Text: © Edward Packard
Illustrations: © Trefny Dix

August 8, 2013

We're sitting here, or rather crusing along at a mere ten miles per second, waiting for our computers to decipher signals emanating from not-so-nearby NGC 1672 (photo shown courtesy of NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope team), a galaxy containing hundreds of billions of stars and possibly five to ten times as many planets. Who or what is beaming these signals toward our region of space? We have detected a pattern of pulses inconsistent with natural process. Is it a a message? Is it reducible to a language? Our computer, programed by world-renowned linguists and mathematicans, may be able to tell us.

Maybe. But how many calculations will it take? How long will we have to wait? We haven't yet figured out what most dolphin clicks and whale songs mean. Is there really a chance of deciphering chatter of aliens who are more unrelated to us than any life form on Earth?

We haven't given up yet, but we may have to soon. If so, it won't be cause for despair. We have succeeded in our mission: We have found an intelligent extra-terrestrial life form. That's an accomplishment, even if we can never enter its presence or understand what it says.

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