Extraterrestrial Communication

Sep 29, 2004
Extraterrestrial Communication

In a cover story for the journal Nature, Christopher Rose, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rutgers, contends that inscribing information and physically sending it to some location in deep space is more energy-efficient than pulsing it out on radio waves, which disperse as they travel.

"Think of a flashlight beam," Rose says. "Its intensity decreases as it gets farther from its source. The same is true of the beam of a laser pointer, though the distance is much longer. The unavoidable fact is that waves, both light and radio, disperse over distance, and over great distance, they disperse a lot."

Rose and Gregory Wright, a physicist, are co-authors of a paper titled, "Inscribed matter as an energy-efficient means of communication with an extraterrestrial civilization," the September 2 Nature paper. The paper grew out of Rose's work at the Wireless Information Network Laboratory (WINLAB) at Rutgers' School of Engineering. "Our original question was, 'How do you get the most bits per second over a wireless channel?'" Rose says. This led him to consider distance, and the "energy budget" required for sending a signal. The budget increases with distance, Rose contends, and the detectability of the signal diminishes. The less detectable a message is, the lower its speed.

In addition, Rose says, when waves pass a particular point, they've passed it for good. Potential recipients at that point might be unable to snag a passing message for any one of many reasons. They might not be listening. They might be extinct. So someone sending such a message would have to send it over and over to increase the chance of its being received. The energy budget goes up accordingly. A physical message, however, stays where it lands.

Rose is in favor of listening for that close encounter, but he thinks researchers should have their eyes open, too. Rose concedes that this idea may be hard to accept, but this difficulty arises from our concern about time. If the sender isn't concerned about reaching the recipient and getting an answer in his own lifetime, inscribing and sending is the way to go.

Source: Rutgers University

Explore further: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cameras offer advantages even to smartphone owners

Jan 28, 2013

If you have a smartphone, you likely take lots of pictures with it. So why would you ever need a stand-alone digital camera? That's a question many consumers are asking. Digital camera sales are falling, while smartphone ...

Instagram to share data with Facebook

Dec 17, 2012

Smartphone photo sharing service Instagram on Monday refined its privacy policy to clear the way for sharing data with Facebook, which bought the company earlier this year.

Yahoo! seeks slice of smartphone photo-sharing pie

Dec 12, 2012

Yahoo! joined the fray over smartphone photo-sharing Wednesday by making it more enticing for iPhone users to use its Flickr service amid a rift between Twitter and the popular photo app Instagram.

Twitter adds Instagram-style photo features

Dec 11, 2012

Twitter on Monday added Instagram-style smartphone photo sharing features after the Facebook-owned service made it impossible for Internet users to integrate its images into tweets.

Recommended for you

Comet Jacques makes a 'questionable' appearance

23 minutes ago

What an awesome photo! Italian amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri nailed it earlier today using a remote telescope in New Mexico and wide-field 4-inch (106 mm) refractor. Currently the brightest comet in ...

Image: Our flocculent neighbour, the spiral galaxy M33

31 minutes ago

The spiral galaxy M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, is one of our closest cosmic neighbours, just three million light-years away. Home to some forty billion stars, it is the third largest in the ...

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

33 minutes ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

43 minutes ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

User comments : 0