# History Main / FirstContactMath

Go To

* In "Literature/ColdSnap" by Creator/KimNewman, the villain has revived a dormant non-human intelligence that existed before all other life on Earth. While the hero is trying to figure out how the villain communicates with it, he goes through several of the standard options including numbers, but concludes that the creature is too alien even for those to be common ground. "A being on her scale has no use for any number other than 'one'."

* Discussed but ultimately averted in ''Fanfic/TheNextFrontier''. The odds of anything remotely recognisable as prime numbers or similar at interstellar distances are pretty much nil, but a single repeating tone or a noise like [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Radio_beacon_of_distress_on_121,5_MHz.ogg this]] could carry much further. [[spoiler: And by the time first contact actually happens, the aliens have LearnetEnglishFromWatchingTelevision anyway.]]

to:

* Discussed but ultimately averted in ''Fanfic/TheNextFrontier''. The odds of anything remotely recognisable as prime numbers or similar at interstellar distances are pretty much nil, but a single repeating tone or a noise like [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Radio_beacon_of_distress_on_121,5_MHz.ogg this]] could carry much further. [[spoiler: And by the time first contact actually happens, the aliens have LearnetEnglishFromWatchingTelevision LearntEnglishFromWatchingTelevision anyway.]]

* Discussed but ultimately averted in ''Fanfic/TheNextFrontier''. The odds of anything remotely recognisable as prime numbers or similar at interstellar distances are pretty much nil, but a single repeating tone or a noise like [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Radio_beacon_of_distress_on_121,5_MHz.ogg this]] could carry much further. [[spoiler: And by the time first contact actually happens, the aliens have LearnedEnglishFromWatchingTelevision anyway.]]

to:

* Discussed but ultimately averted in ''Fanfic/TheNextFrontier''. The odds of anything remotely recognisable as prime numbers or similar at interstellar distances are pretty much nil, but a single repeating tone or a noise like [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Radio_beacon_of_distress_on_121,5_MHz.ogg this]] could carry much further. [[spoiler: And by the time first contact actually happens, the aliens have LearnedEnglishFromWatchingTelevision LearnetEnglishFromWatchingTelevision anyway.]]

* In the free e-book released by NASA ''[[http://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/archaeology_anthropology_and_interstellar_communication.html#.U4xUcij3O2B Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication]]'' is is posited that while math may be great for first contact we may run into some stumbling blocks trying to understand language without context to go by. The book cites how for years the Mayan number system was decoded and understood, however scholars were stumped for many years after by the written language. If we had that much trouble with a human language, things may be even harder working out an alien language, even if we can agree on math.

to:

* In the free e-book released by NASA ''[[http://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/archaeology_anthropology_and_interstellar_communication.html#.U4xUcij3O2B Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication]]'' is it is posited that while math may be great for first contact we may run into some stumbling blocks trying to understand language without any further context to go by.assist a translation. The book cites how for years the Mayan number system was decoded and understood, however scholars were stumped for many years after by the written language. If we had that much trouble with a human language, things may be even harder working out an alien language, even if we can agree on math.

* Space probes we sent out of the Solar System (like Pioneer 10) usually contain this in some form. [[note]]And a star map telling them [[WeComeInPeaceShootToKill where we are]], even if the probabilities of the probe being found by aliens is ''[[SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale very low]]''. [[NakedPeopleAreFunny And naked people]]. (That last one is presumably to show what humans actually look like. ItMakesSenseInContext -- otherwise the aliens might assume that the probe itself is the intelligent life![[/note]]

to:

* Space probes we sent out of the Solar System (like Pioneer 10) usually contain this in some form. [[note]]And [[note]]Pioneer 10 included a star map telling them [[WeComeInPeaceShootToKill where we are]], even if the probabilities of the probe being found by aliens is ''[[SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale very low]]''. [[NakedPeopleAreFunny And naked people]]. (That last one is presumably to show what humans actually look like. ItMakesSenseInContext -- otherwise the aliens might assume that the probe itself is the intelligent life![[/note]]

* So far as anyone can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, we haven't done any first contact yet to see if this works. Some of the messages we've beamed into space have included this just in case.

to:

* So far as anyone can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, Conspiracy theorists might believe otherwise, but it is generally accepted that we haven't done had any first contact yet to see if this works. Some of the messages we've beamed into space have included this prime numbers just in case.

