Monday, 26 May 2014

Ancient Rock Art Might Have Been Made by Aliens, NASA E-Book Suggests

A scene from the movie "Prometheus". Credit: 20th Century Fox

Is this evidence of alien contact? UFO aficionados are in a spin after NASA appeared to suggest ancient rock art may have been planted by aliens. The NASA e-book titled Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication, which was issued earlier this week, details efforts in the hunt for extraterrestrial life. It has since been taken down without explanation. But many insist it contained a real eye-opener. The 330 page book, edited by the director of Interstellar Message Composition at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), Dr Douglas Vakoch, allegedly made the extraordinary suggestion that unusual ancient patterns gouged into rocks “might have been made by aliens”.

But the storm of interest may be little more than the result of a typo or editing error. Or wishful thinking on the behalf of true believers.

His organisation is tasked with researching ways that alien civilisations may “create messages that could be transmitted across interstellar space, allowing communication between humans and extraterrestrials even without face-to-face contact”.

A contributor to the book, computer scientist William Edmondson, wrote: “It is helpful to review some parallels from human existence that pose problems for us today. One of these is ‘rock art,’ which consists of patterns or shapes cut into rock many thousands of years ago.”

“We can say little, if anything, about what these patterns 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.”

Dr Vakosh, in the book’s introduction, echoes this sentiment.

He wrote scientists must try to “recognise manifestations of extraterrestrial intelligence, even when they resemble a naturally occurring phenomenon”.

It’s a matter of mindset, he says.

“Only when people took seriously the possibility that chipped rocks might be prehistoric tools were they predisposed to look for them,” Vakoch wrote.

Note that this is somewhat different to that rock art does represent communication over time and space …

Contributors to the work suggest rock art instead be used as an analogy for understanding the challenge of communicating over vast distances of time and space.

‘If a radio signal is detected in a modern Seti experiment, we could well know that another intelligence exists, but not know what they are saying,’ Dr Vakosh wrote.

‘To move beyond the mere detection of such intelligence, and to have any realistic chance of comprehending it, we can gain much from the lessons learned by researchers facing similar challenges on Earth,’ he continues.

‘Like archaeologists who reconstruct temporally distant civilisations from fragmentary evidence, Seti researchers will be expected to reconstruct distant civilisations separated from us by vast expanses of space as well as time.

‘As we attempt to decode and interpret extraterrestrial messages, we will be required to comprehend the mindset of a species that is radically Other.’

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