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informant
2003-Apr-09, 06:56 PM
We had a thread about universal translators in another forum a while ago, and this reminded me of the famous Pioneer plaque (http://www.planetary.org/html/seti/seti-messages-pioneer.html).
Would beings from another civilization really be able to understand it? The message may seem fairly clear to us, but it could be that it bases itself in graphic conventions that are peculiar to our species/cultures. Would the plaque just look like a series of unintelligible sketches to them? How likely is it that the message can be understood?
I'm curious to know what others think.

Tito_Muerte
2003-Apr-09, 07:33 PM
I'm pretty confident that it would be remotely understandable. Considering a lot of the constants operating around the Universe (well, at least our understanding of them) I imagine life probably isn't too drastically different, since the origins of life on all planets would probably be pretty similar to those here on earth (those being that in certain conditions, certain elements and atoms rearrange themselves into certain amino acids...which in turn rearrange themselves into certain protiens..which in turn rearrange themselves into..etc etc). Presuming this constant, life probably isn't too drastically different, and considering the messages are pretty much illustrations.. (and many species on our own planet recognize illustrations)..it's probably not too hard to believe that an alien species would be able to decipher the inscriptions.

...well..at least that's my opinion...

RED
2003-Apr-09, 07:53 PM
The origins of life as far as I can tell are probably universal a la the Miller Urey experiments, however evolutionary rates and pathways will most certainly be different. The possibilites of what life forms are out there are endless. I suppose if an ALF finds the probe in space, then the chances are good that the ALF is of Higher inteligence making it more likely that the probe will be understood. If the opposite is true and by chance the probe crash lands on some remote planet which is inhabited by god knows what, then it may not be understood or even noticed.

Tito_Muerte
2003-Apr-09, 08:33 PM
I think considering the vastness of space, the chances of anything other than an extremely highly evolved species finding it are pretty much 0.

traztx
2003-Apr-09, 08:38 PM
I doubt anyone will catch it in space. The chance of it crashing randomly into a planet are bad-astronomical but if it does then it's probably vaporized! It may drift through interstellar space for billions of years. Will it remain recognizable or will it accrete dust and ice until it looks like yet another cometary object?

However, let's say aliens do encounter it. Will they have eyes to see it? Maybe they come from a low-visibility planet and use chemical markers or sonar to identify objects. I think we make a lot of assumptions that they will be like us.

But, if they are just like us and if they happen to catch it, then sure... they'll be able to understand it no problem ;)

daver
2003-Apr-09, 09:28 PM
The Pioneer plaque was described in a couple of Sagan books (not too surprising).

Yes, you could imagine star-faring aliens who wouldn't be able to discern the plaque, or who couldn't discern the indentations on the plaque or who didn't know about quasars or stars or planets or hydrogen or whatnot.. Designing a plaque that could be read by any conceivable intelligent lifeform is impossible.

The relevant question should be, given a star-fairing intelligence that came across the plaque, how likely is it that they could interpret the plaque. Sagan was of the opinion that there was a good chance they'd be able to figure out everything (with the possible exception of the pictures). Sagan was also of the opinion that the plaque was much more likely to be recovered by humans and put in a museum than by aliens.

BigJim
2003-Apr-09, 10:08 PM
Sagan was also of the opinion that the plaque was much more likely to be recovered by humans and put in a museum than by aliens.

I agree.


I doubt anyone will catch it in space.

Also agreed, assuming you mean other civilizations.

The aliens would at least probably get the general idea and understand it was artificial. One thing, though, is: Why would aliens randomly pick up this tiny probe, probably moving at great relative veloctiy to them?

Let's examine the plaque in detail. I do not think they would understand the 21-cm hydrogen line, because out methods of representing atoms would probably be different. Although they might be able to figure it out from the length of the line, which would be the same in any units. ( I mean the same equivalent length)

The pulsar scheme I have my doubts about. How would they know those are pulsars, or where those pulsars are? They might think the center of the representation represented the center of the galaxy . The simplest part to understand is the man and woman; they probably would get this easily. The solar system representation is more likely than most parts of it to be understood but it could not be certain.

The Voyager Interstellar Record is even less likely to be understood, since they would have to find the record, understand it was meant for them, and then understand the instructions on how to build a record player.

snowcelt
2003-Apr-09, 10:31 PM
I read this short story years ago where a group of Terrans end up marooned on a planet (desert isle) for a considerable length of time. They have no equipment, and their clothing rots off their bodies and there are no local plants or animals to make new clothing. Well the long of the short is that aliens pluck them from the planet and throw them into a cage in their ship. It becomes quickly clear that the aliens think that the Terrans are just interesting beasts from the planet in which they were rescued from. The Terrans think and try of everything in which they can to demonstrate to the aliens that they are sentient. At the end of the story the aliens realise the terrans are sentient because one of the Terrans catch some type of alien analog of a rat or something and built a cage and place the rat in it. So of course the aliens figure out that the Terrans are sentient because only sentients have pets. Sooooo, back to the thread. Would it be hard for the hypothetical alien to translate the Pioneer plaque? Sure. But I bet there would be enough universal traits with which all sentients share that they would figure it out. If anyone knows of this story I would sure like to know the name of the author.

Nanoda
2003-Apr-09, 10:58 PM
I certainly think it would be deciphered. True it was kind of a rush job, but a lot of effort went into it nevertheless, and that was after all it's single purpose. As to why they would pick it up, think about it. Unless their civilization knows so many others that it's blase over the whole thing, I think anyone with the ability of spaceflight would be more than willing to pick up alien artifacts, even a stray hull panel off of an alien ship. Wouldn't you be?

daver
2003-Apr-09, 11:20 PM
The aliens would at least probably get the general idea and understand it was artificial. One thing, though, is: Why would aliens randomly pick up this tiny probe, probably moving at great relative veloctiy to them?



