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back to article ET, phone back: Alien quest seeks earthling coders

It was the year of Star Wars and Close Encounters, and in the flatlands of Ohio, a man stumbled upon something possibly alien in origin. On August 17, 1977, Ohio State University astronomer Jerry Ehman was sitting at his kitchen table, pouring over pages of printouts from the SETI Project's Big Ear radio telescope's computers. …

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Bronze badge
Alien

waiting for a reply?

"The data was three days old by the time Ehman spotted Wow!, meaning that if it were a message, the sender could have moved on for lack of a reply."

Unless the sender were in our solar system (within a few light-days), it wouldn't be expecting a reply within three days. In any case, they would have had plenty of disco music and bad TV to decipher...

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Silver badge
Alien

To point out the obvious

"The data was three days old by the time Ehman spotted Wow!, meaning that if it were a message, the sender could have moved on for lack of a reply."

"Could have"? Let's allow for a bit of reality here. If it had come from the closest Terebellum star, Omega Sagittarii, the message wasn't 3 days old it was more like 78 years old so... yeah it's quite likely the sender has, without a very impressive lifespan, probably shuffled off by the time Ehman saw it.

Equally, if it had come from some space schooner much closer to us, say under a light year, it is disappointing that they are either so daft as to not have a proper comprehension of physics to go the last mile in their herculean undertaking or so egotistical as to automatically assume we would instantly know WTF 6EQUJ5 means (for the record my statistical analysis shows it to mean "mostly harmless"). In either case, all I can say is, good! We have plenty of halfwits in the case of the former and plenty of pols if it's the latter. Then again, maybe 6EQUJ5 is just the sound Voyager makes when impacting the only other intelligent life in the 'verse.

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Boffin

6EQUJ5

As I understand it, the characters in 6EQUJ5 represent the amplitude of the signal, not the signal content. It was a "WOW!" because it looks like a gaussian curve when graphed:

++++++

++++++++++++++

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

+++++++++++++++++++

+++++

So, strong signal well above the background noise that rose and fell with time exactly as one would expect from an extraterrestrial source. WOW!, indeed. Too bad it wasn't detected soon enough for follow-up observation and analysis.

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Silver badge

Yup, yup.

No alien sexting here (Sexy Queue What?), just power levels.

What happened to Optical/Laser SETI btw?

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Grenade

"strong signal that rose and fell with time"

Sounds like a nova, GRB, or any other transient, natural phenomenon. If it repeated with the same amplitude, at a fixed interval, exactly 17 times, there might be something interesting going on. As it is, it's insignificant.

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Boffin

Re: nova, GRB, or any other transient, natural phenomenon

Except that the time axis in this graph is the time that it took for the radio telescope's point of view to transit the source of the signal, which is a known, constant time interval and the WOW! signal fit it perfectly. Not insignificant at all, but agreed, the observation needed to be repeated to rule out the other possibilities.

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Silver badge
Boffin

Really now...

A GRB burst Gamma Rays, not 21cm radio waves.

All is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wow!_signal

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Bronze badge
Boffin

the sources of GRBs

after the actual gamma rays finish the source as it expands and cools gives off

UV, optical, infrared and radio waves (including 21cm).

The delay from gamma to 21cm is uually a week or two

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Coat

Space

The sad fact about all of this is that it will take SETI finding a viable signal for ANY government to take space travel seriously. Within months of finding a true extraterrestrial signal, I'm sure will be the beginning of a "to the moon"-style pursuit of who can first exploit...erm "contact and get to" the source.

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Silver badge
Alien

The data was three days old

As far as I understand any data, even from the nearest "star", takes years no reach us and the sender would wait for years for our response.

So how come this "three days" suddenly.

Nothing against SETI, we spend a lot on much more stupid things. Much too much.

And I know there are those who consider SETI also dangerous, in the "hide your happiness" spirit and the ancient and well proved Arab custom of hiding your wife in the same way.

You never know what bastards you may attract on Facebook too.

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Anonymous Coward

He missed the preceding N characters ...

Which looked quite a lot like the text for 'King Lear'

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3 day old data?

Thank fuck he wasn't waiting for Royal Mail to deliver.

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Silver badge

Perhaps when talking about the sender moving on...

...they are talking about transmissions. The sender may have given us a 24hour burst before pointing at another star. By the time we spotted it, the burst had finished arriving.

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Anonymous Coward

So ?

That is all

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But ... if ....

"Perhaps ... they are talking about transmissions." Or perhaps not. If they were talking of missing a previous transmission the three day delay in finding the signal they did get would be irrelevant. Yet the three day delay is what we are told here is important.

