Airdate: Dec 08, 2008
Scientist: Doug Vakoch
KSC SETI - Messages
If we're to craft a message to extraterrestrials, what can we do to engage them?
music; ambience international greetings from Voyager
Imagine that somewhere in outer space there’s an alien civilization, and they just stumbled upon the Voyager spacecraft launched from Earth in 1977. They found the golden record onboard and figured out how to play it. Well, this is a part of what they’d hear: this audio message in a bottle. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
“Over the years, the SETI Institute has engaged artists and musicians and theologians to say, How would you communicate to E.T., and what would you wanna say?’”
That’s a question that Doug Vakoch routinely ponders. He’s the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute. That stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
“We often think of sending something that’s gonna stand by itself, sort of a decodable message that is complete into itself. But maybe that’s not the only way to do it. Maybe we should send a message that E.T. has to interact with, where the audience really is part of what happens. Maybe we should send a computer program, almost like a video game. where E.T. has to engage that game and is part of what the final product is.”
Launching video games is one idea, but what would we send?
“We’re working on capturing something about the vibrancy, the interactiveness of people. And so, we’re looking at ways to capture the three-dimensional shapes of human beings engaging with one another.”
We’re helping the SETI Institute gather ideas from kids to find out what sort of message they would send to an extraterrestrial intelligence. Third to sixth graders can participate at kidsciencechallenge.com.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.