‘Rather than transmitting radio messages,

extraterrestrial civilizations would find it far more efficient

to send us a “message in a bottle”,

some kind of physical message inscribed on matter.

And it could be waiting for us in our own backyard.’


Professor Christopher Rose

of Rutgers University, New Jersey &

Gregory Wright,

a physicist with Antiope Associates, New Jersey




The idea that intelligent life forms might exist elsewhere in the cosmos is a comparatively recent interest for humanity.


For thousands of years and across countless cultures, it was more or less accepted that anything dwelling outside our own immediate environment inevitably fell into the classification of a god or a servant of the gods, such as the saints, angels or seraphim that inhabit the heaven of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Even after the telescope appeared, around the year 1600, the Catholic Church in particular was not keen to have its dogmas regarding the nature of the Earth and its relationship with space tampered with in any way. In Christian doctrine, the Sun and the Moon have both been directly created by God, as have the stars and planets. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, lay down the order in which God created the observable cosmos and anyone who seemed to be throwing a spanner in the works, for example Galileo (1564-1642) who suggested that the Sun, and not the Earth, was the centre of the solar system, was liable to be severely censured. Galileo was forced to recant his heretical views and was condemned to perpetual house arrest but was probably lucky to escape with his life.

Even before Galileo's time, thinking people were not fooled by the Church's account of the solar system. The Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) understood what he was seeing at the time of a lunar eclipse: 'The church says the earth is flat, but I know it is round for I have seen its shadow on the moon and I have more faith in a shadow than the church.'

Only the effects of the Renaissance and Church reformations across Europe broke the hold of old church dogma. By the late seventeenth century, with telescopes proliferating and almost anyone able to take a close-up view of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars, the cat was truly out of the bag and the genuine nature of the solar system in particular was beginning to become apparent.

Since Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species in the mid-nineteenth century it has become clear that life on Earth has evolved over billions of years from the first single-cell entities through to all of the creatures in the world today. Darwin's ideas were argued over fiercely at the time, but the massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and many other fields gradually established evolution's truth beyond reasonable doubt.

It is ironic, therefore, that the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, the United States, has large numbers of 'Creationists' - people who still cling to the teachings of the mediaeval Church. They are currently trying to persuade politicians, judges and the general public that evolution is an unproven myth cobbled together by atheists. They lobby for their ideas, such as 'intelligent design', to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. Their proponents admit that their aim is to keep the scriptures of the Christian religion taught in school as the word of God, rather than a collection of ancient Jewish texts.

Their arguments against Darwin's concept of 'natural selection' are not well reasoned or based on any norm al principle of modern science. These people appear to be intellectually stuck, hundreds of years in the past, at a time before masses of new data became available. However, it is interesting to note that academics once thought like this too.


Dr John Lightfoot, the Vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge was not frightened of being precise about the origin of the entire Universe when he said in 1642:

'Heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created together, in the same instant, and clouds of water... This work took place and man was created... on the 17th of September 3928 BC at nine o'clock in the morning.'

Poor Dr Lightfoot seems to have been ignorant of even the most basic facts of science.


He clearly did not realize that there is no such thing as nine o'clock in the morning because every hour of the day exists simultaneously on our revolving planet; it just depends where you are standing. Happily, the very year that Lightfoot made this statement, a baby boy was born in the village of Woolsthorpe in Leicestershire. The infant's name was Isaac Newton and he went on to become Cambridge University's most famous professor and a man that would create a leap forward in humankind's understanding of the Universe.

Newton however, did not dismiss the role of God as he wrote on Judaeo-Christian prophecy, the decipherment of which he saw as being essential to the understanding of God. His book on the subject espoused his view that Christianity had gone astray in 325 AD, when the crumbling Roman Empire declared that Jesus Christ was not a man but an aspect of the very deity that had built the Universe.

Today we have the benefit of masses of data from all kinds of disciplines that point to the Earth being nearly five billion years old, but many creationists frequently quote the chronology produced by James Ussher who was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland in the early seventeenth century. His analysis, based on his interpretation of the King James Bible, allowed him to confidently declare that the creation of the world occurred in 4004 BC.

Such a dating raises all kinds of problems, from fitting in the obvious existence of dinosaurs, for example, to the fact that the city of Jericho, near to the River Jordan, has been continuously occupied for 10,000 years. (Interestingly, the origin of the name 'Jericho' is Canaanite and means 'the Moon').

