Interstellar Messages

Call me a late-bloomer I guess, but here I am in my 36th year just now finally getting around to reading Carl Sagan’s masterpiece, “Cosmos”, having not seen the show of the same name and having, so far, spent an insignificant amount of time trying to truly understand what is going on out there in that deep space place.

The book is great, naturally. One thing I did not expect to find is just how much radio related technology gets stirred into the conversation. Maybe it’s one of those things where if you start to focus and hone in on some concept in your daily life, it starts to appear ‘everyone’ in a way that feels like eery coincidence…

Anyway, this passage was wonderful to ponder on…

“On another planet, with a different sequence of random processes to make hereditary diversity and a different environment to select particular combinations of genes, the chances of finding beings who are physically very similar to us is, I believe, near zero. The chances of finding another form of intelligence is not. Their brains may well have evolved from the inside out. They may have switching elements analogous to our neurons. But the neurons may be very different; perhaps superconductors that work at very low temperatures rather than organic devices that work at room temperature, in which case their speed of thought will be 107 times faster than ours. Or perhaps the equivalent of neurons elsewhere would not be in direct physical contact but in radio communication so that a single intelligent being could be distributed among many different organisms, or even many different planets, each with a part of the intelligence of the whole, each contributing by radio to an intelligence much greater than itself” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos 

There’s a bunch of stuff about radio astronomy as well that I would love to learn more about. I’m wanting to just try it, even with very low power – just beaming messages out directly into space and waiting to see if “anything happens”.

On a grander scale though, there are things like this Arecibo message:

The Arecibo message is a 1974 interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth sent to globular star cluster M13 in the hope that extraterrestrial intelligence might receive and decipher it. The message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulated radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico on 16 November 1974.[1] The message was aimed at the current location of M13 some 25,000 light years away because M13 was a large and close collection of stars that was available in the sky at the time and place of the ceremony.[2] The message consisted of 1,679 binary digits, approximately 210 bytes, transmitted at a frequency of 2,380 MHz and modulated by shifting the frequency by 10 Hz, with a power of 1,000 kW. The “ones” and “zeros” were transmitted by frequency shifting at the rate of 10 bits per second. The total broadcast was less than three minutes.[1][3]

Listen to the message here: