For many years humanity has pondered on communication from extra-terrestrial intelligences (CETI). These first contact messages tend to involve deeply meaningful communication of one kind or another. This isn't just confined to science fiction though; whilst we're waiting for ET to give us a call we've had a few attempts to send messages ourselves. The most famous example is probably the Arecibo message which used 1679 pixels to inform distant aliens about our number system, DNA, people, and even the design of the Arecibo radio telescope.
Would the first first-contact messages really be as deep and meaningful as we usually think? I'm not so sure. After all, we've already started sending advertising for potato chips, small ads and the Beatles into space and the social networking site Bebo will send a message from Earth to Gliese 581c (15:19:26 -07:43:20 FK5 J2000) Exoplanet on Thursday telling them about pop band McFly and breakdancing moves from the winner of Britain's Got Talent. With these precedents, I present a list* of what might be the five most likely first contact messages (in no particular order):
- DEAR SIR. HAVING CONSULTED WITH MY COLLEAGUES AND BASED ON THE INFORMATION GATHERED FROM THE URSA MAJOR CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO REQUEST FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF 87,500,000.00 GALACTIC DOLLARS (EIGHT SEVEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND GALACTIC DOLLARS) INTO YOUR ACCOUNTS...
- How long you gonna wait to enlarge your tent@cles? Suffering from short tenta*les? You need the Tentac1e Growth Patch. This 100% all natural remedy can help improve your life. Contact us within the next 5 Sagittarian days for a 20% discount.
- Copyright statement. The following communication is for private viewing only, and may not be recorded, broadcast or re-transmitted. Breach of copyright is illegal and will be prosecuted by the Recording Industry Assocation of the Sagittarius Arm.
- Call centre. "Thank you for contacting the Golgafrinchans. Your interplanetary transmission is important to us, and will be answered by the first available sentient being. Please continue to hold."
- FW: FW: FW: HI THERE!! Forward this message on to 10 civilizations within the next 100,000 rotations of the Crab Pulsar or something horrible could happen to you. Yooden Vranx didn't and later that day he had an Acturan Megafreighter crash into his planet. This could happen to you! Send this message onto all your friends and everything will be OK.
* Thanks to Ed Boyce and others for the lunchtime conversations that helped create this list.