Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop

Recently, a workshop was held at a conference of the US National Space Society in Los Angeles, California, organized by Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI). METI, which is funded by private donors, organizes the transmission of messages to other star systems.

METI targets star systems relatively close to the Sun that are known to host Earth-sized planets in their ‘habitable zone’ — where the conditions are right for liquid water to exist — using large radar dishes. Last year, it directed a radio message, which attempted to explain musical language, towards a nearby exoplanet system. The message started from basic arithmetic (encoded in binary as two radio wavelengths) and introduced increasingly complex concepts such as duration and frequency.

What was discussed at the conference?

The piece that was underpinning everything there, I think, was the extent to which human language is innate. If language has a necessary innate piece, then two civilizations might have a good chance of understanding each other: that was the Chomskian approach represented in some of the papers presented at the conference. Others expressed the sense that third factors — body shape, what your planet is like — would have more to do with language and that little has to be innate. If that is so, then we’d have a better chance of understanding aliens that are similar to us than of understanding those that aren’t.

(Read the rest at Nature)

In his 1867 novel From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne wrote about a way to communicate with the inhabitants of the Moon:

I am bound to add that some practical geniuses have attempted to establish actual communication with her. Thus, a few days ago, a German geometrician proposed to send a scientific expedition to the steppes of Siberia. There, on those vast plains, they were to describe enormous geometric figures, drawn in characters of reflecting luminosity...
(Read more about Verne's way to communicate with aliens)

You might also enjoy these related articles:

  - Earth Barcoded For Alien Convenience
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