For 25 cents, would you send a short message deep into outer space in the hopes that an alien race might receive it?
That's the plan from the people behind startup Lone Signal, a company that is taking social networking to another level. Lone Signal wants you to socialize with potential counterparts in a solar system 17 light years away.
The company is using the radio dish at the Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel Valley, Calif., to beam users' messages and greetings to the area around the red dwarf star Gliese 526, which is about 17.6 light years away. The company noted in a blog post that they chose Gliese 526 because of its potentially habitable conditions, meaning there are planets that could hold water.
Lone Signal is a messaging platform that enables uses to send Twitter-like missives of 144 characters or less.
The company began beaming people's messages aloft today.
Think of it as texting or tweeting extraterrestrials. Lone Signal wants to beam a continuous stream of messages into space.
"Past attempts have been pulses in time that existed for a matter of just a few seconds or so," said Lone Signal's chief science officer, Jacob Haqq-Misra, in a video blog. "That's like having your radio transmitter tuned into the right frequency at exactly the right time to hear two seconds of your favorite song. If we really want to communicate something to an extraterrestrial listener, you have to transmit repeatedly, giving them time to tune in to the right station."
Haqq-Misra also said sending messages into outer space could make the science of astronomy and physics more real to a lot of people.
"By engaging in this conversation about messaging with aliens, I think we learn something fundamental about humanity," he said. "By asking, what would you say to an unknown listener, it gets at the fundamental core of what we are as humans. What are we trying to do? Why are we here? Where are we going and what is our future?"
What kind of messages are people paying to hopefully send to an alien race?
"Hello Aliens Please abduct me to your planet :)," is one message that the company showed on its site this afternoon. Another read, "Ignore anything relating to or coming from a Kardashian. They cannot possibly be human."
Other messages appeared more serious.
"We exist. We are here. You are not alone," read one message going out today. Another reads, "It is an honor to be part of history. To be a part of something like this. I can only hope that one day this finds someone out there."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is email@example.com.
Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.