Why would aliens not pick up something clearly artificial, and almost certainly alien? Particularly since they are almost certainly star-fairing?




Let's examine the plaque in detail. I do not think they would understand the 21-cm hydrogen line, because out methods of representing atoms would probably be different. Although they might be able to figure it out from the length of the line, which would be the same in any units. ( I mean the same equivalent length)



I disagree. It's not like we used an H. The representation is a bit like a Bohr atom, but i don't think it's that much of an abstraction.




The pulsar scheme I have my doubts about.



I also have my doubts about them. They might be able to figure out what they were, but by the time they pick up the probe the pulsars the plaque is referring to may no longer be recognizeable. I'm too lazy to do a search to see what our knowledge of pulsars was at the time the plaque was designed.




The simplest part to understand is the man and woman; they probably would get this easily. The solar system representation is more likely than most parts of it to be understood but it could not be certain.



The solar system is a bit questionable, particularly Saturn. The copy of the plaque i'm looking at doesn't have enough detail to see the numbers; i'm guessing that the only numbers associated with the planets are distances from the sun. Maybe they have relative radii and relative mass (the latter would be pretty hard to convey).

BigJim
2003-Apr-09, 11:44 PM
Why would aliens not pick up something clearly artificial, and almost certainly alien? Particularly since they are almost certainly star-faring?

A few people have asked this. What I meant to say was that I think that it would very difficult for alien civilizations to find this tiny probe whizzing by them, especially since they probably won't be looking for it. But if they actually found it, I absolutely agree they would try to get it.

I agree with daver on pretty much all he said and now see more of the merit of the 21-cm hydorgen scheme.

As a purely tongue-in-cheek suggestion, maybe we could just have a bag of Nachos or some simlilar snack food attached to our next interstellar probe, because at least the aliens would then know it was artificial, and would probably be able to:

a) extrapolate backward based on the probe's velocity and direction of orgin find out where the probe came from and when (yes, I know I am ignoring stellar encounters)

b) be able to find out we are based on left-handed amino acids from the food

c) Be able to tell we are carbon-based life forms

d) Decide we are really into unhealthy foods and so prolong our first contact by 10,000 years. :D

daver
2003-Apr-10, 12:37 AM
As a purely tongue-in-cheek suggestion, maybe we could just have a bag of Nachos or some simlilar snack food attached to our next interstellar probe, because at least the aliens would then know it was artificial, and would probably be able to:...



And the nice thing is that we wouldn't have refrigerate it or take any special precautions to space-proof it--junk food is essentially indesctructible. "Silly customer. You cannot hurt a Twinkie."

And as long as we're at it, i have a new suggestion as to what to beam out the next time we send a SETI test message--a live televised shot of a man playing solitaire (klondike is probably the most effective). My guess is that we'd receive a message about playing the red eight on the black nine within minutes (i suspect that solitaire suggestions are not limited by light speed or causality arguments).

nebularain
2003-Apr-10, 01:28 AM
One of my first thoughts about the plaque - how the aliens react when they actually see us for the first time and discover. . .

"The plaque lied to us - they wear clothing!!!"

BigJim
2003-Apr-10, 01:35 AM
One of my first thoughts about the plaque - how the aliens react when they actually see us for the first time and discover. . .

"The plaque lied to us - they wear clothing!!!"

Interesting you should say that.......

I remember back when I was in eighth grade we had a worksheet asking us questions about the plaque. Now, I had known about the plaque and noticed something about the picture on the sheet: They took away the man and woman! I guess eighth graders aren't mature enough for it. I was laughing about it, and no one could figure out why. It was pretty funny. (The sheet said "This plaque is similar to a real one sent on.....)

kucharek
2003-Apr-10, 07:07 AM
I think, the poor guys who might try to figure out the greetings in 100+ languages on the Voyager disk will have a much harder time...
I always thought, it's not very polite to drop plenty of short sentences in many languages onto someone and hope, that he might understand... ;-)

Harald

Chip
2003-Apr-10, 08:09 AM
I recall reading that Mrs. Sagan drew the two people standing next to each other without holding hands because an alien (and/or distant future human) might otherwise conceive of them as one being.
:-?

Years ago I received a replica of that plaque, and still have it on the wall. :wink:

ToSeek
2003-Apr-10, 02:21 PM
One of my first thoughts about the plaque - how the aliens react when they actually see us for the first time and discover. . .

"The plaque lied to us - they wear clothing!!!"

I seem to recall a lot of editorial cartoons showing aliens coming to Earth and wanting to meet the naked blondes.

Darkwing
2003-Apr-10, 04:30 PM
The pulsar scheme I have my doubts about.

I also have my doubts about them. They might be able to figure out what they were, but by the time they pick up the probe the pulsars the plaque is referring to may no longer be recognizeable. I'm too lazy to do a search to see what our knowledge of pulsars was at the time the plaque was designed.


