Weblog Archives


audio blog

photo blog









Subscribe in NewsGator Online


trek nation | Main | weekend recap

September 02, 2004

someone get zefram cochrane on the phone

Okay, so it's not quite April 5, 2063 just yet, but . . .

LONDON (Reuters) - An unexplained radio signal from deep space could -- just might be -- contact from an alien civilization, New Scientist magazine reported on Thursday.

The signal, coming from a point between the Pisces and Aries
constellations, has been picked up three times by a telescope in Puerto Rico.

New Scientist said the signal could be generated by a previously unknown astronomical phenomenon or even be a by-product from the telescope itself.

But the mystery beam has excited astronomers across the world.

"If they can see it four, five or six times it really begins to get
exciting," Jocelyn Bell Burnell of the University of Bath in western
England told the magazine.

It was broadcast on the main frequency at which the universe's most common element, hydrogen, absorbs and emits energy, and which astronomers say is the most likely means by which aliens would advertise their presence.

The potentially extraterrestrial signals were picked up through the
SETI@home project, which uses programs running as screensavers on millions of personal computers worldwide to sift through the huge amount of data picked up by the telescope.


My whole life, I have hoped that we would look to the stars, and find undeniable proof that we are not alone in the universe. Could this be it?

Update: Aw, dammit. As synchronicity points out in comments, probably not:

A recent (September 1) article in New Scientist magazine, entitled ? Mysterious signals from 1000 light years away,? implies that the UC Berkeley SETI@home project has uncovered a very convincing candidate signal that might be the first strong evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Alas, this story is misleading. According to Dan Werthimer, who heads up the UC Berkeley SERENDIP SETI project, this is a case of a reporter failing to understand the workings of their search. He says that misquotes and statements taken out of context give the impression that his team is exceptionally impressed with one of the many candidate signals, SHGb02+14a, uncovered using the popular SETI@home software. They are not.

Well, I still say we are not alone. So there. Nyah.

Posted by wil at September 2, 2004 04:00 PM
Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference someone get zefram cochrane on the phone:

» Just a bit to debunk from Froggie's Lilypad
Wil Wheaton posted this article about the seti@home project. While the article sure does sound uber exciting, here's what seti@home actually has to say about it. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for searching for little green men. In fact,... [Read More]

Tracked on September 3, 2004 03:44 AM

» Lots-O-Planets from Karma Fool
Update: And as reported on Sept. 2 by Wil Wheaton, and many others, a mysterious (well, as it turns out, not so mysterious) radio signal has been detected from deep space. [Read More]

Tracked on September 3, 2004 07:16 PM


It's only a matter of time now before "First Contact." Your link fits in nicely with the recent news about NASA finding smaller, more numerous, and more Earth-like planets.

By the way, where do you stand on the whole "Are we alone question"?

Posted by: Karma Fool at September 2, 2004 04:09 PM

That is too cool! I hope they're able to find the signal again.

Posted by: Jen at September 2, 2004 04:09 PM


It's only a matter of time now before "First Contact." Your link fits in nicely with the recent news about NASA finding smaller, more numerous, and more Earth-like planets.

By the way, where do you stand on the whole "Are we alone question"?

Posted by: Karma Fool at September 2, 2004 04:09 PM

Even if they find the single again, and offworlders are cruising by... who says that they'd want to stop *here*?

Me, I'd keep the car - erm, ship - in 6th gear and keep going :)

Posted by: Randy at September 2, 2004 04:13 PM

Probably not:

Posted by: synchronicity at September 2, 2004 04:26 PM

I completely believe that we are NOT alone. It's a HUGE Universe out there, you know . . .

Posted by: wil at September 2, 2004 04:27 PM

I happen to agree we're not alone, but this signal isn't dramatic enough to make it an Ellie Arroway-type discovery, in my humble opinion (although I do think it's interesting, and I do have a degree in astronomy). I think your blog on this was worthwhile, however.

Posted by: synchronicity at September 2, 2004 04:31 PM

Make that PROBABLY not alone...

