If you have not heard, from 10:30 to 11 PM ET Friday night, the Tweets in Space project is capturing all tweets with the hashtag “#tweetsinspace” in order to send them, via a Florida transmitter, into the Vast Beyond. Tweets to space? There goes our welcome in the universe.
The transmitter is, admittedly, weak. As Seth Shostak told Wired Science, the aliens on the Potentially Habitable Planet at which they’re aiming the signal would have to have “a radio receiver the size of Nebraska.” It would be just our luck if the aliens are the kind of bizarre radio hobbyists who have decided that this is exactly what they need.
And I hope they aren’t.
Because otherwise, we are not long for this world.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Twitter. It enables me to inflict my quotidian musings on dozens of people I’ve never met!
But imagine the responses of Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life on first receiving these messages.
The first few minutes would be joy and excitement. “Intelligent life!” they would mutter to themselves, gathering around the Nebraska-shaped receiver. “Gee, they sure love puns!”
A few minutes later, fatigue would set in. “Gee, they sure love puns,” someone else would say. A hush would ensue.
“That’s more information than I really wanted about that,” someone else would say.
Several tweets consisting only of “RT This if you believe in BIEBER!!!!! #tweetsinspace” “Send One Direction to Exoplanet GJ667Cc!” would come flying through.
“Please don’t,” the extraterrestrials would murmur, summoning a Death Star to our neighborhood.
A few minutes of Twitter are bearable. But half an hour of it, as your first taste of humanity? The mind boggles.
But there’s still time. There is a decent crowd of scientists who maintain that getting in touch with space aliens is not a good idea. Don’t call them, they say. Wait for them to call you. Of course, as Stephen Hawking has noted, any aliens getting into touch with us would probably be a bad sign. Generally, when one group of individuals has massive technological capabilities and the other produces little of interest besides parodies of “Call Me Maybe” and “Gangnam Style,” it goes badly for the second group. Just ask the ancient Mayans, known for their parody video craftsmanship. We can still stop this.
In “War of the Worlds,” the Martians did the most dreadful things that they could think of. They trampled the earth, setting fire to our vegetation. They made hideous noises. They even sank the Thunderchild.
But they had the basic humanity (martianity?) not to subject us to a full half-hour of barely filtered Twitter.
I don’t want our first impression in space to be a bunch of people making limp puns about Mitt Romney’s tax returns. It seems wrong. It is this sort of nagging consideration that makes me unwelcome at parties. I know the intent is to send a message. In this case the message is, “Nope, there isn’t intelligent life in our corner of the universe.”
Right now, Twitter is a mildly irritating terrestrial cross to bear.
But let it slip the surly bonds of Earth and — I shudder to think what will happen. Although the one advantage of this is that the data will take, at best, 22 years to get there, meaning that it will be 44 years from today before we know the extent of the damage. So go out and live your life. And get off Twitter. It may be our only hope.