Edward Snowden has recently said that encryption is probably the only thing stopping us from talking to aliens. He joined Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk podcast on Friday and revealed that he thinks aliens might be sending out signals right now, but they’d be impossible to detect. This isn’t the first time Snowden or files that he’s leaked have addressed issues surrounding extraterrestrial life.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. There’s Only a Small Window in Technological Development When We’d Be Able to Decipher Alien Signals
According to Snowden, there’s only a small period of time when technology is open enough that we’d actually be able to interpret the alien signals, The Week reported. This is during the small window when society sends messages by the most primitive, unprotected means that don’t require decryption. After this window passes, messages are indecipherable.
2. Snowden Said That For the Most Part, We’d Never Recognize Alien Signals Because of Encryption
Once a society reaches the phase where it starts protecting and encrypting its messages, then messages sent out into space would be indistinguishable from microwave background radiation, Snowden continued. That’s because the alien equivalent of television shows, for example, would be encrypted by default and thus appear completely random, The Guardian reported. He said:
So when we think about everything that we’re hearing through our satellites or everything that they’re hearing from our civilization (if there are indeed aliens out there), all of their communications are encrypted by default…
Does this mean that a society couldn’t choose to send out a broadcast that was purposefully not encrypted?
3. Iran Claimed Leaked Snowden Documents Showed the U.S. Was Run By Aliens
This isn’t the first time that Snowden has been connected with questions about alien communications, sometimes to an almost comic effect. Last year, Iran’s semi-official news agency, FARS, claimed that it had obtained leaked Snowden documents that revealed the United States government was run by “tall white aliens,” The National Journal reported. The report was almost taken word-for-word from a conspiracy blog. Snowden himself said that he didn’t bring any secret documents to Russia, which is where the Iran agency claimed it obtained the information. The report was heavy on the science fiction, with claims that an Iranian had built a time machine and that 80 species of aliens were on Earth, getting ready to wage interplanetary war.
4. Leaked Snowden Documents Did Show the Government Will Use Alien Conspiracies to Distract From Real Secrets
There was at least one authenticated leaked Snowden document that actually did relate to aliens, Yahoo reported. Slides of mysterious flying saucers were seen among the documetns leaked by the NSA whistleblower. But these were connected to a series of reports detailing how the United States government might discredit someone by connecting them to alien sightings or might distract from a secret aircraft project by releasing faked photos of UFOs.
5. Researchers Are Also Looking Into a Series of Strange Radio Signals As Possible Communication
Although Snowden believes that deciphering alien signals is impossibly difficult, others don’t agree. New Scientist reported that scientists working with the Parkes telescope in Australia are studying a series of fast-radio bursts since 2001. The sounds come from far outside the galaxy, from something relatively small, and don’t fit cosmic physics patterns, leading some to believe they may alien communications and not natural. All the bursts are multiples of a single number, 187.5. If the patterns continue to hold, they could indicate either a new physics, such as a new type of pulsar, or an alien beacon of some sort.