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March 7, 2011 3:01 PM   Subscribe


 
The EPR one also makes the assumption that aliens know Morse code, Earth alphabets, etc.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:09 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bwahahahaha! These space-faring aliens will never crack my diabolical Morse Code!
posted by grobstein at 3:19 PM on March 7, 2011


Primo snark. I am still snickering. Oh well, who wanted to meet them anyway?
posted by bearwife at 3:22 PM on March 7, 2011


I remember an old SF story about an interstellar confederation discovering the Pioneer plaque, being appalled and mortified that anyone would send out pornography, and annihilating our wretched, immoral, libertine civilization.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:27 PM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


"A return binary message 180 light-years from now"

It doesn't mean what you think it means.
posted by vidur at 3:34 PM on March 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Neat, I was just talking to someone about the Pioneer message the other day. We were specifically talking about how likely it was for any given civilization to understand the concept of an arrow (the idea being that the arrow itself has all sorts of historical military baggage, but that using an asymmetrical line to represent direction might be pretty inevitable) and also about how the people in the picture are pretty obviously caucasian.
posted by 256 at 3:34 PM on March 7, 2011


These things are all fun and games until somebody includes a sample of human blood and the next thing you know, 1/3 of the planet is spending Christmas day in their pajamas on the highest possible structure.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:35 PM on March 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


I took a lot of anthropology and linguistics classes in school, and how exactly to communicate intelligent information is actually a pretty tricky proposition. If I remember correctly, in "2001" the monument found on the moon was in the proportion of the first three squares.
I remember reading somewhere (NY Times?), that a good example to show to aliens would be a drawing of a triangle with the numbers 3, 4, and 5 (using tick marks) to denote the sides, thus showing that we know trig.
There are, of course, more practical propositions. For instance, how do you label a uranium dump so that someone doesn't dig it up in a billion years or so?
posted by Gilbert at 3:41 PM on March 7, 2011


The message that I get from the Pioneer Plaque is that you shouldn't mess with us as we can shoot photon torpedoes out of our palms.
posted by digsrus at 3:42 PM on March 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I really hate the phrase 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression.' Of course you get a second chance to make a first impression. just not if the person you're making it on has noticed you. And there's absolutely no reason to suppose that anyone will ever notice the Pioneer plaque. So I say, knock ourselves out.
posted by lodurr at 4:00 PM on March 7, 2011


"A return binary message 180 light-years from now"

It doesn't mean what you think it means.


Clearly he meant parsecs.
posted by The Deej at 4:02 PM on March 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


How many parsecs does it take you to do the Kessel run?
posted by lodurr at 4:05 PM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Re. the article: It's cute, but it reads like something that got rejected by cracked.com. And it's a bit mean-spirited. It's as though she expects everyone to check with her first to verify that their attempts at communication aren't mock-worthy. (Or maybe it just means that any attempt at communication is mock-worthy.)
posted by lodurr at 4:07 PM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always liked the Pioneer plaque. To me, it looks like a couple of peaceful naked humanoids being impaled on a citrus juicer. If we got that it would scare the piss out of us, and I've always entertained the hope that it will arrive back here sometime after we've forgotten we sent it -- and the whole planet will go to DEFCON 1.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:10 PM on March 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


By Grabthar's Hammer, by the sons of Wartham, you shall be avenged.
posted by not_on_display at 4:10 PM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"A return binary message 180 light-years from now"

It doesn't mean what you think it means.

Clearly he meant parsecs.


Yar! He meant fathoms or maybe leagues.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:20 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember an old SF story about an interstellar confederation discovering the Pioneer plaque, being appalled and mortified that anyone would send out pornography, and annihilating our wretched, immoral, libertine civilization.

"Do not cancel I Love Lucy, or we send the attack ships."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:24 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It doesn't mean what you think it means.