There are creationist websites that put forward 'evidence' that their writers believe demonstrates that people and dinosaurs lived at the same time - presumably around the time that the Megalithic Yard was being introduced! But these are not fringe ideas as there are large numbers of people who believe that geological time is a myth. According to a survey run by the Gallup Organization in 1999, the majority of Americans educated up to high school level or less, believe that God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years or so. And a worrying forty-four per cent of college graduates believe the same.

An international research team led by scientists at the University of British Columbia sees the creation as being a little earlier than Dr Lightfoot and Archbishop Ussher. Professor Harvey Richer, the study's principal investigator, confirmed previous research that sets the age of the Universe at thirteen to fourteen billion years. The team measured the brightness and temperatures of white dwarf stars (the burned-out remnants of the earliest stars which formed in our galaxy) because they are 'cosmic clocks' that get fainter as they cool in a very predictable way.

More recent calculations, by Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University and Brian Chaboyer at Dartmouth College, published in the journal Science, put the Universe at anything up to twenty billion years old.

Creationists often try to invalidate all of evolution by pointing to science's current inability to explain the origin of life. John Rennie, the editor in chief of Scientific American has countered this by,

'...even if life on Earth turned out to have a non- evolutionary origin (for instance, if alien's introduced the first cells billions of years ago), evolution since then would be robustly confirmed by countless micro-evolutionary and macro-evolutionary studies.' 23

It is true that, whilst science can explain how life has evolved on Earth, the way it all began is a complete mystery.


And, as far as we know, the Earth is the only location where life exists.

In the nineteenth century some people speculated that there might be life, or even people, living on the Moon. It is now certain that no natural life could exist on the Moon, which is a barren world constantly irradiated by the Sun and lacking in both available surface water and a sufficiently dense atmosphere to support life.


There was a more recent time when Venus, the second planet out from the Sun, seemed a potential candidate for some type of life because its dense clouds hid the surface from view so that, for all we knew, it might be as green and verdant as that of the Earth. But as we now know, it is furnace hot and continually subjected to sulphuric acid rain.


As a result, the chances for life seem almost nonexistent.

Mars is certainly cooler and there may be water existing near its polar regions. At the time of writing this book, some people are still clinging to the possibility that there could be some sort of primitive life on Mars either now, or at some time in its remote past. If it does exist at all, life on Mars is likely to be extremely simple.


Other planets in the solar system, being gaseous giants in the main, are even less likely to support any sort of life as we know it.

By far the majority of experts now accept that if advanced life of any sort does exist in places other than the Earth, we will almost certainly have to look deep into interstellar space to find it. Our solar system is only one of many that undoubtedly exist, even in our own corner of space.


Astronomers have identified suns that have planets orbiting them and it is estimated there are a thousand million stars in our own galaxy, any one of which could possess a planetary system where life might have evolved and flourished.


Beyond our galaxy there are countless others, so it may be wrong to think that only our tiny little blue planet, amidst such a proliferation of planet-bearing suns, has produced a thinking species such as our own.

But as far as we know right now, we are alone.

Once the sheer size of space was ascertained it also became apparent that even if there are hundreds or thousands of intelligent species out there, the chances of us actually encountering them in any way is quite small. Distance is a problem but it isn't the only one.


One of the greatest stumbling blocks could be time itself. In order for us to communicate with another advanced species, it would have to have reached at least our level of sophistication either at the same time as us or shortly before. Although humanity has created at least a couple of probes that are presently leaving the environs of our own solar system, it will be decades, or maybe centuries, before we embark on interstellar space travel to any significant extent.


Even if we do, the answers we are looking for, in term s of finding other intelligent beings, are likely to be protracted.

The thought of any spacecraft travelling faster than the speed of light remains in the realms of science fiction. If, as Einstein proposed, light speed is as fast as anything can ever travel, it would take many years merely to reach the nearest star.


To go beyond our own galaxy, the Milky Way, would seem impossible because the next nearest place we could visit is the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy which has 'only' a few million stars and is a staggering 80,000 light years away. The next nearest galaxy is the Large Magellanic Cloud and that is 170,000 light years distant.
Setting out to actually meet our intergalactic or extragalactic cousins seems to be a hopeless idea, even if we knew where they were located. So does this mean we can never say hello to any of them? Not necessarily. If we cannot greet them face-to-face, it might be possible to listen to them .