Posted by: synchronicity at September 2, 2004 04:32 PM

Hey Wil! Thanks for the link! I completely agree that we are not alone... and that second link/update/whatever just makes me think it's a cover-up. :)

Posted by: Amy at September 2, 2004 04:36 PM

and my conspiracy theorist deep down re-emerges. maybe it's some kind of bizarre government coverup and the signals are actually what the first article would have us believe.

Or maybe I just didn't read the original articles and don't know enough about the subject.

Posted by: Heather at September 2, 2004 04:41 PM

i've been crunching numbers for the seti@home project for about 7 months now...and i check out the seti website frequently...today there were rumblings of this discovery...but moments after i read about it, i found that it had been debunked...i'm still hopeful though that sometime soon we will find real proof of the existance of extra-terrestrial intellegence...every time i see a picture of the rings of saturn i think...hmmmm...just a natural phenomena...or the calling card of visitors from another star system...a sort of celestial bar-code...thoughts like this keep me entertained...and dreaming...of what might be out there...waiting to be found...waiting for us to explore...when we finally decide to pursue the mysteries of the final frontier.

Posted by: d. burr at September 2, 2004 04:52 PM

The aliens were here, but they left. They said to tell you to give the messanger (me) an autograph and a cookie. Obey or they destroy the world! *pleasey pleasey*

Posted by: Beth at September 2, 2004 04:56 PM

Man, at times like these, I wish I'd done a little more fact-checking.

Hey, Fox News! Hire me!

Posted by: wil at September 2, 2004 04:59 PM

Far too many problems with this signal and drift (or lack thereof).

I must be the only astronomer in the universe not so excited by a 21 cm line. . .

On the upside though, our wonderful space telescope that I work for is going to look at the new Neptune sized planets around other stars soon.

Posted by: astrobabe at September 2, 2004 05:04 PM

Think of it like this. With all that hoo-ha about WMD and the fact that our society and the next few generations are trained skeptics, if we ever did make "first contact" would it make any newspapers other than the Inquirer? We're so numb to crazy and shocking news because most of it is BS that we'll probably let the moment pass. It's sad, I do believe that we're not alone.

Posted by: Drew at September 2, 2004 05:11 PM

well, there ARE a lot of UFO's being sighted lately...


Posted by: jbay at September 2, 2004 05:31 PM

I would have to say that we are definitley *not* alone. One would have to be pretty arrogant to believe that we are the only sentient beings in the universe.
There are plenty of examples within our everyday lives that illustrate the fact that what we thought was nothing actually happened to be something after all.
Bacteria for instance. Just because you can't see or, from a common perspective, touch bacteria does not mean that there isn't any.
The universe is a massive place existing in 360 degrees all at once. You would have a more realistic chance of finding a needle in a haystack the size of the moon than you would using the limited methods that the SETI folks are using.
I firmly belileve that there are other species out there and I hope the SETI teams are the first to contact them purely from a common sense and goodwill perspective.
*They* have visited us before and will visit us again. Hell, they might even be here right now.
Gotta go, I'm getting an awful sunburn on the left side of my face and I have an overwhelming desire to build a big mountain out of mud in the living room.

Posted by: chris at September 2, 2004 05:41 PM

As others have commented, Wil, we've been looking at this particular signal for over a year now. It was first detected in Feb of 2003. As another poster commented, there are several interesting problems with this signal that makes it very intersting, but probably not an alien transmission. Nothing has been ruled out yet, but in all probability, this is not the Arroway Signal.

Even given that, this is a very, very exciting time in astronomy. SETI@Home has given us technology, possibilities, and data that was undreamed of when it started. And what SETI@Home has developed has implications far and away beyond that of astronomy.

Think of it. When you were driving the Enterprise we knew of 8 or 9 planets (depending on where you fall in the Pluto debate) in the universe. Now we know so many that the International Astronomical Union has voted not to bother naming them...because they know we'll discover THOUSANDS in the next decade.

Will any of them have life? Telescopes are being built now that have a chance to detect not only Earth-sized planets, but analyze their atmospheres for organic compounds. Probes are being designed to investigate the water ocean we think is under the ice of Europa in our own solar system.

Stay tuned. I'd be surprised if we detect an Arroway Signal within our lifetimes. Indeed, the SETI community is beginning to see that such signals may have a very brief window of detection so NOT detecting anything may not mean there is nothing out there at all. However, I do think that we will discover life outside of Earth within our lifetimes and that it will take the form of bacteria underground on either Mars or Europa.

