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J Br Interplanet Soc. 1990 Dec;43(12):561-8.

A language based on the fundamental facts of science.

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  • 1Dept. of Mathematics, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721, USA.


The problem of how to communicate with the members of an alien society has been discussed by many authors but only one, Hans Freudenthal, has constructed a language for this purpose. Freudenthal assumes nothing other than the ability to reason as humans do and, because he assumes so little, it is necessary to communicate a great deal about the language itself before being able to communicate any interesting information. The problem is here approached differently. Since it is likely that contact between our civilization and an alien one would be via radio, potential correspondents would have a basic knowledge of science. Such beings should therefore be able to learn a language based on fundamental science. It is assumed, more specifically, that our correspondents can count, understand chemical elements, are familiar with the melting and boiling behaviour of a pure substance and understand the properties of the gaseous state. All this should be known to any society capable of developing the radio telescope. By systematically using this common knowledge one can communicate notation for numbers and chemical elements and then communicate our basic physical units; i.e., the gram, the calorie, the degree (Kelvin), etc. Once this is done more interesting information can be exchanged.

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