Tag Archives: Aliens

Catholics on Alpha Centauri?

It seems strange that the same religious body that refused to apologize to Galileo until 1992 for claiming that the Earth was not the center of the universe (among other things) would welcome extraterrestrials as brothers. Yes, it’s true, aliens from another planet would be welcomed with open arms by the Catholic church. Without getting overly reactionary, it seems like an interaction like that would slowly begin to bring us a little too close to a Dune-like scenario of futuristic religious practices that have to cope with an increasingly expansive population – and not all on one planet.

How does one send out missionaries to the other planets in the universe? What would that do to intergalactic politics if there are aliens who have no sense of our history running around as Catholics? It seems like a very perplexing possibility, indeed. The Catholic church assures us, though, that

“Since God created the universe, theologians say, he would have created aliens, too. And far from being weakened by contact, Christianity would adapt. Its doctrines would be interpreted anew, the aliens greeted with open — and not necessarily Bible-bearing — arms.”

Modernity brings a lot of things to people, but it seems like a strange change for a religion as large as the Catholic church to express such a new theological stance. Perhaps it’s a good sign of their adaptability; perhaps it’s just a sign of their desire to convert the whole of existence. Who knows? It’s certainly an interesting topic for discussion.

Universal translator a possibility?

Rosetta Stone replica Star Trek‘s various starship crews seldom have any trouble talking to aliens, thanks to a nifty device known as a “universal translator.” Although the universal translator was invented, like the transporter, simply because it was the only practical way to tell a story originally sold as “Wagon Train to the stars,” it might actually be possible to build one. (Via KurzweilAI.net.)

So says Terrence Deacon of the University of California, Berkeley, US, who argues that no matter how alien a species might be, its language–even if it communicates via, say, scent–must still describe real objects in the real world, which means there must be an underlying universal code that, given enough knowledge about language and sufficient computing power, could be deciphered.

Deacon presented his idea on April 17 at the 2008 Astrobiology Science Conference in Santa Clara, California.

New Scientist notes:

Testing the theory might be tough because we would have to make contact with aliens advanced enough to engage in abstract thinking and the use of linguistic symbols. But Denise Herzing of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, US, points out that we might be able to test it by studying dolphins.

“Our work suggests that dolphins may be able to communicate using symbols,” Herzing told New Scientist. “The word’s not definitively in yet, but it’s totally possible that we might show universality by understanding dolphin language.”

New Scientist compares the proposed device to Douglas Adams‘s “babelfish,” a fish that translates languages. One hopes that if we do learn to understand dolphin language, the only thing they say to us, before decamping from the planet, isn’t “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]Star Trek,language,extraterrestrial intelligence,aliens[/tags]

Nasa finds doorway structure on Mars

is this a remnant of an alien civilisation or a trick of the light?It’s amazing the things you can find in the universe. Images of our neighbouring red planet by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter picked up this little space oddity: a teardrop shaped mountain with a rectangular dark patch that, to the human observer, looks like a door.

The oddly shaped mountain, in the frozen ocean region of the planet, was discovered by a Russian reader, rather than a member of the NASA project. The blog article also has some interesting quotes about Mars terraforming plans.

“They’ve done some experiments and have noticed that some types of plants can grow under the low pressure CO2 atmosphere on Mars,” Australian physicist Charles Lineweaver noted when asked about the prospect of altering the atmosphere of our red neighbour.

Of course, this doorway is probably not the path to some alien civilisation gifting us with its future tech but one can dream…

[via Daily Galaxy, image by NASA]