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Data Waves

There’s nothing quite as stimulating as the thoughts that arise from a question invoked by a spontaneous thought shared by a deep thinker.

Andreas said:

I had this thought the other night as I was falling asleep…
When I transmit music through my airport express, there’s a datastream flying through the air on some frequency representing that music. Almost immediately, the same data goes flying through the air again, this time as sound waves. So the same data is in the air simultaneously– it just happens that we can “hear” one of the streams. If you were an alien who didn’t have a concept of “audible” then what would you perceive? Don’t know what this means, I just thought it.

Great thought.

First thing that comes to mind is one of the stonier concepts that is perfect for the campfire:

We as humans have five senses: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Touch. What we define as “science” is that which can be perceived by these five senses alone, and no more. Beyond that, we leave the area of science and start getting into topics of religion and holistic philosophies.

It’s always been obvious to me how conceited we must be to assume that everything in the Universe can be perceived by our five physical senses. Who the fuck are we?

For instance,

Suppose for the sake of this discussion that we as humans were created with only four senses: Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch. Suppose we are, by default, essentially deaf.

We’d survive. We would, however, live in a largely visual world, developing all sorts of advanced forms of visual communication with hand signing and such. Without the concept of sound, we’d actually be quite happy, and we wouldn’t know what we were missing out on.


I just wouldn’t hear it.

It so follows that, I believe, there are many things in the Universe that are not sensed by us, and we basically don’t even care. Like a deaf person oblivious to the sound waves around him, we don’t realize what we’re missing.

So one of the first things that strikes me about your pondering is that you’ve almost put the idea of an “alien” (i.e. “an intelligent being not from this planet”) on a pedestal. You’ve implied that it’d be able to sense more than us. That may very well be the case.

If, however, the alien does share our five senses, then, well, I suppose it’d need some electronic equipment to sense said data flying through the air. Just put it in our own shoes and there’s not much difference.

If, however, it has extrasensory perception of that which exists in the Universe, something tells me that there’s so much more going on out there that the data you’ve launched into the air would be nothing more than extraneous noise to all the other shit it’s picking up on.

1 comment… add one
  • andreas October 1, 2006, 7:40 pm

    for “alien” i’m usually thinking of some star trek-ish race — like the famous Arthur C Clarke quote: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” so in this case, someone who has infinite detection and evaluation capabilities, but no human insights.

    so would they perceive and connect the two similar data streams and reach some sort of conclusion about us based on that?

    I also wonder, if the planet were ruled by some hyper-evolved dog race, might they transmit data by sound wave, and listen to the resulting “music” as a wi-fi signal? I ask that with full awareness of the absurdity.

    completely as an aside, this kind of reminds me of my first computer programming class. we used trs-80’s to write programs in BASIC, and since they didn’t have disks yet, we used a cassette tape to store data. of course, you could put a data cassette in a regular tape player and listen to your data. if I remember correctly, it sounded like high-pitched whistling?

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