If a verified message from aliens is ever received, would the public be told about it? SETI – the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence – does have an international protocol that if an alien signal is ever received, it would be disseminated among the astronomical community and made public. And of course, says Mac Tonnies at the SETI Blog, “international cooperation might be necessary in order to distinguish a legitimate alien signal from any number of phenomena capable of generating false alarms.” But what if the signal is more than just extra-terrestrials saying hello? Tonnies believes SETI’s plans for full disclosure only makes sense if the message is fairly benign. If the signal was a notice of impending doom from a black hole, supernova, or alien invasion – something we on Earth had little power to do anything about – Tonnies questions whether governments would choose to make such information public. But could something of this magnitude really be kept under wraps?
If ET issued a warning that our planet was doomed, it would be nice if they also included some directions on how to move it to another location. Oh, and of course it could be kept secret. Some big government secrets have been kept for over 50 years before the public finds out. Others like what happened at Roswell, NM in 1947 are still kept. (I’ve had some amazing luck in stumbling by chance into people who gave me true bits of the Roswell puzzle I’ve heard nowhere else… so we may get some clues, but not the whole picture.)