If I remember correctly, I think the plaque may also have listed the spin rates of various pulsars. The spin rates of pulsars decrease with time at a relatively constant rate. I think that any aliens who might find the probe would also be much more advanced in their astronomy than us. Even if they discover it far in the future, they could use their knowledge of the spin rates' decline (and also pulsar spatial locations changing with time) and cross reference it with their vast knowledge of astronomy to determine the time and place when the message was sent (or rather, included on the plaque)

daver
2003-Apr-10, 06:15 PM
If I remember correctly, I think the plaque may also have listed the spin rates of various pulsars. The spin rates of pulsars decrease with time at a relatively constant rate. I think that any aliens who might find the probe would also be much more advanced in their astronomy than us. Even if they discover it far in the future, they could use their knowledge of the spin rates' decline (and also pulsar spatial locations changing with time) and cross reference it with their vast knowledge of astronomy to determine the time and place when the message was sent (or rather, included on the plaque)

Yes, it gives distances and spin rates of various pulsars. Now we know that we see a pulsar if we're in line with the emitted cone of radiation. Back when the plaque was designed, i don't know if they knew that. If not, the pulsars on the plaque would be a small fraction of all potential pulsars; there might be very little overlap between these pulsars and the pulsars the ETs know about. On the other hand, there would be millions of ETs trying to analyze the plaque, and presumably since they're star fairing they have extensive knowledge of rotating neutron stars, not just the ones that happen to be pointing at them. So, once someone got the idea that they might be pulsars it's a fairly simple computer search to match distances and frequencies.

BigJim
2003-Apr-10, 08:32 PM
Actually, I just realized something: they are only pulsars to us! What I mean is that unless the probe is exactly in line with us, the pulsar will only appear as a neutron star to most extraterrestrial civilizations. The pulsar only emits large amounts of energy along its magnetic poles.

RafaelAustin
2003-Apr-12, 08:42 AM
Actually, I just realized something: they are only pulsars to us! What I mean is that unless the probe is exactly in line with us, the pulsar will only appear as a neutron star to most extraterrestrial civilizations. The pulsar only emits large amounts of energy along its magnetic poles.

Doh! :o

dmcco01
2003-Apr-14, 06:24 PM
[quote]The Voyager Interstellar Record is even less likely to be understood, since they would have to find the record, understand it was meant for them, and then understand the instructions on how to build a record player.

I've always wondered about the logic behind that. Hell, I watched my 12 year old niece happen across my brother's old stereo turntable the other day and ask what it was. Even after he told her what it was, she kept asking questions about how it worked. She had no concept of grooves on a record or a needle.

Well, maybe aliens will be more advanced than my niece.

ToSeek
2003-Apr-14, 06:48 PM
It should be apparent to an alien that the disc contains a continuous, spiral track with systematic bumps and indentations along the track. That in itself should be a big clue.

tracer
2003-Apr-14, 10:53 PM
Regarding the picture on the Pioneer plaque:

The picture looks like two people to us because we're used to seeing the outlines of things. We've evolved to recognize the patterns of bright and dark from reflected light, and to form a solid 3-D concept in our minds of what that light-image represents.

Suppose the aliens don't see the same way we do? They might not have any clue that those drawings are supposed to represent the outlines of any physical objects at all, let alone the outlines of the hairless apes who sent the probe!

daver
2003-Apr-14, 11:26 PM
Regarding the picture on the Pioneer plaque:

The picture looks like two people to us because we're used to seeing the outlines of things. We've evolved to recognize the patterns of bright and dark from reflected light, and to form a solid 3-D concept in our minds of what that light-image represents.

Suppose the aliens don't see the same way we do? They might not have any clue that those drawings are supposed to represent the outlines of any physical objects at all, let alone the outlines of the hairless apes who sent the probe!

Do you suppose they've ever tried to represent things on essentially a 2-d surface? If not, books are going to be awfully bulky. Do you think they'd discovered solar cells? If so, they must know about shadows. If they know about shadows, it's not much of a stretch to 2-d projections.

The plaque might not be interpretable to aliens that are much larger or much smaller than us. Maybe not to organized gas clouds or Star Trek energy beings. However, i think it was a pretty good stab at a universal message.

Sagan did mention that he thought the drawings of the people were the least likely to be understood. I'd figure the outline of the probe would be the next.

I'm not trying to be testy here, but i'd be interested in seeing what you consider a better idea.

Argos
2003-Apr-15, 01:12 PM
Dr. Douglas Vakoch (http://www.seti-inst.edu/about_us/leadership/staff/doug_v.html) has been working on what he calls “The Incommensurability Problem”. He states that aliens can be different than us to the point of conceptualizing the universe in a totally different manner. It might be virtually impossible to communicate with them - what could ease the apprehensions of some who fear interstellar communications. Dr. Allen Tough, at the University of Toronto, also has interesting points of view regarding the matter. As It´s been said by notable scientists and thinkers, like Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, there’s practically no chance that the intelligent civilization we’ll possibly find be leveled to us in any way.

ToSeek
2003-Apr-15, 02:26 PM
Dr. Douglas Vakoch (http://www.seti-inst.edu/about_us/leadership/staff/doug_v.html) has been working on what he calls “The Incommensurability Problem”. He states that aliens can be different than us to the point of conceptualizing the universe in a totally different manner.

I am more inclined to believe that we have been evolutionarily molded to be compatible with and successful in the universe. Any other intelligent life form will be likewise molded and will therefore not be drastically dissimilar from us in any fundamental way. I think there's very little arbitrary or incidental to the so-called "human condition." For example, I think that our emotions are survival traits, and that any intelligent, mortal species will know fear (from experiencing danger), affection (due to the advantages of being social), sadness (from experiencing loss), etc.

bobjohnston
2003-Apr-15, 07:56 PM
Yes, it gives distances and spin rates of various pulsars. Now we know that we see a pulsar if we're in line with the emitted cone of radiation. Back when the plaque was designed, i don't know if they knew that. If not, the pulsars on the plaque would be a small fraction of all potential pulsars; there might be very little overlap between these pulsars and the pulsars the ETs know about. On the other hand, there would be millions of ETs trying to analyze the plaque, and presumably since they're star fairing they have extensive knowledge of rotating neutron stars, not just the ones that happen to be pointing at them. So, once someone got the idea that they might be pulsars it's a fairly simple computer search to match distances and frequencies


