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Stay sharp! You may be needed to help decode a message from intelligent aliens someday.
The work of professional linguists, mathematicians and scientists "is probably not going to be enough" to unravel a cosmic mystery missive, said Sheri Wells-Jensen, a linguist at Bowling Green University in Ohio who also serves on the board of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence), a San Francisco-based nonprofit.
Experiment - Wells-Jensen - Shows - Power - Hive-mind
An experiment performed recently by Wells-Jensen shows why we may need the power of the human hive-mind. She presented college students with several puzzles that had been coded in the manner of Lincos, a constructed language designed to be understood by intelligent extraterrestrials. The students figured out the simple stuff, such as basic mathematical functions, quite well — but things got dicey when the concepts got more complicated.
For example, Wells-Jensen gave the students the equation for the circumference of a circle, as well as a lightly coded representation of "pi" (the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter).
Word - Kinds - Things - Jumps - 'world
"And I said, 'OK, what is this real word?' And they came up with all kinds of crazy things," she said. "Some made poetic jumps and said, 'world'; some of them made an opposite poetic jump and said, 'infinity.' Some of them thought that I meant that the diameter of the circle ended at a wall, and said 'prison.'"
And that's for a message drawn up by a fellow human. It will doubtless be much tougher to decode something devised by creatures from a distant solar system who share no cultural or evolutionary history with us, who may rely upon different senses to perceive their environment and to communicate, and who are probably far more advanced technologically than...
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