Chapter OneRecognizing the Signal
In the 1996 blockbuster motion picture Independence Day,
hostile aliens come to Earth hell-bent on death and destruction. Resourceful humans band together, defeat the common enemy, and save Earth. This Hollywood scenario is not new -- it has dominated screen versions of alien contact since 1951 with the release of The Thing,
in which a single alien wreaks havoc on a group of humans.
A more peaceful version of alien contact has also become a cultural staple. From 1951 and The Day the Earth Stood Still
to 1977 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind,
benign aliens have...