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Episode 123 - The Science and Pseudoscience of Communicating with Aliens

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Recap: Lingust, Dr. Karen Stollznow, discusses some of the communication problems on our own planet and how that translates to the huge potential problems of communicating with any type of intelligent creature who originated off our planet. We used this information to discuss some claimed contactees and how linguists have debunked their claimed communication with aliens.

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Episode Summary

Because this was an interview, there is no transcript. Here is an approximate outline of the topics discussed:

  • How alien communication works in popular culture, such as books, comics, and television and movies. We discussed ideas such as constructed languages, telepathy, and simple technological devices to translate. Regarding telepathy, we discussed the problems with communicating abstract thoughts (e.g., if I project a cup into your mind, am I talking about the cup, the shape, the color, texture, liquid inside, temperature, etc.?).
  • What different kinds of communication are amongst and between species on Earth, or even amongst humans of different languages or even different dialects (e.g., American English versus British or Australian English).
  • How we start to develop a communication system / translation matrix, and "lingua francas" / contact languages.
  • Some examples of people who claim to speak with aliens that we discussed: Hélène Smith, Tracey Taylor, Betty Luca (maiden name: Andreasson), Nancy Lieder, J. Z. Knight, Sheldon Nidle. In this discussion, we talked about the amount of detail of the constructed languages among claimed contactees versus something like J.R.R. Tolkien's languages. We also focused on a way to tell that these are fake languages is to look at their errors.
  • (Real science) attempts to communicate with aliens: SETI, Pioneer plaques, Voyager records, mathematical- or logic-based languages, etc.
  • During that discussion, we started to wrap things up by returning to the problem of even accents and dialects making communication difficult, such as when Karen said "maths" whereas I would say "math," or when even humans have different neurological issues such as synesthesia (mixing sensory stimuli such as hearing tastes or seeing smells).
  • We wrapped up by reviewing all of these issues with how communication works (and doesn't work), and then the shear simplicity (laziness?) of how claimed contactees work. Along with some emotional psychology and some cult-like behavior surrounding claimed contactees.

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Comments to date: 1. Page 1 of 1.

Ivan Ackerman   Brooklyn

1:03pm on Monday, January 5th, 2015

_Aliens and Linguists_ (1980) by Walter Earl Meyers is entertaining and informative. It may concentrate on how the same issues are handled in fiction but it is applicable to real life as well.

UFOers have the same problems as spiritualists in this context. E.g. there is the (apocryphal?) story of the spiritualist who claimed he could speak with Houdini's deceaseed mother--but she did not speak English.

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