“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” ― Arthur C. Clarke

See it live at Sonar+D 2018 - Barcelona


For decades, we’ve listened to the universe searching for extraterrestrial life--and found nothing. We are about to become an interplanetary species, but we are alone. Are we? Where is everybody? Are they hiding? Or did we get lucky, and survived where everyone else failed?. Maybe we just are doomed, and don’t know it yet. What we do know is that the universe is vast, old...empty. And that we keep asking ourselves: how could we reach them? what would they look like? and how would we talk to them?

WE ARE ALONE ARE WE is a data art installation by the scientific visualization group at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center that invites us to explore these questions from a scientific perspective.

What does it take to create a species like us? ARE WE is a sonification and visualization of the Drake equation, a sanity check created by scientists to estimate how likely it is find someone else out there.

Each element of the equation controls a number or factor that we believe is essential for a life harboring planet. The visualization reflects this by controlling all factors independently, but showing that if one of them is small, then the rest do not matter


Maybe we don’t see anyone out there because there is an obstacle that, without exception, all civilizations eventually encounter and fail to survive. We call this obstacle the great filter, and if it exists it leaves two possibilities: either we were somehow lucky in our evolution and we are the only ones that survived past it, or the filter is still ahead of us and we are about to self-destruct.


Our human scales do not help us grasp the immensity of space, and the likely impossibility of star travelling. ALONE is an immersive data visualization of our corner of the galaxy, how full of planets it is, and yet how far they are.

There are currently more than 4000 exoplanets detected. Some of them are considered to be probably habitable, and other not. In this virtual reality data experience you can travel from earth to any of these planets (in the real 3D space or in a flattened version). Planets orbit their host stars at their corresponding frequency (when known). Planets with the same color have similar characteristics.


? is an interactive conversation with an artificial intelligence that emulates the complexity of communicating with an alien lifeform that experiences reality through senses different than ours.

Behind ? there is a rather normal chatbot that uses a deep neural network to answer english questions (it is trained mostly with movie dialogs and reddit conversations). Like many chatbots that use this technology, this one uses as input a so called embedding layer. The purpose of this layer is to convert words into a numerical form more suitable for computations. In this way, each word is associated with a unique list of numbers, with the property that words with similar meaning are represented with similar numbers. The length of the list is called the internal dimension of the representation, and can range from 25 up to 1000 dimensions.

GO TO '?'

By looking at how we imagine alien lifeforms, WE ARE is a mirror to see ourselves as an interstellar species.

We have classified species that appear on movies and TV-series based on:

The alien wiki is an alive project. Many species are included, but others are still missing. If you miss some of them, please, share a reference to add it.


The team

Collaborators: Artur Garcia, Carlos Carrasco, Guillermo Marín, Patricio Reyes and Matías Rivero

Sound design in collaboration with Andrés Locatelli