Thursday, July 3, 2008


At a recent astrobiology meeting I sheepishly approached veteran SETI astronomer Frank Drake about the WOW signal. I half expected him to say: “Oh that silly thing!”

Instead, Drake shared the same belief that it was a real interstellar message. (Dr. Ehman has cautiously addressed the same conclusion as a "definite maybe" after ruling out all Earth radio interference explanations.)

Drake speculates that the signal may have been crammed with a packet of information at too high a rate for the Big Ear telescope to resolve.

But why so brief? Drake suggests that an alien civilization may be pinging stars with information packets, a sort of galactic spam. Once the packet is decoded it yields information for tuning to another channel to receive a longer and more detailed message.

So, toward the end of the 20th century humankind may have received the first fleeting evidence of intelligent life off the Earth.

Link to the original article.

Via Posthuman Blues.


Jim said...

I'd love to think it was a genuine, alien signal, but why have we found nothing since then?

Our technology has advanced exponentially since the Wow signal, with a vastly more sophisticated and powerful SETI projects spanning many years of research. But we still have nothing to show for it. When we found the first neutron star many more were soon discovered. The same thing happened after we found the first extra-solar planet. So why no more 'Wow' signals in nearly 4 decades?

Sadly, logic suggests that the Wow signal probably has a more mundane explanation.

T.G.C. said...

I agree with you, Jim. If they were really "pinging" or "spamming" us, I'd think they'd be doing it with a lot more frequency. Unless, of course, they're not supposed to be doing it.

You'd think, considering the bill-yuns and bill-yuns of galaxies out there, that we'd be hearing a lot more radio chatter out there than we do. I've read theories suggesting that, if there are other intelligent life forms out there, they've probably got us in a radio-silent bubble of sorts until we grow up a bit, lest we wreck the rest of the universe with our current barbaric attitude. Sounds far-fetched, but it does make quite a bit of sense. If any "space brothers" were to share advanced spaceship plans with us, we'd probably insult their tentacles, turn the Moon into a trash heap, and start drilling for oil on Mars. That's just how we roll. I wouldn't trust us, either.