Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Space

Physicists Call For Alien Messaging Protocol 279

Posted by timothy
from the don't-they-still-use-macs? dept.
schliz writes "Researchers have called for the development of a messaging framework that could increase the probability that our interplanetary messages are detected and deciphered – assuming Orson Scott Card's vision of telepathic buggers doesn't come true. The trio of postgraduate astrophysicists suggest a Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence protocol (METI — PDF) for signal encoding, message length, information content, transmission method and periodicity. The protocol could be tested via a website that allows users to create, retrieve and decrypt sample messages that conform to the protocol — which also demonstrates communication across human cultural boundaries, they say."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Physicists Call For Alien Messaging Protocol

Comments Filter:
  • by bronney (638318) on Friday January 28, 2011 @04:06AM (#35029718) Homepage

    Let's not get ahead of ourselves now. Before we do this alien thing, why not try to see if we can solve this problem here on Earth first? (I watched way too much MythBusters).

    For example, I am Chinese. And pretend I don't know a single English word and the alphabet, write something and make me understand. Anything at all. It can be a hello of some sort even. Not easy isn't it. How about trying it on some isolated tribes? Remember, no interaction, no eye contact, nothing. Pure pencil on paper.

    • by dintech (998802) on Friday January 28, 2011 @04:29AM (#35029808)

      telepathic buggers

      Let's not get ahead of ourselves now

      Don't get behind me either!

    • Exactly. A frame of reference needs to be established first. This is hard even on earth. How the hell are they supposed to establish this between planets?!?!
    • Wasn't that precisely the idea that "The protocol could be tested via a website that allows users to create, retrieve and decrypt sample messages that conform to the protocol - which also demonstrates communication across human cultural boundaries" was addressing?

      • The recipients in that case have an advantage - they know that theres a protocol being followed, and they may even know the inner details of that protocol. In the challenge posted above, you wouldn't even know theres a protocol, let alone anything about it. All the testing website does is certify that a given message conforms to the protocol.

        In the above challenge, the equivilent is handing the entire encoded message to someone with no prior knowledge of the protocol, and having them successfully decod
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Friday January 28, 2011 @04:56AM (#35029932) Homepage

      Cats had this figured out years ago. Despite not speaking a word of any human language they have no trouble communicating their demands to their staff^W owners.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        What do you mean? Of course Cats can speak human language:
        All your base are belong to us. You are on the way to destruction. You have no chance to survive make your time.

      • So we have a few messages to choose from. The most desperate plea for attention is the "I want breakfast, why did you take so goddamn long to get here" sound (MEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOWWWW), but we don't want the aliens to think we want to eat them.

        There's also the less irritating "I want cuddles" sound (mrow. mrow. mrow.) But then the aliens might misunderstand this and think we want to have freaky human genital sex with their tentacle-based genitalia.

        I think the only safe option is the "open the door" sound (M

      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        I don't know. Cats will be really friendly when they want something, but they will also be randomly really friendly. Sometimes they will try to lead you somewhere when they want something, but sometimes my cat runs ahead of me when I am heading into the bathroom, and then hops right into the tub, does this mean she wants a shower?

    • by Stooshie (993666) on Friday January 28, 2011 @05:22AM (#35030012) Journal
      It's not about them understanding English or whatever language we package up. It's about any alien looking at the data and realising that there is actually information here, rather than just random streams of data (not necessarily about understanding the content). Once they realise there is information then they can get to work on trying to decipher it. The protocol is a kind of flag waving saying something like "interesting stuff over here guys".
      • I recall reading about a SETI experiment where one team devised a message and a second team tried to interpret the message. They failed, even though it wasn't a good test because both teams had a common history. I don't expect us to succeed with aliens. We can't talk to elephants, dolphins, orangutans, etc.

        • by bronney (638318)

          Exactly my hidden challenge my bro :)

          Talking to animals could be easier than talking to ET. At least we live in the same place and eat generally the same stuff.

          • That's true -- however, I think it can be reasonably assumed that anybody trying to decode these messages at least has a basic grasp of physics and is smart enough to build a radio.

          • How can you even get the attention of something like a chimp or a dolphin? Something highly intelligent, yet not intelligent enough to try to decipher the meaning of a drawing rather than flinging poo or frolicking in the waves.

