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A symbol for scientific knowledge?

  1. Jul 3, 2003 #1
    I was wondering how it could be possible to make some other ("sci-fi" thinking, I know...) intelligent lifeform aware of human knowledge and scientific status by means of a symbol or something - assuming of course that this other lifeform can interpret two-dimensional vector graphics as a means of communication.

    I mean, terms like "E=mc²" mean nothing to someone who doesn't know the meaning behind the letters or doesn't even recognize them as letters.

    here's my first try... what do you think this picture shows?

    another thing I'm trying to find is a glyph that all humans could accept as a symbol for mankind... but that's a difficult one...
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 3, 2003 #2
    math. it is the universal launguage. show them a series of lines being added up to make more lines, and they'll know we can think.

    i can't quite tell what the bottom two are, but are the others the sperm and egg?
  4. Jul 3, 2003 #3
    hmmm... the ancient greeks might have displayed their "scientific status" by this means, yes... but addition is a bit too simple to characterize our current knowledge, don't you think?

    no, not sperm and egg. i do see this as a possible interpretation, but the intended one is much more general.
  5. Jul 3, 2003 #4
    it shows a planet being caught in the orbit of the sun, and crafts leaving and entering the planet surface?

    and math may be the only universal language we have. E=MC2 sure wouldn't be any help to them! they might just as well translate it to mean HELLO.
  6. Jul 3, 2003 #5
    Re: Re: a symbol for scientific knowledge?

    Sperm and egg!!!!!!!! hahahaha, oh man that's funny.

    Anyhow - our scientific knowledge is of no concern to them.

    If you want them to know we can process numerical data, then just show any arbitrary equation which includes an addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication, roots, squares..

    ..all the essential and universal parts.

    But again - why in the hell would "they" care?

    The chances of finding a population that is in between one million years more primitive than us, and one million years more primitive is EXTREMELY unlikely.

    Statistically it was WAY MORE likely they're either extremely more primitive than us - or very very extremely more advanced.
  7. Jul 3, 2003 #6
    you're right about the top right one, a planet orbiting the sun (or a craft orbiting a planet)... but the others are something different again... i'll post the (intended) interpretation as soon as i have some more creative opinions from other users...

    that's what i said above: equations are not a big help when someone doesn't even know what you're trying to tell him...
  8. Jul 3, 2003 #7
    Re: Re: Re: a symbol for scientific knowledge?

    how would they know a square root sign from the letter z? they would have no idea that the symbols we are showing them have mathmatical properties. we would have to show them something they could understand like lines adding together to make bigger lines or something like that.
  9. Jul 3, 2003 #8
    Re: Re: Re: a symbol for scientific knowledge?

    i know that it's unlikely we'll ever need this sort of communication. however i think contemplating about this stuff may help us find out more about the way we think and creates an interesting "outside" perspective.
  10. Jul 3, 2003 #9
    Re: Re: Re: Re: a symbol for scientific knowledge?

    That's what I said genius. Don't steal posts.
  11. Jul 3, 2003 #10
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: a symbol for scientific knowledge?

    huh? who are you talking to?

    i made a new (and hopefully less ambiguous) version of the picture:
    hope it gets clearer now
  12. Jul 3, 2003 #11
    So, I'm thinking that top left one is a wavelength.....

    still working on the ones no one has got yet....
  13. Jul 3, 2003 #12
    and if we humans can't understand it, why would they?
  14. Jul 3, 2003 #13


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    I'll just throw in my pedantic arguments here...

    1. No QM! How can there be no fuzzy blob to denote QM? :frown:
    2. Too... square... I think it raises the uncomfortable suggestion that science is a square (ie. inflexible) box (ie. closed minded) containing nothing (ie. no point to it). Which is the opposite of what science really is. The overall symbol should be rounded (ie. denotes flexibility and encouragement of change), open (ie. denotes a view outside into the world, rather than internally and ignorantly) and probably fractal (to show the infinite detail of the universe)
    3. I don't like the idea of categorising science into blobs on sticks. It should all be part of the whole of knowledge, and provide room - indeterminate blobs - for things we do not yet know.
    4. I liked the Saganite image of science as a candle in the dark against an unknown universe. This theme I think should be incorporated into the symbol.
    5. I also want theme of science spawning and being encouraged by technological applications to be put into it.

    Ok, I realise that the combination of the above would produce an image that may only exist in 12 dimensions and be denoted by complex numbers. :wink: So feel free to ignore any/all of the above.
  15. Jul 4, 2003 #14
    @halcyon: you're getting a bit closer...

    @FZ+: "QM" ? Quantum Mechanics?
    "categorising science into blobs on sticks" and that - hmmm... once you find out what I meant the four corners to be, you'll see that we'd only need sticks pointing out from the four circles. as far as my scientific understanding goes, that is.

    maybe we got off the track a little... it's not directly a symbol for science, but one that depicts the world in a way that allows quite precise conclusions as to our knowledge

    @maximus: if we humans can't understand it then I failed in my attempt, nothing else. to find out about that was why i came here to ask for your interpretations.
  16. Jul 4, 2003 #15


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    I always thought the atom made a good symbol for science.
  17. Jul 4, 2003 #16
    good idea ... atoms are part of my symbol as well, in case anyone noticed it
  18. Jul 4, 2003 #17


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    Is the first one a "wave-particle"?
    The one in the middle (in the second version) looks like a water molecule... I don't know about the four dots.
    The lower right corner makes me think of a transistor.
    As for the lower left, all I can think of is a fly :smile:
  19. Jul 5, 2003 #18
    you're right about the water molecule... somehow nobody recoginzes these four dots as the four free outer electrons (we normally write them as two short lines). i hope the 107° bonding angle will allow any educated "alien" to identify this as dihydrogen monoxide.

    water is in the center for four reasons: 1) to show that we can measure the geometry of molecules 2) to underline the importance of water for all bioforms known to us and 3) because it is one of the most common, most recognizable and (for its states of aggregation) strangest molecules in the universe and 4) because it is the only material (as far as I know) which, in big tanks, allows us to measure the particles involved in the phenomenon depicted in the lower right circle. maybe that's a little help? (it's not a transistor)

    oh, and the four corners show all four representants of one class of phenomena, so once you figure out at least the top left & right, you will be able to guess which the ones on the bottom are.
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