A period of 180 years, that being the time it takes light to travel 180 lightyears? I mean, it's sort of cutesy but hardly unintelligible.
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on March 7, 2011


I know I'm being pedantic, but they spelled Arecibo wrong multiple times.
posted by KGMoney at 4:42 PM on March 7, 2011


Metafilter: Cutesy by Hardly Unintelligible
posted by vidur at 4:43 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Cutesy by Hardly Unintelligible

The typo actually adds a lot to this tagline.
posted by bearwife at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2011


The nude plaque wouldn't get approved in this day and age. Won't somebody think of the space children?
posted by Bubbles Devere at 4:49 PM on March 7, 2011


The last message any alien listens to, before launching the Planet Destroyer, will be the pilot of Two and a Half Men.
posted by zippy at 4:51 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cutesy by Hardly Unintelligible, based on the novel w00t by Instantiate.
posted by Artw at 4:56 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


All the interceptable messages and signals we have sent have taken place in such a short period that they might as well be simultaneous, and any one is as likely to be the first as another. In space they are spread so thin that any one is as unlikely to be intercepted as another.
posted by Nothing at 5:10 PM on March 7, 2011


"…a major priority…" Hardly.
posted by Jode at 5:10 PM on March 7, 2011


The typo actually adds a lot to this tagline.

So, can I claim that it was intentional?
posted by vidur at 5:10 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


*and also about how the people in the picture are pretty obviously caucasian.*

Also the woman has no appearance of genitals, not even a little notch like you typically see on women without much in the way of labia. It's like they decided to skip pubic hair and then said "aw screw it!"

On the other hand any alien species ready to converse with humans is going to need the ability to deal with certain things like our hang ups of a real depiction of the human form in art or weird group identity hang ups. It would be nice if the message they got was untainted it really wouldn't be an accurate representation of our psychology.
posted by Phalene at 5:12 PM on March 7, 2011


This is the worst message we ever intentionally sent to space. Although it does teach me a fact about the universe that I didn't know, but an advanced civilization would typically know: apparently Doritos makes salsa now.

Otherwise, I'm fond of Carl Sagan's assumption in Contact that aliens are likely to receive and return Nazi Germany's 1944 Olympic games broadcast (which wasn't made to reach aliens, it was just strong enough to reach space), if only because that means our dialog with aliens will have Godwin'd from the start.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:39 PM on March 7, 2011


Maybe the aliens would be all "wait, it's a Hindu peace symbol!"
posted by Artw at 6:03 PM on March 7, 2011


How many parsecs does it take you to do the Kessel run?

I'll let you know. I'm going to do Logan's run next week and I'm told that I may never be able to do the Kessel run as a result.
posted by juiceCake at 6:25 PM on March 7, 2011


Artw: Cutesy by Hardly Unintelligible, based on the novel w00t by Instantiate

Ah. I was reading it as a cross product. Carry on.
posted by hangashore at 6:31 PM on March 7, 2011


I remember an old SF story about an interstellar confederation discovering the Pioneer plaque, being appalled and mortified that anyone would send out pornography, and annihilating our wretched, immoral, libertine civilization.

V'Ger?
posted by ovvl at 6:36 PM on March 7, 2011


"To all whom this message may reach: greetings. I am Menthol, King of Earth. It brings me great pleasure to inform you that you have won the Interstellar Earth Lottery! To collect your winnings, please prove your level of civilization by sending the secrets of converting lead into gold and eternal life to this e-mail address."
posted by Menthol at 7:04 PM on March 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Out of curiosity, how hard is it to send a signal that would be above the noise level by the time it reached another solar system? Would you need to lease a radio telescope for a few hours, or could a consumer satellite dish, given a strong enough signal, do it?
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:17 PM on March 7, 2011


I'm pretty sure satellite dishes and radio telescopes are for receiving, not sending.
posted by flaterik at 8:33 PM on March 7, 2011


how hard is it to send a signal that would be above the noise level by the time it reached another solar system?

