Starting with the famous novel by Herbert WellsThe “War of the Worlds", for over 100 years, humanity has been considering the consequences and conflicts that may arise as a result of first contact with a potentially hostile alien species. Around the same time, we started looking for evidence to refute our apparent galactic loneliness. The hope of discovering intelligent extraterrestrial life remains a source of inspiration for many exoplanet hunters, astrobiologists, and SETI researchers. But what happens when we find the answer to the question posed by the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi “where is everything?” Can we and creatures from another planet understand each other?
Noam's famous theory of universal grammarChomsky suggests that certain structures of the language are universal and have a genetic and, therefore, unique human foundation. Creating a method for decoding an unknown language without using parallels with the languages of the Earth seems an insurmountable obstacle. It is possible that an alien language may be soundless or, conversely, not have a written component, so these traditionally reliable methods would be useless if we were introduced to such an alien language.
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However, scientists are physicists, mathematicians andastronomers - tried to solve this problem, based on the assumption that mathematics and physics are a kind of universal language of the universe. The SETI Institute, founded in 1984, whose main task is to search for extraterrestrial life, actively collaborates with scientists and is looking for signals from distant stars. So, the famous Arecibo message, sent in the direction of the globular star cluster M13 in 1974, contains encoded information about our civilization, consisting mainly of simple and semisimple numbers. A radio signal lasting 169 seconds will reach its destination in 25 thousand years. And the same amount will be required to deliver an answer. However, we are still limited by the history of the origin of life on Earth, and therefore we believe that life in other galaxies is at least a little similar to ours. But what if we are wrong?
Variety of life
In addition to representatives of Homo Sapiens, on EarthSeveral million species of living creatures live. And all of them, not having a language in the usual sense for us, communicate with each other. In addition to gestural and vocal communication, we can observe communication through dance in honey bees, and communication through infrasound, which is successfully practiced by elephants. The human ear is unable to recognize the signals sent by animals, while elephants are able to communicate while being at a distance of 10 km from each other. These examples clearly demonstrate our prejudice in categorizing both inhuman communication and developing a reliable translation methodology for new, inhuman languages.
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Is mathematics the language of the universe?
Any attempt to communicate with someone whouses a different language, it is necessary to bridge the gap between the languages of the two interlocutors. It is for this reason that many scientists turn to mathematics as an unbiased way of communication. So, the mathematician Dr. Hans Freudenthal tried to develop a language for use in extraterrestrial communication with creatures that are not familiar with the culture, languages or people of the Earth. Based on mathematics, Linkos - an abbreviation of the Latin phrase lingua cosmica, which means cosmic language - teaches the basics of numbers, arithmetic, set theory and mathematical logic. But what if extraterrestrial civilizations have different ideas of mathematics? For example, the people of pirah in northwestern Brazil have no developed sense of numbers, except for the general concepts of small and large numbers. Thus, the assumption that extraterrestrial civilization perceives numbers, mathematics, physics and logic in a similar way can be a quick way to misunderstanding instead of a productive conversation.
The combination of linguistics and computer science, the famouslike computer linguistics, provides another variety of translation procedures, but also has similar weaknesses with mathematics and physics. Be that as it may, humanity has been sending radio signals into space for less than 150 years, and this significantly limits the number of potential extraterrestrial civilizations that could receive our message. One way or another, all that remains for us today is to wait for an answer further. But at the same time try to answer the question of what an alien language can be and can it forever change us if we can master it?