      • Then send pulses with length ratios of prime numbers. These guys were however trying to encode a message, which is completely different.

    • 1, 2, 3, 4 ... then 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 1+3=4 ... pretty soon you'd get the pattern and figure out those are numbers. can i draw pictures? if so, it's easy. if not then i would use math to describe something you know about, like days, years, atomic numbers etc and assign them names. by then we would have some start of a vocabulary and build from there. it would be difficult at first but once you have a few simple words it would get easier

      • Days and years, by which I assume you mean the number of hours in a day, and the number of days in a year, wouldn't be a good place to start building a language because it's specific to our planet.

        Hours are an arbitary unit of time, based on geometry and astronomy, therefore 24 would mean nothing to an alien species without them already knowing some specific information about our planet such as how long a day is (in their time reference system) and that we have divided a circle into 360 parts etc. Simila
    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "For example, I am Chinese. And pretend I don't know a single English word and the alphabet, write something and make me understand."

      II III IIIII IIIIIII IIIIIIIIIII

      Here's a 50 year old method too.

      http://www.weirdwarp.com/2010/07/how-to-talk-to-aliens/ [weirdwarp.com]

    • by Snaller (147050)

      "For example, I am Chinese. And pretend I don't know a single English word and the alphabet, write something and make me understand. Anything at all. It can be a hello of some sort even. Not easy isn't it. How about trying it on some isolated tribes? Remember, no interaction, no eye contact, nothing. Pure pencil on paper."

      Or try teaching Republicans that Global warming is a real. That's impossible even with eye contact and visual aids.

  • by symes (835608) on Friday January 28, 2011 @04:06AM (#35029722) Journal

    As TFA reports:

    "An advanced civilization within a radius of 100 light years could detect our television shows and already know we are here, so there is little hope in concealing our location in space," they wrote.

    So if first impressions matter, developing some standard protocol is kind of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. Impressions will have been informed on our early TV output. There could well be whole institutions on other worlds tasked with decoding the antics of Tom and Jerry. No wonder they've stayed away.

    • by WillKemp (1338605)

      How do you know they've stayed away? We probably haven't had radio for long enough for them to get here yet. They could be on their way right now - and very hungry after 50 years on the road!

    • by h00manist (800926)
      Detecting that there is a trasmission that is TV is one thing, but there's no telling that they would actually be able to decode the television signals and see or hear the content. Don't know that it will be that easy to reverse-engineer a tv transmission without having or even knowing what a TV is.
      • A interesting point. Another one is, if they can detect our signals, why can't we detect theirs? In developing technology, they would most likely use wireless, and unless there are planets much older or younger then us within range, I reckon it is reasonable to assume they would be fairly close in tech development to us.

        In other words I consider it unlikely that they are there, given we haven't heard/detected them yet. A signal will spread an attenuate quite a lot over 100 light years, so I'm not even sure

        • It's been 60 years since the first powerful television transmissions, since then wireless communication has become far more widespread but is being reduced in transmission power and used in a more directional manner because by using a lot of short range transmitters rather than a few long range transmitters you get to reuse the frequency in another area without interference with Fibre Optic connection provide the vast majority of the bandwidth and would be completely hidden.

          Any Alien civilisation will have
    • by Sibko (1036168)
      Sadly, [or not, depending on your outlook] aliens within a hundred lightyears probably won't be able to detect us by our radio signals.

      Journalists, knowing very little of science, make the mistake of assuming that the only part of the equation that matters here is the speed the signal travels at, and how long it's been traveling for. Ergo you get "ZOMG we sent out radio signals a hundred years ago, that means anything within a hundred lightyears can see us!"

      What they don't seem to consider is the stre
    • So if first impressions matter, developing some standard protocol is kind of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. Impressions will have been informed on our early TV output. There could well be whole institutions on other worlds tasked with decoding the antics of Tom and Jerry. No wonder they've stayed away.

      In the Flash Gordon movie from the '70s, this is how Ming discovered that the Earth had advanced enough to become a threat. There's a scene where he's reviewing scenes of Hitler, from among the earliest TV transmissions, and remarks, "He showed promise!"

