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The True Story of a 1967 “Contact” Incident

The story of the SETI discussions during the discovery of pulsars has never been fully told—until now

One of the most significant events for human kind will be the detection of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. This kind of ‘contact’ is bound to have a profound impact on human culture, society and technology.

The question of how to handle such an event has been widely discussed. Indeed, the international community agreed on a ‘Detection Protocol’ in 1990 that sets out the steps that a research group should take in the event of a contact.

Today, Alan Penny at the University of St Andrews in Scotland tells the story of a real life incident in which the possibility of contact with an intelligent civilisation was seriously considered. Penny draws together various first hand recollections of the event to show how researchers handled the possibility.

The event in question is the 1967 discovery of pulsars, which we now know are rotating neutron stars that produce regular radio pulses. The team that made the discovery was led by Anthony Hewish, who later won a Nobel prize for the work, and famously included Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who did not win the prize.

At the time, the dawn of radio astronomy, the discovery of a source of regular pulses in space was a huge surprise. “We had to face the possibility that the signals were, indeed, generated on a planet circling some distant star, and that they were artificial,” said Hewish later.

The timeline behind the discovery stretches over 6 months or so. In August 1967, Bell noticed regular signals at the same sidereal time each day. Almost immediately, the team considered the possibility that the signals were generated by Little Green Men or LGM as they called it.

In December, the team confirmed the discovery using another telescope and Bell pinpointed the exact position of the source in the sky.

Soon afterwards, she found a second source of signals and by mid-January, a third and fourth source. By this time, the team discounted the possibility that an artificial source could be responsible and eventually settled on neutron stars as the explanation.

In February, the paper announcing the discovery was accepted and published in Nature following a public announcement on 24 February 1968.

Penny says that what’s interesting about this process is that during the discovery process, the team discussed the implications should the signal turn out to be an artificial source, how to verify such a conclusion and how to announce it. They also discussed whether such a discovery might be dangerous.

This process closely follows the Detection Protocol agreed by the international community in 1990.

There’s an interesting corollary to this. The team also discussed the possibility that if it were an artificial source, somebody would want to reply.

Penny points out that the international community has yet to agree on a Reply Protocol because there are widely differing views on whether such a course of action would be beneficial or dangerous for humanity.

This is a situation that needs to be rectified. “The 1967 episode indicates how difficult it would be to construct a policy in the fervid atmosphere of a ‘Contact’,” says Penny.

With SETI searches now focusing on habitable exoplants around other stars, it seems prudent to come to some agreement sooner rather than later.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1302.0641: The SETI Episode in the 1967 Discovery of Pulsars

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Health authorities have confirmed a case of a rare type of smallpox in a UK patient

Skin rashes caused by ape pox. Credit: CDC's Public Health Image Library (Public domain)

A patient in England has been diagnosed with a rare case of monkeypox, as reported by Public Health England (PHE).

The rare viral infection is similar to smallpox, and though it is milder, it can be fatal.

It has been reported that the individual was in Nigeria and that he would have contracted the disease there. Later, upon returning to the United Kingdom, he stayed in the southwest of England where the disease occurred.

Upon symptoms, he was transferred to the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust , a center specializing in infectious diseases in London.

The health authorities have taken the necessary measures to prevent the virus from spreading to other people.

Vaccination against smallpox to people in Africa. (Public domain)

The PHE said in a statement:

As a precaution, PHE experts are working closely with NHS colleagues to implement rapid infection control procedures, including contact with people who may have been in close contact with the individual to provide health information and advice. ”

But experts are not very worried about contagion, because monkeypox does not spread easily among people and the risk of affecting the population is quite low, said Dr. Meera Chand , PHE consulting microbiologist.

This transmission electron micrograph (TEM) represents a series of smallpox virus virions. Credit: CDC / Dr. Fred Murphy; Sylvia Whitfield / Wikimedia Commons

Although the infection usually occurs mildly and people get better without treatment; Some individuals may develop very serious symptoms, with a percentage of 1 to 10 percent of patients dying from the disease during outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization .

The symptoms presented are similar to those of smallpox but milder. First, fever, headaches, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. Subsequently rashes may appear on the skin , starting on the face and spreading throughout the rest of the body.

This is not the first time a patient has been infected with smallpox in the United Kingdom. In 2018, there were three cases after a person was diagnosed with the disease. The individual had also returned from Nigeria.

Source: Gov.ukIFL Science

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A cold virus can infect a pregnant woman’s fetus

The study showed that the expectant mother is able to transmit a respiratory tract infection to her unborn child.

Scientists from Tulane University (Louisiana, USA) received the first evidence that the cold virus, which affects a pregnant woman, can penetrate the placenta and infect the fetus. An article about this has been published in PLOS One .

