Radio messages we've sent whizzing out into space over the years to try to contact aliens may simply be too boring for extra-terrestrial beings to answer, say a couple of Canadian astrophysicists. Tedious bits of math, physics and biology normally on offer may just be intellectual spam to alien minds. Find out what boffins Yvan Dutil and Stephane Dumas suggest we should send instead after the jump.
Previous messages beamed into deep space via radio-telescope by scientists have tried to demonstrate our intelligence by sending coded math problems, a bit of chemistry, physics and biology, some data on what we look like and even where we've come from. This may not, however, be good enough for their superior brains. Dutil and Dumas argue that if any alien does decode a message containing essentially trivial data, "after reading it, they will be none the wiser about us humans and our achievements."
The really difficult bit is, of course, trying to work out what would be interesting to an extraterrestrial. Dumas and Dutil suggest that we should try things that will be new and different to an alien, like
Britney's last album Paris Hilton's sex tape "social features of our society," or economics or sociology problems. These can still be described mathematically, which neatly gets around the problem of which language to use.
Who knows, aliens may even be interested in our political issues, and so the starry-eyed Canadians have even begun trying to explain our electoral procedure in code: "We can explain our methods, and ask 'what do you use on your planet?'" You've got to hope that the answer is better than hanging chads.
As Dutil also points out, it might be handy to have a clever and interesting message to hand just in case an alien race ever tries to contact us "just to say 'we'll get back to you'"—followed presumably by "leave some math after the beep, and promise not to use your death-rays on us."