Is there anybody out there? In a cross-field research project, Lund university looks to the skies to find out whether or not human beings are alone in the universe. This Thursday, researchers from all over the world came to Pufendorf institute to discuss the topic of how to communicate with aliens.
“Interstellar Communication” means communicating with ET, quite literally, extra-terrestrials. That was the topic of interest at today’s seminar Thursday, May 5th at the Pufendorf Institute of Lund University, where speakers from across Europe and the rest of the world discussed methods of sending radio signals in a coordinated manner, so that if someone really is out there – they would have a chance to hear us.
“There’s no reason to believe that we are completely alone in the universe. We know that other planets that can bear life exist. Then there’s certainly a possibility that one civilization might be intelligent just like us,” says David Dunér, responsible for the seminar, which is a part of the research project Astrobiology: Past, present and future .
Unknown ways of communicating
David Dunér implies that researchers today are not looking for technological breakthroughs.
“This isn’t a technical problem any longer; the problem we have to solve is how to construct and code a proper message,” says Dunér.
This means we need to think outside of our usual boundaries. The prospect of interstellar communication is a difficult problem to tackle. First we ask ourselves, where are we going to point our signals? What frequency should we try to use? Dunér further explains that the way we use written and spoken language may be far from what another life form uses to communicate.
“Life forms we can’t even imagine will likely communicate in radically different ways,” says Dunér.
“They may communicate through extremely high pitches, like bats or even through ultra-violet light. There is no way of us knowing.”
Alien research to learn about ourselves
Thursday was the beginning of the next leg of the institute’s long-running research theme and project “Astrobiology: Past, Present and Future.”
Although the primary goal is to answer the question “Is there life in outer space?” Dunér’s project spans a number of different topics.
The series of seminars this year has been discussing and will continue to discuss the different aspects of how and where life forms, where else we can find life, and whether we can contact other life forms in the universe.
In addition, Dunér explains that this project allows for the human race to ask new questions and to “project knowledge we have onto things we have only just discovered.”
The consensus is that we would not only be opening the possibility of encountering another intelligence in outer space: we would also be learning more about ourselves.
Brings up etchical questions
Today it seems, the main thing we know is that we know very, very little about the larger world around us beyond Earth, although we know a lot about our immediate surroundings.
Contrary to what little we know, the topic nonetheless stirs up a lot of curiosity. Dunér says that this is a naturally human reaction. “We, as human beings are always in pursuit of learning more.”
David Dunér has also brought in philosophers to discuss ethical questions: Is it permissible for us to colonize outer space? How do we react if we do encounter intelligent life of another kind? And most importantly, what can we learn from our past?
“Looking back, we have an extroardinarily violent history,” says Dunér. “If you were an alien looking on, you would probably be quite frightened.”