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WETE: Wait for Extraterrestrial Echoes

by Boghos L. Artinian

Rather than SETI — Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence — why not WETE? The space aliens may not be “calling home”; they may be returning our own calls.

An intelligent organism attempting to establish sensible communication with another species deemed less intelligent would start by mimicking the other species’ language. The language may be eventually deciphered but, in most instances, such a feat would be quite impossible.

Witness the recording and playing back of bird songs and dolphin sounds by scientists studying animal behavior. That task is already hard enough; it would be even more Herculean if it were an attempt to communicate across the chasm between two levels of organization such as between man and cells.

Man will need at least another couple of centuries to decipher cell language, which is likely to manifest in patterned cell membrane depolarizations. In the meantime, if our scientists are able to record and play back those depolarizations to cells, the cells may become “aware” of the existence of superior beings, which they might even consider to be deities.

This, I believe, is precisely how super-organisms would try to make us aware of their existence. And what better means than patterned radio-wave disturbances to serve the purpose? They could take the form of our own broadcast music played back to us!

About thirty years ago, during the Lebanese civil war, I tuned in to a clandestine radio station broadcasting round-the-clock repetitions of small fragments of classical music by various composers. Several things about that station, broadcasting on FM 100.5 MHz, struck me as being odd.

Firstly, there were no comments of any kind whatsoever for the duration of the broadcasts, which lasted about six months. This, however, could have been a trial period for the radio station.

Another puzzle: the broadcasted music was slower and lower in pitch by a ratio of 1:6 as verified on our piano. Finally, none of the fragments of music had been composed later than Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, composed and first broadcast on the BBC in 1945.

Was the whole affair some sophisticated hoax or, more likely, the inadvertent running of a 60 Hz turntable on our local 50 Hz alternating current by the personnel at the clandestine radio station? That would explain the lower tone and the slowness of the tempo of the music. The only alternative would have been an extraterrestrial super-organism’s attempt to establish contact by playing our own musical broadcasts back to us.

Assuming such was the case, I set about pondering what information about the super-organism could be extracted by its radio station playing our own music. The slowing down of the tempo of the music and the decrease in its pitch by a ratio of 1:6 could only mean that the source of the radio station and, therefore, the super-organism itself, were receding from us at the incredible speed of one-twelfth of the velocity of light.

The Doppler effect acts twice, during reception by the receding super-organism and its rebroadcasting to us: 1/12 plus 1/12 = one-sixth, which translates to 300,000 km/second times 1/12 or 25,000 km/second.

This rate of recession should be quite reassuring, since we have as yet no idea what a super-organism in close proximity would do to humanity. Moreover, we wouldn’t be able to tell if it weren’t actually approaching Earth. It could deceptively slow down the music in order to seem to be receding.

On the other hand, the absence in the broadcasts of any musical piece composed later than 1945 — if not intentionally omitted — would clearly mean that the super-organism first detected and started replaying to us our broadcasts of 1945, i.e. those of 1987 minus 1945 or 42 years earlier.

Since it had taken 42 years for the radio waves to travel both ways, the super-organism must have first heard us 42÷2 = 21 years earlier, i.e. in 1966. This means that, in 1966, it was already 21 light-years away from us and receding.

I believe the efforts directed at detecting other types of signals from all directions in space (SETI) will never reach fruition. Let us wait for the echoes of our earliest radio broadcasts beamed back to us not by multi-cellular organisms like us — for, in all probability, they would never detect us — but rather by multi-humanoidal super-organisms that would be capable of studying us as thoroughly as we now are now capable of studying cells!

Copyright © 2016 by Boghos L. Artinian

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