A SCOTS academic is being bombarded by UFO conspiracy theorists who believe aliens have been found.
Dr Duncan Forgan, of St Andrews University, has the difficult and sensitive job of deciding how humankind should be told in the event that extraterrestrials are discovered.
But after issuing a new guide on the thorny subject earlier this year, Dr Forgan says he has become a lightning rod for people with “varying levels of mental health”.
Some have accused Dr Forgan of helping governments cover up the “truth” that beings from other worlds are here already.
Others have been in touch to claim the aliens need help “getting home” while one sent the blueprints for a perpetual motion machine.
Dr Forgan, an astrophysicist, produced his guide for the international research project SETI – the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
The rules were designed to update the protocol on how the people of earth should discover – in an age when social media could cause widespread panic – that they are not alone.
Dr Forgan said: “My inbox is full of very interesting people with varying levels of mental health. My spam folder is quite a treat.
“We’ve been accused of putting out this information because we’ve already found it out and the government are trying to cover it up.
“A lot of it is quite generic – ‘You would say that because you’re part of the cabal’, he explained, adding that such individuals consider him to be part of an “ivory tower moon landing theory”.
Others getting in touch claim they are aliens – he says – asking for his help to return them to his home planet.
Discussing specific individuals, he went on: “I do recall one person saying they had invented a perpetual motion machine and he would give me the blueprints, and his reasoning was he had been sent to earth to wait for the next stage of evolution and he had got bored of waiting.
“He broke the prime directive because he wanted to go home.”
Asked who the conspiracy theorists are, he replied: “The people with the Gmail accounts who are anonymous.”
In spite of his involvement in the project, Dr Forgan maintains that he is a “sceptic” over our chances of finding alien life.
He said: “The odds of us being able to send a message and them sending a reply is really, really small.
“I think if we’re going to find signs of intelligent life we’ll be finding signs of dead intelligence – they were there and they aren’t any more.
“There’s a risk we’ll look into the universe and just see ruins.”
But, he said the discovery of an extinct intelligent life could also trigger shockwaves of panic: “If we find the ruins of a dead civilisation then that will clearly have different effects on different people – I can imagine that causing panic for some people.”
Dr Forgan’s guide, published in May, is titled “#FoundThem- 21st Century Pre-Search and Post-Detection SETI Protocols for Social and Digital Media”.
In it he claims that scientists hunting alien life should maintain an up-to-date public record of their research, submit their findings for peer review and make it clear if their findings cannot be verified.
He also says that scientists should take strict security measures online – as they could become targets for those who become unhinged by the news of alien life.
The aim of the project was to update the guidelines – which were originally published in 1989, before the internet radically overhauled how information is shared.