12.14.2007

The Case for Interstellar Spam
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A Russian scientist, Alexander Zaitsev, advocates not only listening for intelligent life through efforts such as Arecibo or the Allen array of radio telescopes, but actively sending messages to nearby stars.

Only 163 years ago the telegraph was introduced and the first message was "What hath God wrought?" Now, we've moved on to IM and Facebook.

It could be that sending interesting messages (SPAM) out there is just the trick to get a response. "Hello, we're Earth. We're great. We're #1. We're great because we're sending this. And by the way this is really old technology."

Then again, an ant might consider that its pheromone-based communications intended to reach other ant colonies would comprise the best option to reveal all that is unknown in the ant's conception. "I'm a worker ant from the nest under the leaf pile. If you can understand my message well then you're a friend. If you cannot, you're not an Argentinian ant and woe to you."

In fact, the ant's message is invisible and incomprehensible to other insects in a backyard, to say nothing of amphibians, birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, plants and people, or undersea life, for example. It's difficult for one kind of consciousness to know or conjecture anything meaningful about another, and therein lies the problem.

Complexity = Privileged Position?

"We're No. 1." In Astronomy, people settled early on a geocentric view of the universe which encompassed the land from horizon to horizon. With the awakening, heliocentrism came into vogue. Now, we know the sun is just a star among 100 billion stars in our galaxy. However, the rest of science and virtually all human endeavor is based on a variant of the original geocentrism in the way that a baby focuses only on objects in its immediate vicinity.

  

Looking at DNA, simple white rice has far more genes than humans - almost 40,000, while humans have under 25,000.

Therefore, on an ordinal scale, rice is more intelligent or advanced due to its more complex architecture, right? If our fundamental assumption derived intrinsic merit from genetic complexity, rice would be loftier in the pyramid of living things than people.

There's Bugs in Your Code

Before Champollion, Europeans could not read hieroglyphs. It appeared to be a jumble of unknown objects along with images derived from nature-junk, if you will, or even more accurately: absurd. In fact, this 'primitive' language and the activities necessary to decode it obscures that it was entirely forgotten. In human genetic code, a similar terra incognita appears, that we call 'junk' DNA.

However, the pufferfish, well known to divers and snorkelers, lacks 'junk DNA' altogether and has a clean genetic blueprint. Human code, on the other hand, is filled with ellipses, parenthetical marks, lacunae, and the diacritical red marks of life's editor. In fact, the majority of human genes fall into this category.

Why?

That's what geneticists are trying to find out.

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