I had someone ask me recently which pulsars were depicted on the plaque. I couldn't find a list, so I worked it out from the plaque and a pulsar catalogue. (Of course, I had the advantage of knowing the correct interpretation.) What was interesting was that using measured spindown rates, the plaque's date of origin could be pegged to 1969.9 (+/- 1.3 years). This implies that our lucky ETI, with sufficient knowledge of pulsars and their motions in space, might could determine our location in space to within a few light years. If anyone is interested, I posted my analysis at http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/astro/pulsarmap.html

Russ
2003-Apr-15, 08:36 PM
I think the whole concept of the plack was naieve and foolish from the start. We can't even have a meaningful conversation with a chimpanzi or an Atlantic Bottlenosed Dolphin. Beasties that share our world and have, at least, a genetic similarity to us. What makes us think we can design a plack that Mr. Alien in its' space shuttle might find and have one damn clue what that plack has to say?!!! :roll: :lol:

I think Mr. & Mrs. Sagan were letting their egos get away with them. :lol: :lol:

David Hall
2003-Apr-15, 08:56 PM
I think the whole concept of the plack was naieve and foolish from the start...

...I think Mr. & Mrs. Sagan were letting their egos get away with them. :lol: :lol:

I don't see it that way. I doubt anyone involved thought the plaqes were ever really likely to be found. I don't think it was naive or egoistic, it was just a combination of an extreme long-shot and a symbolic gesture. The main purpose was probably to get people interested in the project.

JohnD
2003-Apr-15, 10:59 PM
Everyone has aked themselves, "Could the alien read our plaque?".

More interesting would be to imagine how we might try to read theirs, or even if we could recognise an alien record for what it was?
John

bobjohnston
2003-Apr-15, 11:25 PM
I think Mr. & Mrs. Sagan were letting their egos get away with them.

Well, that may apply to just about anything Mr. Sagan did.

I agree it's ridiculous to think the messages will be found, but I think it was an instructive exercise. First, for the exercise of trying to make a generically readable message--and I also agree that it still falls short. Second, to try to summarize human culture in a small package, as with the Voyager record. Would an alien culture that interpreted the record think that it well described our "mostly harmless" planet? I think not! Again, bias on behalf of Sagan et ali are abundant.

tracer
2003-Apr-16, 12:25 AM
Suppose the aliens don't see the same way we do? They might not have any clue that those drawings are supposed to represent the outlines of any physical objects at all, let alone the outlines of the hairless apes who sent the probe!

Do you suppose they've ever tried to represent things on essentially a 2-d surface? If not, books are going to be awfully bulky. Do you think they'd discovered solar cells? If so, they must know about shadows. If they know about shadows, it's not much of a stretch to 2-d projections.
Ah, but what if the aliens normally see things in the infra-red, and use thermal imaging to get a mental impression of what an object looks like? It might not be obvious to such creatures that those line drawings are shadow-based 2-D projections. They might look like wire sculptures(cold thin lines against a bright background), and the aliens might have no reason to think that the spaces enclosed by those wire sculptures were filled in by any solid matter because they're the same color (temperature) as their background.

skeptED56
2003-Apr-16, 01:29 AM
Assuming the aliens were interested enough in the first place to investigate the plaque, I would think they would look at every angle possible and put every effort into discovering its purpose. Of course, alien psychologies are, well, alien. :roll:

Russ
2003-Apr-16, 07:14 PM
I don't see it that way. I doubt anyone involved thought the plaqes were ever really likely to be found. I don't think it was naive or egoistic, it was just a combination of an extreme long-shot and a symbolic gesture. The main purpose was probably to get people interested in the project.

Weeellllll, when you look at it from the PR point of view I can't really argue. I guess humanity was letting its' ego get away with it. :D

My test of the plack would be to put it in front of one of those blood worms that live by black smokers at the bottom of the ocean, if communication took place, then I'd say the plack was a success. :D :lol:

ToSeek
2003-Apr-16, 07:20 PM
You can't stand by and not even make an effort to communicate, can you? If anything, the odds of Voyager and the plaque being found are even more remote than the odds of the plaque being understood, even with the most pessimistic assumptions.

informant
2003-Apr-16, 07:45 PM
I think it's unfair to make comparisons with other beings from Earth, such as chimpanzees. They don't have the ability to solve mysteries that humans do (also known as intelligence).
I do believe that if the plaque were found, with the probe, an intelligent alien species would investigate and try to learn as much as possible about it. I just feel that from their point of view the possible interpretations for the plaque would seem close to infinite.


Everyone has aked themselves, "Could the alien read our plaque?".

More interesting would be to imagine how we might try to read theirs, or even if we could recognise an alien record for what it was?
John

Suggested reading: Sagan’s Contact, and, for balance, Lem’s His Master’s Voice.



Sagan did mention that he thought the drawings of the people were the least likely to be understood. I'd figure the outline of the probe would be the next.


I would expect the outline of the probe to be the first – if not the only – feature to be understood!

Russ
2003-Apr-16, 07:53 PM
I agree it's ridiculous to think the messages will be found, but I think it was an instructive exercise. First, for the exercise of trying to make a generically readable message--and I also agree that it still falls short. Second, to try to summarize human culture in a small package, as with the Voyager record. Would an alien culture that interpreted the record think that it well described our "mostly harmless" planet? I think not! Again, bias on behalf of Sagan et ali are abundant.
I think David Hall was correct in that it was more of a Public Relations gimick than any real effort to communicate. Further, I think, to paraphrase a worn out old saw, whoever finds it will not only be queerer than we imagine, but gueerer than we can imagine. ;)

aporetic_r
2003-Apr-17, 02:18 AM
I have two points to add to this very interesting discussion.

