Updated: 24th April 2018

Stephen Hawking warns against seeking out aliens in new film

Beware responding to signals from far off stars, physicist tells viewers in Stephen Hawkings Favorite Places a virtual journey across the cosmos

We come in peace might be the traditional opening gambit for aliens in science fiction, but we should be wary about beaming back a response to any advanced life-forms in real life, Stephen Hawking has warned.

Our first contact from an advanced civilisation could be equivalent to when Native Americans first encountered Christopher Columbus and things didnt turn out so well, he cautioned.

The comments are made in an online film, Stephen Hawkings Favorite Places, in which the theoretical physicist takes viewers on his own CGI spacecraft (the SS Hawking) to five significant locations across the cosmos.

On arriving at Gliese 832c, a planet 16 light years away, Hawking reflects: As I grow older I am more convinced than ever that we are not alone. After a lifetime of wondering, I am helping to lead a new global effort to find out. The Breakthrough Listen project will scan the nearest million stars for signs of life, but I know just the place to start looking. One day we might receive a signal from a planet like Gliese 832c, but we should be wary of answering back.

It is not the first time Hawking has warned about the prospect of hostile aliens. Launching the Breakthrough Listen project, which will scan the nearest million stars for signs of life, last year he suggested that any civilisation reading our messages could be billions of years ahead of humans. If so they will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria, he said.

Stephen Hawkings CGI spacecraft, the SS Hawking. Photograph: From Stephen Hawkings Favorite Places

The 25-minute film, which appears on the platform CuriosityStream, starts at the Big Bang, which has been the focus of much of Hawkings career. Viewers are also taken deep into a super-massive black hole, Sagittarius A*, where Hawking explains his theory of matter, and to Saturn, which Hawking calls the most spectacular destination in the Solar System.

Finally, Hawking returns to Earth to Santa Barbara where he talks nostalgically of his early career at Cal Tech and times spent on the sunny California coast with his young family.

My goal is simple: complete understanding of the universe, Hawking said. Its always been a dream of mine to explore the universe.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us