There are serious questions being pondered and actions being taken by our top minds these days and there’s no reason why the thought process shouldn’t be open to all humans, especially since the end result could potentially put all humans in danger of being destroyed by aliens … especially aliens who don’t like techno-pop music. The questions? Would you broadcast radio signals at a planet that may contain alien life? If you say yes, would you send music or words? If you chose music, what songs would you send? Space Oddity? Rocket Man? The 1812 Overture? Space Cowboy?
GeekWire reports that a group of scientists and artists calling themselves Sónar Calling GJ273b didn’t bother to ask us before transmitting signals on three successive days, Oct. 16-18, from the EISCAT radio antenna in Tromsø, Norway. The transmissions were aimed at GJ273b, a planet twice the mass of Earth, orbiting GJ273 or Luyten’s Star, a red dwarf in the constellation Canis Major. GJ273b is in a habitable zone orbit and could harbor life, so it’s a prime target for messaging extraterrestrial intelligence (METI) according to METI International, a co-sponsor of Sónar Calling GJ273b.
The other sponsors are the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia, Spain, and the Sónar music festival in Barcelona. So the inhabitants of GJ273b will someday be tapping their toes (or whatever appendages they’ve developed) to flamenco, opera, Spanish jazz and classical guitar songs – right?
“We will turn the EISCAT transmitter into a musical instrument, sending basic melodies by transmitting pulses at a series of different radio frequencies that maintain the same sort of intervals between one another that we see in the intervals between musical notes.”
What is that … polka? (Sorry, polka fans). Do we want them to like us or hate us? Douglas Vakoch, president of METI International, says those “pulses” were composed especially for this project by people like sound artist Holly Herndon, French composer Jean-Michel Jarre and the experimental electronic-music duo Matmos.
That might not be too bad … except the Sónar Calling pieces are only 10 seconds long and transmitted as binary code at two frequencies, 929.0 MHz and 930.2 MHz. The signal will also contain some sort of ‘cosmic clock’ to help ETs figure out our concept of time … which will help them know when to clap to the music.
People like Stephen Hawking think METI is a bad idea, but this musical cat is out of the bag, man, so we should have some input into what’s being sent to other life forms. This could be an exercise that brings us all together. Then again, have you ever been involved in picking out music for a DJ to play at a wedding?
What could possibly go wrong? It’s worth a shot. My vote is for some New Orleans jazz like When the Saints Go Marching In. Even aliens should like that. And if they don’t, they can play it at our funeral after they destroy Earth.
What music would you send to an extraterrestrial civilization?