Imagine for a few moments that despite the difficulty a race has evolved in space, away from any atmosphere (perhaps a species of space jellyfish).

This race exists in a fairly 'noisy' nebula, but communicates over interplanetary distances using electromagnetic radiation, either in discrete bursts or as a constant flux. As such there is a time lag ranging from seconds (for 'intimate' encounters) up to tens of minutes at the maximum range of their 'voice'.

Is it possible for these creatures to develop a recognisable linguistic structure, given the time lag involved?

  • $\begingroup$ I am assuming you mean they did not first evolve on a planet but rather somehow life was spawned and remains in space, but could you clarify in your question please? $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ You're correct. It's a somewhat trivial question if they evolved on planet and then moved outward! $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


Yes, It would not stop communication from being possible.

For example, humans use speech(sound), writing(light), etc. to communicate. Each mode of communication we posses has a latency to it depending on how it is propagated. If we can deal with that lag so can the hypothetical alien species.

Even the electromagnetic radiation will not stop the communication as pattern recognition (the mechanism used to identify important things) is also capable of the opposite, namely what is not important. The background radiation would then be treated as white noise preventing it from unduly interfering with conversation. It will however force the language they posses to have the equivalent of guard bits to prevent the message from being misconstrued.

  • $\begingroup$ yes, as we have always dealt with latency. speaking uses sound waves; sound waves have a speed; shor distances means short times but the latency however minute is still there. our brains are designed to communicate with this latency in mind $\endgroup$
    – zoboso
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 18:34

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