NASA Releases Ebook Called Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication

Posted on May 23, 2014

NASA has released a free 300-page ebook called Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication. The book is edited by Douglas A. Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute. Links to downloads for the book for Kindle and other eBook readers can be found here. A PDF version is available online here.

The book discusses the enormous challenges humanity will face if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected. NASA says, "By drawing on issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology, we can be much better prepared for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come."

Sections of the book cover SETI, the science of SETI and its political history within NASA. Other chapters cover the decipherability of interstellar messages and the great distances they will have traveled should we receive one. Difficulties in translating ancient scripts in unknown languages provides an inkling as to how complex it could be to translate an interstellar alien message. The book also discusses the ethology of communicating with extraterrestrials.

Several media outlets are discussion a particular section of the book - see Gizmodo and Daily Mail - that says some odd Northumbrian rock art may have been made by aliens. The book says (on page 242), "We can say little, if anything, about what these patterns [above] signify, why they were cut into rocks, or who created them. For all intents and purposes, they might have been made by aliens. Unless we find a readable exegesis of them produced at the time they were made, we will never be able to say with certainty what the patterns mean."

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