Scientists have engineered a radio message to be transmitted into deep space that is meant to be received and, they hope, understood by an intelligent alien civilization.
The message is essentially an updated version of the famous Arecibo message, transmitted in 1974, which had the same objective. Broadcast from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, the message consisted of 1,679 bits arranged in 73 lines of 23 characters.
The message was transmitted in binary code – ones and zeros. When decoded, the message forms a visual graphic consisting of a stick figure of a human being along with representations of our solar system, DNA, and the Arecibo Telescope.
Now, scientists have devised a new message to improve Arecibo transmission. Called the Beacon in the Galaxy (BITG) message, it contains more information about math and basic science than the Arecibo message. It is hoped that these concepts will be universally understood by life forms of intelligence at least similar to that of humans.
Matthew Chong, a physics and mathematics student at the University of Cambridge and co-author of a draft report outlining the project, said Newsweek: “Extended from the Arecibo message of 1974 and the Cosmic Call of 1999/2003, the main part of this BITG Message contains a new set of graphic information in the form of images and special “alphabets” to represent numbers, elements, DNA, earth, ocean, and human, etc., starting with an artificial header and footer made up of prime numbers.”
Jonathan Jiang, project manager and scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said Newsweek that the BITG message also depicts a group of cosmic landmarks “to indicate Earth’s location in the Milky Way galaxy”.
The question of whether or not we are alone in the universe has intrigued scientists for decades, but efforts to find intelligent, even microbial, life elsewhere than on Earth have failed. Some scientists think this is a good thing.
Stephen Hawking’s concerns about aliens
The late physics professor Stephen Hawking has repeatedly expressed concern about humans calling into the vastness of space and contacting aliens.
In 2015, Hawking appeared at an event announcing the launch of the Breakthrough Listen project, which studies radio waves with the aim of finding out if any of them are man-made.
Hawking showed support for efforts to find alien life by listening, but cautioned against actively reaching out to us, using humanity’s behavior as a sign that aliens won’t necessarily be friendly. .
“If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms has often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced and primitive technologies have turned out badly for the less advanced,” he said. he declared.
Hawking went on to say that extraterrestrials might be much more powerful than us and “might not consider us more valuable than we see bacteria.”
Later in the 2016 online documentary series Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Placesthe physicist returned to the subject with reference to the exoplanet Gliese 832 c, considered a potentially habitable world.
“One day we might receive a signal from a planet like Gliese 832 c, but we should be wary of responding,” he said.
Jamilah Hah is also involved in the BITG project. She thinks the benefits of contacting extraterrestrials outweigh the potential risks.
“Stephen Hawking’s quote is absolutely inspiring and my personal conclusion is that any species capable of understanding and interpreting our message will likely be just as, if not more, intelligent and suspicious of our existence,” he said. she declared. Newsweek.
“Thus, as long as contact is approached with a clear sign of peace, it can be assumed that the possibilities and hopeful discoveries that accompany communication outweigh the risk.”
The draft report outlining the proposed BITG message has been posted on the arXiv pre-print archives this year. The message has not yet been released, but scientists suggest potential future transmission from the Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope in China and the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in Northern California.