1) Before they get into trying to interpret the plaque, the aliens first have to understand that it is an attempt at communication with them. I mean that they have to be interested in that particular piece of the probe as a communicative, rather than functional (that is, integral to the operation of the spacecraft), object. I think that if they could understand that it is a message of some sort, then they would have a very good chance of understanding at least part of it, because of the understanding of our technology they would have to amass in order to understand that the plaque is meant as a form of decoration and communication, rather than as an integral part of the functioning of the device.

2) I recall reading an interesting article about a similar semiotic problem, but one of greater immediate importance. A few years ago teams of experts from different fields were trying to determine the best way to communicate with humans 10,000 years in the future that "Under this spot is stored lots of deadly nuclear waste." Several interesting ideas were proposed. When I get home I'll see if I can find the article...

Aporetic
www.polisci.wisc.edu/~rdparrish

Wingnut Ninja
2003-Apr-17, 05:07 AM
I just hope they don't interpret the message as "Here is our planet. Please, come probe us." :o

David Hall
2003-Apr-17, 06:14 AM
I think David Hall was correct in that it was more of a Public Relations gimick than any real effort to communicate.

I should clarify that I think it was only partly PR-based. It was also a symbolic gesture. These craft were to leave the solar system, so it was a natural idea to want to "put humanity's mark" on them, so to speak. It's human nature to want to make sure that our actions don't go unrecognized. The Pioneer probes had plaques on them as well, you know.

tracer
2003-Apr-18, 12:42 AM
1) Before they get into trying to interpret the plaque, the aliens first have to understand that it is an attempt at communication with them. I mean that they have to be interested in that particular piece of the probe as a communicative, rather than functional (that is, integral to the operation of the spacecraft), object. I think that if they could understand that it is a message of some sort, then they would have a very good chance of understanding at least part of it, because of the understanding of our technology they would have to amass in order to understand that the plaque is meant as a form of decoration and communication, rather than as an integral part of the functioning of the device.
True, I hadn't thought of that.

But even if E.T. did figure out that the plaque was decorative and not structural ... and even if E.T. then managed to figure out that the decoration was supposed to be some form of communication and not, say, religious iconography or the government's seal of approval ... even then, E.T. might assume that the communicative symbols on the plaque were instructions for its builders rather than a message for whoever found it. E.T. might first guess that the picture of the probe with those two weird-shaped blobs (the drawings of humans) next to it was a warning to the construction crew not to let the probe get too close to any giant ape-looking amoebas lest it get eaten.

I mean, when a modern archaeologist discovers an artifact with drawings on it, his first instinct is not to think, "Hey, the creators of this artifact wrote a message to future generations of archaeologists!"

ToSeek
2003-Apr-18, 12:47 AM
I mean, when a modern archaeologist discovers an artifact with drawings on it, his first instinct is not to think, "Hey, the creators of this artifact wrote a message to future generations of archaeologists!"

No, if they can't figure out what else it might mean, they assume it's of religious significance. So what sort of religion could you make out of the Pioneer plaque?

tracer
2003-Apr-18, 06:51 AM
That we worship pulsars?

ToSeek
2003-Apr-18, 03:08 PM
That we worship pulsars?

And the hydrogen atom.

SeanF
2003-Apr-18, 04:34 PM
That we worship pulsars?

And the hydrogen atom.

And naked people?

ToSeek
2003-Apr-18, 04:55 PM
That we worship pulsars?

And the hydrogen atom.

And naked people?

Especially naked people.

Russ
2003-Apr-18, 07:24 PM
:lol: :lol: :lol: You guys crack me up! :lol: :lol: :lol:

BigJim
2003-May-09, 08:45 PM
Or, perhaps if you've seen Star Trek V, you'll know what I mean when I say it might not really matter. :wink:

Madcat
2003-May-14, 02:48 PM
We worship pulsars and nudes.... wow. Just wow. :)

I'm pretty sure that the finders would figure out that it's not integral to the spacecraft pretty quickly. The first thing I'd do with an alien probe would be to jazz it with all sorts of stimuli and see what it does. But, after I got bored, I'd take it apart if only to spite the thing. When (if) that happens, they'll see that the plaque doesn't connect to anything else.

Hey, I just had a thought. How did Pioneer and Voyager know where to shoot their telemetry data to get it to NASA? Is it possible that there is a computer program or data in the probe's computer that could actively lead them to us if they're smart enough? :-? That would be more likely to be understood than the plaque: Binary code is almost certain to be understood and if you get the binary of a program, you can eventually design a computer to run it given time and patience.

ToSeek
2003-May-14, 03:04 PM
Hey, I just had a thought. How did Pioneer and Voyager know where to shoot their telemetry data to get it to NASA? Is it possible that there is a computer program or data in the probe's computer that could actively lead them to us if they're smart enough? :-? That would be more likely to be understood than the plaque: Binary code is almost certain to be understood and if you get the binary of a program, you can eventually design a computer to run it given time and patience.

I can't speak for JPL missions, but the Goddard missions I dealt with would generally load an ephemeris with information about the locations of celestial bodies rather than perform calculations.

An open question is what sort of shape the probe's computer memory would be in when the aliens find it in a million years.

Rue
2003-May-15, 02:42 PM
There is no guarantee that the plaque will not be interepreted without some kind of cultural biased. When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the USA -- jars with pictures of the baby face on the label. Only later did they learn that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label that describe what's inside, since most people can't read.

