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Astronomers present new scale to rate trustworthiness of ‘alien news’

25 Jul 2018, 09:01 UTC
Astronomers present new scale to rate trustworthiness of ‘alien news’
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A still from the film Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Image credit: Columbia Pictures
What are the consequences for the human race if we encountered extraterrestrial intelligence? If you see a story about aliens on TV or online, how excited should you be? A new study, published in the International Journal of Astrobiology, revamps a long-used tool for classifying potential signals from extraterrestrial intelligence, making it fit for the modern world of news and social media.
First developed in 2001, the Rio Scale is a tool used by astronomers searching for extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) to help communicate to the public ‘how excited’ they should be about what has been observed. The scale measures the consequences for humans if the signal is from aliens, as well as the probability that the signal really is from aliens, and not a natural phenomenon or human-made. The scale gives a score between zero and ten, so that the public can quickly see how important a signal really is.
“The whole world knows about the Richter Scale for quantifying the severity of an earthquake; that number is reported immediately following a quake and subsequently refined as more data are consolidated,” said Jill Tarter, co-founder ...

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