Let’s say your house is on fire, or overrun by a gang of psychotic raccoons. You don’t hesitate—you take out your phone, and you call the fire department, or animal control, and then firemen/raccoon-wranglers are promptly dispatched to your home. These are well-established protocols, essential to the maintenance of a mostly not-on-fire, feral-animal-free society. But what about UFOs? What about extraterrestrial beings? Faced with some six-eyed slime-being rooting through your trash, or a spacecraft idling above your backyard (provided it’s not Elon Musk’s “nuclear alien UFO” again), who exactly would you think to call? And what would whoever you called do, when you called them? These questions—suddenly pressing, what with the recent revelation that the Pentagon had spent $22 million between 2008 and 2012 to investigate mysterious, potentially alien-related phenomena—form the basis of this week’s Giz Asks. We reached out to dozens of agencies, everyone from NASA to the Center for Disease Control to the NYPD to find out who to call in such a situation, and what (if any) protocols are in place when these things are reported, and we came up mostly empty-handed—though the astronomers and independent institutes we spoke with did provide us with some hope. The US government might, at present, be grievously ill-prepared for first contact, but there are countless hobbyists and professionals keeping an eye on what’s happening up there. Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer, SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) Institute:
are looking for life in space, but we don’t think that they’re here. If they were, you’d have trouble flying out of Newark airport. When people call to report something they’ve seen, that call usually goes to me. Probably once a day I talk to somebody who’s seen something, and I explain to them that we don’t take such reports, but that if they want to send me photos or videos I’m happy to look at them.
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