In the winter of 1967 Cambridge radio astronomers discovered a new type of radio source of such an artificial seeming nature that for a few weeks some members of the group had to seriously consider whether they had discovered an extraterrestrial intelligence. Although their investigations lead them to a natural explanation (they had discovered pulsars), they had discussed the implications if it was indeed an artificial source: how to verify such a conclusion and how to announce it, and whether such a discovery might be dangerous. In this they presaged many of the components of the SETI Detection Protocols and the proposed Reply Protocols which have been used to guide the responses of groups dealing with the detection of an extraterrestrial intelligence. These Protocols were only established some twenty five years later in the 1990s and 2000s. Using contemporary and near-contemporary documentation and later recollections, this paper discusses in detail what happened that winter.
European Physical Journal H
- Pub Date:
- September 2013
- Physics - History and Philosophy of Physics;
- Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 18 pages. Published in The European Physical Journal: Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Physics, February 2013