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This “greeting” was the brainchild of both my science division and my public relations office. On the one hand, it serves a legitimate scientific purpose in contacting these so-called “engineers,” as Shaw calls them, and preparing them for our arrival. The idea is that we will earn thir respect when they see what cultural beauty and technological progress their human creations have achieved. This way they won’t be so inclined just shoot us out of the sky. They’ll welcome us as their wayward children who’ve returned home. That’s the idea anyway.
On the other hand, it gives the Prometheus mission credibility and importance to our shareholders. And upon our eventual return to Earth, this transmission will serve as promotional content for whatever multimedia campaign Weyland Corp will engage in to begin recouping our investment while we study and exploit whatever knowledge or technology we bring back with us. Shaw and Holloway can waste their time enjoying the limelight and going to free dinners while we quietly aggressively use the assets collected on this mission to fuel any number of new projects, technology, products and research.
They’ll get book deals. We’ll make trillions. Changing the world.
Inspirations for the Prometheus Transmission
The Arecibo Message
Inspired by the message sent into space in 1974, Weyland Industries has sent a transmission ahead of the Prometheus mission.
In 1974, the most powerful broadcast ever deliberately beamed into space was made from Puerto Rico. The broadcast formed part of the ceremonies held to mark a major upgrade to the Arecibo Radio Telescope. The transmission consisted of a simple, pictorial message, aimed at our putative cosmic companions in the globular star cluster M13. This cluster is roughly 21,000 light-years from us, near the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, and contains approximately a third of a million stars.
The broadcast was particularly powerful because it used Arecibo’s megawatt transmitter attached to its 305 meter antenna. The latter concentrates the transmitter energy by beaming it into a very small patch of sky. The emission was equivalent to a 20 trillion watt omnidirectional broadcast, and would be detectable by a SETI experiment just about anywhere in the galaxy, assuming a receiving antenna similar in size to Arecibo’s.
The message consists of 1679 bits, arranged into 73 lines of 23 characters per line (these are both prime numbers, and may help the aliens decode the message). The “ones” and “zeroes” were transmitted by frequency shifting at the rate of 10 bits per second. The total broadcast was less than three minutes. A graphic showing the message is reproduced here. It consists, among other things, of the Arecibo telescope, our solar system, DNA, a stick figure of a human, and some of the biochemicals of earthly life. Although it’s unlikely that this short inquiry will ever prompt a reply, the experiment was useful in getting us to think a bit about the difficulties of communicating across space, time, and a presumably wide culture gap.
The Golden Record
Pioneer 10 was launched toward Jupiter in 1972. This spacecraft was the first one to fly to Jupiter, Saturn, the Milky Way Galaxy and stars.
Carrying a gold plaque that describes what we look like, where we are and the date the mission began, it was Earth’s first message sent into space. Pioneer 10 heading towards the red star Aldebaran, which forms the eye of the constellation Taurus (The Bull). Roughly 68 light years away, taking Pioneer 10 more than 2 million years to reach it.
Its sister ship, Pioneer 11, also carrying a Golden Record ended its mission on Sept. 30, 1995, when the last transmission from the spacecraft was received.
It is also interesting to note that the comics series ‘The Forever War (1974)’ had strongly influenced Ridley Scott, and the story itself, is based on the premise that Earth fell into war with the Taurans from Alderbaran after a probe came back damaged. It was published around the time of the Arecibo message being transmitted into space in 74′
Pioneers 10 and 11, which preceded Voyager, both carried small metal plaques identifying their time and place of origin for the benefit of any other spacefarers that might find them in the distant future. With this example before them, NASA placed a more ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2, a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.
For all intents and purposes
[Damon Lindelof] So yeah, it was those three pieces of viral: the David 8 ad, which Johnny Hardstaff did, and the Weyland TED talk, and then the quiet eye with Noomi. And then there was one other piece, which was going to be the transmission, that we ended up not doing. It’s in the movie.
[Ridley Scott] We may use it in the US next week. They don’t open for a week.
[DL] So there’s basically… there’s a message in the movie that they’re transmitting to the engineers, with the girl playing the violin, and David and Holloway have the scene where they haven’t responded to the message. That message is another piece of viral which we may or may not release.
[RS] Did you get what the message was about? [It was a message to the engineers.] That would be a constant, from takeoff you’d be constantly replaying that, hoping that somebody’s gonna say “don’t come any further, I’m gonna to blow you out of the sky.” In there, there would be every conceivable form of mathematics equation, and anyone who is superior is going to look at that for three seconds and say “we’ve got chimpanzees on the way.” So, it’s an assessment of who’s coming, basically, it makes sense.
[Q] Is that a reference to the original Voyager probe, which obviously had Bach records, drawings, that kind of mix…?
[DL] Yeah, from like, in Starman.
- gif from Prometheus (2012) by muthur9000
- Prometheus Bluray Menu, muthur9000 Archive
- Arecibo Message, SETI https://www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/details/arecibo-message
- The Gold Record
- Ridley Scott talks Prometheus with SlashGear: Candid & Uncut
Chris Davies – Jun 2, 2012 https://www.slashgear.com/ridley-scott-talks-prometheus-with-slashgear-candid-uncut-02231334/