Friday, July 26, 2013

Episode 9 - Listening to the Silence

Released: 27 July 2013

The Fermi Paradox, Part 2, with Universe Today's Fraser Cain and University of Edinburgh's Duncan Forgan.  Why, as far as we can tell, has the Earth not been colonized by superior alien civilizations?This question is called the Fermi Paradox, and it is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. We discuss just how strong the Fermi Paradox is, and the kind of research program it will take to resolve it.

The Wow! Signal Podcast podcasting seal of approval goes to: Penn's Sunday School.

Download the .mp3 file

Fraser Cain

The Music


  1. Excellent program and guests. Thank you.

    In a vast Universe of possibilities where might we find evidence definitively revealing an extraterrestrial civilization(s) exists? Would intelligent beings evolved on other worlds resemble us in any way? A convergence of new some data, a prior, never explained observation and a one-off effort provides a unique opportunity to speculate as to a prime search location.

    New data suggests that our galaxy harbors an abundance of planets, with some 40 billion of them possibly Earth-like (Dennis Overbye, New York Times, 4 November 2013). Even though planets may not be rare, SETI and other searchers still have an enormous haystack of space to scrutinize. Perhaps a good place to begin would be the nearby stars in the vicinity of Sagittarius, near the galactic center. That region situated near a grouping of stars known to astronomers as ‘the teapot’ was implicated as the probable source area for the WOW! Signal received 15 August 1977 by the Big Ear radio telescope. The origin of the 1977 WOW! Signal remains unexplained and no analogous emissions have ever been detected.

    The SETI effort has been intermittent and its patrons have sometimes been impatient. On 16 November 1974 a team led by Frank Drake beamed a message from the Arecibo radio dish toward the globular star cluster M13. That radio blast into space was a one-time effort just to show humans could reach out to communicate beyond the confines of our planet and its execution carries some interesting implications. Comparing the Drake message and WOW! Signal leads to an interesting, if unsettling, hypothesis; if the one-time WOW! Signal was artificial and extraterrestrial, the originators may be remarkably similar to us. Maybe their governmental funding agencies waited a whole year for a response, calculated how far the signal had traveled and then declared the entire project a bogus waste of taxpayer money badly needed for the war machine.

    Let’s change that hypothesis; they are exactly like us.

    Tyler Kokjohn

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. BTW, you can be a SETI patron by sending a little change their way. As you probably know, they don't get any direct government funding.

      Because of the strength of the Wow! Signal there is some thinking that it may be from a Bracewell Probe - and that there is some chance we'll see it again.

  2. The WOW! signal facinates me. It is a tantalising glimps of what could be an extra terrestrial signal yet, I remain convinced we are probably the most advanced civilisation in the MW galaxy right now.

    All terrestrial origins of WOW! can all be discounted as far as I am aware (not sure about computer glitch though!) but the only one we cannot prove is the extra terrestrial intelligence origin because only one of Big Ear's two receivers pickd up the signal.

    Some sceptics say it couldnt have been an E.T.I. signal because it has never been repeated but, Frank Drake only sent one signal from Aricebo, didnt he?

  3. If you haven't read it already, I recommend Robert Gray's fine book on the Wow! Signal "The Elusive Wow":

    I'm not aware that anyone argues that the Wow! Signal can't be ET because it hasn't been observed repeating, but simply that it can't be confirmed as an ET signal for that reason. As Gray points out, not a whole lot of radio telescope time has been devoted to finding it.