Humanity’s vigorous drive to find — or be found by — intelligent life outside of Earth could one day lead to our total annihilation, or at least that’s the fear of some in the scientific community. Now, decades after drawing up directions to our planet and sending them into deep space, the creator of the maps is having second thoughts.
You might never have heard of Frank Drake, but if aliens come hunting for Earth one day, he might be the one responsible for them finding us. Drake is the creator of the pulsar map which was engraved on plaques attached to the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft, as well as the “Gold Record” aboard both the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes, and his daughter Nadia recently wrote up a great retrospective on the map’s creation and her father’s opinions on its potential doom mankind.
The map itself, which uses the position of long-lasting pulsars to pinpoint the location of Earth, would require considerable intelligence in order to be deciphered, but as we have no frame of reference for what other life forms may be lurking in the depths of space it’s hard to say just how clever it really is.
Some have voiced the opinion that advertising our location to other races is a bad move. Giving directions to Earth to anyone who comes across one of the four spacecraft as they hurtle through space certainly seems like it may have been a foolish and naive move, but as Drake explains, it simply wasn’t a concern at the time.
“In those days, all the people I dealt with were optimists, and they thought the ETs would be friendly,” he says. “Nobody thought, even for a few seconds, about whether this might be a dangerous thing to do.”