Space-Age Spam Texting a Very Dangerous Experiment

The Chronicle | 15 August 2009

FOR mine, encouraging people to send text messages out into space is thwart with more than the odd problem.

For those who might not be up with the galactic messaging proposal, we are being encouraged to visit the “Hello From Earth” website and post text-like messages which will be transmitted into space to our nearest earth-like planet outside the solar system – Gliese 581d.

Firstly, who came up with a name like “Gliese 581d”? Why have we dispensed with the planetary naming process which in the past has given us such catchy planetary monikers like Saturn, Pluto and Jupiter?

Because Gliese 581d is outside our solar system, surely it calls for a name synonymous with being “out there” like “Vader III”, “Millennium IV” or “Wacko Jacko RIP”.

Sending text messages To Gliese 581d (ugh, that’s a bland name) via the Hello From Earth website is an initiative celebrating National Science Week.

The scientists tell us Gliese 581d is eight times the size of earth and has water, meaning it has the potential for life. Which leads to my next concern.

What if the potential inhabitants of Gliese 581d don’t pick up on the sentiment behind the text messages sent from Earth?

What if they don’t like Gliese 581d for a name? Do we really want to tick off the inhabitants of a planet eight times the size of our own?

And, forget intergalactic text messaging, I don’t understand the text messages here on Earth to start with.

Going by the flavour of some text messages that come into The Chronicle each week (the ones my younger colleagues translate for me at least), I’m not sure we should be sending this stuff to potential inhabitants of a planet we hardly know?

Don’t start with the “There are no inhabitants of Gliese 581d” stuff either. How do we know?

Their planet is eight times the size of Earth yet we only found it was there in April 2007. And, after all, Gliese 581d has water which is more than can be said for Toowoomba and we have civilisation here... well, of sorts anyway.

What if the Gliese 581dians misinterpret “lol” for something like “lick our loins” or even worse correctly interpret such stuff as “bite me Gliesies”?

What if they have their own DB, Hflds; RS, Cnt Hts; HM, Ghetto; or Joan Dunlop who understand this techno gibberish and don’t much care for it?

With 26,000 hits on the Hello From Earth website on its first day, one can only imagine what sort of text messages are being posted and sent out into space – or whether any of the messages are being screened.

I can’t get through a page of text messages in The Chronicle, who screens 26,000?

Although, the way today’s world is obsessed with such nonsense as carbon trading debates, climate change arguments and Kyle Sandilands, an invasion of Earth by an angry mob of Gliese 581dians might not be such a bad thing.

As a matter of fact, I think I’ll click on to the Hello From Earth website and send a few messages myself.

What if the Gliese 581dians misinterpret “lol” for something like “lick our loins” or even worse correctly interpret such stuff as “bite me Gliesies”?

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