Four Mind Blowing Attempts to Communicate With Other Civilizations
Is there anybody out there?
Throughout the course of our existence, mankind has fantasized about sentient beings from other worlds tucked away in faraway places. Sometimes we've looked down (hell or middle earth), but mostly we've looked toward the heavens (literally for the pious among us, but figuratively for the purposes of this article.) Examples abound from both modern times and, to the surprise of many, the ancient world. As those of us who've spent countless hours watching the History Channel while sad, drunk, cold and alone at 2 a.m., covered in crumbs and tortilla chip fragments know, they were obsessed with this stuff in ancient Egypt.
Regarding contact with other worlds, everyone's heard of crop circles and stories about alien abductions (most believe that these incidents were for the purpose of, in whole or in part, shoving a probe up the abducted's ass.) But this article is about our attempts to contact other civilizations, of which there exist many more than you'd think. As suggested by the title of this article, some of these efforts throughout history are truly mind blowing.
4. The Aricebo Message
Look at this thing. Just look at it. According to Wikipedia, "The Arecibo message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulate radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico on 16 November 1974."
The target of this message is some place 25,000 light years from us, M13, a globular star cluster (not sure what this means, but the name makes me think of a transnational Mexican criminal gang for some reason.) This message was intended to convey, among other things, the elements that make up DNA, as well as graphics of DNA, our solar system and of a human being that look exactly like you'd expect computer-generated graphics from the early 1970s to look. The image also purports to tell the recipient the average height and weight of an average male human being, the human population on Earth, and a visual representation of the Arecibo radio telescope from which the signal originated (again in 1970s computer graphics.)
Now, Stephen Hawking has postulated that an intelligent species out there capable of, and interested in using, a mode of interstellar travel to visit Earth would in all likelihood be hostile and looking to exploit our resources. In that regard, one might further postulate that it was imprudent to beam a message into the cosmos containing such information as how many of us there are, what we are made of, and our exact location.
Unfortunately, objecting to the beaming of this message won't do much now, and I do so with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight (unlike the masterminds behind the Arecibo message, I've seen the movie Independence Day). And in any event, we aren't able to communicate with those responsible for this cosmic blunder that occurred back in 1974 or anything ... right?
3. Retrocausality and Superliminal Communication
The spell check function on my word processor indicates that these aren't even real words, but PBS used them and I'll take their word for it. Now, onto my attempt to summarize this entry ...
You may be thinking "How is communicating with human beings communicating with another civilization?" My retort, however, is that all you have to do is send your message far back enough in time and that will qualify for the purposes of this list. Anyway, This one is hard to grasp. As in, really hard to comprehend even in the most basic way. Since I can't even begin to try to summarize what I've read about this topic, I'll just quote PBS:
"Basically, [Professor Huw Price from the University of Cambridge] is saying that if we can’t have instantaneous information exchange over a physical distance, then maybe entangled particles whisper information in each others’ ears across the vastness of time. Then it, in turn, brings that information with it to the future. It’s like sending a letter back in time to a friend—you send it, but even before you’ve gotten to the post office, she already knows the secret message inside because, at one point, you were roommates." http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/physics/retrocausality-could-send-information-back-to-the-future/
Admittedly, I haven't the slightest idea about what the good professor just said, but I don't have to in order to bring it to your attention.
Bring it on, bitches!
Pioneer 10 is the first spacecraft to escape from our solar system. This mission, having been launched about 2 1/2 years before the Arecibo message was beamed into space, wasn't just a "pioneer" in name alone. Quite the contrary, the Pioneer 10 pioneered the trend of sending sensitive information about mankind into space to possibly be received by a sentient alien species that wishes to do us harm.
According to PBS, "The plaque depicts two nude figures – a man and a woman – along with diagrams of the solar system and the sun's position in space. It was intended to serve as a map to Earth for any extraterrestrials who might be curious about who made the spacecraft." (http://www.space.com/17651-pioneer-10.html.) Read the second sentence again. What were they thinking?!
Some might argue that Stephen Hawking is being unduly pessimistic in his concerns regarding aliens knowing exactly where we are, and that he's off base in assuming that they would necessarily seek to do us harm, but it seems like these the geniuses responsible for these messages went out of their way to make sure an invasion of planet Earth to take about as much time as it took the Germans to push the French and English into the sea towards the beginning of World War II.
The EPA at Yucca Mountain and WIPP
You're probably thinking "What is this one all about? Why would the EPA attempt to communicate with another civilization?" Tea Partiers would surely argue that this is a blatant example of government overreach, and regardless of your politics, it's kind of true in this instance.
In connection with plans create and manage nuclear waste storage facilities (proponents of nuclear power seem to forget that there's really no good way to store the butt-load of radioactive waste that results), the EPA has mandated that some sort of message be erected which will, for at least 10,000 years, warn potential intruders that some real bad stuff is stored there. Clearly, if such a warning is ever needed, it means that a lot has changed. The world as we know it would have to have ended, our civilization crumbled after having failed the test of time.
The Department of Energy brought in outside experts who were charged with formulating a message that would adequately warn away any intelligent beings attempting to enter the area. But the rugged survivors of the apocalypse slowly repopulating the planet who come across the danger zone at Yucca Mountain wouldn't necessarily speak English, or Spanish, or any other language that currently is spoken, or has ever existed, for that matter.
Per Damned Interesting, the experts defined the intended message to be conveyed, in words or substance, as follows:
"This place is not a place of honor...no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here... nothing valued is here.
What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us.
The danger is in a particular location... it increases toward a center... the center of danger is here... of a particular size and shape, and below us.
The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.
The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.
The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited." http://www.damninteresting.com/this-place-is-not-a-place-of-honor/
As you can see, creating such a message that would be understood by intelligent beings after the fall of our civilization under any and all circumstances is an incredible challenge, if not utterly impossible. I mean, just think about it for a moment. For this message to be necessary at all, our civilization have to have crumbled to the point where people have no knowledge, whatsoever, that nuclear waste is stored at the site (or what "nuclear" means in the first place.) Even more mind-boggling, they were tasked with erecting physical structures that would serve as adequate warnings of the hazards present at the time in the event that none of the many languages the message is written in is spoken by the survivors any more!
And even if they were able to create such an impressive and menacing message through their erection, just look at how much of a failure the pyramids were in keeping people out. They acted as beacons attracting archaeologists, explorers, looters, grave robbers and brilliant but rugged Indiana Jones types. For this reason, some of the proposals for the site contemplated erecting nothing at all, and trying to make the site look as inconspicuous as possible.
At the end of the day, for my money, effective communication via retrocausality is more likely to be successful than is this message in warning away future inhabitants of the Earth from the perils of playing with nuclear waste, even though I can't even articulate what on Earth retrocausality means.