And for those of us who realize the implications of such a discovery, that will be the happiest and most significant date in history!

Posted by: Doc Kinne at September 2, 2004 05:44 PM

Wil: Iam not one of those people who freak out when they see some famous person. I think they should be treated the same as everyone else...Do you agree? If it is possible I was would like to be PinPals...If that is ok with you? I read every update on your blog and listen to every update on your audoblog and i have just gotten finished on looking at all the pictures. You are my favaorite actor,and writer and that you are the person that has kept me sane for 17 years. Knowing that i have someone to look up to and that they will always be in my heart makes me fell that i have something more to live for than just to please my parents. My dream is to become a succuffical piano player and to meet you and make you proud of me. You are my life safer and I thank god every day that you are alive. I know that you are busy and that you do not respond to all of your emails. I just need your permison to use some of your pictures and Information about you on my site and to link to your site? My site is www.geocites.com/wow1617
I know you will probly not respond to this neither and that is ok... Just thought I would see if I can get your permision! Well... I guess that is it. well my email is [email protected]

Tell Anne, Felix, Ferri, Nolan and everybody I said Hey and that I love yall.


Posted by: Cody Harrell at September 2, 2004 05:52 PM

To many possibilities, has to be something or someone more. Proof though :)

I was a member of the seti@home team for a year or two. Never got any feedback from em so i quit.


Posted by: dennis at September 2, 2004 06:11 PM

I have enough trouble trying to figure myself out let alone other people... let alone extraterrestrial lifeforms!

Maybe they could help me figure something out?!

Who knows what the signal is? Whose to say we would understand it even if it WERE meant to be understood?

Posted by: seasnail at September 2, 2004 06:24 PM

Aw, bummers. That had my hopes up but nevertheless my SETI@home is still crunching away on my work PC. I am still hoping that during my lifetime we find some sign of life elsewhere. :^) I'm also waiting for that warp engine so I can take my trip to Saturn. ;^) Been doing so since I was a little kid. :^)

Posted by: clara at September 2, 2004 06:33 PM

"I must be the only astronomer in the universe not so excited by a 21 cm line. . .

Yes, you are.
(I almost chose radio astronomy as a specialty).

Posted by: synchronicity at September 2, 2004 06:36 PM

Wil, I made an entry on my blog about this today, and I used the same Zephram Cochrane reference. What a bizarre coincidence... I wouldn't have even visited your page today if it weren't for a a convoluted path from a Slashdot article on "Internet Babylon".

Coincidences never cease to amaze me!

Posted by: Dave at September 2, 2004 07:00 PM

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that we are not alone in this vast universe. It is inconceivable that among the uncountable stars and solar systems in all the galaxies of this thing we exist in that we are the only life..

We are NOT alone.. we may not have proof yet, but one day we will.

Posted by: neph at September 2, 2004 07:06 PM

There was a moment there, for about a tenth of a second, when I couldn't force myself to read the second half of this post. I'm a reasonably intelligent guy and I've heard most of the arguments for and against the existence of alien intelligence and the probability that we'll communicate with another race in my lifetime. I know the odds, and that's why I didn't want to keep reading.

Because for that moment - that infinitesimal slice of not-time between two otherwise unremarkable instances - I believed.

Posted by: D Lively at September 2, 2004 07:07 PM

*pokes synchro*

Unfortunately 21 cm lines just aren't sexy for me. Now on the other hand give me a planetary candidate and let me look for ozone and that's another story!

I must be one of the few astronomers who questions the SETI method. We should be doing more projects like the one I work for and the upcoming Terrestrial Planet Finders which are looking for spectroscopic evidence of atmospheric similarilites between the extrasolar planets and our own. So far as we know, the best shot at finding life is to find another planet with an atmosphere like Earth.

*sighs* Darned sexy planet seaches. They take away all my money to look for flying rock ;)

Posted by: astrobabe at September 2, 2004 07:09 PM

Hmmm... Now that you mention it, Wil, maybe you *should* apply at FoxNews? I'll bet you'd make an interesting reporter! :)

Posted by: *Melinda* at September 2, 2004 07:32 PM

Well, it hasn't actually been said that, "No, it's NOT anything," just that there's not enough evidence to say that it's more than just something interesting. As they said, if it's picked up 3 more times, then it gets "exciting."

