Since 1984 the SETI Institute has been systematically searching for extraterrestrial life. As a matter of fact, the scientific research could go back to 1924. In this year, on August 21st, the American authorities asked from the citizens to silence all radios for five minutes every hour. The goal was that astronomers could use a powerful radio receiver strapped to a dirigible floating two miles up to catch any potential radio signals coming from Mars. Unfortunately, their effort failed at that time.
Did aliens visit the Ancients?
The very surmise that aliens exist fascinates our imagination since ages. Some even suggest that ancient cultures had contact with aliens. There are proponents of the theory that life on our planet may be descendants or creations of extraterrestrial intelligence. One of their argument are that ancient artifacts like the Mesopotamian Cylinder Seal or the “Helicopter hieroglyphs”, at Abydos of Egypt seem to feature extraterrestrial entities. What is more, some people believe that ancient texts give hints about advanced technology and flying machines.
The Indian flying chariots and Ezekiel’s vision
This is, for example, the case of Vimāna, the flying palaces or chariots that are mentioned in Hindu texts, such as the Sanskrit epic Ramayana. In a verse in the epic poem Vimānas are describes like this (Book 6, Canto CXXIV):
Swift through the air, as Ráma chose,
The wondrous car from earth arose.
And decked with swans and silver wings
Bore through the clouds its freight of kings.
Similarly, as we read in this Wikipedia article, the first Chapter of the Book of Ezekiel in Old Testament narrates
a vision in which Ezekiel sees “an immense cloud” that contains fire and emits lightning and “brilliant light”. It continues: “The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures”. These creatures are described as winged and humanoid, they “sped back and forth like flashes of lightning” and “fire moved back and forth among the creatures”. The passage goes on to describe four shiny objects, each appearing “like a wheel intersecting a wheel”. These objects could fly and they moved with the creatures: “When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose”.
That the ancient civilizations arose due to alien intervention is an idea that has been put forward by Erich von Däniken in his renowned work Chariots of the gods: unsolved mysteries of the past. Pseudoscience?
It’s up to you to decide. Fact is that in their book Intelligent Life in the Universe, astrophysicists I. S. Shklovski and Carl Sagan support the idea that scientists should seriously consider the hypothesis that extraterrestrial contact occurred during recorded history.
The language of the aliens
Now, the renowned theoretical physicists Michio Kaku has predicted that humans will contact an alien civilisation within this century.
But how are we going to talk to them? As Dr. Kaku pointed out:
“Let me stick my neck out. I personally feel that within this century, we will make contact with an alien civilization, by listening in on their radio communications. But talking to them will be difficult, since they could be tens of light years away. So, in the meantime, we must decipher their language to understand their level of technology. Are they Type I, II, or III??? And what are their intentions. Are they expansive and aggressive, or peaceful.”
So, the problem is real: in case we receive an articulated extraterrestrial message (and not simply a radio wave one), we should make an effort to understand what they are trying to say.
Amazing as it may sound, there is indeed a linguistic domain that deals with the issue. It is called exolinguistics or astrolinguistics.
Certain linguists, such as Noam Chomsky believe that it is “highly unlikely” to be able to understand their language. The reason will be that language can be organized in various ways. Thus, an alien language will violate the rules of the human “universal grammar”. This will make it impossible to decipher what they are trying to tell us.
Still, if there is a Universal Grammar, shouldn’t be similarly structured across the whole…universe?
Well, it sounds reasonable to believe that aliens will not differ that much from us. Leaving apart how advanced they may be, their language should be somehow similar to human languages
As we read in Daily Mail, Dr James Carney is a Senior Research Associate in Psychology from Lancaster University. He explores the challenges we might face in speaking with aliens.
One main problem we may face is the one of frequency. Humans speak in an 85-255Hz frequency range of sound. Will an ET language be audible for us at all? However, this is a technical problem. We may surpass it the way we did with the frequencies of the whales, for example, which now our devices can capture.
The “Universal Grammar”
The greatest problem is if it will be possible at all to translate and comprehend their language.
If universal grammar is really universal, there will be a point in which translation will be feasible. Besides, grammars should be like life, this means based on the same elements.
Some other scholars though mention that there may be a huge cognitive gap between the human and the alien perception of the world. This may cause insurmountable problems in accessing the extraterrestrial language.
But let us remain optimists. Firstly, that aliens will not be aggressive, and they will not attempt to subjugate us. And, secondly, that their culture can open to us so that we get to know us better! Besides, we are all children of the same world.