Wednesday, January 16, 2008

SETI: " . . . Mystery Signal Has Been Picked Up By a Giant Radio-Telescope in Puerto Rico"

Arecibo Observatory
Has E.T. Made A Call?


     BERKELEY, Calif. -- Across the globe, researchers searching for signs of life in space were abuzz this week with word that a mystery signal has been picked up by a giant radio-telescope in Puerto Rico.

Now the dilemma is -- how do you answer it?

Dan Wertheimer of the UC Berkeley SETI Project, said the dilemma is compounded by the fact that the signal may never be completely decoded.

"We probably won't be able to decode it," he said. "We'll know something's out there, but we won't know much about their civilization."

Meanwhile, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, said he was hopeful that future technical advances will eventually point scientists in the right direction.

"I'm cautiously optimistic we'll find something by the year 2025," Shostak said.

Later this year, scientists were scheduled to gather to determine what the return message should be.

"Personally, I'm not worried about signaling our presence to the stars, to begin with maybe the aliens are friendly, maybe they're hostile who knows," Shostak said. "But even if they're hostile, it's a long way to go -- to come here and molest us."

According to the famous Drake Equation, astronomers estimate there are an estimated 10,000 intelligent civilizations just in our galaxy, the nearest one is likely very far away, but many scientists urge caution when it comes to initiating contact.

They say it may be foolish, even dangerous for earth to assume we know all the risks.

"I don't think earthlings should transmit messages right now," Wertheimer said. "We're an emerging civilization; we're just getting in the game… We're just learning how to do this and we really don't know what we're up to, so we need to be careful."

When asked on the street, Bay Area residents voiced a variety of messages that should be sent.

Oakland's Elvis Meeker suggested a simple warm greeting.

"Hello, welcome," he said.

Jonathan Harding, of Oakland, had a lighthearted response.

"Don't eat us," he said.

Samantha Swing suggested asking for help in solving the planet's problems.

"Any materials you'd like to give us to help… We're running out of oil," she said.

Whatever the message, a recent poll revealed that people wanted one to be sent out. So now scientists will gather to figure out what that message will be.

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