I'm not holding my breath, but neither am I giving up hope.

Posted by: Gandalfe at September 2, 2004 08:05 PM

Will there be no "Fish On Part 3"? Are you really just going to leave it at that? What happened when you got to the casino?

I think I've been very patient about this.

Posted by: phriedom at September 2, 2004 08:30 PM

I agree with you, Wil. I've always believed that there's life out there. Hopefully, when we find them they'll be friendly, and not looking for human slaves. :o)

Posted by: Kimberly at September 2, 2004 08:53 PM

Oh, the thrill of those first few words ... I, too, held my breath for a moment in the hope that we had, somehow, gotten someone else's mail. Then I thought, "Nah, that would've been all over the news if it had really happened." Wouldn't it? Ah, well.

Yeah, I'm one of the hopefuls. Somewhere, somehow, sometime, we'll get that Arroway Signal and life will expand in amazing ways. Yet my fear, too, is that we'll get our e.t. signal and we'll pooh-pooh it and/or ignore it, all in the name of fear or pride. I'm thinking we've got a bit of a ways to go before we're ready for someone else in the neighborhood - look how we're doing with our own planet.

Okay, enough babbling. :) Thanks for the opportunity to briefly wax rhapsodic about one of my favorite mild obsessions.

Posted by: Anne at September 2, 2004 09:22 PM

I suspect that, after the past century of Earth history, there's a cordon around our galaxy in bright 'danger colors' and garish icons indicating 'Lethal Hazard'. Or perhaps dealers in radioactives waiting for the BIG WAR to happen so they can just vacuum the isotopes out of the atmosphere.

Thank heavens someone's still looking up! Maybe there's hope.

Posted by: M. Douglas Wray at September 2, 2004 09:24 PM

I very highly doubt that the fact that our little blue-and-green planet is an anomaly among the trillions upon trillions of planets out there...Hell, I even entertain the notion that there could be an earth doppelganger out there, it's just too far away for us to find.

But then again, maybe extra-terrestrials HAVE contacted Earth...but, see, the people who claim to have been ubducted by "aliens" (most of them, anyway) don't seem to represent an accurate cross-section of our population...so maybe they got bored with us.

Then again again, we may just be some uber-child's odd version of sea monkeys and our universe is inside a giant terrarium.

Posted by: Stephpie at September 2, 2004 09:57 PM

This is why I don't read or watch the major sources of news. Too much misquoting and misinterpreting going on. I seem to know a lot about what's going in the world though, which surprises the heck out of me since I don't go out of my way to absorb the news.

I figure there are probably other sentient beings "out there" somewhere. I just hope they're not like those fellas in "Mars Attacks."

Could someone please explain the International Sign of the Donut?

Posted by: Stephanie at September 2, 2004 11:08 PM

One of my favorite movie quotes is from "Contact" regarding whether or not there was life on other planets:
Palmer: "Well, if there wasn't, it would be an awful waste of space."

And forget Fox News... I wanna see you do a guest spot on Stargate!

Posted by: Jerry Ann at September 2, 2004 11:26 PM

For anyone to say we're alone, completely alone in this universe is arrogant and asinine (ah, sweet Alliteration). How can they possibly know what lies beyond our feeble technology?

I'd love love love to see you on Stargate SG1. That would be 37 flavors of farking awesome.

Posted by: ApeculiarDaisy at September 2, 2004 11:56 PM

Mind you, the new inspired me to get seti@home up and running again...

Posted by: Auz at September 3, 2004 02:21 AM

How did I procrastinate before blogs? This is a fantastic diversion from work.

Posted by: julie at September 3, 2004 05:19 AM

I've heard that when all of the circumstances needed to create life on this planet were factored in, the highest number of planets in the universe that could support life as we know it is 14.

Posted by: Jex at September 3, 2004 05:39 AM

I've never said it before, but THANKS. Seriously. Between you, nickerblog, wonkette and stereogum I have just enough amusement to get through the work day. It's not as if the job sucks. It's just that I can only make maps and do web updates for so long before I get bored. I do really enjoy your writing and your sense of humor.

