How to Translate Alien Broadcasts

“On the converse, things like numbers and mathematics would be easy for us to spot; those are universal concepts independent of language. They are easy to encode in signals… More abstract concepts( say a video feed, smell, and touch etc.)…that would be quite hard, so I think the initial communication should be in these more (simple concepts).”
Dr. Christine Corbett Moran

Have you ever experienced language barriers while traveling or communicating with persons from other countries? Even basic communication can be difficult – and that doesn’t even take into account nuances within shared language. Biscuit. Post. Pants. Rocket. These words are all common to American and British English, but the cultural meaning of these words differ across the Atlantic.

Now, let’s imagine something entirely alien. A civilization from another planet might communicate in smell, or by transmitting chemical signals. How can our species hope to connect? Where usual communication by words leaves off, could we rely on other means of communication such as gestures? Would our eyes translate pictures and symbols the same? Could the “Rosetta Stone” of alien languages exist?

Given these challenges, who should we recruit to help us translate an alien transmission?


Rhae Adams – ‎Director, Mining & Energy, Planetary Resources, Inc
Dr. Kathryn Denning – York University, Institute for Science and Technology Studies
Pippa Goldschmidt – Writer and Astronomer
Dr. Christine Corbett Moran – Postdoctoral Researcher, Caltech
Simon Peter Worden – Executive Director, Breakthrough Starshot; former Director of NASA Ames Research Center

Let's get Lost in Translation

We imagine what might happen if we did break the language barriers and communicate with our otherworldly counterparts. Join us at the Fringe to find out how!