Sunday, August 30, 2009

SETI Institute's Earth Speaks project asks: What should we say when we make contact?

As a next step on its mission to "explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe," California's non-profit SETI Institute is conducting a project called Earth Speaks — gathering ideas from around the world about what we should say when we make first contact. Although the question has often been debated by scholars, this is the first time SETI has asked the question of the global community at large (it is generally agreed that humankind should send one unified message). SETI will also tag and sort the messages by theme. Douglas A. Vakoch, Ph.D., prinicpal investigator for Earth Speaks, explains the project:

As the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA) begins a new phase of research with its galactic plane survey, the chances of detecting a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization increases considerably. If we do detect an extraterrestrial civilization, one of the most pressing issues facing humankind will be “Should we reply, and if so, what should we say?”
The messages submitted to Earth Speaks so far make for some interesting reading. They range from serious to sarcastic to silly. Here's a sample:
• "Random Hardworking community without existential knowledge is greeting you."
• "Could you please tell God we could use some help down here? Thanks!"
• "Math is what we all have in common. Let's start there friends."
• "All your base are belong to us."
• "We'll make great pets! Some of us are already house trained."
• "Hello my friends. Please, come back and pick me up. I'm alone in this world."
• "We come in peace."

Popular tags include love, greetings, peace, hope, math, friendship and help.

You can submit messages, and weigh in on how appropriate you feel the other messages are to transmit to an extraterrestrial civilization, at Earth Speaks.

Dr. Jill Tarter, director of the SETI Institute’s Center for SETI Research, recently spoke at a discussion on The Search for Extraterrestrial Life: Is Anything or Anybody Out There? at Seattle's Science Fiction Museum.

Did anyone out there get a chance to hear the latest on SETI Research? And what do you think we should say to the E.T.s?

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