Tweets… In… Space….

from the an-art-project dept

I was just recently listening to Radiolab’s excellent episode about “Space”, which contains a really great talk with Ann Druyan, the widow of Carl Sagan, about how they worked together to produce a “record” that was shot into space with the original Voyager expedition (and about how they fell in love while doing so). One of the things that’s striking about that is how much thought went into figuring out what exactly to “send into space” and how much effort it took to then launch that message. But, these days, it’s getting easier and easier to communicate and easier and easier to send stuff into space. So a pair of artists, Nathaniel Stern* and Scott Kildall, are doing something of an art project to see if they can launch a bunch of tweets into space:

Tweets in Space beams Twitter discussions from participants worldwide towards GJ667Cc – an exoplanet 20 light years away that might support extraterrestrial life. Simply add #tweetsinspace to your texts between 8:30 and 9PM Mountain Time on September 21st 2012, as part of the International Symposium on Electronic Art in New Mexico (ISEA2012). We will collect your tweets and transmit them into deep space via a high-powered radio messaging system. Our soon-to-be alien friends might receive unmediated thoughts and responses about politics, philosophy, pop culture, dinner, dancing cats and everything in between. By engaging the millions of voices in the Twitterverse and dispatching them into the larger Universe, Tweets in Space activates a potent conversation about communication and life that traverses beyond our borders or understanding.

Perhaps it’s not nearly as impressive as the record on the Voyager, but in some ways that’s the point. One of the amazing things about the communications revolution we’re living through today is how anyone can communicate just about anything, no matter how banal. Of course, mixed in with all of that are also some amazing insights and stories. And they don’t need gatekeepers choosing who passes them along. Even if the likelihood of this project actually getting any tweets read by alien life forms is close to nil, conceptually, it’s a fun idea that highlights how quickly the world of communications is changing.

* Disclosure: Stern and I went to college together and I consider him a friend, even if I haven’t seen him in something like fourteen years.

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Comments on “Tweets… In… Space….”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Tweets In Space

Aliens might get an interesting understanding of our culture from our tweets… assuming they have any way of decoding radio signals into binary, figuring out that the binary signals represent UTF-8 code points, understanding that that is a system covering a multitude of different languages, each with their own alphabet, vocabulary, syntax and grammar, and then beginning to analyze the words involved with no cultural context.

In other words, unless they’re Vulcans with Universal Translators, our hypothetical listeners won’t get anything but static out of the signals.

Niall (profile) says:


Thanks for that, A_J!

Quoting from it:

The definitive work about the Voyager record is “Murmurs of Earth” by Executive Director, Carl Sagan, Technical Director, Frank Drake, Creative Director, Ann Druyan, Producer, Timothy Ferris, Designer, Jon Lomberg, and Greetings Organizer, Linda Salzman. Basically, this book is the story behind the creation of the record, and includes a full list of everything on the record. “Murmurs of Earth”, originally published in 1978, was reissued in 1992 by Warner News Media with a CD-ROM that replicates the Voyager record. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print, but it is worth the effort to try and find a used copy or browse through a library copy.

Oh look, a priceless, unique record of Earth culture, and it’s out-of-print…

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Didn't they see the movie Battleship?

Contacting other planets might not work out so well. While it did work out in the movie, it might not in real life. 😉

Well, it may not, but then again it might. There are three fundamental problems with your statement:

1) Assumes that aliens have technology significantly advanced of our own that can somehow break the laws of physics.

2) Assumes the signal arrives at its destination without degradation. Even a directed beam of light follows the laws of physics and is subject to the inverse square rule (the more distance you travel, the wider the beam.)

3) Assumes the aliens are listening. Most life-forms on Earth aren’t, so what are the chances that aliens would/could.

Yeah, we could risk a lot by trying to communicate with alien races, but I suspect the problem is that the aliens are going to be as limited by the laws of physics as we are, at which point communication may be the only form of travel we have, especially with something 20 light years away from us (which is 1.89×10^14 kilometers away…)

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