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Scientists will seek signs of aliens’ bad behavior

HabEx telescope and sunshade
An artist’s conception shows the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission’s space telescope and its starshade. (NASA / JPL Illustration)

Global warming and nuclear blasts may be bad for humanity, but astrobiologists say they could be good indicators of the presence of intelligent life on distant worlds.

Such signatures of risky biological behavior should therefore be included in the list of things for future space telescopes to seek out, researchers say in a white paper prepared for the National Academy of Sciences.

The strategy would add a contemporary twist to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, reflecting the view that Earth is transitioning into a technology-driven geological era some call the Anthropocene.

“Examining the Anthropocene epoch through the lens of astrobiology can help to understand the future evolution of life on our planet and the possible evolution of technological, energy-intensive life elsewhere in the universe,” the researchers write.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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