Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

Can’t Stop the Signal: Faces from Earth

My readers probably know that I’m one of those who think there is intelligent life in the universe besides humanity, although I also think that the timespace constraints for meeting (even by signaling) and the biological and cultural hurdles for mutual comprehension are formidable.

We have sent information about ourselves to the universe: in addition to the unavoidable EM transmissions, we put plaques and voice recordings in the Pioneers and Voyagers. These qualify as METI, Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligences.  The probes by themselves are messages, tiny bottles flung into the vast ocean of space.

Dr. Tibor Pacher, a Hungarian physicist working in Germany and a space enthusiast, has started a program called Faces from Earth to continue and expand these efforts, in the hopes of inspiring more people about space exploration — especially the young. Mr. Larry Klaes, a US journalist and also a space enthusiast (and a long-time friend and contributor to this blog) just wrote about Tibor’s work at Seti League: Facing the Galaxy.

Please visit both links and consider whether you might like to join. There’s a 6-minute video at Tibor’s site, with several faces and statements about why people think this is an important endeavor. Halfway into the video, you will see a face you may recognize… and catch a glimpse of my lab.

Image: One of the posters for Faces from Earth.

Note: The music for Tibor’s video is For Arnhem Land by Aalborg World Soundtracks.

18 Responses to “Can’t Stop the Signal: Faces from Earth”

  1. Tibor says:

    … and for the impatient reader: here is the direct link to that video:

    Ad Astra!

  2. Athena says:

    I also added a note about the music — it strengthens the point that this is an endeavor for/from all humanity.

  3. Neo says:

    Once my college friends and I were having a heated discussion about the possibility of Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It was leading nowhere.

    At that time, my another friend came hearing our arguments, and sat near me. He asked the group one simple question.

    “Do you think the pond in your city is the only one that has fishes?”

    Everyone understood that the argument was over. And it was.


  4. Athena says:

    Metaphors may not carry across domains, Neo. Nevertheless, I agree. Given the billions of galaxies and the billions of solar systems in each, there is no doubt in my mind that there’s life elsewhere, including advanced civilizations.

  5. Walden2 says:

    That sentiment goes back to one of the first known commentaries on extraterrestrial life. Metrodorus of Chios, who lived in the FourthCentury BCE, had this to say about organisms beyond Earth:

    “A single ear of corn in a large field is as strange as a single world in infinite space.”

    Keep in mind that the ancient Greek view of other worlds usually meant what we would call other universes, with their own set of stars and planets circling them and possibly life. Aristarchus of Samos was one of the exceptions in this regard, having a much more modern of of the setup of the Cosmos.

    Galileo had a similar sentiment, though he used a field of grapes as an analogy, saying in essense how often do you see just one grape on an entire vine?

    I want to thank Athena here for linking to my article and the nice intro she added with it. Thank you, Athena.

  6. Stagyar zil Doggo says:

    Is broadcasting our existence to Extra Terrestrials altogether a good idea? If they are out there and listening, isn’t there as much of a chance as anything else that the outcome will be a conflict that ends unfavorably for us?

    I’m more in favor of lying low with eyes and ears open at least until we become a space faring species with settlements in multiple star systems.

  7. Athena says:

    That question is a major topic of discussion in the SETI community. My opinion is that 1) distances are so enormous that a physical meeting is really out of the question, 2) they will be so different from us that even mutual comprehension will be problematic, let alone fighting over real estate or resources and 3) if they can harness the resources of entire solar systems, why would they need ours? The fact that we may get terminally depressed after a contact is more likely — as is the fact that they may harm us inadvertently, the way we step on ants.

  8. carlos says:

    I’m not sure where I stand on aliens as of late, a part of me has hope, while another part of me seeks more exotic explanations as to why we are alone. Lately I have been given the possibility that our universe may be some kind of “laboratory” for life. A little on the the extreme but Im just exploring all possibilities lately.

  9. Athena says:

    Of course the universe is a laboratory. That’s not an exotic concept! As for being alone, there are billions of galaxies, with billions of stars in each. The chances of us being the only lifeform (or even the only technological civilization) are vanishingly small; but we may never meet other sentients, given the vast distances and timescales.

  10. Athena says:

    Aristarchos was a very interesting character. He was in charge of the Alexandria library for a while.

    It was really a pleasure to link to your article, Larry!

  11. Walden2 says:

    You are most welcome, Athena.

    Do you remember the episode of Cosmos where Carl Sagan wondered if Western culture had sided with the Ionians like Aristarchus and Democritus instead of the Pythagorians and Platonians? He speculated that we would be far ahead of where we are now, complete with starships with Greek lettering on their sides returning from alien regions of the galaxy.

    I know, perhaps a bit much, but it is interesting to wonder just the same if the world would have been ready for all those rationalistic early scientists?

    Stagyar –

    I worry about an alien attack the same way I do an earthquake: It is not likely to happen where I live but if it does happen, there will be very little I can do about it.

    Of course if any ETI conquerors are reading this right now, I for one welcome our new Galactic Overlords and will be happy to give them the names of any and all dissenters.

    Yes, I stole that from The Simpsons episode with Buzz Aldrin.

  12. Athena says:

    I do recall that part of Cosmos, Larry. And I incorporated this concept in my novel cycle; the linked stories in Planetfall are part of it — one kernel of the stories is starfaring 20th-century Cretans, who decide to make the deciphered Minoan language their lingua franca.

  13. Walden2 says:

    Thanks for this, Athena, and congrats on your post in the Huffington Post!

    If humans remain essentially human and Artilects are not the first intelligent explorers of the stars from this world, then my prediction is that the first people to explore and colonize the galaxy will not be the noble NASA style astronauts but folks similar to the ones who went to the New World and Australia for similar reasons: To escape political and religious persecution (or do missionary work) and to obtain new territory. In a strange way, Avatar may not be all that off the money in terms of why humans would travel numerous light years to get to another world.

    Humans sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to find new treasures. Humans walked on the Moon primarily because of geopolitical rivalry. Any science gained from these expeditions were largely bonuses. I am not saying there won’t be scientific expeditions to the stars (certainly robot probes will lead the way to return such data), but I can also see a wealthy and resourceful cult heading off to found a new settlement around another star once our space infrastructure is in place – and that will happen because corporations will figure out a way to make a fortune off the Final Frontier.

  14. Athena says:

    Thank you, Larry — and it was really a pleasure. I agree about who is likeliest to launch long-range space expeditions.

  15. Brian M says:

    Hey, all the physicists out there.

    I read somewhere than within a vanishingly short (by cosmic standards) distance, all of our signals and noise basically falls well below the threshold of “background noise” and we are not really broadcasting our presence in any meaningful way?

  16. Athena says:

    Brian, I think the details of the signal will definitely blur — but the fact that earth has become extremely “noisy” in the radio portion of the spectrum is a giveaway by itself.

  17. Walden2 says:

    Faces from Earth has begun its second campaign, this time to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of the launches of the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes to the outer planets and the wider Milky Way galaxy.

    Detailed may be found here:


    PDF information:

    My article introducing the Voyager probes and the Faces from Earth campaign is here:

  18. Athena says:

    I got an invitation for the September event, I’ll participate if I can.