Want to say hello to an ET? SETI scientists are here to help.
People in Seattle and other parts of the Northwest recently weighed in on what they would want to say to intelligent creatures from another planet.
At the SETI Institute in California, home of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, an ongoing program called Earth Speaks is collecting messages from citizens of Earth, young and old. They’re looking for public opinions on the best way to say hello to the cosmos.
And what kinds of things are people submitting?
- “If you want to come visit us here on Earth, you’re welcome…but be prepared to witness a huge mess. Sorry ’bout that.”
- “Greetings from the People of Earth, the world we call our home. We come from many types of governments, faith groups and beliefs, yet are all of the same world. Many of us believe we are alone in the vast Universe, yet others think we are part of a vast Interstellar family, and if you are reading this, we hope that if we are part of that family, we will become a happy family together.”
For half a century, SETI has scanned the skies with radio telescopes, looking for any type of intelligent, non-terrestrial evidence that might prove earthlings aren’t alone in the universe.
While a few random signals have been picked up by the telescopes, there has never been a pattern that could be considered as having an intelligent, extraterrestrial origin.
Broadcast signals that emanate on Earth theoretically travel on a never-ending path across space. A technology-savvy civilization, on a planet orbiting a sun near our own solar system, may be just now picking up old radio and television broadcasts that left our world decades ago.
“If you take your rabbit ears and put them on a planet around Alpha Centauri and try to pick up the original broadcasts of “I Love Lucy,” you wouldn’t be able to. But if you built a big enough antenna, you could pick them up at any distance,” said Seth Shostak, senior SETI astronomer.
Earth Speaks is SETI’s research project to help scientists determine the proper way to introduce ourselves “out there.”
“It’s a project to shift the discussion from just a handful of scientists who’ve been thinking about what happens if we detect intelligent life beyond Earth, and really make it a global discussion,” said Douglas Vakoch, SETI’s director of Interstellar Message Composition. Vakoch, a clinical psychologist from the California Institute of Integral Studies, is the only social scientist employed by SETI.
“At this point, we’ve had people from over 70 countries submit their messages,” Vakoch told The Huffington Post. “The second thing we do is analyze those responses that people are sending us and look for some of the broader themes and also look at what that says about us here on Earth.”
Vakoch points out the similar things people want to say to potential extraterrestrials.
“We discovered that a major theme is: ‘We are the humans of planet Earth.’ What’s striking about that is that we identify ourselves in these messages to extraterrestrials. We focus on our connectiveness and our commonality. People aren’t typically saying, ‘I’m from Australia’ or ‘I’m from the United States,’ ‘I’m Buddhist’ or ‘I’m Catholic.'”
There’s one thing, especially, Vakoch says, that many people have consistently submitted in their messages that they hope will someday be sent into space — one theme that resonates with men and women, young and old.
“The big message that cuts across all ages in both sexes is a very simple one: ‘Please Help.'”
Check out these following message samples that have been submitted. If you want to see many more, go directly to SETI’s Earth Speaks message page.