The generally accepted universal signal of intelligence in this situation is the ability to produce a sequence of prime numbers: numbers are only divisible by the number one and themselves. Why? Because it doesn't matter what number base you are using or what you call the numbers, 7 rocks cannot be divided up into any whole number of equal groups of rocks without breaking them. '''If''' the aliens have math, they'll get this -- resource allocation is one of the first tricks any group has to figure out. The idea is that they're too irregular to arise from any natural process[[note]]Although reproduction cycle periods of some insects tend to be a prime number of years to prevent matching another kind and then predators synchronising on them[[/note]] (i.e., no mathematical equation is known that will ''exhaustively'' produce them in reasonable time[[note]]There are equations that can produce an unlimited amount of prime numbers, but not all of them, and methods that will get them all, but the computation time is by brute force and thus enormous.[[/note]]), but mathematically simple enough that it's assumed any intelligent being can recognize them as non-random. More generally, anything obviously recognizable as simple math (such as digits of pi, or a proof of the Pythagorean theorem) can serve the same function. Of course, the digits of pi will change if the aliens don't have a base-10 system ([[AlternativeNumberSystem odds are that they don't]]), while the prime numbers will not change if you represent them properly.

to:

The generally accepted universal signal of intelligence in this situation is the ability to produce a sequence of prime numbers: numbers that are only divisible by the number one and themselves. Why? Because it doesn't matter what number base you are using or what you call the numbers, 7 rocks cannot be divided up into any whole number of equal groups of rocks without breaking them. '''If''' the aliens have math, they'll get this -- resource allocation is one of the first tricks any group has to figure out. The idea is that they're too irregular to arise from any natural process[[note]]Although reproduction cycle periods of some insects tend to be a prime number of years to prevent matching another kind and then predators synchronising on them[[/note]] (i.e., no mathematical equation is known that will ''exhaustively'' produce them in reasonable time[[note]]There are equations that can produce an unlimited amount of prime numbers, but not all of them, and methods that will get them all, but the computation time is by brute force and thus enormous.[[/note]]), but mathematically simple enough that it's assumed any intelligent being can recognize them as non-random. More generally, anything obviously recognizable as simple math (such as digits of pi, or a proof of the Pythagorean theorem) can serve the same function. Of course, the digits of pi will change if the aliens don't have a base-10 system ([[AlternativeNumberSystem odds are that they don't]]), while the prime numbers will not change if you represent them properly.

* Creator/HBeamPiper's "{{Literature/Omnilingual}}": This {{novellette}} uses the Periodic Table as [[CommonTongue a universal key]]. It helps that the Martian language tends to make new words by combining existing ones, so that (for example) the word for "metal" is part of the names of various metallic elements.* In Creator/MichaelCrichton's ''Literature/{{Sphere}}'' this is the way Harry manages to first make meaningful contact with the mysterious alien presence.

to:

* Creator/HBeamPiper's "{{Literature/Omnilingual}}": This {{novellette}} {{novelette}} uses the Periodic Table as [[CommonTongue a universal key]]. It helps that the Martian language tends to make new words by combining existing ones, so that (for example) the word for "metal" is part of the names of various metallic elements.* In Creator/MichaelCrichton's ''Literature/{{Sphere}}'' this is the way Harry manages to first make meaningful contact with the mysterious alien presence.

* Creator/HBeamPiper's short story "Omnilingual" is an earlier example of the Periodic Table as universal key. It helps that the Martian language tends to make new words by combining existing ones, so that (for example) the word for "metal" is part of the names of various metallic elements.
* In Creator/MichaelCrichton's ''Literature/{{Sphere}}'' this is the way Harry manages to first make meaningful contact with the mysterious alien presence.

to:

* Creator/HBeamPiper's short story "Omnilingual" is an earlier example of "{{Literature/Omnilingual}}": This {{novellette}} uses the Periodic Table as [[CommonTongue a universal key. key]]. It helps that the Martian language tends to make new words by combining existing ones, so that (for example) the word for "metal" is part of the names of various metallic elements.
elements.* In Creator/MichaelCrichton's ''Literature/{{Sphere}}'' this is the way Harry manages to first make meaningful contact with the mysterious alien presence.

* Queen Watevra Wan'abi in ''WesternAnimation TheLegoMovie2TheSecondPart'' tells the gang she's going to talk to them in the universal language. Princess Uni-Kitty guesses it's math but it turns out to be song to Lucy's horror.

to:

* Queen Watevra Wan'abi in ''WesternAnimation TheLegoMovie2TheSecondPart'' ''WesternAnimation/TheLegoMovie2TheSecondPart'' tells the gang she's going to talk to them in the universal language. Princess Uni-Kitty guesses it's math but it turns out to be song to Lucy's horror.

