How to Talk to Aliens- page 4 | A&S Interview | Air & Space Magazine
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How to Talk to Aliens

Start by figuring out the patterns in their language, says SETI researcher John Elliott.

(Continued from page 3)

 Yes. At the Royal Society recently, we had a panel to discuss the METI [Messages to Extraterrestrial Intelligence] issue. It splits the community down the center. It’s not a mild discussion, either. You can get some very heated opinions. One camp says “Don’t let them know we’re here.” And the other camp, which I’m in, says, “Hold on a minute, if they’re that advanced, they already know we’re here from our [radio and TV signal] leakage. So don’t get too wound up about it.” They’d only travel distances like that, take all the time and trouble to come here, if it were a matter of survival.

 Having said that, you get people who are transmitting messages regardless. One member of the SETI community who is director of a Ukrainian telescope now and again decides to send out a message. We sent out the Arecibo message in 1974 with a digital representation of where we are in the solar system, plus the human shape and DNA structure. And of course, on Voyager, there was a disk. But this split opinion has created a situation where not much has happened lately.

 If they asked you to send a message out, what would you send?

 I wouldn’t do it all in one chunk. The first bit would be very small: “Hello.” The typical greeting you would give if you found a tribe in the Amazon. You’d point to yourself and give your name, something very concise, and you’d include a crib. After that, I’d send an Encyclopedia Galactica—a lot of information they could process after they got the original primer. I came to that conclusion from thinking “what would I want to receive?”

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