It’s interesting how anthropocentric we humans always are, even when the realm is supposedly science-related. It’s vanishingly unlikely that any of the 160-character messages would have any meaning whatsoever for any other technologically advanced life form (even if, although vanishingly improbable, such a thing existed at the same relative time as us and within 200,000 light years of us).

In reality, any attempt at communication would require establishing a basis for mutual comprehension. The only way we know to do that is via mathematics. There are still huge problems, of course: what base do we use? Even binary is open to misinterpretation. But let’s assume binary because it’s the simplest case. We could send a stream of numbers and then use those numbers to create rudimentary formulae. This would establish (i) the transmission doesn’t originate from a non-purposeful phenomenon such as a FRB or a pulsar, and (ii) the basis for further communication later on (though we’d have to be pretty patient; even the star system targeted by the Australians would mean a 40 year gap between send & receive).

Instead, the Australians just sent a stream of garbage. Perhaps it is fortunate that there won’t be any creatures out there to receive it. I can think of few things more annoying than to be on the receiving end of human social media emesis.

It’s a shame we seem unable to get past our self-referential default when it comes to thinking about the big picture. But at least it must have made for some amusing click-bait stories back in 2009 and 2010.

Written by

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store