A Brief History
On November 16, 1974, a radio signal was sent from Earth to the star cluster known as M13 in an attempt to communicate with whatever intelligent life forms may exist in that area of the Universe. The single message was sent from the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico (USA), via FM (frequency modulated) radio waves. Incredibly optimistic of the (questionable intelligence) people that arranged this message, the target stars are 25,000 light years away!
A message of just under 3 minutes duration consisting of 1679 binary digits (210 bytes) at a power of 1000 kW, the convoluted reasoning that went into the choice of message contained the fact that the number (1679) is “semi-prime,” meaning it is the sum of 2 prime numbers, arranged in 73 rows and 23 columns. (Believe it or not, the other way of arranging the digits, in 23 rows and 73 columns is considered gibberish by the scientists. Ok, like the first arrangement isn’t?) Noted scientists such as Dr. Frank Drake and Carl Sagan were consulted about forming the message, and elements of the message refer to the atomic numbers of the elements that make up DNA (oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and phosphorus). There are actually several more complicated messages contained in the numbers, which presumably any “intelligent” life form could figure out.
Since the message will take 25,000 years to reach its intended targets, a reply would not reach Earth for a total of 50,000 years. Talk about optimism! Thus, the whole idea of the message is basically a self gratifying stunt, showing the World how smart our scientists are.
Of course, the question demands to be answered: Is it a good idea to try to communicate with beings in outer space? In 2010 Stephen Hawking, supposedly the smartest man on Earth, said that the idea is idiotic, as any alien life form advanced enough to receive, correctly interpret, reply to, and perhaps travel to Earth would in all probability enslave or destroy mankind. The odds of a benevolent buddy out there somewhere are so small as to be ridiculous. Here on Earth, anytime a life form or civilization thinks it is superior to another, bad things happen to the weaker one! (Ask Native Americans or critters.) Too late! Many other such “messages” have been sent by people into space, both intentional attempts to contact aliens and transmissions to and from our manned and unmanned space craft.
In the Voyager interstellar space craft launched in 1977 (2 of them), “Golden Records” bearing information about Earth and mankind were included so any aliens that happen upon the space ships can learn all about where those craft came from. In fact, Pioneer 1 and Pioneer 2 also carried such time capsules and golden records. Thus, we have electronic and physical messages sent out willy nilly into space with no idea whatsoever if it is a good idea or not. (Makes my brain hurt!) Well, if aliens do not have record players or radios, all this effort would not matter!
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think about attempting to contact alien life forms? Do you even think they exist? Would they be friendly, or would they kill and or enslave us? Share your ideas with your fellow readers in the comments section below this article.
See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arecibo_message for a graphic display of what the message looks like in written numbers (binary string).
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For more information, please see…
Nasa Voyager Golden Record. The Golden Record. Greetings and Sounds of the Earth. NetFilmMusic, 2013. Audio CD.