Explaining Left and Right to an Alien...

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 765290.  Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:16 am Has everyone forgotten the good old English way of explaining things to other people? Simply say it slower and louder.

 765335.  Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:25 pm Here's another suggestion; assuming that the alien star is within 'our' galaxy that the alien planet is within communication range that the aliens are bilaterally symmetrical Then they will have a 'Milky Way' in their sky; and that is their view of 'our' galaxy. This galaxy is rotating around its galactic centre, with respect to other galaxies. Now ask the aliens which way 'their' galaxy is rotating.

 765346.  Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:58 pm Ahh,here we are again.. For all you asymmetric molecule, electron cobalt whatever obscure stuff, talk about over engineered! If you side track from the concept of the problem and insist that since radio communication is to be used then the solution is somewhat trivial. Forward = the direction the signal is going. Transmit an asymmetric radio signal (points at the top, round bits at the bottom) Up is defined. Transmit another signal polarised 90 degrees to the first, different carrier frequency, similar asymmetry, Left is defined.

 765374.  Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:40 pm But this still refers to a physical experience, and the challenge was to define it without doing so.

765458.  Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:13 pm

 Jenny wrote: But this still refers to a physical experience, and the challenge was to define it without doing so.

No it wasn't (if it had been then defining up and down would be invalid as well - since these rely on the physical experience of gravity)

 765462.  Mon Dec 06, 2010 11:31 pm Forgive the ignorant non university educated stay at home housewife, but would someone like to explain what a Cartesian plane is?? Bugger the alien...

 765494.  Tue Dec 07, 2010 5:38 am A Cartesian plane is one that can fly in any direction, but cannot go up or down.

 765496.  Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:03 am Air and ship traffic controllers have this problem every day, right here on this planet. The regulated language of air/ship traffic control is English, and uses standard phrases. When giving their target direction, height, and speed, this is called 'vectoring'; and the controller will also give movement instructions, such as 'descend to 20' or 'turn right to 320'. Problems have arisen when the pilot is not an English speaker, and literally does not know his left from his right, even though he has passed all his exams; also the controller can be confused when looking at the radar display, if the target is moving down the 'scope, and call for a left turn instead of the required right turn. Similarly, and we have all been there, the car driver getting vectors from the passenger who is not familiar with maps. (Beautifully illustrated by Hyacinth Bucket). So, how does the experienced controller deal with the problem of the target not knowing which is the right hand? Enjoy!

765501.  Tue Dec 07, 2010 7:41 am

 Arcane wrote: Forgive the ignorant non university educated stay at home housewife, but would someone like to explain what a Cartesian plane is?? Bugger the alien...

A Cartesian plane is a flat two-dimensional surface with a rectangular (or Cartesian) co-ordinate system. Like this:

765558.  Tue Dec 07, 2010 12:44 pm

 Quote: So, how does the experienced controller deal with the problem of the target not knowing which is the right hand?

For there to be a real problem the target would also have to not understand numbers, in which case we are so far up shit creek we may as well just quit.
The direction to turn can be surmised from current heading to target heading, the "turn left", "turn right" bit is just a quick reference to get you on your way. Also in the case of air traffic there is an added check given that aircraft travelling on a particular heading will ALL be at a particular altitude plus multiples of 2000 feet.

 766271.  Fri Dec 10, 2010 6:27 pm Hi Woodle and welcome to the forum. Why only have two, why not four or six more precise words to explain position or movement. If the alien had six legs and six arms would left or right be a concept worth understanding?

 766307.  Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:49 pm Why would the number of appendages make any difference? We have four appendages but we don't use a system based on differentiating between the movement of arms and the movement of legs do we?

 766362.  Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:45 am Bob Suppose that there were aliens who had three arms, three legs, and three eyes, which were arranged radially around the trunk. (see 'Rendezvous with Rama' by Arthur C. Clarke) Then they would have no concept of left and right hands, unless they have concepts of movement direction; forward, back, this way, that way. And, you will not know this when attempting to communicate. Get out of that, then! (Eric Morecambe)

 766574.  Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:36 am The easiest way to communicate left and right is by sending two different messages from two different points (say one on the moon and one on Earth). If the aliens are so intelligent that they can communicate with us over vast distances, they can surely determine the distance between the two sending stations. then it's a simple matter of telling them to face the direction from whence the signals came and right will be the side from where signal A came, and left is where signal B came from.

 766803.  Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:55 pm Still depends on a physical reference though.

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