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Silver badge

"The sender may have given us a 24hour burst before pointing at another star"

and if we'd replied would they would have had to wait up to a gazillion years to receive it

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Silver badge

"and if we'd replied would they would have had to wait up to a gazillion years to receive it"

I feel the point is being missed. We could have had a lot of data sent our way. Enough to show its not static and from an intelligent life form (sending a burst like some social network did recently). If we had spotted it at the time, we could have recorded more.

Its not about replying. Its about receiving

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Bronze badge

A Turing Test for Crop Circles

Given the inventiveness of crop circle teasers, it's presumably just a matter of time before really good hoaxes start to turn up. With Alan Turing's centenary next year, maybe there should be a competition for a new variant of the eponymous test: how to differentiate between a mischievous human and a genuine extra-terrestrial.

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Silver badge

Well that's easy...

Just write down the mass of the Higgs boson to the nearest keV/c²

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Silver badge

AIRight Royal Task Force

"With Alan Turing's centenary next year, maybe there should be a competition for a new variant of the eponymous test: how to differentiate between a mischievous human and a genuine extra-terrestrial." ..... David Pollard Posted Saturday 23rd April 2011 11:08 GMT

Seconded wholeheartedly, David, with to take part in it meaningfully the Virtually Real Surprise for Delivery of Surreal Prizes.

It is as well to air the view that such fields are considered somewhat sacred and holy and may shelter ancient knightly orders and their torments and temptations. :-) ....... In a wild jungle of beings are there perfumed gardens of constant bliss for perfect contentment and containment of avaricious passions.

Is that an alien provision in human societies if such facilities do not presently exist in your worlds? Is Ruby Red Light Sleaze the Best that Man Offers to Capture the Best of Attention?

Some engaging skillsets to endlessly hone for guaranteed delivery of outrageous satisfaction in that particular and peculiar, weird and wonderful virgin forest . For safe and secure future play though, is mastery of the passionate arts, the key freely available to all that Unlocks all Doors for Free Access to Executive Administrative Bounty.

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WTF?

Major astronomy fail

Someone's flunked their astronomy/physics 101

"The data was three days old by the time Ehman spotted Wow!, meaning that if it were a message, the sender could have moved on for lack of a reply."

Closest star to earth *in any direction*: 4 Light Years

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Happy

Never mind

I was going to give the obvious reply to this but ...

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Don't you see??

It's Our Lord who died and three days later rose again. Just adjust the narrative to fit my interpretation and it becomes clear. Hallelujuhuhuh

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Alien

Hello?

We have powerful technology to share with you HUmans.

Please add me as your friend on facebook.

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Happy

It's confirmed! The signal contains data!

What if it was plans for a Millennium Falcon engine and the details are distributed all over the world? Would a large queue form at the USPTO the next day? Seriously though - very cool project and it sounds inevitable something interesting will be found sooner or later

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FAIL

open source

until the whole thing is fully open sourced and documented to the point where i without a doubt believe that i am not in fact just a computing node for NSA, deciphering world communication in the name of Homeland Stupidity, they're not going to see a single server at our company working on this. I prefer the servers just wasting electricity at nighttime in the meantime.

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Black Helicopters

*For tin-foil hat, break glass*

How do you know your company isn't just an NSA front?

How can you trust your fellow employees aren't NSA spies?

How do you know the NSA haven't installed key-logging software onto your computer and are sending the black helicopters over right now?

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Silver badge

Prove IT. To Know IT Works is as Nothing Compared to Knowing How and Why IT Works

"How do you know your company isn't just an NSA front?

How can you trust your fellow employees aren't NSA spies?

How do you know the NSA haven't installed key-logging software onto your computer and are sending the black helicopters over right now?" .... Chris Hartley 1 Posted Monday 25th April 2011 18:51 GMT

That would be a pleasant and very welcome surprise, Chris Hartley 1, for it would suggest that there is every likelihood of affirmative positive proaction in order to illustrate lead capacity, if not actually demonstrating capability, whenever critical mass is reached in explosive evolutionary circles.

I look forward to being amazed by NSATechnology for virtual confirmation that IT really works so sublimely and stealthily to discover Future Trusted Sources for Sharing of Novel Great Game Travels and Travails.

Indeed, it may be that this hook is a lure and superfluous, but that will require that any and all evidence presented, be suitably amazing.

A case of show me what you got, for there are bigger and better always available for free, or for renegade retail sale to the highest dodgy systems bidder.

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WTF?

Taking this a bit seriously...

...for a post that was merely mocking disposable's rampant paranoia

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6EQUJ5

is his hotmail password.

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Happy

SETI should hire

Mr McKinnon, he shares an deep interest.

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