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How can we ever hope to have meaningful contact with inhabitants of other solar systems?

If electronic communication can never exceed light-speed, how can we ever hope to have meaningful contact with inhabitants of other solar systems, even assuming that any exist?
George Crawshay from Surrey (Age: 55+)

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2 Responses

  1. Good question! I guess it very much depends on which kind of contact it is. A remote and time-delayed chat with an alien race in another star system may be rather protracted. Certainly too long to keep the attention of the tabloids! However, some of the other forms of contact imagined in fiction, a cultural artefact or a close encounter itself, may result in a far more meaningful contact.

  2. There are really two parts to this question. The first part is that communication by light waves between stars would be very slow. If there is another civilisation out there it is probably hundreds of light years away and so each message would take longer than a human lifetime to get there, and for the answer to come back. It would be a very long-term project taking many lifetimes, but there is no reason we couldn’t do it.

    An even bigger question is could we ever possibly understand each other. We could recognise a signal as being artificial (may they send us pi in binary code), but this is very different from chatting about what our world’s are like and what we like. We can’t communicate with dolphins and we are pretty sure they are intelligent with some sort of language, so an alien which has evolved in a totally different way might be so alien to us (and us to them), that communication would literally be meaningless.

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