I don't think it would be too hard, just probably in violation of FCC regulations, albeit briefly. By the standards of radio astronomy, a cell phone on the moon would produce a 'quite strong' radio signal from Earth's perspective. The strongest cell phones emit about 3 watts.

I'm pretty sure satellite dishes and radio telescopes are for receiving, not sending.

They go both ways. The Arecibo telescope was used to send the message of the same name.
posted by jedicus at 8:37 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember reading somewhere (NY Times?), that a good example to show to aliens would be a drawing of a triangle with the numbers 3, 4, and 5 (using tick marks) to denote the sides, thus showing that we know trig.

Gilbert, I'd just go ahead and make the wild-assed assumption that any species capable of sending out an interplanetary probe had mastered the Pythagorean Theorem.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:02 PM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


By sure to check out the Arecibo message (also linked by jedicus just above). That was described in the article but not pictured. It was probably my favorite of these messages as a kid.
posted by intermod at 9:11 PM on March 7, 2011


I hate the whole "naive alien" trope articles like this bank on. Seriously? Morse code is an issue? Its at least obviously not a natural transmission. The words themselves don't matter. Understanding two dimensional representations? Err, if they can build solar system size antennas or catch Pioneer flying through their space, I'm sure they can figure out how to read illustrations.

I see this trope as linked with human vanity. We just can't or won't admit that to an advanced species we'd be as easy to figure as dogs are to us. Hivemind558 won't have too many issues with human society. We're little more than fucking and warring machines. Love and art won't confuse them and fry their circuits. They won't marvel at our philosophies and religions. We're not precious snowflakes, we're just another complex replicator.

Not to mention to an ancient and advanced society most likely we won't be their first contact. Its vain to assume so. They would probably have some experience on how this stuff works. The AI expert system that handles messages from half-crazed hairless primates would probably just yawn at us the same way we yawn when yet another exotic deep sea fish is discovered.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:41 PM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


By sure to check out the Arecibo message

Has anyone ever turned the color coded message into a video game yet? I swear it looks exactly how a cheap Soviet Galaga clone should look like circa 1983.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:43 PM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually from what I understand, nearly all transmissions from Earth will be indistinguishable from the cosmic background before they pass the Oort Cloud. The only signals that will even be distinguishable at a short interstellar distance are the military D.E.W. radars.

That basically means that in order to detect our civilization the aliens would really have to be exploring our solar system already. Given how we've found that planetary systems that could harbor life (and thus are worth investigating) are more common than we thought, this makes it even more unlikely that aliens would overhear us in the infinitesimally short period of time we've been broadcasting.
posted by happyroach at 9:51 PM on March 7, 2011


We just can't or won't admit that to an advanced species we'd be as easy to figure as dogs are to us.

Cats are another matter.
posted by arcticseal at 10:09 PM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Receiving TV or FM from 20 light years away would be incredibly hard but not impossible (at our technology level, if I'm reading the full article correctly) for an alien SETI program at Gliese C.

... the television signals reaching the planet would be a billion, billion, billion times smaller than the original signal generated on Earth, says Dr Maggie Aderin, a space scientist at technology firm Astrium.

"Detecting a signal like this with lots of background noise would be incredibly hard, but what they would look for is a pattern in the signals to show that they were not naturally occurring."

posted by zippy at 10:31 PM on March 7, 2011



"Do not cancel I Love Lucy, or we send the attack ships."


I remember an SNL sketch about this. They had the first alien response as :
"Send more Chuck Berry"
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 7:30 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


ah, yes: the 'future loves rock n roll' trope.
posted by lodurr at 7:53 AM on March 8, 2011


The Arecibo message has already returned to Earth; aliens made it into an elaborate crop circle.

The Dutil-Dumas message is quite beautiful.

No discussion of interstellar communication is complete without mentioning His Master's Voice, Stanislaw Lem's masterpiece of incomprehension.
posted by Nelson at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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