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SETI Report Bogus

Just off the phone with Seth Shostak, I can report that the KTVU story discussed below about a possible SETI reception is bogus. Apparently the reporter involved misinterpreted the conversation, as we had surmised. We may get a successful reception of an extraterrestrial civilization’s signal one of these days, but this wasn’t it.

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  • andy January 16, 2008, 18:44

    Well that’s a relief. A SETI success before there is some proper discussion of METI would not be good IMHO. But hey, we don’t need to go through that argument again…

  • ljk January 16, 2008, 18:57

    From the Bad Astronomer’s blog:


    No alien signal

    Posted at 3:01 pm in Astronomy, Debunking, Science, Skepticism

    OK folks, nothing to see here.

    I talked with my buddy Seth Shostak, who is a Senior SETI astronomer, and he told me that this whole alien signal thing is a big misunderstanding on the part of the KTVU reporter.

    Basically, Dan Wertheimer, a radio astronomer who is affiliated with SETI, detected a pulse from space. The source is certainly extragalactic, and is most likely some sort of natural event. It’s unclear exactly what kind of event, but there is a long list of things it could be. Aliens phoning us is pretty far down that list. But since Dan does do some SETI work, the reporter just botched things up a bit and misattributed the source. The news article reads oddly, like he took a mishmash of topics and wrote them all up into one article, so this misunderstanding doesn’t surprise me much.

    The signal was detected quite some time ago, and had it been alien, believe me you would have heard from the folks at SETI!

    So chalk this one up as yet another in a long line of false alarms. Sorry to burst the ET bubble.

  • ljk January 16, 2008, 20:41

    Another source with more information on the SETI signal “incident”.

    See especially Message 700629:


  • ljk January 16, 2008, 23:48

    Wow, a correction from KTVU:


  • Phil January 17, 2008, 11:20

    Mainstream media always seems to get this wrong…. I really wish there was more science or at least some scientific understanding in these articles!!

    Anyway, hopefully one day they will find a signal and send one back but I bet we’ll be dead as a species or evolved into something else by the time anyone but the closest civilization responds!! Cool stuff… keep looking!!!

  • ljk January 17, 2008, 11:50

    This is what led to the confusion by the reporter:


  • ljk January 18, 2008, 14:49

    According to the KTVU Health and Science Editor via the
    Bad Astronomer, apparently is the PUBLIC’s fault for
    interpreting the badly researched and poorly written
    original article to mean that SETI scientists had detected
    an alien signal:


    Shame on you, misinformed public.