Weird Alien Communication: Oh You Have To Be Kidding Me

“Gross!!!  What the hell?!?  I wish they’d just sent some math or something…”

You are about to read what is probably the strangest topic I’ve ever written about on this entire website.  I had been planning all along for the unbelievable Arecibo Message mistake to be the Grand Finale to this article, but what I’m about to tell you will make that bombshell seem like MPEG encoding specifications.  This leaves me speechless.  Not that I’ll refrain from blathering on for a couple paragraphs about it, but if you see me in person, and if you ask me about this topic, I’m just going to take a hit from my inhaler and laugh.

“Hi! We’re almost anatomically correct!”

Back when the Pioneer spacecrafts were fitted with golden plates etched with pictures of naked humans, there was a prudish bit of controversy that erupted over the fact that we were sending nudie pics into space.  Apparently we got our panties in a wad (pun intended) over the anatomically-correct depictions on the plaques attached to the spacecraft.  Except…  the woman isn’t quite anatomically correct.  Either that, or they picked a model that must have a hard time peeing, if you catch my drift. Apparently Carl Sagan and the other plaque designers decided to Barbie-ify the representation of the woman’s genitals just to avoid the possibility of getting the entire project cancelled by NASA officials.

Now I think we can all agree this is pretty silly (not to mention sexist).  Once the plaques left our solar system, is anyone really going to be shocked by nude humans?  Nude female humans, specifically?  Is some alien going to faint at the sight of accurately depicted human genitals?  “Oh, gracious me!”  *alien fans itself as it faints*

I would argue that we were being needlessly coy with the aliens — they may be interested in our biology, after all, and might want to know how we reproduce (not that even an anatomically-correct line drawing would give them enough information to figure that out).  So the next time we get the chance, maybe we should be a little more adult about this, and send a more accurate message, eh?  Yes, that sounds like a reasonable approach.  So we’re all in agreement to be reasonable adults about this?   No need to over-correct for our prudishness by following up the Pioneer Plaques with some baroque, over-the-top stunt, right?  Right.

Joe Davis. "Oh, we were too prudish with our first message to aliens? Let's just fix that..."

Oh wait, we totally did just that?  My mistake.  Joe Davis, a famous artist well-known for exploring the interrelationships between art and science, sent one of the very first radio messages into space, just a few years after the ill-fated Arecibo Message, in an attempt to make up for the blushing puritanism we evinced on the Pioneer plaques.  He correctly points out that the obfuscation of our true anatomy on the plaques “was not undertaken for the benefit of aliens,” but instead reflects rather harshly on ourselves.  I quote from some of his biographical writings:

“As it stands, whether advertently or inadvertently, we have managed to send several messages into space that could be interpreted to speak very strongly about our own intolerance. Obvious deletions from our interstellar messages suggest that aliens aren’t entitled to know what we look like. “

Good point!  I’m with you all the way, Joe!  This guy makes a lot of sense!  He continues:

“Perhaps we should not be so skeptical about reports that aliens are abducting people to experiment with their sex organs.”

Wait, what?  Hmmm… maybe he’s joking.  We should take him seriously, after all he’s a research associate at MIT’s Department of Biology, a guy with serious scientific credentials.  And a plan — soon after the embarrassment of airbrushing out the naughty bits from our “Hello from Earth!” message, Davis developed an alternative message to be sent out to the universe, that would put things right.

So what did he do?  Again, I quote the man himself:

“In 1986, I organized an artistic project to transmit vaginal contractions into space to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence. The project, called Poetica Vaginal, involved artists, mechanical and electrical engineers, biologists, astronomers, professional dancers, architects, linguists and philosophers.”

"How ya like me now?"

Yes — this man recorded the sounds of vaginal contractions, and sent them into freaking SPACE!   That’ll take care of any prudish reputation we gained from the Pioneer plaques.  To continue, I’m going to let a quote from a New Scientist article take over for a sec, because my glasses have unexpectedly fogged up…

“[H]e led a project to transmit the sounds of vaginal contractions towards neighbouring star systems. To do so, he recorded the vaginal contractions of ballet dancers.  … [T]he vaginal sounds that were sent will have reached Epsilon Eridani in 1996 and Tau Ceti in 1998. It is unclear what sort of reply we should expect.”

WHAT???   Unclear what kind of response?  I’ll tell you what the response will be:  Kraaa-AAAAng on Zebulon Beta is going to do an alien version of a spit take, and either head straight here with his sunroof down and gold medallions dangling in his chest hair, or set fire to his radio telescopes.  And let me just ask — ballerinas?  What????   I am literally paralyzed by the overabundance of smartass jokes I could make.  I don’t even know where to begin.


This project, which Joe dubbed “Poetica Vaginal”, was meant to be a joint artistic / scientific statement of the kind Davis has become rightly famous for in the ensuing years.  For some reason his team performed some oddly-complicated processing on the sound recordings before sending (including somehow mapping the harmonics of the original sound frequencies to phonemes of human speech).  In a stroke of bad luck that can only be deemed “extremely predictable”, just before his team was about to send off the official transmissions, a Colonel in the Air Force terminated the entire project.  What a square!  According to Davis they were still able to get off some test signals to all of the targeted solar systems.  He doesn’t say whether the test signals were actual vaginal recordings or some other boring signal, but I sure hope he sent the real thing.  Or maybe I hope he didn’t.  I don’t know what to think, to tell you the truth.  Whoa, there goes my glasses again…

What is ironic here is that Davis’ astounding message will reach its recipients before the Pioneer Plaques — in fact the messages have already been received at some of their targets (only 10 light-years away), whereas the Pioneer spacecraft are barely beyond the orbit of Pluto.  In fact, Davis’ message might be the very first of our transmissions into space to reach its target, given how close the targets are.  So from the aliens’ perspective, we first sent a graphic recording of our own genitals, then sent a picture where we airbrushed those same genitals out!

"This bacterial colony is HOT HOT HOT!!!"

And this is just the tip of the iceberg for artistic endeavors led by Joe Davis — he’s quite worthy of his own separate article here at timeblimp on all the other crazy stunts he’s pulled, such as the project that created what the woman is looking at in the microscope in the picture to the right.  What could it be?  Well, it’s just the encoding of a stylized picture of female genitalia (the “microvenus”) into DNA.   She’s looking at a petri dish containing Davis’ “Microvenus” art installation, which included inserting this synthetic bit of DNA into the genome of E Coli microbes.  At this point, even those aliens who specialize in anal probing are going to steer clear of him.  For more info on the amazing projects of Joe Davis, check out this documentary — I haven’t seen it yet, so someone please watch it and tell me if it’s safe for family viewing.

And that’s it.   The weirdest topic I’ve ever written about here at timeblimp.  Hope you enjoyed it. I think I need a cold shower.

Really???  Ballerinas?!?!?

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