As well, the entire probe may be seen as a messge. We are assuming that science and art are seperate in their culture.

snowcelt
2003-May-17, 03:13 PM
Rue, maybe some alien may at first see something like that, but they may figure out something more like what was intended, after awhile.

TinFoilHat
2003-May-17, 05:07 PM
There is no guarantee that the plaque will not be interepreted without some kind of cultural biased. When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the USA -- jars with pictures of the baby face on the label. Only later did they learn that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label that describe what's inside, since most people can't read.

False.

http://www.snopes.com/business/market/babyfood.htm

Rue
2003-May-21, 02:42 PM
Bravo! I can't fool you people for a second!

BlueAnodizeAl
2003-May-21, 04:53 PM
One of my favorite books has a small subplot on this topic. It was part of the StarTrek Series, "Federation" by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. They talk about Pioneer stating that translating the plates was a common test after entrance to the Federation..."the Vulcans came close." The plotline developed from an encounter with a device built by an ancient race who used a similar method of communication...however, where Pioneer starts with hydrogen absorption...this device started with basic warp theory. Really drove this idea home for me, what is easily understandable for us maybe extremely difficult for others.

daver
2003-May-21, 11:05 PM
One of my favorite books has a small subplot on this topic. It was part of the StarTrek Series, "Federation" by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. They talk about Pioneer stating that translating the plates was a common test after entrance to the Federation..."the Vulcans came close." The plotline developed from an encounter with a device built by an ancient race who used a similar method of communication...however, where Pioneer starts with hydrogen absorption...this device started with basic warp theory. Really drove this idea home for me, what is easily understandable for us maybe extremely difficult for others.

Hmm. Basic warp theory makes a fair amount of sense--the only people likely to capture the probe would have warp drive. The question becomes, what is the point of the probe, and what is the point of the plaque? Presumably they're engaging in a mapping expedition--send out thousands of probes to catalog the galaxy. Which means that each probe will zoom up to a star in its assigned sector, do an overview of the planets, and zoom on to the next star. All the probes eventually report home to dump the data.

So, under what circumstances would someone read the plaque? The race sees an unmanned probe come into their system and start actively mapping planets. One possibility is that any race that captured the probe would do so because they were worried about it being an advance scout from an unknown and potentially dangerous source (if they weren't worried about the probe, they'd let it continue). There's a reasonable chance that any race that was worried about an unmanned probe would be militarily aggressive (it's not guaranteed, but it is possible). So, they would capture and analyze the probe with an eye to determining its origin and the technology and threat level of its builders.

Another possibility is that a race which captured the probe would do so out of curioisity--to find out where the probe originated so they could initiate contact.

If the probe builders were aware of the first possibility, they wouldn't want to give anything away unless they were sure that the discoverers would not be a threat militarily.

If the probe builders wanted to say "We are here" they wouldn't need much more than a rough picture of the galaxy--presumably if the discoverers have warp drive they can send a ship to the region controlled by the builders.

If the builders were really paranoid, they'd leave a message ("We're rich, militarily inept, and live over here", where the "over here" points to Borg space).

BlueAnodizeAl
2003-May-22, 01:30 AM
Perhaps, however if that is the first emblem on a probe, they generally only get more advanced from there...that's a heck of a high level of development they were expecting.

daver
2003-May-23, 07:31 PM
I suppose the probe could convey how to advance to the next stage of being. Something like "Hello, we're all gone now, but if you too would like to achieve godlike powers ...".

I suppose it could be "Hello, we're bored. We've talked to everyone worth talking to in our neck of the universe. If you have interstellar capabilities follow the instructions to get an intergalactic [or inter-multiverse] drive".

It's unlikely to be a simple Greetings from planet Earth, like the Pioneer plaque.

aporetic_r
2003-May-24, 04:48 PM
Does anyone recall the episode of Babylon 5 in which an alien probe appeared near B5 and broadcast a series of advanced questions? They spent a lot of time coming up with the answers, but at the last minute realized that it wasn't a friendly probe searching for other advanced species to befriend. It was actually a bomb that would blow up when somebody got the answers correct, thus hopefully removing another competitor from the galaxy.

Aporetic
www.polisci.wisc.edu/~rdparrish

ToSeek
2003-May-24, 07:05 PM
Does anyone recall the episode of Babylon 5 in which an alien probe appeared near B5 and broadcast a series of advanced questions? They spent a lot of time coming up with the answers, but at the last minute realized that it wasn't a friendly probe searching for other advanced species to befriend. It was actually a bomb that would blow up when somebody got the answers correct, thus hopefully removing another competitor from the galaxy.

Aporetic
www.polisci.wisc.edu/~rdparrish

Yes, I remember that one. I seem to recall they didn't give it the final, correct answer until it was a safe distance away.

mr arriba
2003-May-24, 07:12 PM
Did Aliens have replied to another message?Hoax or reality you will be the judge.

The Arecibo message beamed into space in 1974 by Drake and Sagan represented in data pixel form...

http://www.eionews.addr.com/psyops/chilbolton_reply.htm

Add
http://www.swirlednews.com/article.asp?artID=260

aporetic_r
2003-May-24, 11:04 PM
Did Aliens have replied to another message?Hoax or reality you will be the judge.

Hoax.

Aporetic
www.polisci.wisc.edu/~rdparrish

mr arriba
2003-May-25, 03:30 AM
Did Aliens have replied to another message?Hoax or reality you will be the judge.

Hoax.

Aporetic
www.polisci.wisc.edu/~rdparrish

Not an easy one.That is not only simple circles.How hoaxers can do the reply to the Aracibo message in one night?

