Freaky Friday

Paranorma & Millennial

ET Gets the Wrong Number
From Encounter 2000

  Encounter 2001, the Millennial Voyage, is the first interstellar mission for everyone who believes that intelligent life exists beyond our solar system. Encounter 2001 is another of humanity's early efforts to accomplish perhaps its greatest social, technological and spiritual imperative: FIRST CONTACT.
   For many of us, the opportunity to personally participate in a real space mission has seemed beyond our reach. Now, with Encounter 2001, we have the chance for millions of us to go!
   Encounter 2001 scans and stores your photo, drawing and message on the latest in optical storage discs. The optical discs will be placed aboard the Encounter 2001 spacecraft scheduled for launch on an Ariane 5 rocket in the year 2001*. The tiny emissary's flight path will take it to Jupiter and then beyond the solar system. Before the flight, we'll include your message as we place a cosmic call to a distant star.

   Mankind's first cosmic message, beamed to the stars on Monday, contains two mathematical errors, it has been revealed.

  The authors of the message say that the errors could not be corrected before the broadcast.

  The cosmic call was only the second intentional interstellar broadcast ever made; in 1974 US radio astronomer Frank Drake sent the first one.

  Astronomers Yvan Dutil and Stéphane Dumas of the Defence Research Establishment Valcartier in Canada designed the cosmic message.

  They prepared 23 pages of information about the Earth, mathematics, and physics, all coded in symbols that any alien intelligence should be able to decipher.

  But at two places in the message, they accidentally used the wrong symbol where they should have used the equals sign.

  The errors were picked up earlier this month by a computer game programmer Paul Houx, of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

  Yvan Dutil has been quoted as saying that he did not sleep for a couple of nights after he was alerted to the problem.

  A correction could not be made to the message because the radio telescope due to transmit it, the Evpatoriya observatory in the Ukraine, had no Internet connection; It was therefore impossible to get details of the necessary changes put through before Monday's broadcast.

  Paul Houx is worried about the impression the message will leave on alien listeners, saying that we might be judged as a sloppy species by the League of Galactic Civilizations.

   The message is part of a commercial project called Encounter 2001 based in Houston, US. The company offered the public the chance to tag their own messages on the end for $15.

   Chan Tysor of Encounter 2001 says: "This is a statement, sending something of yourself away from the Earth to travel in space forever."

   The stars the messages are aimed at are 51 to 71 light years away. Radio waves travel at the speed of light, meaning that it will be at least 102 years before any reply is received. That does not include any thinking time for any alien trying to decipher the message.

   But scientists involved in listening for intelligent signals from outer space are sceptical. Specialists in Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) say sending a message out into space is almost certainly a fruitless exercise.

   Dr Frank Stootman, of Seti Australia, says that it is not a message to aliens, but to us. He adds that a reply is very unlikely and certainly not within our lifetime.

   The main message is based on science, logic and mathematics.

   Dr Dutil points out that the only other signal deliberately sent into space, beamed out in 1974, was aimed at stars unlikely to have planets.

   Because the new signal is aimed at a handful of stars like our Sun, in a region of the sky called the Summer Triangle, he says that "for practical purposes, this will be our first detailed interstellar transmission."

   It was transmitted on Monday by the Evpatoria radio telescope in the Ukraine.

   The message consists of a series of pages repeated three times over a period of three hours. The signal is 100,000 times stronger than a TV broadcast.

   The message sent in 1974 was transmitted from the Arecibo radio telescope. It was a brief three-minute message towards the distant M13 stellar cluster.

   It consisted of 1,679 pulses. When arranged into a matrix, they became an image showing atoms, molecules, our Solar System and a representation of a human.

   But the new cosmic message is much longer - 400,000 bits.

   Starting with basic symbols, it uses logic to describe numbers and geometry. It then goes on to introduce concepts such as atoms, planets and even DNA.

   "If any aliens ever intercept this message, they will have mastered science. Therefore, much of the first part of the message, the part that deals with numbers and atoms, will be familiar to them", says Dr Dutil.

   "They can then go on and deduce a few things about humans such as where we live, how big we are and how many there are of us."

   As well as the encrypted message, there will be a series of greetings written by the general public.

   According to Chan Tysor, the greetings include peoples' hopes for a more peaceful future for mankind and other races in space. One person says that we have made a mess of our planet and asks aliens to put off a visit for another 100,000 years.

   Mr Tysor says the signal is a kind of monument. "It is a kind of immortality knowing that something you wrote is beaming its way out of the solar system into the galaxy."


IMPORTANT NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.


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