Instruments to Make Music With Aliens: Gamma Ray Bells and Gravitational Wave Cellos

Experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats is playing some crazy cosmic vibes

5 min read
Jonathon Keats founded Intergalactic Omniphonics to build instruments that enable jam sessions with aliens.
Jonathon Keats founded Intergalactic Omniphonics to build instruments that enable jam sessions with aliens.
Photo: University of North Carolina-Asheville

Sure, humans have tried before to communicate with any extraterrestrials who might be out there. Most notably, the two Voyager probes that launched in 1977 both carry a copy of the golden record, a trove NASA intended to communicate “a story of our world” with images, nature sounds, music, and spoken greetings. Voyager 1 has already left our solar system and is venturing out into interstellar space with its record, and Voyager 2 is following not far behind. 

But experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats says that if we really want to convince aliens to make first contact, we should do more than just tell them our story. “If you’re in a bar and hear someone who just keeps talking about themselves, it gets annoying,” he says. “I’m trying to make something that’s more universal and more inclusive. Something that’s not only about us, but also the connection that we have to them—whoever they are.”

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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