Nautilus

Do We Share DNA with ET?

The primary difficulty of interstellar communication is finding common ground between ourselves and other intelligent entities about which we can know nothing with absolute certainty. This common ground would be the basis for a universal language that could be understood by any intelligence, whether in the Milky Way, Andromeda, or beyond the cosmic horizon. To the best of our knowledge, the laws of physics are the same throughout the universe, which suggests that the facts of science may serve as a basis for mutual understanding between humans and an extraterrestrial intelligence.

One key set of scientific facts presents an intriguing question. If aliens were to visit Earth and learn about its inhabitants, would they be surprised that such a wide variety of species all share a common genetic code? Or would this be all too familiar? There is probable cause to assume that the structure of genetic material is the same throughout the universe and that, while this is liable to give rise to life forms not found on Earth, the variety of species is fundamentally limited by the constraints built into the genetic mechanism.

Artist Joe Davis traveled to the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico (above) to broadcast a

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