In the 2016 blockbuster film Arrival, aliens with inscrutable motives descend on Earth—and it is up to a scientist played by Amy Adams to help communicate with them. Were this to occur in real life, it might be Sheri Wells-Jensen who gets the call. A linguist at Bowling Green State University, Wells-Jensen has thought a lot about just how different alien minds might be.
Many researchers have automatically presumed extraterrestrials would possess senses like the ones most of us use every day. But Wells-Jensen's sensory experience of the world—as a blind person—has given her a rare perspective when it comes to imagining the alternatives and what they might mean for humans' ability to understand aliens.
Scientific American spoke with Wells-Jensen about language, crab-shaped aliens and multidimensional ways to view the world. An edited excerpt follows.
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