Ready to Meet Aliens [Tattoo]

By Carl Zimmer | December 17, 2008 7:46 am

voyager-hydrogen.jpgBob, a software architect, writes, “The diagram is part of the key used on the Pioneer 10 and 11 plaques and the Voyager 1 and 2 records.  It represents the spin-flip transition of neutral atomic hydrogen, and so provides a universal physical constant, a measure of length and of time, by virtue of the photon it emits. These are the base units on those plaques and records, where we attempt to communicate very precise information without any shared language or other common assumptions.  This diagram is part of the ultimate ‘message in a bottle.'”

Carl: More on the spin-flip diagram at Wikipedia.

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Comments (2)

  1. I wonder if alien life just coincidentally happens to also map structural relational representations in their heads through a convoluted transformation onto flat two-dimensional surface alterations in reflectivity like we do? I wonder if the paradigm of representing objects by the shorthand notion of simply rendering an outline shape (eg, in cartoons – people don’t actually have thick black lines around their perimeter) is truly universal? I wonder if they have heads?

  2. Waldir

    Great! I was thinking about this after seeing some images from the series. I actually just closed a bunch of tabs on which I had loaded pages on stuff like the Arecibo message, Contact the novel, CosmicOS, and other related topics :) Good to see someone thought about the same concept and actually materialized it!


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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