How will we get our message across to E.T.?

Beaming signals to GJ273 b
Astronomers and artists sent a binary-coded radio transmission in the direction of an extrasolar planet known as GJ273 b in 2017. (METI International Illustration / Danielle Futselaar)

LOS ANGELES — Last year, scientists sent a binary-coded message telling the aliens what time it was. Next year, it’ll be the periodic table of the elements. And someday, they hope to transmit a universal language that even extraterrestrials might relate to.

“I think we should treat this as a multigenerational, true experiment as opposed to an observational exercise, like archaeology,” said Doug Vakoch, a veteran of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence who is now president of METI International.

Vakoch and other researchers, including linguists, gathered here this weekend at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference to consider the content for future messages to E.T.

In the process, they considered the meaning of language as well.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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