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday January 28, 2011 @04:15AM (#35029758)
    To develop this as a proper standard, the "aliens" also need to be on the standards committee. So first of all we need a pre-protocol to identify aliens suitably qualified to participate in the standards process.

    Also, should this start off as an IEEE exercise, or should it go straight to ISO? If the latter, we'll have to rename it the "Interplanetary Standards Organisation". And then we might find that one already exists and it will be us asking if we can send delegates.

    Truly this is a can of worms.

  • The point is getting communication established, that they know we're there and we know they're there. For this say a simple prime sequence should be enough (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29 beeps). Clearly not natural, invariant of the base system used (primes are primes in binary, octal, hex, whatever) - any civilization with math should recognize it.

    Between two prime sequences I'd go with simple binary pictograms first sending width length then pixels. As you get a bunch of them it'll be easy to see the

    • Re:Mostly irrelevant (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ledow (319597) on Friday January 28, 2011 @05:33AM (#35030046) Homepage

      Pictograms are all but worthless. There are a billion interpretations and mostly that's assuming a 2D system of "vision" / "interpretation". And basically boils down to trying to teach someone who doesn't know anything about your species how to write and interpret images (like trying to teach a wild dolphin to read Shakespeare or recognise pictures of fruit with ZERO feedback about their correctness - intelligent or not, writing is still new to *us* because we've only been doing it for a tiny percentage of the time that humans have existed).

      And your encoding is ambiguous - how do they know it's not length, then width? Or that it's not length then width then depth followed by a 3D representation (possibly the length might tell you that but once you get into that level of interpretation, you can "make sense" of any nonsense whatsoever)? Or that you didn't put the length/width at the end, or in the middle, or in whatever offset *they* consider logical? Yes, there may be a "pattern" of X times Y that gives us the size of the "packet" but there are probably a million other way of interpreting raw bits that would work out in the same way (i.e. if the first bit is a one, then the message is junk, so ignore it, parity, etc.)

      You're just making far too many assumptions about mathematics and interpretation. This is the problem, almost everything we try will probably be useless because we've never encountered an intelligence other than our own, so we have *no* idea how to communicate at all. Who says they are even LOOKING at EM radiation? Maybe in a thousand years we won't even bother looking at it either (because of things like light-year limits to it's readability, degradation, interference, etc.) - maybe the sign of an "intelligent" civilisation will be using (insert whatever fancy physics you like here) systems instead and not bother with "pre-quantum" civilisations, etc.

      And a thousand years in time, galactically, is nothing. And any civilisation that lasts long enough to contact others is much more likely to be millions of years more advanced than we are by sheer probability. MILLLIONS. As in CERN, the satellite systems, mainframes and the whole of civilisation would look like a fragment of fossil in the rock to them, technologically.

      Prime numbers? The numbers that occur in nature when you take out all factors (in your case, just those up to 5) and occur often in purely physical systems? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_number#Prime_numbers_in_nature) There are species of animal that come out every prime year in order to avoid predators that work on various regular intervals and being prime reduces their chances. It's not hard to imagine that such things could get lost in the noise (i.e. you can probably "see" prime numbers everywhere if you bother to look) or simply are a by-product of ordinary physics (e.g. primes pop up in the Zeta-function etc.)

      I agree the primes are simple but they won't necessarily attract attention. It's also assuming that maths is as universal as we hope (I'm a mathematician, but it's not hard to imagine somewhere where mathematics doesn't exist in a form we would understand). Carl Sagan suggests them as a way to demonstrate that an alien understand mathematics in a novel, but it's a bit far-fetched to say the least (messages from God are also hidden in pi in the book).

      The problem is that it's incredibly easy to send anything we want but we have absolutely ZERO idea about how it would ever be interpreted. Even if we found a remote hidden tribe in the Amazon that had never had human contact and were mathematically literate and we gave them the messages and after 50 years they were able to decode them, it wouldn't mean *anything* because their brains would work the same way as ours, with the same perceptions and senses. Also, it would still take thousands of years for any reply (or else we'd *probably* have been visited already).

      Finding ET is viable - it's easy to craft a "we're over here" signal just by sheer brute force and pushin

      • by Eivind (15695)

        It's ambigious, sure. But you can help. A sequence that consists of a product-of-two-primes-symbols, can only be split one way.

