Speaking Beyond Earth

Perspectives on Messaging Across Deep Space and Cosmic Time


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About the Book

Since the dawn of the Space Age, small cohorts of humanity have broadcast signals towards other stars, fabricated “space-time capsules” to “speak for Earth” aboard interstellar probes, deposited collections of “space oddities” on other astronomical bodies, and permanently incised the memory of our species across the deep-time legacy of the Sol System. Many of these purposeful “messages” are the consequence of age-old behaviors, traditions, and material practices using modern aerospace technologies. Most attempt to preserve narratives of human experience in social exchange devices for imagined, exotic audiences. Looking back upon this accumulative history of “messaging from Earth”, how do we begin to interpret such an eclectic portrait of Earth for ourselves?

Surveying and cataloguing the variety of these artifacts through a series of interdisciplinary essays and visual documentation, this volume chronicles our changing relationships, customs, and assumptions made within this material culture for our own eyes. What do these autobiographical accounts tell us about Terrans and our minds, set against the backdrop of our planetary history?

About the Author(s)

Paul E. Quast is an interdisciplinary scholar based in Scotland. He is a director for the Beyond the Earth foundation, an NGO studying the semiotics of information-exchange systems, while assessing emergent, long-term anthropogenic legacies for the benefit of future stewardship applications.

David Dunér is a professor of history of science and ideas at Lund University, Sweden. He is a board member and director of METI International, and member of the working group on the Historical, Philosophical, Societal and Ethical Issues in Astrobiology within the European Astrobiology Institute.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Paul E. Quast and David Dunér
Foreword by Alice Gorman
Afterword by Cornelius Holtorf
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 298
Bibliographic Info: 93 photos, glossary, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9000-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4986-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Foreword: Beyond Ourselves: An Archaeological Reflection on Sending Messages to Other Worlds
Alice Gorman 1
A Brief History and an Imminent Future 7
Part 1: Why We Speak
Prologue: Murmuring from Earth: A Human Portrait of Representational Phenomena Across Deep Space and Cosmic Time
Paul E. Quast 15
A Cultural History of “Speaking” for Earth: A Taxonomic Approach for Exoatmospheric “Messages”
Paul E. Quast 31
Part 2: What We Say
The Tyranny of Assumption: What We Should and Should Not Expect ETI to Understand in Our Messaging
John W. Traphagan and Kelly Smith 63
SETI and Terrestrial Visual Perception: What Can We Learn About Communicating with Other Species from Human Visual Perception and Visual Ecology?
Christopher Gillespie 75
Approaches to Communicating with Extraterrestrial Intelligence
John W. Traphagan 93
How We Think We Know What We Think We Know and How the Unknown Others May Think They Know What We Think We Know (and Show)
Paul E. Quast and Klara Anna Capova 105
Between pages 130 and 131 are 8 color plates with 14 photographs
Part 3: Reading Outside the Message
Per aspera ad astra: But Does One Really Speak for Them All?
Klara Anna Capova and Paul E. Quast 133
Finding Meaning in Terra Nullius and Beyond: Uncovering Clues in the Exoatmospheric Archaeological Record
Paul E. Quast 155
Who Will Speak for Earth? Stakeholders, Scholars, and Stewardship in the Future Exoatmospheric Record
Paul E. Quast 177
Afterword: Challenges
Cornelius Holtorf 203
Glossary 207
Appendix: A Profile of Humanity: The Cultural Signature of Earth’s Inhabitants Beyond the Atmosphere
Paul E. Quast 209
Bibliography 259
About the Contributors 277
Index 279