Blog

Oct 10 2018 - 11:07pm

Seeing a SpaceX Launch

by James Benford, President of Microwave Sciences

Oct 3 2018 - 1:15pm

by Derek Malone-France, Trustee, METI International

This Saturday, October 6, the "METI Debates" will be organized by the Universidad de los Andes at the Uniandino Debate Tournament (TDU).  METI is a co-sponsor of the event, along with the Center for Citizen Inclusion and Rights (INCIDE), and the Universidad del Rosario.

May 8 2018 - 3:55pm

 

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Patricia Margaret Sterns, a longtime leader in space law.

Apr 11 2018 - 10:06pm

John W. Traphagan

Katie Blaire

In my class on SETI at the University of Texas at Austin, my students’ first exam asks them to respond to the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”.  The episode raises questions about the dangers of potential contact with extraterrestrials and our capacity to understand their motivations.  The phrase “To Serve Man” can be read two ways: 1) to provide service to humanity, or 2) to provide humanity as a dinner entrée.    I ask students to think about whether or not the scenario in the Twilight Zone episode makes sense and, consequently, whether or not contact with aliens might be dangerous.

Mar 16 2018 - 6:05pm

By Morris Jones

Much attention in the METI world is focused on designing codes or languages that could be understood by extraterrestrials. We don’t think they would speak any languages commonly used by humans, so attempts are made to produce something close to a “universal language”. Mathematics heavily influences this process, and with good reason. It’s a more objective reflection of the universe, and taps into rules and laws that would apply to extraterrestrials as much as us. Addition works the same way on Earth and Proxima Centauri. But even the way humans interpret and communicate mathematics is subjective. It’s not only the code and symbolism we use. It could even reflect cognitive processes that could be unique to humans, and not necessarily shared by creatures with different minds. 

Feb 6 2018 - 3:23pm

John W. Traphagan, Ph.D.

University of Texas at Austin

During the spring 2018 term at the University of Texas at Austin, I am teaching a course called Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Culture, Religion, and Imagination. The aim of the class is to explore how humans have addressed questions about whether or not we are alone in the universe and to consider recent developments in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.  Focusing primarily on the 20th and 21st Centuries, the course considers how ideas about extraterrestrial intelligence have intersected with other aspects of society, such as religious ideas, and approaches SETI as a cultural phenomenon related to how scientists and others imagine the nature of intelligence, both human and non-human. 

Feb 3 2018 - 1:10am

Author:  Sheri Wells-Jensen. 

Dr. Wells-Jensen is an Associate Professor and Co-Director of the ESOL Program at Bowling Green State University. She also coordinates BGSU's Minor in Linguistics. Her teaching and research interests include phonetics, applied phonology, psycholinguistics, speech production (especially slips of the tongue), language preservation, braille and xenolinguistics.

Here comes the zillion-dollar question:

If humans encounter one, would we be able to learn an alien language?

OK, because I can't actually answer that question, I'm going to try to distract you with some other clarifying questions and link to a bunch of additional reading material so that, by the time you get to the end of this, you won't feel too bad that I had nothing definitive to say.

What do you mean by “encounter”?...

Jan 26 2018 - 11:13pm

Author:  Sheri Wells-Jensen. 

Dr. Wells-Jensen is an Associate Professor and Co-Director of the ESOL Program at Bowling Green State University. She also coordinates BGSU's Minor in Linguistics. Her teaching and research interests include phonetics, applied phonology, psycholinguistics, speech production (especially slips of the tongue), language preservation, braille and xenolinguistics.

Here's a little linguistics game for you. Can you match the word for "fish" with the language it comes from? The words here are written in faux-phonetic transcription—kind of what you might do if you hear a word but don't know how to spell it (i.e. they are not all spelled the way a literate speaker of the language would spell them).

balik, i’a, machli, pes, riba, sakana, yu

Chinese, Hawaiian, Hindi, Japanese,

Russian, Spanish, Turkish

Answers below; if you get 4 out of 7 right, feel pleased with yourself.

Jan 19 2018 - 1:37am

Author:  Sheri Wells-Jensen. 

Dr. Wells-Jensen is an Associate Professor and Co-Director of the ESOL Program at Bowling Green State University. She also coordinates BGSU's Minor in LinguisticsHer teaching and research interests include phonetics, applied phonology, psycholinguistics, speech production (especially slips of the tongue), language preservation, braille and xenolinguistics.

For the next time you are on a long trip, I recommend this linguist's "car game".  Go through the alphabet, giving the name of a language for each letter: Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Hawaiian, Icelandic, ... When you get to the end, start over. No repeats allowed.

Given that there are around 7,000 languages spoken on Earth today, you could theoretically go around several times before you run out.

I offer you this to give some perspective on this question, which I get asked every time I say that I have taught a course in Xenolinguistics:

“If there are intelligent beings on other planets, would we be able to learn their language?”

Nov 12 2017 - 4:25pm

By Abhik Gupta, METI Trustee.

We almost always imagine human – ET encounters in which the ETI, being highly advanced in science and technology, come to  the earth either as marauding invaders spelling doom for humankind or as benign benefactors solving our problems and guiding us to a better future. Even when we create an ETI that is in distress, we usually imagine him/her to be retaining his/her extraordinary powers to be able to command the situation as a superior being (Spielberg's ET, for example).