Posted by: julie at September 3, 2004 05:57 AM

Eh, it's only 2004. Depending on which SF movie you believe, we've either got six years (2010:The Year We Make Contact), or 59 years (2063, Star Trek:First Contact)

Posted by: Taurik at September 3, 2004 06:05 AM

Be of good cheer, Wil; they're just covering up the Truth. It really IS out there.

Posted by: Terry at September 3, 2004 06:26 AM

Well, I'm doing my part. I've got SETI@home running on two Macs at home and my work PC.

Posted by: TNG at September 3, 2004 06:38 AM

Dear Sir,
There are more wonders in heaven and earth and are imaginable by the human mind. They are mainly kept secrect for a reason. I do know there is something out there, but for reasons I would never speak. I do not have mainstream ideas, nor would I want to. The hidden truths are far more interesting than common belief. But as for our illustrious government they choose to do as they do because of the sheep we have become. Let the children have their secrect for no one listens to children. Truthfully, do you really want to know? It is nice to fantasize about it, but would you really like to know the truth? Everyone wants to know, but usually sorry to know it. Do you think the mindless are ready to know? Answers are like fruit that has fallen to the ground...while it may look good, it could be bad. Don't get me wrong, but I know better not to say to much, or to too many people. Good luck on your search for knowledge, and if you come across some truth along the way, let me know.

Posted by: Valerie D. at September 3, 2004 07:23 AM

hey wil, i too believe that there is no way we can be alone in this universe!!! i mean, it's just inconceivable that in the great expanse of space Earth can be the only inhabited planet. i think that people who believe so, are just narrow-minded and ignorant.
anyway...rant over! here's hoping we make some contact soon!!

hope all is well...
take care

Posted by: rach at September 3, 2004 07:36 AM

Let's hope we don't discover life outside out Solar System. Why? Because we'll be instantly eradicated. It's true! I saw it on a Kids in the Hall episode.

Posted by: anc at September 3, 2004 09:23 AM

ooh... just finished reading Contact.

Posted by: philharmonic at September 3, 2004 09:26 AM

We CAN'T be alone. The universe is just too damned big for us to be all by ourselves on this little rock...

Here's hoping :D

Posted by: Eric in PA at September 3, 2004 09:35 AM

I certainly hope they come and visit soon. After watching the RNC I firmly believe that Zell Miller is in more dire need of an anal probe that any man ever known.

Posted by: DrGrizzley at September 3, 2004 09:42 AM

Oh yeah... almost forgot to ask. Who's Zefram Cochrane? I don't recognize him from Seti or NASA.

Posted by: DrGrizzley at September 3, 2004 09:45 AM

Well, I sure hope that there's someone out there. It'll make my job at NASA even more exciting! Although, I do worry that the Air Force would end up getting all the fun.

Still, I will keep running the SETI client on my Mac at work and keep hoping. So far I've logged almost 1000 results!

Thanks for the fun entry, Wil.

Melissa (NASA GRC)

Posted by: Melissa at September 3, 2004 10:06 AM

Hey Wil,

Thanks for this post. For 30 seconds you had me more excited than I've been in the last few days, which is slightly scary because today is my 25th birthday and I've been counting down for the last week.

I agree with your nyah. Sometimes I get this feeling that someone out there is looking down, pointing, and laughing. Prime Directive...?

Anyway, have a great Labor Day weekend!
Nicole =)

Oh! P.S. When and where is your next stop on the book tour? Or where can I find the info? I'm moving to the East Coast in December and just discovered your books, so I'd really like to see you read before I'm gone!

Posted by: Nicole at September 3, 2004 10:55 AM

phriedom: The rest of the story is currently stuck in my iBook, which currently remains in a coma. As soon as I can get the stuff out of that machine, I'll publish it.

The good news is, I recently did an interview for a poker website, and it should be up soon.

Posted by: wil at September 3, 2004 11:37 AM

An article in my local newspaper (Puerto Rico) says they are makina big deal out of nothing. Seth Shospak, senior astronomer of the SETI program told the newspaper that this is nothing new. "We always have a list of signals that are candidates which we check once in a while and that has been done for years. But them (SETI@Home) have turned this into a news story, this is a non-story, it's not something new."

