Universal Translator, Babelfish Possible
The universal translator is a classic Star Trek plot device that makes encounters with alien civilizations much less awkward. Alienese goes in - American English comes out.
(Star Trek Universal Translator)
But that's just television. Now, when a Professor of Biological Anthropology and Linguistics starts talking about it, that's something worth understanding.
Terrence Deacon of the University of California, Berkeley, posits that all language has a universal structure. Regardless of whether the aliens communicate with sounds, pictures or even odors, there must be a set of rules that govern the communication.
One common way to denote an object, for example, involves pointing to it and then emitting an expression. Whether you use an index finger, a tentacle or antennae, you've just directly referenced the object.
Professor Deacon argues that even abstract symbols can be understood as referencing words that point directly to real objects in the physical world we all share. If that is true, it should be possible to have a device that uses software to tease apart the symbols of a completely alien language and then determine how they reference the world - a universal translator.
Other references to this idea include the famous Babel Fish from Douglas Adams' 1979 novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the translator discs from Larry Niven's 1970 novel Ringworld.
Consider these real-life (if Earth-bound) translators:
Via Universal 'babelfish' could translate alien tongues.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/24/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )
Related News Stories -
Ubiquiti FrontRow Camera Records Your Life
Why be choosy? Just upload your whole life to the Internet, and be done with it.
SmileCloud Bubloons Are Custom Clouds
'Spurgle kicked at the letter G... It was a monstrous white thing, ten feet thick, half a city block long...' - Alan Nelson, 1953.
Fog Computing (AKA Edge Computing) Ad Hoc Networks
'The tiny devices chirped their impulse codes at one another...' - Vernor Vinge, 1999.
Biggest HiSeas 'Mars Mission' Problem? No Internet
I think sf writers have this covered!
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'
Shiftwear Display Shoes
'He unlaced her shoe and glanced at its readout.'
NASA SEXTANT First With X-Ray Nav In Space
'You need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'
GM Introduces Cruise AV With No Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel?' ... 'I do not need one.'
Subsurface Martian Ice Slabs Piece Of Cake For Miners
'One shy little fellow with bloodshot eyes of old-time drillman stood up. 'I'm an ice miner,' he said.'
LG Rollable Version Of Niven's Poster TV
'A television that unrolled like a poster.'
Multi-Robot Farming On Highly Sloped Land
High Plains, indeed.
Aeolus Robot Brings Jetson's Rosie Closer
Domestic duties, robotically performed.
Sony's New, Cuter Aibo Robot Puppy
Engineered to be adorable.
Earth-1 Transformer Gundam Car
Is it a Gundam? Or maybe a Transformer.
Self-Driving Domino's Pizza Car
Yes, but can it negotiate entry at your Burbclave?
I Want Massive Space Freighters!
Ah, the space freighters of old.
When Will The Feds Ban Human Drivers?
'The first laws came out forcing the old machines off the highways...'
Our World Formed In A Bubble?
'The Worldcraft bubble glittered, catching the light...'
Will You Live To See EM Pulse Scattering By Ships Nearing Light Speed?
'...half a million kilometers away, the Stardrive went on.'
Jabil Integrated Textile Heart Monitoring
'Della's first present was an imipolex sweatshirt called a heartshirt…'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories