For an enterprise that has failed for 50 years, SETI gets good press. There are many worthy enterprises on the planet; what is it about SETI that gets honorable mention with nary a critical word?
Galaxy Quest: The second SETICon is underway in Santa Clara, with not only scientists, but artists, entertainers and “people from all walks of life whose area of interest intersects on the topic of the search for intelligent life somewhere other than here on planet Earth,” reported PhysOrg. All the SETI bigwigs are there: Frank Drake, Seth Shostak, Tim Allen (not sure about that one). It’s a bit of a send-off for Jill Tarter, reported Live Science. Tarter is retiring from theSETI Institute after spending 35 years looking at nothing. Even though the event is “much more upbeat than the last” SETICon in 2010 because of the Kepler spacecraft’s discovery of over a thousand planets, SETI is not about planets; it’s about intelligent signals from beings like us. There haven’t been any yet, except…
The Wow, and how: Figuring large in SETI lore is the “Wow!” signal, “a mysterious radio transmission detected in 1977 that may or may not have come from extraterrestrials,” said Space.com. Its signal strength was so strong that SETI researcher Jerry Ehrman wrote “Wow!” by it. Even though “No one knows whether the seemingly unnatural signal really was beamed toward us by aliens, and despite great effort, scientists have never managed to detect a repeat transmission from the same spot in the sky,” Space.com reported that a reply is being planned. It’s a bit of a publicity stunt by the National Geographic Channel to promote their new series, “Chasing UFOs,” even though most SETI researchers discount UFOs as scientifically unsupported. Interested parties can use Twitter to contribute to a crowdsourced message that will be beamed toward the signal source by the Arecibo radio telescope, in a publicity stunt reminiscent of the first Arecibo message of 1974. This may concern some SETI researchers who worry that aliens may use the information to attack us 30,000 years from now (see last paragraphs of report from Astrobiology Magazine), but like Keynes said, by then we’ll all be dead….
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