Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ET, don’t phone home; drop a line instead

02.09.2004


Were E.T. really interested in getting in touch with home, he might be better off writing than phoning, according to Christopher Rose, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.



Rose 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," which appears on the cover of the September issue of Nature. 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 speculates that "messages" might be anything from actual text in a real language to (more likely) organic material embedded in an asteroid – or in the crater made by such an asteroid upon striking Earth. Messages – and Rose suggests there might be many of them, perhaps millions – might literally be at our feet. They might be awaiting our discovery on the moon, or on one of Jupiter’s moons. They might be dramatic or mundane. A bottle floating in the ocean is just a bottle floating in the ocean – unless, upon closer inspection, it turns out to have a message in it.

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.

"If haste is unimportant, sending messages inscribed on some material can be strikingly more efficient than communicating by electromagnetic waves," Rose says.

Of course, E.T.’s choice of medium might be affected by how much he had to say. "Since messages require protection from cosmic radiation, and small messages might be difficult to find amid the clutter near a recipient, ’inscribed matter’ is most effective for long, archival messages, as opposed to potentially short ’we exist’ announcements," Rose says.

Ken Branson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ur.rutgers.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>