Calling the Cosmos: How to Talk with Extraterrestrials

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Dr. Douglas Vakoch, President, METI International

For over a half century, astronomers engaged in SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) have pointed radio telescopes to the heavens, seeking scientific evidence for life beyond Earth. If we succeed in detecting a signal from another world, what should we say in response? Should we do more, right now, to make ourselves known in the universe, even before first contact? Or is it dangerous to shout in the cosmos when we don’t know who’s out there? Dr. Vakoch will take you on a journey through our solar system and beyond as he explores the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager recording that are carried on spacecraft launched by NASA, placed there on the unlikely chance that these spacecraft, now drifting aimlessly through the galaxy, will someday be intercepted by advanced civilizations. Dr. Vakoch will argue that we should move beyond the symbolic messages that we’ve already sent into the cosmos. Instead, we should begin an ambitious project to transmit powerful, information-rich messages to nearby stars. If we can succeed in explaining to extraterrestrials what it’s like to be human, we might even intrigue them enough to get a reply.

(Image Credit: ESO/G. Hüdepohl)

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