QUOTE (AndyG @ Jan 27 2006, 04:57 AM)
More confusing is the Pioneer Plaque. Any observant alien can see that the probe was made by just two beings, each a separate species, working together. They might call them Shorts and Talls. Tall has what looks like a third manipulative organ, compared to Short. These species have some form of carapace on top of their sensory appendages (presumably to deflect harsh radiation from their home star), they breathe hydrogen, navigate on their world using pulsars, and use their solar system's largest planet to eject 70's-era space junk into the cosmos.
The aliens will
find us, if only to discover what we look like from the back...
Jokes and cartoons about the two nude human figures go back to when the Pioneer Plaques were announced to the public in 1972. Sadly, they often rarely exceed the maturity level of schoolboys, plus most of the "humor" has been quite similar.
Interesting bit about the female drawing that is not generally known, which also reflects more on our society's response to such things rather than how an ETI might react to it. In deference to NASA's conservative squeamishness and the presumed public outcry, the female drawing has no genitalia.
Joe Davis of MIT decided to "resolve" this issue in the late 1980s by broadcasting a powerful radio message for 20 minutes from MIT's Millstone radar facility (until the facility authorities stopped him).
You can read the details of this and Davis' fascinating life and ideas here: http://www.viewingspace.com/genetics_cultu...le_sciam/jd.htm
The artist, Linda Salzmann Sagan, tried hard to give her figures characteristics of all the major human races, but in the end many people ended up complaining that they saw every racial characteristic but their own. Some days you just can't win with the talking monkeys of Sol 3.
As for the plaque and record contents being perceived as deliberate insults, that is something I do not fear, nor would (or should) an ETI who has mastered interstellar travel. Perhaps an ETI might find something unintentionally offensive in the information (if they are even still fallible to such emotions), but presumably they would also be wise enough to realize that only truly insane beings would purposely send out rude and threating messages on primitive old space probes into the galaxy.
The only common parameter Carl Sagan and his team who created these messages knew they had in kind with any advanced technology ETI species is a fundamental understanding of science and mathematics. Using them as a "language", the rest of the messages rightly focused on describing who were are, where we live, and what we are about. They did not try to be "compatible" with every conceivable notion of alien intelligence. The team also assumed that such ETI would not be very impressed with our knowledge of science and technology level; they would want to know about who built the probe and record.
In Murmurs of Earth, Sagan et al did deliberate over what might be offensive or not to an ETI on the Voyager Records. They considered an image of a human embracing the galaxy as a sign of universal friendship and a desire to join with other intelligent beings in the Milky Way. But they nixed it for fear that it might also look like we wanted to take the galaxy for ourselves. They also rejected showing a nuclear bomb explosion (to display our technological level), as there was concern that it might be seen as a threat to others, feeble as such technology might be to starfaring ETI.
In the end, such information packages can only be reflections of ourselves. I think that alone is an important message to help an ETI - or our distant descendants - understand us.
The messages also say, for good or bad, that we will make our way into the galaxy. As with life here, the only way you don't make mistakes or step on toes is by not doing anything. You also don't learn and grow.
We will head into the wider galaxy some day. Might as well let our children and others know who led the way.