Friday, April 01, 2005

Signals from a Distant World

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an astronomy professor at a leading university confirmed persistent rumors that, for the past six years, scientists have been receiving and studying signals from a distant star system.

The radio signals originate from a planet of the star 58 Eridani, 43 light years away. The signals were first detected in March of 1999, but it was not until about a year ago that significant progress was made in deciphering them. "We still have made very little progress on what seem to be 'text' communications," said the source, "but we now have a good handle on transmitted pictures, which are encoded in something similar to a holographic format. To us, not an obvious way of structuring things; but these are evidently creatures who perceive and conceptualize the world very differently than we do."

From these transmitted images, the inhabitants of the distant world are described as trilaterally symmetric: three eyes, three arms, three legs, evenly spaced around the body. "In evolutionary terms, this is a somewhat more energy-costly bodily structure; but the great adaptive advantage is that they are all 'front' and no 'back'; they can see, reach, and operate in their environment in a full 360° circle around them." However, the images reveal little that is humanly intelligible about the aliens' society or culture. "Even in a clear and detailed picture, you simply can't understand what they are doing or why. What we are seeing is alien, in every sense of the term."

58 Eridani is a class G3 star. It resembles the Sun very closely. According to the deciphered transmissions, its inhabited planet is slightly smaller than Earth, with less extensive oceans and on average a warmer and drier climate.

The source said that an open public announcement is planned within the next two months, though a date has not yet been set. "This is an earthshaking discovery— radio signals which confirm that we are not alone in the cosmos. It's very exciting, and yet at the same time it's certain to shatter many of our self-conceptions."


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