"There is absolutely no procedure enshrined in international law to respond to a signal from an alien civilization," said Martin Dominik, an astronomer at the University of St. Andrews. "It makes sense to create a legally binding framework that is properly rooted in international law."

Well, yes, it would make sense. But if the Bug-Eyed Monsters do send a message, would we really want to reply at all?

Bug-eyed monsters, generally portrayed carrying off half-naked Earth maidens with evil intent, were a standard feature of pulp science fiction in the 1950s. We are all more sophisticated now, of course, but fear of alien contact is not necessarily irrational.

The specific reason for Dominik’s remarks is a survey of public attitudes toward alien contact that was launched last month by London’s Royal Society and the U.K. SETI Research Network, but in broader terms it is a response to two important developments in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) that occurred in 2015.

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