Posted by: Ana Marylee at September 3, 2004 12:08 PM

Damnit, Will! Paste the UPDATE in BEFORE you get my hopes up with news like that! :)

Have to admit, however, it lightened the mood for this week after the massive fertilizer fest in NYC and gave me some hope that there are still a few good things (I mean BESIDES WWDN!) going on in the Universe.

I'm definitely with you on the last sentence. Double-nyah!

Posted by: spcknght at September 3, 2004 12:40 PM

Well, I'm doing my part. I work for SETI. :)

Posted by: mcl at September 3, 2004 01:38 PM

I definately agree that there is other life in the universe. It just doen't make sense to me for there not to be.

Posted by: Kethrim at September 3, 2004 01:54 PM

This was the first place i heard this news god only knows how i was able to miss this in the press here in the UK still even if it is a possible glitch in the telescope i still think we are not alone in the universe. There could even be aliens already on the planet for all we know

Posted by: Paulg at September 3, 2004 02:12 PM

Please Wil:

Go to www.livejournal.com
search 'communities' for wilwheatonfans
The first post is an amazing read. Check comments after reading it. Wesley is loved and so are you.

Posted by: Beth at September 3, 2004 03:17 PM

I've been working in Astronomy for about 13 years, and teaching a university course on Astrobiology for 4 years. This is a VERY complex issue. Even given the infinite number of likely places for life to exist, the odds may be stacked against us (consider the terms in something called the Drake Equation). Basically, it is a tool for thinking about the different factors involved in estimating the number of technological civilizations in the Universe. I know the terms are totally arbitrary, so you can really get any number you like, but it doesn't take much pessimism to get very small numbers.

My favorite quote on this topic comes from Arthur C. Clarke:

"Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe,
and sometimes I think we're not. In either case
the idea is quite staggering."

Posted by: PG at September 3, 2004 03:58 PM


We are definitely not alone in the universe. In our galaxy alone there are klingons, vulcans, romulans, cardassians, ferengi, trills, bajorans,
betazoids, the borg, the Q, to name just a few.
Data could give you an exact number if you are interested.

Freeman :)

Posted by: Freeman in Louisiana at September 3, 2004 05:52 PM

Hey Cody Harrell,

Do the words "restraining order" mean anything to you? You might want to increase the Lithium.

(and I don't mean DiLithium)


Posted by: 12 of 14,569 at September 3, 2004 11:07 PM

As Terrence McKenna once said: "To search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture-bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant."

Posted by: Frank B. at September 4, 2004 03:08 AM

As I say, it would be sheer folly to consider the size of the universe and to think that our planet is the only one with life on it. I don't know about meeting another self-aware race, but one can keep hoping.

Posted by: Arcy at September 4, 2004 04:12 AM

I would like to meet a super intelligent shade of blue.

Posted by: Pmacca01 at September 4, 2004 07:49 AM

Misleading?? Do I smell another It-was-a-weather-balloon incident? Exploring the unknown, searching for ET, the final frontier...the mission of Star Trek, that's what attracted me to Star Trek and the potential the lies within our life time.

Posted by: Alonzo at September 4, 2004 11:31 AM

Hi Wil,
The idea of someone else "out there" is achingly haunting. It would be good to know there is other life; hopefully, less violent than human form, perhaps more intelligent, but, maybe not. Perhaps we are the older ones. Perhaps the drift of frequency is due not to planet movement but something that moves faster, like a satellite or spaceship maintaining gravity (who knows how much)on it's maiden voyage. Perhaps it is a youngster who got lucky while "experimenting." We still do not know the source of this noise; anything is possible. Even an intelligent person at the RNC, though I suspect that finding intelligent life in space has a better chance.
Stay well and keep looking up. ;)

Posted by: gbreez at September 4, 2004 05:29 PM

Wouldn't it be arrogant for us to think that we are alone? I really don't believe in little green men, but I really don't think that we can be the only source of intelligent life ever...

...there has to be someone, somebody, or something out there...