Much of the energy so created stream s out into space as electromagnetic radiation. There are many wavelengths of this radiation, some of which are familiar to us in our daily lives. The full panoply of this radiation is known as the 'electromagnetic spectrum'.


The shortest of the wavelengths are those we call 'gamma waves'. At the other end of the electromagnetic spectrum are extremely long radio waves, which we harness every day. Visible light is also a component of the electromagnetic spectrum, as are the microwaves used daily in many cookers.

In fact we are getting radio messages from all parts of the cosmos all the time. These are emitted by suns and other much stranger bodies within our own galaxy and beyond it, as a result of the physical processes taking place within them. Electromagnetic radiation travels across the near vacuum of space at the speed of light.


Once it was realized that we could listen in on the processes taking place in our stellar backyard and beyond, radio astronomy was born.

In 1931 an American engineer by the name of Karl Jansky, who was working for the Bell Telephone Laboratories, was conducting experiments into interference that was taking place across certain radio wavelengths.


He built a succession of aerials and managed to isolate three distinct sources of radio interference or static. Firstly he could detect local thunderstorms; and secondly, storms taking place at a greater distance. However, there was a third source of interference that was steady and always present which he couldn't, at first, identify.


By moving his aerials, Jansky was eventually able to isolate the source of this third form of radio interference. To his own and many other people's great surprise it was coming from within the Milky Way and in fact it originated at the very centre of our own galaxy.

Like many controversial discoveries Jansky's were ignored for some years. But not everyone was skeptical. Reading about Jansky's observations, in 1937 another radio engineer, Grote Reber, built his own aerial, though this one would have been more familiar to a modern radio astronomer because it was a dish.


Reber also picked up the strange 'messages' from space.

Interest in the signals from space gradually increased. In 1942 a British Army officer, J.S. Hay, made the first observations of radio emissions from our own Sun, whilst working on ways to jam German radio signals.


Once the Second World War was over, radio astronomy really took off and within a few years discrete signals from all parts of space were being received. Ultimately a background radio source was recognized that could not be isolated to a particular point in space and it was finally realized, in the 1960s, that this was the signal left by the Big Bang - the very birth of the Universe itself.

Of course, all the signals that were being received were perfectly natural in origin.


But towards the end of the 1950s it began to occur to a number of those involved in radio astronomy that if any species out there in space was already more advanced than we were, it might well make use of radio waves in order to let us know it existed.


Most radio signals received from space can be readily identified and even those that proved to be a puzzle at first have been shown to have a natural origin.


But if an advanced species actively wanted to send a message, it would not be difficult for it to use a type of radio signal that could not be confused with that created by any natural phenomena - for example, one containing an obvious mathematical formula.

In 1961, when the 'race for space' had fired the imagination of a generation, a new organization came into existence.


It was called SETI - 'the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence'. SETI was primarily the brainchild of an enthusiastic young electrical engineer turned radio astronomer by the name of Frank Drake, a 31-year-old engineer who had become interested in radio astronomy whilst at Harvard Graduate School.

Drake was fascinated by the prospect of radio astronomy being used to identify other intelligent species in the cosmos and thought that we should be actively listening in for any message that might be transmitted from deep space.


Together with another interested scientist, J. Peter Pearman, an officer on the Space Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Drake arranged the first SETI conference.

Anxious to show the world just how likely extraterrestrial life surely was, Drake came up with what is now known as the 'Drake Equation'. This reached the conclusion that there must be many thousands of intergalactic civilizations capable of creating and sending radio messages across space.

The idea of SETI was immediately popular with the public and for a while NASA had some involvement. During the 1960s and '70s, NASA's contribution was fairly low- key, but in 1992 NASA initiated a much more formal SETI program.

Unfortunately, less than a year later, the United States Congress cancelled the funding and NASA, reluctantly, pulled out of the SETI research program. This certainly wasn't the end of the story

because a proportion of the intended NASA research was taken over by the non-profit-making SETI Institute and by an associated body, the SETI League.

SETI has now enlisted the help and support of people from around the globe. Many computer users are regularly sent packages of information received by SETI, in order that it can be analyzed during computer down time. Millions of individuals are involved in what is known as the SETI@home project at the present time.

Exactly where in the electromagnetic spectrum we should be listening for deliberately created messages from the stars was decided in 1959.


