In the 19th century there were many books and scientific proposals about the possible inhabitants of other planets.
Many people believed that intelligent beings might live on the Moon, Mars, and Venus. Since travel to other planets was not possible at that time, some people suggested ways to signal the extraterrestrials even before radio was discovered. Joseph Johann Littrow proposed in 1819 to use the Sahara as a sort of blackboard. Giant trenches several hundred yards wide could delineate twenty-mile-wide shapes.
Then the trenches would be filled with water, and then scientific proposals kerosene could be poured on top of the water to burn for six hours. Using this method, a different signal could be sent every night. Meanwhile, other astronomers were looking for signs of life on other planets.
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In 1822, Franz von Gruithuisen thought he saw a giant city and evidence of agriculture on the moon, but astronomers using more powerful instruments refuted his claims. Gruithuisen also believed he saw evidence of life on Venus. By the late 1800s, the possibility of life on the moon was put to rest. Astronomers at that time believed in the Kant-Laplace hypothesis, which stated that the farthest planets from the sun are the oldest—therefore Mars was more likely to have advanced civilizations than Venus.
Subsequent investigations focused on contacting Martians. The inventor Charles Cros was convinced that pinpoints of light observed on Mars and Venus were the lights of large cities. He spent years of his life trying to get funding for a giant mirror with which to signal the Martians. The mirror would be focused on the Martian desert, where the intense reflected sunlight could be used to burn figures into the Martian sand. 100,000 francs under one stipulation: Mars was excluded because Madame Guzman thought communicating with Mars would be too easy to deserve a prize. Published in 1960 by Hans Freudenthal, Lincos: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse, expands upon Astraglossa to create a general-purpose language derived from basic mathematics and logic symbols. Several researchers have expanded further upon Freudenthal’s work.
Published in 1963 by Lancelot Hogben, «Astraglossa» is an essay describing a system for combining numbers and operators in a series of short and long pulses. In Hogben’s system, short pulses represent numbers, while trains of long pulses represent symbols for addition, subtraction, etc. Sagan also edited a nonfiction book on the subject. An updated collection of articles on the same topic was published in 2011. Published in 1992 by Carl Devito and Richard Oehrle, A language based on the fundamental facts of science is a paper describing a language similar in syntax to Astraglossa and Lincos, but which builds its vocabulary around known physical properties. Pictorial communication systems seek to describe fundamental mathematical or physical concepts via simplified diagrams sent as bitmaps.
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Kalachnik JE, Sprague RL, Sleator EK, Cohen MN, Ullmann RK.