Aliens would be interested in our music and art, scientists say
Experts think Van Gogh and Bach would be more appealing than Newton or Einstein.
Tue, Aug 17 2010 at 12:26 PM
Johann Sebastian Bach. (Photo: Wikimedia)
One would think that if an alien race were to contact us, they would want to talk about Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity or Stephen Hawking’s idea of quantum gravity. Not so, says a panel of scientists who recently met to discuss the search for extraterrestrial life. These experts say that any space travelers would be so far ahead of us in technology that our musings would be of little interest to them. Instead, as Space.com reports, aliens would be much more interested in our art and music.
Why? Because our art and music is “singularly human” and would likely express our experience on Earth better than anything. And these aliens would probably be so different from us that it would maintain their interest. Douglas Vakoch is the director of interstellar message composition at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif. As he told Space.com, "If they're so advanced, we probably can't teach them about science, but we can tell them what it's like to be at this precarious point where we don't know if we're going to continue as a species."
Experts have long thought that patterns of mathematics might present the most universal way of communicating. Music, based in mathematics, might particularly peak their interest. Experts say Bach, Vivaldi, and other Baroque composers would be most appealing because they are “fairly regular and harmonic.” As for visual arts, some say Pre-Raphaelite paintings might work best. As comic book artist Paul Duffield told Space.com, "The richly three-dimensional, almost photographic representation [of Pre-Raphaelite paintings] could be more easily interpretable. And it's very expressive."
Not all experts agree that alien contact would be so pleasant. Astrophysicist Hawking has famously pointed out that alien contact would be too risky. According to Hawking, aliens landing on Earth would be like Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas — a meeting that went horribly wrong for Native Americans.
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