SETI Hoopla

SETI discovered aliens! They detected a transmission from an advanced alien civilization located 94 light-years away! I saw it on T.V., so it must be true.

Okay, I actually wasn’t planning to say anything about this. It’s just another case of bad journalism and the misreporting of science. But this story seems to have developed legs—or maybe tentacles—and it just keeping popping up in my newsfeed.

When the story initially broke, I quickly checked SETI’s website. To my amusement, I found nothing: no press release, no mention of an alien signal at all. My thought at the time: where on Earth (pun intended) did the popular press get this story from?

There are others far more qualified than I to get into the nitty-gritty of what happened, or rather what didn’t happen, with this alleged SETI signal. I recommend this post from cosmicdairy.org. From what I gather from everything I’ve read, the basic summary is this:

  • In May of 2015, Russia’s RATAN-600 radio telescope detected “something.”
  • The signal was quickly determined to be a false positive. Apparently this happens a lot with all the radio noise from Earth and satellites in Earth orbit.
  • The story should have ended there.

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2 Responses to SETI Hoopla

  1. I saw something about this, but the news source I read it from presented it with so many caveats and hedges that I quickly decided to forget it unless I saw announcements more directly from SETI or whoever. Can’t say I’m too surprised the media turned it into a mess.

    SETI gets a some grief from haters who say they’re pseudoscientific. I think their goals are a long shot, but they’ve never claimed to have found anything, and don’t seem inclined to do so until they have rigorous evidence. (Unlike, say, cryptozoologists or paranormalists, who often claim they’ve found what they’re looking for.)

    Liked by 1 person

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