Phillip Morrison and Giuseppe Cocconi, two young physicists at Cornell University in the United States had co-operated to submit an article to the prestigious science journal, Nature, which appeared in September 1959. It was entitled 'Searching for Interstellar Communications'.


When trying to ascertain which part of the electromagnetic spectrum to monitor for alien signals, Morrison and Cocconi ultimately opted for a frequency of 1420MHz.


Not only does this frequency fall in a very 'quiet' part of the available spectrum, it also represents the emission frequency of the most common element in the Universe, which is hydrogen. Morrison and Cocconi believed that any intelligent species would realize these two facts and so would therefore be most likely to transmit a greeting at or around this frequency.

Some promising messages have been received across the last three decades but, in the end, all of them turned out to be natural phenomena. Space can supply some surprisingly 'ordered' signals. Rapidly spinning objects in space known as 'pulsars' are a good case in question, so SETI experts are extremely careful and also deeply skeptical when any apparent 'letter from the stars' is announced.

One of the greatest problems for SETI, or indeed anyone trying to pick up a message from space, is knowing exactly what to expect. It is certain that any species sending such a message will be in advance of us technologically because if the message received comes from deep space it must have taken thousands or even millions of years to reach us.


The culture that sent it might, by the time it is received, have disappeared, advanced even further or simply become bored with the whole notion. All we can do is to take an educated guess and suppose that for any species there will be commonality in term s of the irrefutable laws of physics.

We may receive a logically repeating mathematical sequence such as pi or a list of prime numbers, it is simply impossible to know.


There are skeptics around who suggest that the whole process of looking for such a message is destined to fail, if only because other intelligent species out in space may be so different to us that there would be no points of contact recognizable on both sides. In other words, they may be trying to contact us right now and we simply cannot understand the message.

By the summer of 2004 we were already beginning to reach our own conclusions about how an intelligent species from elsewhere might have already contacted us - humanity simply had not recognized the fact yet. Serendipity being what it is, an article appeared in the August 2004 edition of New Scientist.


It was written by Paul Davies, a scientist at The Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University, Sydney.


We found it pleasing that a respected scientist was publicly discussing the idea that an alien culture may have put a message intended for us in place many millions of years ago: a message, that Professor Davies also likens to the plot of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Whilst congratulating SETI for its efforts to track down incoming messages from space, Paul Davies makes the suggestion that to try and contact humanity by way of radio signals might prove to be fairly unreliable for any alien species far away.


He points out that the problem of 'timing' might make radio contact difficult, if not impossible. No matter how many such intelligent societies there might be, the chance of them transmitting during the short time slot during which we have been listening is very remote.


Is it not possible, Davies asks, whether such a culture, probably immeasurably older than our own, may have conceived of a much more reliable way to let us know of its existence?

Might it not have opted for a method of communication that was not dependent upon transmitting signals for many millions of years in the hope that we, or someone like us, had just evolved the ability to decipher messages in the form of radio waves? Would it not be more likely that our intergalactic cousins would have chosen something much more timeless?

This suggestion, when we read it near the start of Davies' article, made us sit upright and pay attention because we were already asking ourselves the same question. Davies goes on to suggest that, rather than radio messages, a far more reliable way for any alien species to contact us would be to leave artifacts in the vicinity of planets likely to spawn intelligent life that, given sufficient advancement on the part of such a developing species, it could not fail to recognize.

Then we came across yet more heavyweight scientists with similar, highly logical, thought.


Professor Christopher Rose of Rutgers University in New Jersey and Gregory Wright, a physicist with Antiope Associates also in New Jersey, have stated that the transmission of a radio signal by an extraterrestrial civilization, that would probably have to be detected 10,000 light years away, does not make sense.


They suggest that it would be far more efficient to send us some kind of physical message inscribed on physical matter - a kind of 'message in a bottle'.  And, they believe, such a message could already be waiting for us in our own backyard.24

Rose observed that:

'If energy is what you care about, it's tremendously more efficient to toss a rock.'

Once radio signals pass us by they are gone for ever, so aliens would have to beam signals continuously as we have only had radio for a miniscule fraction of our existence as an advanced species.

We had to ask ourselves, what if that physical object was the Moon and the information is there for us to see - once we understand the vocabulary?

If the Moon does hold a message, it would be exactly what Paul Davies called a 'set and forget' technique that would survive for millions or even billions of years. Any conventional sort of physical structure, no matter how impressive, would eventually crumble under geological forces, especially on a very active planet such as our own.


