ET Calls, Then What? features the work of SETI Institute's Douglas Vakoch

It will be one of the greatest moments in science, and also one of the greatest moments in history. After decades of searching, a signal from extraterrestrials is received by a radio telescope on Earth. SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) analysts quickly check the transmission using other instruments, and prepare to announce the great discovery. The media descends on the story and soon millions of people around the world are reading the news. Then what?

Exactly how the world would react to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence has been the subject of much speculation. There could be a mixture of excitement, fascination, fear, confusion, disbelief, indifference and panic. Like emergency planners preparing for a catastrophe, scientists regularly assemble to consider ways that world at large would respond to such an event, and how to plan for the day when a discovery comes.

Psychologist and SETI scholar Doug Vakoch has been exploring this question for years, and recently gathered an eclectic team to explore the issue. The result is a large and detailed book, "Astrobiology, History and Society", which was recently released by the academic publisher Springer. A free preview of the book has been released online here.

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