Seeking signs of aliens in universeA gilded record plate and a record player
were loaded onto Voyager 1 and 2, which were
launched in 1977 by the U.S. for the exploration
of the outer solar system. Included are messages
from Jimmy Carter, then president of the U.S.,
and Kurt Waldheim, then UN secretary general.
It also includes greetings in 55 languages, including
Korean, and 27 pieces of music from the
first movement of Beethoven’s “Symphony No.
5” to a folk song from native Australian tribes.
In one phrase, it was loaded with “the sounds of
The main reason all this was loaded on the
spaceship was the possibility that extraterrestrial
life might one day find it. Voyager 1 and 2,
which were launched 33 years ago, have flown
about 115 and 93 astronomical units (a unit
equivalent to the distance between the Earth and
the Sun). And it is possible that they can reach
an alien civilization, if it flies tens of thousands
of years longer. The project may seem far-fetched.
But Carl Sagan, an American astronomer who
initiated the project, insisted that it was worth
trying, like sending a letter in a bottle that drifts
in the ocean.
Sagan, the author of “Cosmos,” also initiated
the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
(SETI) project, for which an enormous amount
of government money was poured into to capture
signals that might have been sent by aliens.
The government no longer funds the effort. But
even after the U.S. government concluded that
the project was “useless” and decided not to
support it in 1996, scientists from 125 countries
continue to analyze signals with support from
private institutions and donors.
Of course, it is possible that not all aliens are
advanced creatures. On Friday, a research team
of NASA announced it discovered bacteria that
can live on arsenic instead of phosphorus, which
is known to be an essential element for all Earthbased
It means that the possibility has increased
greatly that extraterrestrial life can exist in an
environment completely different from Earth’s.
Since the publication of H.G. Wells’ “War of
the Worlds,” many books and movies depict hypothetical
situations where “bad aliens” have
tried to ruin Earth. But last year’s hit movie “Avatar”
showed that kind and thoughtful aliens are
If human beings confront low-level aliens,
even at the micro-organism level, how much of
a mature attitude should we show them?
The writer is the content director at JES Entertainment.
By Song Won-seop
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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