lost languages

The problem of understanding an extraterrestrial message is emphasized by the difficulty we have in deciphering lost languages on our own planet. This was discussed, for example, by Russell F. W. Smith, linguist and Associate Dean of General Education at New York University at the 1963 convention of the Audio Engineering Society in New York. As Smith pointed out, the 'code' of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics was only cracked following the discovery of a basalt slab at Rosetta near the mouth of the Nile by Champollion. On the stone was an inscription, written by the priests of Ptolemy V, in three alphabets, including ancient hieroglyphic and Greek. Pictures sent via television could be used as a kind of cosmic Rosetta Stone, as might the universal language of mathematics (providing it is written in some form that can be decoded).