        If 35 bits (for example) are to be split up at all, then 5*7 (or 7*5) is the only way to do it. And you can give hints to that interpretation by framing, it doesn't take a genious to figure out how to split:

        11111110000000[data-in-groups-of7-here]00000001111111

        the 7-groups of 1s and 0s, connected with the fact that the *entire* string is cleanly splittable in chunks-of-7 is a fairly

        • That's 34 bits split by 2 and 17 with one parity bit at the end. Or 33 bits split by 3 and 11 with leading and trailing marker bits. Or 5 groups of seven each of which has 5 data bits and two marker bits.

          What seems simple to interpret to those with hindsight is not as simple to those who thing differently.

      • Your reply seems to be of the "communicating with ET is hard, so let's not try" variety. I think that's a cop-out.

        You say, "they might not be looking at EM" - I say, "Why not?" - and more appropriately, "What other choices do WE have?" -- EM is the only way we have of getting a signal off our planet.

        I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that alien scientists receiving our signal will be smart enough to build radios, and this probably means a basic understanding of mathematics. Almost certainly we will

        • by ledow (319597)

          - Assuming ET life exists
          - Assuming it's inside our sphere of expanding radio emissions
          - Assuming they are within similar stages of scientific discovery
          - Assuming they are seriously looking for us (and haven't yet found us) and / or that they spot us by complete accident
          - Assuming they realise what it is and don't take several YEARS to decide what to actually do about that (as our governments almost certainly would).
          - Assuming that they then initiate contact in a way we can understand which arrives here wit

    • This is Eleanor Arroway, transmitting on 14.2 megahertz.
  • > The protocol could be tested via a website

    'coz we all know that the "Aliens" have high-speed web access.

    Before you start laughing ...At least this explains a few things.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday January 28, 2011 @04:45AM (#35029892) Homepage

    The galaxy should be ablaze with life. It would only take one spacefaring race to colonise the entire galaxy. It's only 100,000 light years across - that's do-able in a few million years even at sublight. Heck, Earth is primo real estate - it should have been colonised, maybe several times over, by BEMs.

    So, where are they?

    Either no spacefaring race has evolved, anywhere, ever, or they evolved and died out - across the whole galaxy.

    When you start to think about what could cause a spacefaring race to "die out" on a galactic scale, well, maybe we shouldn't be shouting out "Here we are!" into the void.

    Smarter BEMs, if they exist, have probably figured this out, and are listening, quietly. Maybe even listening to our transmissions, to see what happens to us.

    Paranoid? Yes. But the alternative is to believe that we are truly unique, which is racial solipsism of the highest order. Pick your mental poison.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Friday January 28, 2011 @05:01AM (#35029946) Homepage

      There was some serious debate about this in the 80s. People saw the potential to wipe out an entire planet with relativistic bombs and came to the conclusion that hiding is the best policy.

      A relativistic bomb is where you accelerate something to a fraction of the speed of light and slam it into a planet. Something the size of the Space Shuttle at 20% light speed would be more powerful than every nuke on the planet combined. A 1km diameter asteroid at 90% the speed of light would atomise everything on the surface of the earth and reduce it to a vast sandy wasteland with patches of glass where it had fused in the heat. The top 10m of the seas would boil off too. Such a bomb will be within our means to make in the next 100 years because basically all it needs is some kind of self-fuelling engine (ideally Bussard ramjet) and guidance system.

      If one civilisation sees another there is a risk that the other could decide they are a threat and send a reletevistic bomb, so the only seemingly logical choice when you entire planet is at risk is a pre-emptive strike.

      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday January 28, 2011 @06:41AM (#35030290) Homepage Journal

        But due to a terrible misjudgement of scale their relativistic bombs are studied as cosmic rays.

      • There will always be serious debate that aliens have succumbed to $human_issue[$decade] during $decade.

        80s = Cold war = aliens nuked each other.

        2000s = climate change, social media, wars of aggression* = aliens destroyed their planet, are too busy with EyestalkBook or Zleeblaxian Idol, would murder our asses anyways.

        Those are just a couple I know of. Anyone care to contribute more?

