by Tom Leonard
in New York
The US space agency NASA is sponsoring a university course on how to
talk to aliens.
English students at the University of Wyoming are being encouraged
to consider the possibility that humanity might one day make contact
with aliens and then not know what to say.
"Interstellar Message Composition", a creative writing class, is
believed to be the first of its kind to engage writers in a
potential cosmic conversation, say its founders.
"We’ve thought a lot about how we might communicate with other
worlds, but we haven’t thought much about what we’d actually say,"
Prof Jeffrey Lockwood, the course leader, told ABC News.
The course, currently being taken by 11 students, is partly financed
by NASA’s Wyoming Space Grant Consortium, which sponsors educational
and research projects in the state that support the agency’s
Among questions tackled in Prof Lockwood’s class is how aliens might
communicate, whether they would be able to translate human language,
and whether they would be able to see or hear.
One student, Dixie Thoman, created a poem about menstruation with
syllables arranged in a mathematically harmonious order, known as
the Fibonacci sequence.
Recordings of the Brandenburg Concerto and Johnny B Goode are among
those that have been beamed into space over the years in an attempt
to provoke an extraterrestrial response.
The course is being advised by Douglas Vakoch, director of
interstellar message composition for the Search For Extraterrestrial
Intelligence Institute in California.
"It could be tomorrow that we’ll need to be ready to decide if we
reply [to aliens]," he said. "It’s really critical to have people
start thinking about it and it makes sense to start with writers.
These are people who are really trying to express the human