In a new Discovery Channel series entitled Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist posits the idea that humans should probably not be in a hurry to televise our existence to the universe at large. Hawking suggests that, if we do manage to make contact with advanced alien life forms, it is entirely possible that they will be much more technologically advanced than humans. That sounds great, right? Maybe we can learn something from them. According to Hawking, this scenario is highly unlikely. Instead, Hawking warns that advanced, intelligent alien life is more likely to want to conquer humanity and take over Earth than to be our friends. Now he tells us.

From radio and television signals, to the Beatles’ song “Across the Universe” (which NASA purposefully transmitted into deep space in 2008), humans are constantly beaming signals into space, in all directions. If aliens are picking up our signals, they likely already think we’re an awfully noisy bunch. If said aliens do have wicked intentions of eating humans for dinner or turning us all into slaves, not only are we loudly announcing our existence, we are also telling them a lot about ourselves and our planet, making the annihilation of the human species quite easy for a highly advanced alien society.

Amidst all the negative press that Hawking’s comments on the series have created for aliens, NASA is moving forward with plans to seek life on planets and moons — in particular, Europa, Jupiter’s sixth moon. Europa is covered with ice, and astronomers now think that a sea of water, and possibly living organisms, lies under the ice layers.

But most astronomers realistically expect that when humans finally do find life out in the galaxy, it will most likely be simple organisms, similar to bacteria and amoebas. We aren’t hearing much in the way of carrying on over how single cell organisms are out for world domination. And why not? Science fiction has shown us time and again how seemingly simple alien life forms can pose a potential risk to humanity and Earth as a whole. One Doctor Who episode (starring David Tennant) even has water as the alien threat. Europa seems kind of risky now.

In all fairness, few scientists are giving Hawking’s comments much attention. Even Hawking concludes that the chance of aggressive aliens showing up for dinner, at least any time soon, is pretty small. Statistically, Earth is likely not the only planet with life, and humans are likely not the most intelligent life in the universe (I often think we aren’t the most intelligent life on Earth). Hawking explains that we obviously live rather far away from other highly advanced planetary societies, and that alien aggressors would take just as long to get to us as it would take for us to get to them. For now at least, humans are apparently the most dangerous thing flying around the galaxy.

Check out this three-minute clip from the Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking episode about aliens. Also take a look at the TechRepublic photo gallery, NASA seeks life on planets and moons.

Related resources

Sign up for the Geekend newsletter

TechRepublic’s Geekend newsletter, delivered each Friday, features off-topic chatter about all things geeky, including science fiction, movies, gaming, books, space, gadgets, and more. Automatically subscribe today!