There is a following
http://yowusa.com/Archive/May2003/crabwood4/crabwood4.htm

Add
http://www.eionews.addr.com/psyops/chilbolton_the_verdict.htm

aporetic_r
2003-May-25, 03:35 PM
This morning I had a bit of an idea about how to tell an alien society where our probe originated. I don't know if it is any good, but here it is:

When they encounter the probe it will likely be moving in some direction, probably the direction in which it was going when it left our solar system. If it isn't, that another story - probably one in which it was party to a collision, and is likely to be too damaged for any plaque or other means of communication to survive.

So assuming the craft is still travelling in roughly a direction that will point back here. But the line along which the craft travelled is a long one, so the aliens will need to know how far back along this line to search. They need a mission run-time clock of some sort, that they can follow back to Zero, given the craft's speed and direction of travel. It seems to me that radioactive decay might do the job.

It might work like this: We put X amount of a radioactive substance into the craft. It will do its decaying thing, and when the aliens encounter it they can reconstruct how long the craft has been travelling by determining the amount of time that it takes for the initial radioactive mass to decay to its current state.

Of course, the trick is to communicate the original mass of the radioactive substance. It seems to me that this can be done with relative ease (relative, that is, to some of the other actual or proposed plaques, etc.) by engraving a drawing of the mass in its initial state. This drawing would likely have to include individual atoms so that the aliens can count them. I don't think it would take as great a leap for them to understand this as it would for them to understand, for example, the pulsar image.

Aporetic
www.polisci.wisc.edu/~rdparrish

ToSeek
2003-May-25, 03:45 PM
Don't all the probes that have left the solar system have plutonium on board already? And I don't think you'd need to identify the original mass: any reasonably sophisticated alien race should be able to identify the decay products. We manage it just fine when dating rocks.

Darnon
2003-May-25, 06:52 PM
A lot of earlier satellites carried a radioactive isotope to keep the instruments warm (and accounts for the presence of a little plutonium in all of us from accidents where the material was spilled). Nowadays I believe they use electric heaters/radiators.
It's hard to assume that a probe would travel in a straight line, especially since we don't know what it is passing in the gravitational influence of. For all we know, some of our probes may be coming right back at us after slingshotting around some body.

Darnon

aporetic_r
2003-May-25, 07:53 PM
It's hard to assume that a probe would travel in a straight line, especially since we don't know what it is passing in the gravitational influence of. For all we know, some of our probes may be coming right back at us after slingshotting around some body.

While grocery shopping a little while ago, I was thinking about that and other things that would cause the craft's path to change. I'm not sure what to do about that, except to include the pulsar triangulation plaque as well. It seems to me that if the aliens get into the general vicinity of Earth that they wouldn't have much trouble spotting us.

Or we could have all our probes trail a long wire behind them...

Aporetic
www.polisci.wisc.edu/~rdparrish

Kaptain K
2003-May-25, 08:36 PM
One could include several vials of (initially pure) radioisotopes of different halflifes, giving a graduated and overlapping time scale. One could start with Ra 226 (1499y), C14(5700y), Pu239(25.4Ky), Th230 (75.4Ky)... U238(4.46Gy).

Aliens decode the time of launch.
Aliens track the probe's path back that far and, voila only system in the vicinity.

ToSeek
2003-May-26, 12:36 AM
A lot of earlier satellites carried a radioactive isotope to keep the instruments warm (and accounts for the presence of a little plutonium in all of us from accidents where the material was spilled). Nowadays I believe they use electric heaters/radiators.


Yes, but the power still has to come from somewhere. Every mission that's gone to Jupiter or beyond has had to use plutonium RTGs (http://seds.lpl.arizona.edu/nineplanets/nineplanets/spacecraft.html) as a power source because solar cells (the only other possibility right now) just don't cut it that far away from the Sun.

David Hall
2003-May-26, 05:52 PM
It's hard to assume that a probe would travel in a straight line, especially since we don't know what it is passing in the gravitational influence of. For all we know, some of our probes may be coming right back at us after slingshotting around some body.

Actually, it's very easy to assume they would travel in a straight line, or at least close to straight. Space is very, very empty and the probes are travelling mighty fast. There's not much out there to perturb a trajectory. Unless an object were very big, or the encounter was very close, there wouldn't be more than a slight alteration in course. A 180° slingshot is all but impossible.

BTW, there has been a measured change, not in the courses, but in the speeds of Pioneer 10 and 11 (http://www.geocities.com/solarstormmonitor/Pioneer.html). I don't think the reason has been fully determined yet, but it doesn't seem to be due to encounters with unknown objects. (Here's (http://renshaw.teleinc.com/papers/prl-pi/prl-pi.stm) one possible explanation I dug up.)

informant
2003-May-27, 06:43 PM
Interesting article, David, but I thought the decelleration had not been observed in the Voyagers...

earlier topic #1 (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=270)

earlier topic #2 (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=469)

earlier topic #3 (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=590)

David Hall
2003-May-27, 09:39 PM
Interesting article, David, but I thought the decelleration had not been observed in the Voyagers...

The article I posted had this to say:


The scientists were unable to calculate the effects of distant gravity on other deep space probes, like Voyager I or Voyager 2, because they employ a different kind of orientation and propulsion system.

So, yeah. But I agree that the opening graphic is a bit misleading.

informant
2003-May-27, 10:27 PM
Hmm, I was referring to this (http://renshaw.teleinc.com/papers/prl-pi/prl-pi.stm) article.

David Hall
2003-May-27, 11:24 PM
Oh, ok. But that one only refers to the Pioneers as well. Since it's impossible to measure the effect on the Voyagers, I suppose we simply cannot apply it to them, even if the effect is actually there.

Frankly, the page is a bit over my head anyway, so I really can't say much about it myself.

