If all goes well—or very wrong—Earth may receive a message from aliens from the Altair solar system as early as 2015. Japanese astronomers Hisashi Hirabayashi and Masaki Morimoto sent an email there back in 1983, which was lost and has just been re-discovered by the latter at the Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory. Hirabayashi says they were drunk at the time, which explains why some of the 13 71 x 71 pixel images are the molecular formula for ethanol, the kanji characters for "kanpai!" (cheers!), and the English word "toast." Check out some of the pictures and play drunk alien yourself after the jump.
According to Hirabayahsi, he "came up with that idea while drinking. The aliens probably won't understand that (kanpai and toast) part." We can only hope that whoever is looking for life at their radio telescope up there won't be drunk as well, if only to ensure good inter-planetary relations from the start. Example:
Obviously, this means: "Dear People of Altair, We are organisms who reproduce sexually to form families. Life on Earth started in the water." Kind of scary, but better than the alternative—after five whiskies: "Hey alien dudes, here on Earth we are all nudist. Some of us are giants with big tits. Others are giants with tiny penises. Fishes like to suntan on the beach. Turn the page to see us drunk. Kanpai!"
Whatever happens with the decoding of this binary message, at least it gives a little hope to Mulder-wannabes and tinfoil hatters all over the world, who may see alien contact in just seven years. Otherwise, the prospect was quite bad: US scientists sent another message to M13—the Hercules globular cluster—thinking that having a big concentration of stars, it may give us a bigger possibility of getting an answer back, instead of Elvis singing back "Return to Sender." Unfortunately, they didn't think that the waiting time to get a message back from a planet in M13 would be a bit too long: a mere 46,000 years.
While Hirabayashi is hopeful that his message was received in 1999 and now a reply is getting back to be received by any Jodie Foster listening out there, he knows that it's highly improbable that it would work. "I believe in aliens, but they are very difficult to find," he says.
If you add the fact that Altair may not have any planets at all, the chances are extremely slim. Still, he says that they did it because "it was good enough," and he is glad about it, especially after all the messages he got from schoolchildren everywhere: "children's response is the best thing."