        In fact let me take a few wild-ass guesses and see if I get any right:

        70s = Vietnam war = aliens too busy fighting unwinnable wa

    • by Kjella (173770) on Friday January 28, 2011 @05:12AM (#35029978) Homepage

      In theory, but then look at practical reality... our fastest space probes would take something like 70000 years to reach the nearest star. We don't have a clue how to build machinery that lasts that long, any interstellar craft is still on the highly speculative "if we get a fusion / anti-matter drive" level. It doesn't matter how long time we have on us, today's Earth tech couldn't do it even if we accepted that travel time.

      There's zero economic incentive of doing it, the chances that an interstellar colony would produce anything valuable for earth is extremely unlikely. At best it's information if we managed to establish cutting edge science somewhere, but the round trip on any communication is a decade or more.

      Seriously, ask yourself how far humanity would have to advance before we'd actually start doing it - not just in the theoretical "if we throw all our resources at it we might" but in practical terms would. I mean we haven't even been to the moon in ages. We know Mars is probably within reach if we spend billions. But we don't, and neither would we spend trillions to colonize some rock 1000 years down the road.

      • ..but they should at least be talking. Soon it may be cheaper to beam ourselves from planet to planet so aliens could do this as well. If anything space craft are redundant when information can be transmitted much faster.

    • by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlieNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Friday January 28, 2011 @05:22AM (#35030010) Homepage

      The galaxy should be ablaze with life. It would only take one spacefaring race to colonise the entire galaxy. It's only 100,000 light years across - that's do-able in a few million years even at sublight.

      A) The Milky Way ain't the only galaxy in the universe. There most likely is life somewhere but it may or may not be in this galaxy.
      B) It takes A LOT of time, effort and resources to colonize even one country, not to mention a complete planet. A lot, lot more than it takes to just travel the distance between the two end-points.
      C) Colonizing even half a galaxy would take quite a bit more than "a few million years."

      Heck, Earth is primo real estate

      Only if you happen to breath oxygen and otherwise the atmosphere is suitable for your species. If not then no, it's not "primo real estate."

      • A) The Milky Way ain't the only galaxy in the universe. There most likely is life somewhere but it may or may not be in this galaxy.

        But why not elsewhere in this Galaxy? We know now that there are plenty of planets at a habitable range from their stars. Our solar system seems pretty favourable however based on what we can see there should be equally favourable solar systems within 1000 light years or so. The process of kick starting microbial life doesn't seem to have been just a stroke of luck. It happened on earth pretty much as soon as conditions were suitable.

        • But why not elsewhere in this Galaxy? We know now that there are plenty of planets at a habitable range from their stars. Our solar system seems pretty favourable however based on what we can see there should be equally favourable solar systems within 1000 light years or so. The process of kick starting microbial life doesn't seem to have been just a stroke of luck. It happened on earth pretty much as soon as conditions were suitable.

          Indeed, that's a good question. But we simply lack the data to answer that with any certainty. Though, we DO know that there atleast has been microbial life on other planets, including Mars, and thus it's likely there is or has been on other favourable systems. The real question is why they didn't survive and what chances does such microbial life have to survive in any one galaxy.

        • by gtall (79522)

          Nice theory, but I've talked to aliens. Put quickly, the Earth and its inhabitants are simply too boring for their interest.

    • by WillKemp (1338605)

      Either no spacefaring race has evolved, anywhere, ever, or they evolved and died out - across the whole galaxy.

      Or we live in the arse end of the galaxy and nobody can be bothered wasting their time coming here!

    • by andydread (758754)
      The bottom line is nature is nature and resources are limited. I really don't think any creature that would risk traveling here would want to be "friendly" to us inferior creatures on this planet. Just take a look at it on a smaller scale. A planetary scale rather than a galactic scale. Are humans "friendly" to the "inferior" creatures here on earth? Do we try to figure out how to communicate with them before we clear a forest and setup our own habitat? We don't generally try to feel sorry for the th
    • You're forgetting another possibility: that a spacefaring race is aware of us and has decided they aren't interested in knowing us. There's precedent here on earth for hermit civilizations. We might say: "Well, a spacefaring race wouldn't be hermits." Okay, but they could be a bunch of idiots they'd rather not know. There's a precedent for this in my very own neighborhood.
    • by Rakishi (759894)

