NASA wants to redefine the terms of alien research

NASA researchers want to create a confidence scale to improve communication about the search for extraterrestrial life.

Researching aliens is a fascinating part of space science. In this field, technology advances and the means of exploration become clearer over time; it is therefore a reality that is becoming more and more tangible day after day. For NASA, whose administrator readily admits their existence, this requires a change in methodology.

In any case, this is the opinion of six researchers from the institution, who recently published a tribune marked by TNW. According to them, it is anything but unrealistic to think that our generation could be the first to discover alien life. They therefore assert that it is urgent to create a confidence scale. This could then make it possible to “define reasonable expectations” during a potential contact.

In essence, this means that NASA wants to assign a score to every discovery in this area. The objective: to estimate the probability that it is indeed extraterrestrial life. This would range from level 1 (“Detection of a signal recognized as the result of biological activity”) To 7 (“Several independent observations of the expected biological material in its environment”).

The famous CoLD scale imagined by the researchers. © Green and. al.

Count the probabilities

This is a harmless proposition, but nevertheless a little surprising; after all, all serious researchers working on these questions have not waited for this proposal to recontextualize their findings. They are already required to document their findings and publications. They just do it with a more abstract “score”; in practice, it can take the form of a paragraph or even an entire subsection, rather than a simple number from 1 to 7.

These researchers were not born lately, and are obviously aware of this reality. They also specify in conclusion that it is “no prescription”, And that discussions in the scientific community should“modify or supplant”This scale… which looks very much like a return to square one.

A communication and popularization tool?

Where such a scale could be more useful, it is more on the side of the general public. For the authors, this would summarize all the nuances of a series of works in a single number. An obviously more meaningful format for the general public. It would suffice, for example, to speak of “level 1 discovery”, And we would immediately know that this is a very distant track. On the other hand, if the media start talking about “level 7”Is that a huge discovery is in the pipeline.

Such a scale could be an interesting extension tool for the general public. © Vlad Tchompalov – Unsplash

More broadly, this article is also a plea for better communication to the general public. According to the authors, that would be a way of “to build trust”Highlighting the fact that“false starts and dead ends are an expected component of a sound scientific process”.

An approach of popularization which could indeed have its importance. As the research for life multiplies, mathematically, the discoveries will be more and more frequent. And we will have to find a way to communicate all this information to an audience that does not necessarily have any training or even an interest in science.

It will be interesting to observe the reactions of the scientific community to this proposal. Will their colleagues be enthusiastic? Or, on the contrary, will they see it as a way to cut their hair back for nothing? The future will tell whether this process is fruitless or promising; but if you see this scale appearing in scientific publications, you will know what it is all about.

Source: Journal du Geek by

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