Full episode
411: First Contact
Act Three

Intergalactic Cold Call

Ira Glass speaks with Paul Davies, chair of the Post-Detection Task Force of SETI. That stands for the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, and Paul’s task is to figure out what to say to space aliens if we find them. Paul suggests starting simple, with binary code. But other people have some very different ideas, solicited by the social networking site Bebo. We heard about Paul Davies from an article that Jon Ronson wrote in the Guardian. (7 minutes)

In 2008, 501 images were beamed from a radio telescope in Eupatoria, Ukraine, towards Gliese 581 c, a planet 118 trillion miles away. People around the world submitted ideas to a social networking site called Bebo, and then users voted on the ones they thought should actually be sent, with the thought that extraterrestrials might one day receive them. The radio signal will take about 20 years to reach its destination. Here are a few of the images, courtesy of RDF Contact: