BatmanAoD wrote:Awesome comic! It's always sort of bugged me that we seem to assume that if intelligent life exists elsewhere, it's going to be trying to contact us in exactly the same ways as we're trying to contact it.
No, we're not assuming they're trying
to contact us at all, which is why this comic annoys me so much, as well as the previous one like it. Quite frankly, Randall is being a bit of an idiot here. We are not looking for 'pheromones', we are looking for evidence of widespread, controlled usage on a planet of one of the fundamental forces of nature, which is useful for a great many things and doesn't really have any good substitutes in most of those areas. Reality is not bad science fiction. You cannot have instantaneous global communication...but with smoke signals
It is not at all unreasonable to assume that any "sufficiently technologically advanced" society is going to be indiscriminately spewing a decent bit of electromagnetic radiation into space. You could reasonably point out that there's probably plenty of intelligent species which haven't gotten or won't get far enough technologically to result in such a sign, but we've got to search for something
. We can't just tell our telescopes 'find me the closest civilization' and have it work like magic. You could also complain that we might be looking in the wrong wavelengths, which is a far more sensible complaint. But people dismissing the basic idea of these searches are being 'open-minded' about advanced alien civilizations the way homoepathy advocates are 'open-minded' about medicine; by largely ignoring most of what we know about the universe.
Not to mention that the Pioneer Plaque should have been designed to be decipherable by a two-year-old, but to be honest if we discovered it and didn't know what it was, it would probably take our best code-breakers to even figure out half of what's going on in that stupid picture. (Okay, the solar system picture is pretty obvious, but what do the symbols above and below the planets represent?)
You really don't seem to have put any significant amount of thought into this, unlike the people who made the plaque. Sure, they could make it decipherable by a two-year-old, but then it'd only be so by means of things specific to human cultures and humanity as a whole. It's designed so that any society that has sufficient knowledge of certain parts of physics and astronomy can figure it out eventually. It's not a message from scientists to two-year-olds, it's a message from scientists to scientists, using parts of the universe itself to convey concepts. As for what it's saying, as usual, Wikipedia has a helpful article
on the subject.