UPDATE: co-author admits it is a “horrible mistake”, see below – Anthony
From the you’ve got to be effing kidding me department.
First, I apologize to my readers for the headline. Read on and I think you’ll see it is justified. The headline is paraphrased from the article and the paper to give you the flavor. I have reproduced the passage used by the Guardian and provided a link to the full paper below.
First, the Guardian story: (h/t to reader “a jones”)
Now the paper, peer reviewed and published in Acta Astronautica titled:
Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis
Seth D. Baum,1 Jacob D. Haqq-Misra,2 & Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman3
1. Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University.
2. Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University
3. NASA Planetary Science Division
Acta Astronautica, 2011, 68(11-12): 2114-2129
Here’s the relevant passage:
A preemptive strike [from extraterrestrials] would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilization may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of Earth’s atmosphere (e.g. via greenhouse gas emissions), which therefore changes the spectral signature of Earth. While it is difficult to estimate the likelihood of this scenario, it should at a minimum give us pause as we evaluate our expansive tendencies.
Words fail me. Truly this is science fiction, and not the good kind. I have a feature called “Climate Craziness of the Week”, this may be the all time winner.
Read the entire paper here (PDF)
UPDATE: Former Economist sci/tech reporter Oliver Morton chips in with this in comments, it seems a “horrible mistake” was made by the co-author. Still no word on how this passes peer review.
So here’s the thing. This isn’t a “NASA report.” It’s not work funded by NASA, nor is it work supported by NASA in other ways. It was just a fun paper written by a few friends, one of whom happens to have a NASA affiliation.
But I do admit to making a horrible mistake. It was an honest one, and a naive one… but it was a mistake nonetheless. I should not have listed my affiliation as “NASA Headquarters.” I did so because that is my current academic affiliation. But when I did so I did not realize the full implications that has. I’m deeply sorry for that, but it was a mistake born our of carelessness and inexperience and nothing more. I will do what I can to rectify this, including distributing this post to the Guardian, Drudge, and NASA Watch. Please help me spread this post to the other places you may see the article inaccurately attributed to NASA.