Discussion and news about the modern effort to understand the nature of life on Earth, finding planets around other stars, and the search for life elsewhere in the universe

Monday, May 31, 2010


A couple of weeks ago I talked to Robert Krulwich of National Public Radio (NPR) about a number of things. Amongst these was the so-called 'Wow!' signal. This was a narrow-band radio signal (possibly a 'burst', possibly the tail-end of a longer period of emission) picked up by the Big Ear radio telescope in Ohio in August 1977. Big Ear was engaged in a scan of part of the sky for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) - looking for anything that appeared artificial but not terrestrial. The 'Wow!' signal remains one of the most intriguing examples of transient radio emission probably not of terrestrial origin.

The whole story is given at the NPR site, and you can listen to the program, which is a nicely constructed piece. I voiced what I think is the general opinion of many scientists, a lot of skepticism but also an acknowledgement that it's probably good that SETI carries on. Like all these interviews, what got broadcast is trimmed down from perhaps an hour of conversation, maybe someday you'll hear further pearls of attempted wisdom that ended up in the edit buffer.

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