Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Friends of space, how are you all?"

Posted By on 02.14.12 at 04:47 PM

Belatedly catching up with the Sunday Times last night, I came across a gem of an article about terrestrial attempts at communication with aliens. Thirty-five years ago, the Voyager was launched into space carrying a "golden plaque" embedded with sounds from the cry of a baby to Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." The record also carried greetings in 55 languages, among them the following, translated from the Chinese dialect Amoy:

Friends of space, how are you all? Have you eaten yet? Come visit us if you have time

If you'd like to try your hand at writing a message to aliens, there's a handy guide and sign-up sheet here, at DearET.com. One cautionary note:

Since it is impossible to send a message faster than the speed of light, METI [i.e., messages to extraterrestrial intelligence] must be self-contained. It may be a thousand or ten thousand years before any message that we send out is received. Unless the aliens are very patient and we are still here two or twenty thousand years from now to answer any questions that they have, the message is strictly one way. You should think of METI messages as being like time capsules, rather than like telephone calls.

Which is a bummer. With pitchers and catchers reporting soon, I wanted to ask the aliens to help me figure out this new stat the evil geniuses at Baseball Prospectus have come up with. Evidently—and also per the Times—ERA, or earned run average, is now "quaint." Instead, there's SIERA, skill-interactive earned run average:

6.145-16.986x(SO÷PA)+11.434x(BB÷PA)-1.858x((GB-FB-PU)÷PA)+7.653x((SO÷PA)^2)+/-6.664x(((GB-FB-PU)÷PA)^2)+10.130x(SO÷PA)x((GB-FB-PU)÷PA)-5.195x(BB÷PA)x((GB-FB-PU)÷PA, where the +/- term is a negative sign when (GB-FB-PU)÷PA is positive and vice versa.*

What the heck—should we send it out there?

* SO=strikeouts
PA=plate appearances
GB=ground balls
FB=foul balls

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