By: Chris O'Shea
Well, the dorks have done it. They're about to corrupt the world of extraterrestrial lifeforms with a GIF. The short animated online images, technically known as Graphics Interchange Forms, have already been proven to be more annoying than useful on Earth, but fans of the GIF weren't satisfied. They wanted to show aliens just how abrasive and useless humans can be. And so, a project called Lone Signal plans on sending the first GIF into space.
Lone Signal is a project led by several scientists. The idea behind the initiative is to practice "METI" or "Messaging for Extraterrestrial Intelligence." The team leading Lone Signal currently has a 30 year lease on a 10 story high radio telescope, that they've been using to send signals out into space. This is done by sending two different signals. As The Verge explained, "The first, called a continuous wave carrier, will beam a targeted, long-term 'hailing message' to a specified destination. While it does, the Jamesburg dish will beam shorter signals — containing a user's unique message — to that same location." According to one of Lone Signal's founders, Dr. Jacob Haqq Misra, this is key because "If they notice the continuous wave signal, they might look more closely at the message carrier."
Part of what Lone Signal is doing is allowing anyone to send whatever they want into space. That's when Kim Asendorf, a digital artist, entered the picture. He thinks it's time for a GIF to be sent among the stars. If all goes as planned, his GIF — which is just him moving slightly back and forth while staring straight ahead (you can see it here) — will be beamed to new life forms.
"Lone Signal's first interstellar target is Gliese 526 and is 17.6 light years from the Earth," Asendorf wrote on his blog. "Gliese 526 is identified as a potentially habitable solar system in The Catalog of Nearby Habitable Systems. This system’s position in the sky, as well as its relatively close proximity to the Earth, makes it an ideal choice as Lone Signal’s first target. People from Gliese 526 will be able to see 'Humans watching Digital Art' in 17.6 years." That's just fantastic. We'll be holding our breath!
We're not trying to diminish Asendorf or Lone Signal, but we've been sending stupid crap into space for as long as we thought there might be someone to receive it. In 1972, an astronaut left a family photo on the moon. Years later Luke Skywalker's lightsaber was sent into the world above. Flags used at NASCAR races have also made their way into space. Oh, and let's not forget that we sent the ashes of James Doohan — better known as Scotty from the original Star Trek TV series — into the great beyond as well.
Obviously we have a history of just flinging any old thing into space and seeing if it sticks. So far it hasn't. Will aliens enjoy the GIF? Perhaps. However, if they send back a GIF of their own, that would be pretty cool.
[Pic via Flickr - Sweetie187 and screengrab]