I feel like renting "Contact" starring Jodie Foster now, or making a sculpture of Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes. :-)

Posted by: Linda at September 4, 2004 06:56 PM

That's funny since I just watched Star Trek "First Contact" for like the zillionith time!

Well, so why isn't everyone doing their part? I'm a part of the SETI@Home project. My screen saver goes through mounds of data everytime the screen saver turns on. I'm a strong supporter of the search for extraterrestrial life. So with the screen saver, I'm participating and helping to find them little green critters! :) How about you?

Here's the link:


Good luck!

May The Force Be With You!

Live Long and Prosper!


Posted by: Scott T at September 4, 2004 07:24 PM

"Wouldn't it be arrogant for us to think that we are alone?"

Probably. But isn't it just as arrogant to assume that, if alien civilizations do exist, they're using standard radio waves to communicate? That's like assuming that they drive diesel trucks or cook with microwave ovens. We may not be the only ones out there, but I'd wager we're the only ones using H.A.M. radios.

For all their talk of Mankind's age-old dreams, SETI seem to be demonstrating a lack of imagination. Alien radio waves? We might as well be looking for alien VHS tapes. We would likely benefit by widening our scope in terms of what we're looking for, rather than projecting one of our own technologies (a technology that's barely 100 years old and is already on its way to becoming obsolete) onto alien worlds where, I'm assuming, Alexander Graham Bell never lived and Verizon Wireless never set up shop.

Posted by: Frank B. at September 5, 2004 04:29 AM

I have to agree with Frank B.'s last comment.. it is rather foolish to think that they would communicate in a similar form as we would.. I guess right now though it may be all we have.. I don't know.

Scott T. - We have a Seti at home group already...


Everyone is welcome to join us. ;)

Posted by: neph at September 5, 2004 08:26 AM

This is in reply to Frank B. Obviously the means of communication that we're looking for would need to pass through the vacuum of space.... and electromagnetic radiation is the only thing that we have which will reliably travel through a vacuum. (Contrast with sound waves or simple probes carrying physical data.) Obviously there might be other ways of doing this (maybe using gravity to communicate, or by creating sets of "entwined" particles which we're only beginning to be able to do in labs, and it's really exciting because it seems to offer faster-than-light communications) but for now EM is what we've got.

Radio waves are basically the long half of the electromagnetic spectrum, and thus are less directional (in fact, basically omnidirectional) and also are essentially able to travel longer distances. Sure, "they" might be using infrared laser beams to send information back and forth between mother ships, but that would require high precision aiming due to the nature of IR (and, therefore, we wouldn't see any of it here on Earth anyway).

Furthermore, radio waves kind of "come with the territory" when devising electronics. Any simple wire can act as a radio antenna, both a transmitter and a reciever. If you run just about any electric current through it, you're almost guaranteed to be emitting some sort of radio frequency. Inside your computer case is a virtual hurricane of RF interference. So it's not like radio is some obscure technology; in fact, it's a byproduct of pretty much any advanced electronics. Even some stars (quasars and pulsars) put out regular radio-frequency signals (along with vast amounts of other EM radiation such as infrared, x-ray, ultraviolet, and of course visible light).

And radio technology is hardly "on its way to becoming obselete". How do you think we're communicating with the Mars rovers, magic? And what do you think your wireless home network is using? (Okay technically it's a microwave technology, but the line is arbitrary, and some people lump the microwaves in with the radio waves anyway. 2.4GHz in particular is basically right on the border of being in the traditional radio frequency spectrum.)

Lastly, remember the distances involved and the limitation of the speed of light. Any radio signals that we pick up from "out there" could have been transmitted millions of years ago. Obviously there's no telling what's happened in the meantime (maybe the aliens' star has gone supernova -- but we won't know it for another few million years), but presumably every advanced civilization will have gone through some period of technological evolution, and thus will have emitted radio waves at one part of that evolution.

P.S. Wil: your site is taking a long time to load today, and Firefox says "Waiting for wilwheaton.buzznet.com" in the status bar for, like, 30 seconds (sometimes much longer) before showing the whole page. Dunno if it's just me, but I haven't experienced this before. And sorry for the long post. :)

Posted by: Brock at September 5, 2004 12:08 PM

non sequitur, but here's a poker story.
this kid is milton friedman's grandson.

