All of my life, people, average people, scientists and fiction writers, have been speculating as to whether there is intelligent life on other planets.

My mother said she was keeping an open mind.

English: A scan of a color copy of the origina...

A scan of a color copy of the original computer printout, taken several years after the 1977 arrival of the Wow! signal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Movie producers speculated in works from Star Trek to E.T.

Science fiction authors from Clifford Simak (Strangers in the Universe) to Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land) speculated about intelligent life in the universe in their books.

So, scientists decided to test a theory: if there is intelligent life in the Universe outside of Earth, they might try to communicate with us using radio signals.

John D. Kraus, an American physicist, was the first to set this theory down on paper in an article published in the March, 1955 edition of Scientific American.

Two years later, the SETI project (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), won grants from government organizations like the National Science Foundation to construct a listening device, a radio telescope, called the “Big Ear,” built in Delaware, Ohio, to see if aliens were sending us recognizable radio signals.

On August 15, 1977, an American astronomer and SETI project volunteer, Jerry R. Ehman, believed he had captured such a signal.

He wrote “Wow!” on his notes, pointing to the details of the recording. The signal he identified came to be called the Wow signal.

It has never happened since.

The federal government stopped its funding of the SETI projects in 1995, though some private organizations have continued support.

Clarke famously said,

“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

And, he joked:

“I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.”


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers


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