I've heard that the same (or similar) effect was measured on Galileo's trip out though, and one other, SOHO?. Maybe it would explain them too.

Manchurian Taikonaut
2004-Mar-20, 04:16 AM
Will be Voyager say hello to Aliens? :D In about 70 years time a Russian, American, Euro or Chinese ship might be going out to the edge of our solar system to collect those Voyager craft and put them in a Museum

eburacum45
2004-Mar-20, 02:07 PM
Like This? (http://www.orionsarm.com/historical/Pioneer_10.html)?

ToSeek
2004-Sep-29, 04:06 PM
A show based on the Voyager message:

The Earth: an introduction for aliens (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2004/09/29/bamcq29.xml&sSheet=/arts/2004/09/29/ixartright.html)


To make Once Upon a Time, McQueen bought the rights to reproduce 116 images that American scientists at the National Space Agency Nasa rocketed into space inside two Voyager space probes in 1977. These images, intended to describe life on Earth to alien beings, are still travelling through outer space at a speed of 150 million miles per year - and presumably will still be moving silently through the darkness long after life on Earth is extinguished.

McQueen simply presents the sequence of photos in the form of a slide show in a darkened gallery. With each slide remaining on the screen for less than a minute, the rhythm is measured, calm and steady. The images themselves are mostly banal and of little visual interest. Only their purpose and the order in which we see them give them meaning.

badprof
2004-Sep-29, 05:25 PM
Actually, I thought Pioneer 10 was/will be destroyed by the Klingons!! :cry: 8-[ :D

Maurice

rockmysoul67
2004-Sep-29, 06:45 PM
In about 70 years time a Russian, American, Euro or Chinese ship might be going out to the edge of our solar system to collect those Voyager craft and put them in a Museum

I wrote a short story about this possibility. I wrote it in dutch, but I do have an english translation. It was no success, but I had a lot of fun writing it.

I also wrote a short story about a pioneer plaque, in that story the space probe is found by aliens (so without return to earth for a museum). If someone likes to read this one, you can find it here (http://www.scifinet.org/scifinetboard/index.php?showtopic=1558). It's on a german sf literature board but the story is in english (I had some help).

I believe I had the maths and theories behind both stories correct.

thecolorofash
2007-Oct-11, 08:03 AM
I wrote a short story about this possibility. I wrote it in dutch, but I do have an english translation. It was no success, but I had a lot of fun writing it.

I also wrote a short story about a pioneer plaque, in that story the space probe is found by aliens (so without return to earth for a museum). If someone likes to read this one, you can find it here (http://www.scifinet.org/scifinetboard/index.php?showtopic=1558). It's on a german sf literature board but the story is in english (I had some help).

I believe I had the maths and theories behind both stories correct.

Quite good short story - applause ;-)

mugaliens
2007-Oct-11, 07:56 PM
Don't all the probes that have left the solar system have plutonium on board already? And I don't think you'd need to identify the original mass: any reasonably sophisticated alien race should be able to identify the decay products. We manage it just fine when dating rocks.

Not if the space scavengers simply load it into their cargo hold as scrap for processing...

KaiYeves
2007-Oct-12, 01:40 AM
Not an easy one.That is not only simple circles.How hoaxers can do the reply to the Aracibo message in one night?
So smart as to know what the Arecibo message is... and so wacky as to make crop circles. Sounds like a very scary person.

Quite good short story - applause ;-)
I second the notion. I think I'd like that pulsar map as a henna tattoo. Not permenant, you understand, just henna. With all of the controversy P10 created on Earth because of the people on it, maybe it should have been launched in secret.

novaderrik
2007-Oct-12, 02:34 AM
what's up with the 4 year old threads getting brought back? i made it past the first page before looking at any of the posting dates. i thought a few of the names didn't look familiar for some reason..

mugaliens
2007-Oct-12, 03:54 PM
what's up with the 4 year old threads getting brought back? i made it past the first page before looking at any of the posting dates. i thought a few of the names didn't look familiar for some reason..

As I've not been a member that long, I find them new and interesting, provided they don't repeat a newer thread which also covered the same topic.

KaiYeves
2007-Oct-13, 01:25 AM
So now I'm here and just reading about it for the first time. I took a different course into your system and never saw it. So now do I have to go back and read the plaque? I don't understand all of these human rules.

Noclevername
2007-Oct-13, 01:40 AM
I don't understand all of these human rules.

Neither do I, and I was born on this planet.

Zachary
2007-Oct-13, 05:08 PM
I would just go with the shoving a bunch of radioisotopes on the probe idea. If they really wanted to know more about us they could build some big radio telescopes, point it at our sun, recieve our junk and work on that.

KaiYeves
2007-Oct-14, 10:21 PM
I would just go with the shoving a bunch of radioisotopes on the probe idea. If they really wanted to know more about us they could build some big radio telescopes, point it at our sun, recieve our junk and work on that.
Which is exactly how I came to be posting on this board. It's really funny what the first signal we recieved was...

Drbuzz0
2007-Oct-18, 07:42 PM
I had always thought that the Pioneer Plaque was a good idea but it was not quite right. I proposed a better one which I hope may someday fly on another probe.

I think it better reflects our world. Also, it stars my likeness. A few... artistic liberties may have been taken.

Here's the SFW version:

http://depletedcranium.com/pioneerimprooved.gif

Noclevername
2007-Oct-19, 12:28 AM
Not sure that pic belongs on a family-friendly board.

KaiYeves
2007-Oct-19, 01:26 AM
Not sure that pic belongs on a family-friendly board.
Hmmm... the third planet, in the system that distance from all of the pulsars, was launched by two creatures who make... unusual hand signs.