbaugh * Mackinac Center for Public Policy * Washington Times * Heartlander Magazine (Heartland Institute) * Hot Air (1), (2) * Tuscon Citizen * UFODigest * American Thinker * Canada Free Press * Washington Times Global Community * Men's News Daily * * RedState * Heartland Institute * Stop the ACLU * The Foundry - Heritage Foundation * Richmond Times-Dispatch

Believers that ETs have or may have already visited Earth: Exopolitics Institute News Service * * Ghost Theory * UFO Digest * Tercer Milenio (Espa˝ol) *

Satire: The News According to Snooki (video, begins at 1:58; discussed at Grist) * Unconfirmed Sources * The Daily Mash * Weekly World News * Taki's Magazine *

Poetry: The Bard of Murdock

Miscellaneous: BioEdge (bioethics news site) * Female First (celebrity gossip & lifestyle magazine) * Digital Spy (UK entertainment site) * The Conversation (Australian academic site) *

Created 28 Aug 2011 * Updated 24 Nov 2015