      If something wanted to kill life in the galaxy we'd already be dead. It's not that hard really. Von Neumann probe with a decent AI or uploaded alien. With nothing more than light sails you can probably have one around every every single star in the galaxy in under a million years. If it detects something it doesn't like than it dumps a relativistic rock at it. Or maybe it constructs a rocket inside a gas giant and make the local sun go nova just to be sure. Or just covers the planet with fusion powered gray

    • by sorak (246725)

      Or maybe we just have nothing worthy of their attention. If galactic travel is possible, we cannot assume it is cheap. We may be talking about groups spending generations in transit, just to find that they are now in some backwater planet, full of people who mostly just want to kill them and take their stuff, and, oh yeah, if they ever get back home, by then, the generations of separation may have caused just enough evolutionary differences to make them have difficulty mating with their own people.

      But, on t

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      There are several possibilities.

      Space travel could just be so expensive and consume so many resources that the civilizations decided it wasn't worth it. They may send out advanced robotic probes instead.

      Earth may be primo real estate, but aren't exactly in the bright center of the galaxy. Anything this far out may be considered not worth going after. This also makes the assumption that a race is interested in populating the galaxy, which may not be the case.

      We could be the first intelligent race in this gal

  • by wdef (1050680) on Friday January 28, 2011 @04:54AM (#35029926)

    I agree with Stephen Hawking. Blasting messages willy-nilly at possible alien civilizations is foolhardy in the extreme. I have taken the liberty of anticipating and responding to the usual criticisms of this risk management approach below.

    We have absolutely no reason to assume that contact with an advanced alien intelligence will be beneficial or that such aliens will be benign. Human history has taught us that, in contact between civilizations where one is technologically advanced compared to the other, the less advanced civilization always comes off worse. Our cuddly CE3K fantasies are just anthropomorphic projections. We have no reason to assume that the contacted aliens will possess human traits like compassion or altruism - in any case, many humans suspend or don't exhibit these. Think wartime atrocities. And we have treated other species on our own planet appallingly. Why should aliens be any nicer than us? The old chestnut "oh but they wouldn't have survived technological adolescence without destroying themselves if they weren't cuddly and nice" is just bollocks and is another anthropomorphic projection.

    "Oh but they can't visit us via interstellar travel because it's impractical and too slow". Only according to our limited physics, which can't even reconcile QM with Relativity yet. It's likely there is a better physics and we don't have it yet but they do. Who knows what technology that might allow. Even our own scifi has more imagination that this.

    "And our planet/system has nothing they need. It's not economic for them". Another supposition based on - what, exactly? How do we know what they value or what power sources they have? Humans as slaves or pets or pet food or as petri dishes for biological war experiments? How do we know? Humans place high values on some quite low value things. Diamonds are in abundance but we stockpile these to keep the value high.

    If we must project onto aliens from our own psyches and earthly experiences, then to be safe we should project from the very worst of these. Our Independence Day, Twilight Zone and Borg/Dalek nightmares need to be considered seriously if we are to adopt a risk management approach. And a risk management approach is wise. It says don't contact them until we know who/what they are.

    "They can see us anyway". According to http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/1427054 [answerbag.com] background noise in space might limit the extent our radio transmissions have travelled to a 2 light year radius. Admittedly a better reference than 'Answerbag' might be good.

    It is highly possible that most of our transmission are scattered or disrupted or all but destroyed at or around 2 light years out from us.Signal strength drops - at twice a distance away you are talking about 1/4 of the power - at ten times the distance the strength of the signal would only be one hundredth as great.

    Even if this is not the case there is a very good chance we have not been spotted.

    • by Grygus (1143095) on Friday January 28, 2011 @05:30AM (#35030036)

      Isn't your paranoid view of aliens just as anthropomorphic, though? You use as evidence Human behavior, but there is no reason to assume that will apply in any way. I'm also puzzled at how you are willing to grant these aliens the technology of FTL travel but not better telescopes. If you believe that aliens are as aggressive as we are, then arguably the safest thing to do is to preemptively present ourselves as a non-threat, just to avoid triggering a fear response. I do not find your position to be internally consistent.

    • If we must project onto aliens from our own psyches and earthly experiences, then to be safe we should project from the very worst of these.

      What else except our own psyches and earthly experiences could be possibly have?

