Sónar, the Barcelona-based electronic music festival, will return for its 25th anniversary in 2018. They have been celebrating, apparently, by sending music to aliens. It’s part of a joint project with METI International, and it looks extremely cool.
METI International was started in 2015 by a guy called Doug Vakoch, an ET-obsessed scientist who broke away from the SETI Institute (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) to press on with his lifelong dream of contacting—not just listening for—alien beings. It’s a break with orthodox, conservative thought in the astrophysics community, which is concerned with the potential dangers of screaming into the intergalactic void. Here’s one particularly interesting part of a profile of Vakoch by Sarah Scoles at Wired last year:
...how can humans convey information that an alien could understand, when humans don’t speak alien or even know what knowledge or physical senses we might share? “It’s not just needing to understand the astronomy, but also language and philosophy of science, and what it is we would want to explain,” [Vakoch] says. “That’s what led me to psychology.” He ended up getting a PhD in clinical psychology and a master’s in the history and philosophy of science, aiming always to combine his knowledge sets into interstellar messages.
It’s Vakoch who presents Sónar’s brief video about the project, released this morning. “For the first time in the history of humanity,” he says, “three transmissions have been sent to a specific and potentially habitable exoplanet, GJ273b.” That planet, discovered earlier this year, is a little over 12 light years away.
The first messages were sent last year, from Tromsø, Norway. In April 2018, Sónar and METI will transmit 15 more pieces of music. Artists who have recorded compositions for the project so far include Autechre, Richie Hawtin, Nina Kraviz, Kate Tempest, Carsten Nicolai, Modeselektor, Laurent Garnier, Holly Herndon, Matmos, Jean Michel Jarre, The Black Madonna, Kode 9, Laurel Halo, and Daito Manabe.
This is extremely cool. Searching for aliens is great. Do more of that.
Alex Robert Ross thinks alien stuff is cool on Twitter.