It turns out that the possibilities for a 'letter from the stars' that can survive eons are actually very limited indeed. In the end such a 'physical' message needs to be either extremely large or extremely small - and as we were to discover, perhaps both.

We had already uncovered a wealth of published academic material that points to the Moon being the single most important factor in the development and nurturing of complex life forms on the planet Earth.


Quite simply, if the Earth is thought of as an incubator for life - the Moon is the carefully programmed machine that monitors and stabilizes the process. A real life- support system.

This may be a wonderful coincidence of epic proportions, or it could be yet another miracle to ignore as an inevitable consequence of the 'Anthropic Principle'.

Whether or not the suggestion put forward by Davies has any merit, it was the second time in a month during which perfectly respectable and serious scientists had published articles dealing honestly with the possibility that we are not alone in the Universe and that other species may be trying, or might have tried in the past, to contact us.


Whilst we are delighted with the open-minded attitude that seems to be developing with regard to this subject it is our profound belief that the message, for which SETI, Paul Davies and Rose and Wright are seeking, is right in front of our eyes.


It has been there as long as humanity has existed and what it has to tell us is breathtaking in its implications.


A Potential Message?

At this point we asked ourselves what would a message look like that had been planted on Earth or in its immediate environs and which was intended to survive for a huge period of time.


Firstly, we reasoned, it would have to be recognizable, so it could be clearly interpreted as a message before its contents could be deciphered. Secondly, it would need to be either extremely large or else very small in order to survive the destructive power of Earth's geology and weather systems.

In Clarke and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the technique used by the unknown aliens was to have a major anomaly that could only be detected by a technically competent species. By placing objects with huge mass under the surface of the Moon the aliens knew they would be easy to spot in a place where there was little else to distract.


But in that story the purpose of the gravitational anomalies was not to communicate with the new species - it was to send a message back to the aliens that the local creatures had reached a specific level of intelligence.

So, an anomaly of this sort might be enough to alert an unknown species, such as our own, that there is a message waiting. The next step would be for those planting the message to ensure that the target species understood that it was addressed to them.

It has long been agreed that numbers are the best way to communicate with intelligent creatures from another world. Hieroglyphs or any kind of marks are unlikely to be understood without any point of reference, just as there was no way to understand ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs until the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799.


This inscribed artifact from the second century BC gave the same text in both Greek and hieroglyphs; thereby providing the key to understanding a lost language.

If numbers are used in such a message they need to have a discernable pattern, however they are communicated, so that they stand out against the background 'noise' of number values that surround us everywhere.


Even then, it is extremely challenging to think of numbers that are certain to be spotted once they are planted in our own environment.


The safest method would be to use ratios that stand out, because ratios are not dependent on units of measurement or any chosen base (e.g. base ten in everyday usage or base two [binary] as used in computing).

But it occurred to us that we were examining this process backwards, because we started out by being alerted to major anomalies specifically related to the Moon. Not only does it appear very unlikely that the Moon could have occurred naturally in the first place, it also turns out that it has been the incubation machine that so perfectly nurtured life.

We now needed to go back to our starting position and look at the numbers that had fallen out of the Earth-Moon-Sun relationship in terms of ratios and to those measurements that stood out so well when we applied Megalithic units to them.

The first and most obviously strange thing about the Moon is how it appears to be the same size as the Sun when viewed from Earth. It is 400 times smaller and 400 times closer to the Earth than the Sun.


Assuming for a moment that this might be the first part of a calling card from an unknown source rather than just a bizarre coincidence, we have to note three factors:

  1. It is designed to be meaningful only to intelligent creatures living on the Earth's surface.

  2. It is designed to be noticed at this specific point in time, give or take a million years or so each way, because the Moon only behaves in the way it does at this time.

  3. It appears to be addressed to a species with ten fingers, because the ratio relationship of that between the Moon and the Sun is such a round number when expressed in base ten (e.g. in base eight the ratio would be one to 620).

Now we will speculate that the ratio of the Moon and the Sun just might be pointing to a deliberately created message. In order to do so, we must suspend all preconceptions of what seems sensible and consider instead what under normal circumstances might be judged unthinkable.

We will therefore temporarily accept that points 1, 2 and 3 above are valid and that someone or something is trying to direct the attention of Earthlings, sporting ten digits and living during this particular point in time, to look at the Moon as a potential message.


So, here we go!

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