      Anyways, if the goal is to be as safe as possible, then there really is no need to project or in any way to think about what aliens might be like. Hiding is the safest option. However, if we're going to think about how advanced aliens might behave towards us, then we need to think about evol

  • Let us say, for argument sake, aliens come to visit. Why would a civilization, any civilization, expend such an enormous amount of energy and resources to travel from one star to another? It wouldn't be to talk. They're either looking for resources or expansion room. If first contact is a small ship and small crew... Don't worry. That was just a scout / surveyor crew. A colony ship, or fleet of ships, (aka an invasion force) will be along soon enough.
  • Us: We humbly welcome you to our solar system in peace!

    Them: Cute, our food is trying to say something to us!

    Us: Please don't hurt us!

    Them: Aha, food with a message, kind of like the fortune cookies mentioned in their "All you can eat, galactic, we are here for your dining pleasure, Earth is number 1 your bestest restaurant," beacon they have been sending out for the last 100 years.

    Us: I think you are looking for the dolphins ...

    Them: We wish to start with the one you call Lucy. We have a goo
  • I keep telling these SETI people that they're using the wrong media but they never listen. Communicating by radio is similar to cave drawings by my Neanderthal granpa. E.T. has long ago moved on to gravity wave communications, which are interference free, pass through anything, and with unlimited range. But since we have yet to build a receiver I guess EM is the only game in town.
    • Your analogy may be apt -- "Low-tech" does not means "does not work".

      And you know what? We have seen cave drawings, and have even learned a few things about Neanderthals because of them.

      So, it looks like they worked fine.

  • Everyone understands English if you yell it loud enough. Visit a tourist area in the Third World and you will see what I mean. Should work for aliens, too.

    On my last trip to Egypt, the guy who picked us up at airport spoke excellent English and German . . . he told me that he was also fluent in French and Russian, too. He had a university degree in Egyptology and Tourism. He was way too intelligent, and way too educated for his job. If I was in his place, I would also be out on the streets of Cairo pro

    • by Magada (741361)

      Did he offer his services as a guide/driver/interpreter as well? Did you accept? If so, it may be polite to write a letter of thanks to the Mukhabarat for extending you such a warm welcome.

  • LINCOS...anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Friday January 28, 2011 @06:05AM (#35030158)

    Instead of musing about a message protocol, they should rather spend their time learning and improving LINCOS. Freudenthal's system is still the de facto standard for communication with aliens but has only occasionally been worked on by enthusiasts and NASA employees. LINCOS is in dire need of an overhaul, including a more modern transcription notation, and the second volume has never been finished. The original book is hard to get and it takes a substantial amount of time just to get into the framework, and that's probably why they don't use LINCOS.

  • What makes you think that if there are aliens that they'd even use the same Physical Layer?

    Why is there the impression that if aliens exist they can communicate by changing the same environmental variables as we do ? Why are we even assuming that they discover the same technology, or that they use radiowaves to transmit over long distances? Maybe an alien race uses radiowaves for weapons, maybe they can actually see at those frequencies. I dunno, the fact we haven't seen any aliens yet doesn't help either.

    S

  • by Securityemo (1407943) on Friday January 28, 2011 @07:14AM (#35030422) Journal
    Isn't the fundamental question here to what extent the "fundamentals of conciousness and intelligence" is a function of the physical parameters of the universe? Eg., how alien to us could something we would recognize as an intelligent conciousness be?

    That is *funny*. You think you *see* Orz but Orz are not *light reflections*.
    Maybe you think Orz are *many bubbles* too. It is such a joke.
    Orz are not *many bubbles* like *campers*. Orz are just Orz.
    I am Orz. I am one with many *fingers*.
    My *fingers* reach through into *heavy space* and you *see* *Orz bubbles*
    but it is really *fingers*.
    Maybe you do not even *smell*? That is sad.
    *Smelling* *pretty colors* is the best *game*.

  • The point should never be how to communicate with something that probably doesn't exist yet or died off before we humans came around, but having protocols that WE can use out there. Instead of some pie in the sky protocol, how about a better long distance approach to current CCSDS standards?

  • The aliens will probably decode our video signals before anything else and if they see any of the "reality shows" they'll know were not worth communicating with.

Man will never fly. Space travel is merely a dream. All aspirin is alike.

Working...