Posted by: arbitraryaardvark at September 5, 2004 08:38 PM

when i look at the hubble deep field images, i'm convinced we're not the only intelligent life there is.

Posted by: cinder at September 6, 2004 03:54 PM

We are alone. There is no proof otherwise, yet. What is interesting is the need for many people to believe there is alien life out there, either because of the mass of UFO culture, bad sci-fi or statistics.

Good science fiction teaches us that the truth is much stranger.

Posted by: John Keogh at September 6, 2004 06:45 PM

Well that's typical.


Posted by: Geoff at September 6, 2004 07:00 PM

The search is important for two reasons:
1. If we are truly alone, that means that what we have here on Earth is extraordinarily important and we need to do a LOT more to preserve the planet and all it's inhabitants, human and otherwise. The slaughter of the animals and ecosystems, terrestrial as well as aquatic, is beyond insane!

2. If we are not alone, the preservation of the planet is still important. But we can also benefit from lessons and experiences from species and lifeforms that are likely eons older than we are. History teaches us that we must learn from the past in order to not repeat it in the future. That would be relevant here as well.


Posted by: Scott T at September 6, 2004 09:03 PM

I'm surprised nobody else has mentioned the possibility that *we* are the most technologically advanced lifeforms out there. Maybe *we'll* be the civilization that disappeared millions of years ago when our radio signal finally reaches some distant solar system and the alien geeks' computers. =)

Posted by: Kilbia at September 7, 2004 10:10 AM

I want the secret of the warp bomb, Mr. Cochrane.

Posted by: Colonel Adrik Thorsen at September 7, 2004 10:54 AM

I'm surprised that this got as much publicity as it did before the Men in Black suppressed it. They're getting sloppy, tsk.

And Frank B.: I'm a big fan of McKenna, but that quote makes no sense. There are an assload of Italian restaurants in the universe. Hell, I'm within walking distance of a couple.

Posted by: Tom at September 7, 2004 11:46 AM

OK, the issue is not that life *could* exist in other places, because the laws of physics and chemistry are universal. So given the planets around the billions of stars and the billions of galaxies of stars with planets, there is a very likely chance that life will arise on more than one at some time.

The big issue is: what are the odds that two civilizations will co-exist in the Universe long enough to communitcate wihe each other? What is the lifetime of a civilization? Our radio technology has been around for, what, 60 years or so? If the average technological civilization in the Universe only lasts about a century, we may as well just write everything down, launch it into space and hope somebody someday picks it up and can learn from it. That may be the only inter-civilization communication we'll ever be able to accomplish.

I also often find myself wondering that if Earth does have the only life in existence, don't we have a biological imperative to propagate our form of life to other worlds? It sounds hokey, but we could (or maybe should!) be like the "planet seeders" from Trek lore.

Posted by: PG at September 7, 2004 03:41 PM

I am in total agreement with you. I totally believe that we aren't alone. A lot of people try to make it religious, saying that God created only us or he would have said otherwise. I am a strong Christian and I would really lot to spit on those people. YES. God never said that they are out there...but he never said they WEREN'T out there either. I believe he left that an open ended questoin on purpose. I don't think we're ready to hear the answer quite yet.


That's free. Next soapbox will cost you.

Posted by: Veronica Knight at September 7, 2004 06:14 PM

Come on Wil, you have to see that "the cigarette smoking man" had a Glock to Werthimer's temple when he printed that retraction dis-avowing the legitimacy of the signals!


Posted by: Michael at September 8, 2004 08:40 AM

Well, now, even if we never do find extraterrestrials, the Drake Equation can be modified to predict your liklihood of finding a Soul Mate.

Well, that is of course for people who don't hit on married women on game shows [[evil grin]].

Yes, Wil, we were watching [[Grin]].

Posted by: Axinar at September 11, 2004 08:12 PM
Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?


Just A Geek

Dancing Barefoot

The Professor, The Banker, And The Suicide King


The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

Green Day: American Idiot

Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot


The Simpsons: Season Six

Firefly: The Complete Series

The Incredibles

WWdN Sponsor


|Books For Soldiers|

|Electronic Frontier Foundation|

|Media Matters|

|Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting|



Terror Alert Level