Thursday, September 02, 2004
Since this seems to be Provocative Day here at Preposterous, I might as well throw this one out there: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project has found a signal they can't explain, possibly originating from an extraterrestrial civilization. This is something I'm truly not an expert on, so I'll just point you to some commentary from Simon DeDeo, who brought this to my attention. (Original data here.) The basic idea is that they've found a signal at 1420 megahertz (a very noisy part of the electromagnetic spectrum) that has appeared a few times, starting at a fixed frequency and slowly drifting (as if Doppler-shifted from a moving source). Certainly the most likely explanation is some perfectly mundane, although interesting, source of emission in atomic hydrogen. I would put the chance that we've actually found some intelligent life to be about one in a million. But that's a chance worth exploring.
Interestingly, the signal was first identified via the SETI@Home project, running as a screensaver on countless home computers. I have it on mine. We physicists are introducing Einstein@Home, a way you can help search for signals of gravitational waves from LIGO data, but if we've found aliens that will never catch on.
Now, what I want to know is, do these aliens feel emotions?
Update: Ooops! Almost before I finished typing, Simon points me to this disclaimer. Now I know how Matt Drudge must feel all the time.