* Queen Watevra Wan'abi in ''WesternAnimation TheLegoMovie2TheSecondPart'' tells the gang she's going to talk to them in the universal language. Princess Uni-Kitty guesses it's math but it turns out to be song to Lucy's horror.

* In the ''Series/StargateSG1'' episode ''Thor's Chariot'', The Asgard left the Cimmerians a test to see if they were advanced enough to get alien technology. The test was a circle on the ground and they pass it if they work out pi.

to:

* In the ''Series/StargateSG1'' episode ''Thor's Chariot'', ''[[Recap/StargateSG1S2E6ThorsChariot Thor's Chariot]]'', The Asgard left the Cimmerians a test to see if they were advanced enough to get alien technology. The test was a circle on the ground and they pass it if they work out pi.

* In the ''Series/StargateSG1'' episode ''Thor's Chariot'', The Asgard left the Cimmerians a test to see if they were advanced enough to get alien technology. The test was a circle on the ground and they pass it if they work out pi.

* Notably averted in ''Fanfic/MassEffectClashOfCivilizations''. Both the [[Franchise/{{Halo}} UNSC]] and [[Franshise/MassEffect Citadel]] have their own method of deciphering language, neither of which involve mathematics.

to:

* Notably averted in ''Fanfic/MassEffectClashOfCivilizations''. Both the [[Franchise/{{Halo}} UNSC]] and [[Franshise/MassEffect [[Franchise/MassEffect Citadel]] have their own method of deciphering language, neither of which involve mathematics.

The generally accepted universal signal of intelligence in this situation is the ability to produce a sequence of prime numbers[[note]]Why? Because prime numbers are only divisible by the number one and themselves. For example, it doesn't matter what number base you are using or what you call the numbers, 7 rocks cannot be divided up into any whole number of equal groups of rocks without breaking them. '''If''' the aliens have math, they'll get this -- resource allocation is one of the first tricks any group has to figure out.[[/note]]--the idea is that they're too irregular to arise from any natural process[[note]]Although reproduction cycle periods of some insects tend to be a prime number of years to prevent matching another kind and then predators synchronising on them[[/note]] (i.e., no mathematical equation is known that will ''exhaustively'' produce them in reasonable time[[note]]There are equations that can produce an unlimited amount of prime numbers, but not all of them, and methods that will get them all, but the computation time is by brute force and thus enormous.[[/note]]), but mathematically simple enough that it's assumed any intelligent being can recognize them as non-random. More generally, anything obviously recognizable as simple math (such as digits of pi, or a proof of the Pythagorean theorem) can serve the same function. Of course, the digits of pi will change if the aliens don't have a base-10 system ([[AlternativeNumberSystem odds are that they don't]]), while the prime numbers will not change if you represent them properly.

to:

The generally accepted universal signal of intelligence in this situation is the ability to produce a sequence of prime numbers[[note]]Why? Because prime numbers: numbers are only divisible by the number one and themselves. For example, Why? Because it doesn't matter what number base you are using or what you call the numbers, 7 rocks cannot be divided up into any whole number of equal groups of rocks without breaking them. '''If''' the aliens have math, they'll get this -- resource allocation is one of the first tricks any group has to figure out.[[/note]]--the The idea is that they're too irregular to arise from any natural process[[note]]Although reproduction cycle periods of some insects tend to be a prime number of years to prevent matching another kind and then predators synchronising on them[[/note]] (i.e., no mathematical equation is known that will ''exhaustively'' produce them in reasonable time[[note]]There are equations that can produce an unlimited amount of prime numbers, but not all of them, and methods that will get them all, but the computation time is by brute force and thus enormous.[[/note]]), but mathematically simple enough that it's assumed any intelligent being can recognize them as non-random. More generally, anything obviously recognizable as simple math (such as digits of pi, or a proof of the Pythagorean theorem) can serve the same function. Of course, the digits of pi will change if the aliens don't have a base-10 system ([[AlternativeNumberSystem odds are that they don't]]), while the prime numbers will not change if you represent them properly.

* In James Cambias' ''A Darkling Sea'', when one of the Ilmataran tried to properly establish communication with a human on their planet (after the FirstContactFauxPas that cause conflicts between humans and Sholens over AlienNonInterferenceClause issue on contacting Ilmatarans), Rob, the main character, tried to tap 1+1=2 and 2+2=4 to see if the Ilmataran can realize that he's an intelligent being and try to start learning to communicate. It works. This is probably helped by the fact that non-echolocation-based component of Ilmataran language is based on math and mapping words to numbers.

Showing 15 edit(s) of 143

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/