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Friday, July 15, 2005

'Cosmic Communications' Expert to Speak at Berkeley Lab July 25

What prompted the New York Times to carry an article last year headlined "Sorry, E.T., but Parcel Post May Beat Phoning Home"? And why did the world's scientific and popular media court Christopher Rose, a professor of wireless communications theory at Rutgers, and Gregory Wright, an independent consultant and astronomer? The answer lies in their article, "Inscribed Matter As An Efficient Means of Communication with An Extraterrestrial Civilization," which graced the cover of the journal Nature in September 2004.

On July 25, Rose will reveal the secrets of "little green people" and what he calls "cosmic communications" in a special seminar sponsored by the Life Sciences Division as part of the Laboratory's "World Year of Physics" celebration. The noon talk in the Building 50 Auditorium, "Write or Radiate? Inscribed Matter vs. Electromagnetic Communication," will discuss how Rose and Wright quantified the notion that if extraterrestrial civilizations wish to make contact, it might be better to launch information-bearing physical artifacts rather than the more traditional electromagnetic signals.

Rose says that the work was an outgrowth of his technical interests in novel mobile communications and is "seemingly at odds with current SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) wisdom" which relies on radio waves.   He adds, "If haste is not terribly important, sending messages inscribed on some material can be strikingly more energy efficient than communicating by electromagnetic waves over distances both very small and very large.

"For small distances, the relative efficiency of   'inscribed matter' messages (stone tablets, letters, reels of tape) tells us that communication theory, with careful attention to energy budgets, may provide an interesting lens on biological processes. For large distances, this result suggests that our initial contact with extraterrestrial civilizations may be more likely to occur through information-bearing physical artifacts -- essentially 'messages in a bottle' -- than via radio or optical signals. The possibility of biological material as 'messages' also raises interesting questions about terrestrial biological history."

After earning his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT in 1985, Rose became a member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, where he worked in the Network Systems Research Department. He has been a professor at Rutgers since 1990. His awards and publications include the 2003 IEEE Marconi Paper Prize in Wireless Communications and the book "Interference Avoidance Methods for Wireless Systems."


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