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Q&A: Communicating Science with ET

22 Feb 2016, 07:01 UTC
Q&A: Communicating Science with ET
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Question: OK, I’m back. Same guy you responded to last week. I get what you’re saying about the initial radio contact, and how that alone would be a profound event. But where could it go from there? Assuming only radio contact is allowed, would it be possible to actually exchange scientific information and learn from them? — RS, Anthem, AZ
Answer: The short answer is yes, we could learn from them — or they could learn from us. As with your question last week, it all comes down to how good both of us are at anticryptography. Astronomers, philosophers, mathematicians, and linguists have long pondered how such learning could happen.
There’s almost universal agreement that it would start with mathematics and pictograms (as did the messages we’ve sent). Fair warning that we’re treading on less solid ground than when discussing, say, rainbows. Nonetheless, here’s how the process might unfold. We’ll assume we’re on the sending side, and using the Arecibo message graphic protocol:

Detection of our signal (see top graphic). Recognition of non-random content and intelligent source.
Attempt to decode the message and extract meaning. Raster graphic protocol would be recognized.
Extraction of clues about encoding, syntax, and ...

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