One University of Utah class is hunting down the lovable E.T.... with radios and books. The class Does Extraterrestrial Intelligence Exist? uses a scientific method to theorize where E.T. could be and how to contact him.
“We are basically trying to notify E.T. that we exist, and the idea of current thinking is that E.T. might be doing something similar to this,” George Cassiday, the physics professor who teaches the class, said.
Students search for E.T. by analyzing radio telescope data, made available through downloadable software, which enables students to obtain radio signals on their home computers and find patterns in the signal that might be generated in an unnatural way.
Students will also be creating their own patterns to signal life on earth in binary code, and beam the code through radio signals into other galaxies with the hope that inhabitants of another planet will receive the pattern, decode the message and, in turn, respond with a message of their own.
The laws of physics and the fundamental building blocks of all existence are universal, Cassiday said, and it is assumed that E.T. would be familiar with the same math and science that humans use.
The class, which fulfills a general science credit, also tackles topics such as the composition of life and how humans came into existence, which are essential to understanding the possibility of extraterrestrial life and its evolution.
“We normally think of evolution through our species, but we don’t usually think about evolution of our planet, which is very interesting,” said Mari Broadhead, a senior in communication sciences and disorders who took the class in 2007.
The class does not require a prerequisite, but a strong background in physics and math is fundamental because the class is much more complex than the name suggests, Broadhead said.
“I push them, but I don’t destroy them,” Cassiday said. “Students get into it and they’re stunned—it’s not easy.”