The placenta, an organ that develops in the uterine cavity of a woman during pregnancy, provides the necessary nutrition from the mother to the embryo and simultaneously performs another important task: it filters out potential pathogenic microorganisms. However, a group of pediatricians led by Professor Giovanni Piedimonte found that this natural “barrier” is not so impenetrable.

Scientists took the placenta from donors, isolated three main types of cells – cytotrophoblasts, fibroblasts and Kashchenko – Hofbauer cells – and in vitro exposed them to the human respiratory syncytial virus, which causes respiratory tract infections. Although cytotrophoblast cells supported a weak process of the spread of the virus, two other types were more susceptible to infection. So, Kashchenko-Hofbauer cells survived and allowed the virus to replicate inside the cell walls. According to scientists, then these cells, moving inside the placenta, are able to transmit the virus to the fetus.

“Such cells do not die after they become infected,” Piedimonte explains. – When they enter the fetus, they are comparable to bombs stuffed with a virus. They do not spread the virus in the area of ​​the “explosion”, but carry it through the intercellular channels. <…> Thus, our theory is confirmed that when a woman gets a cold during pregnancy, the virus that causes the infection can pass to the fetus and cause a pulmonary infection before the birth of a child. ”

Pediatricians also suggested that the respiratory syncytial virus is able to infect the lung tissue of the unborn baby and provoke the development of an infection that will subsequently affect the predisposition to asthma. To confirm or refute their theory, the authors of the study intend to conduct clinical tests.

Last year, scientists from the University of Cambridge created an artificial and functional mini-placenta using trophoblasts, and recently it turned out that particles of air pollution can penetrate the placenta of pregnant women

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How are ETs traveling through space and time today?

Traveling through space has always been a difficult task, as the distances between planets and even more between solar systems and galaxies are incomprehensible.

Science fiction makes things look easy using space warp engines and wormholes in space. There has been much speculation about the idea that there is a way to travel the vast distance of space with relative ease. Now it seems that no conventional science can support these ideas. Many men and women of science bet that this is possible.

Something that any viewer has seen on films several times is the crew of a spaceship needing to reach another planet or region of space deep within the universe. They enter some coordinates and voila , cross some tunnel-like structure, and reach a destination millions of light years from the point of departure.

But what was fantasy can now come true, as recent discoveries have found that galaxies can move between great distances and against predictions of basic cosmological models. The reason for this may make us rethink everything we think science knows about the universe.

The universe is full of many mysteries; It is an impressive kaleidoscope of patterns that science studies. These nebulae and star clusters continually reveal secrets about how they move in unexplained patterns.

Galaxies tend to form clusters that are limited by gravity, and continue to clump together until they become much larger superclusters. Earth is part of a cluster (galaxy) we call the Milky Way, which in turn is part of the Virgo supercluster that contains over 1,000 galaxies. These masses continually change into different shapes, merging with each other, and some are even pulled between competing galaxies. The movement indicates that there is possibly some massive invisible force at work.

Generally, galaxies have an effect on each other, exerting gravitational force that moves them in a way that is predictable. What scientists have found is that there are exceptions to this and they are theorizing that this may be related to the influence of “large scale” structures..

These “large-scale structures” are composed of hydrogen gas and dark matter and form a pattern of strings, sheets, filaments, and knots that connect galaxies. Imagine a giant cosmic web that connects all parts of the universe.

This web has enormous implications for the way we think the universe works, the movement of galaxies and the development of planets and suns, and basically every astronomical body has massive consequences on the habitability of a world and the possibility of life’s evolution.

So what makes these clusters move the way they do, and why are newfound structures a problem for current gravity-based theories?

First, it is contrary to current thinking that galaxies follow a fixed uniform pattern, which means that many of the patterns that have been shown and explanations of why a galaxy follows such a pattern will need to be reexamined.

The impact of these large structures will need to be added to the mix and they could actually change the accepted cosmic model. Science needs to collect much more data about structures in order to calculate this effect. A man who works on this is a scientist named Hutsemékers.

When asked about discovering this connection network, he said:

One of the great things about science is that you can create a model with thousands of dice, but if something doesn’t ‘stick’, it starts to break. This crack has to be sealed or it will tear down the entire house.

This new discovery will really stir up the established ideas. Theories about the universe, as the most important of events, “the big bang ” will need to be reworked.

Why is this so interesting?

Because it can help us understand, link ideas and theories about the existence of extraterrestrial life somewhere deep in space.

If we discover the web that connects the universe, an advanced alien race may also have learned about it. Could this be how ETs are traveling the universe today?

One thing that many skeptics point to as a way of refuting extraterrestrial visitation on the planet is that the vastness of space prevents any species from traveling between worlds. What if an advanced alien race had found a way to utilize this cosmic web?

Making a full circle to the beginning of this story, would they have some kind of drive, motor or technology that could allow access to the structure and then travel between galaxies?

A tunnel like a shortcut or a ‘wormhole’ could very well accommodate this need.

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