METI

Teaching about SETI at the University Level

English

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. 

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Could We Learn E.T.'S Language? (Last Part)

English

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”?...

Could we learn E.T.'s language? (2nd part)

English

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.

Could we learn E.T.'s language?

English

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?”

Alien Intelligence

English

Carl L. DeVito

We are told that we separated from the other animals in the Garden of Eden. By partaking of the fruit of knowledge we came to know good and evil. At that point we lost our innocence and parted from our simpler brethren, and we can never return to our once idyllic state. We went from living in harmony with nature and the other animals to a position of separation. A separation that some have interpreted as giving us dominance over all creation. This perceived dominance has led to our hunting animals virtually at will, putting them into zoos, and making them amuse us as part of circus acts. We destroy their habitats to make room for our cities and roads and we accord them no “inalienable rights”. We may, as current developments seem to indicate, pay dearly for this. The biosphere seems to be unraveling as species disappear at an alarming rate and, as much as we try to distance ourselves from the other animals, we are a part of that biosphere. But dominance is the role we have assigned ourselves and we must live with the consequences.

Is Signal From HD164595 Evidence Of Aliens Or Just Another False Alarm?

English

Social media and news outlets the past few days have been abuzz with the prospects of a strong signal apparently coming from the star unromantically known at HD 164595, which is about 94 light years from Earth. Reading news reports, one would think that the signal was intercepted last week, but actually it was picked up over a year ago in May of 2015.