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Would we have enough in common with ETIs to decipher their message (was: SETI public: To kick things off...

> David wrote (of an ETI using sonar as its primary mode of perception):
> >Bang goes their ability to target a radio transmission.  Not a realistic
> >candidate for detection.
> David, with huge respect - your expertise on microwave technology is 

I think you overestimate it.

> unsurpassed, and your contributions ot the list have always been 
> invaluable - your response on this matter is simply wrong. Why on Earth 
> (or wherever) couldn't a sonar-using being develop radio. do we have 

You deleted that step from the reply.  It was you who said that a sonar
using lifeform might have no concept of a two dimensional image, not
me.  The aim point of a radio transmitter has two degrees of freedom.
If you are able to cope with this type of two dimensional issue, you
have a concept of two dimensional images, conversely, if you don't have
any concept of two dimensional images, I don't see how you can understand
the need to point your transmitter (or receiver) in a direction defined
by two degrees of freedom.

It may be that that two dimensional model is not something that you can
understand intuitively, but have to attack with mathematics (although
my guess is that that would involve too large a jump to have got there
in the first place).  However, you need the concept and you know that
whoever is on the other side of the link needs the concept, so you
have established a point of common understanding.  In fact, if you
had to develop understanding of two dimensions as part of your higher
mathematics, you may assume that others have, and actually use that as
one of your intelligence markers in the signal, like we propose using
pi and prime numbers.

Basically, the ability to establish the radio link at all implies a lot
of common ground.  Microwave and optical SETI have a built in tendency to
select for lifeforms with which we have at least some common understanding
of mathematics.