Airdate: Apr 12, 2000
Scientist: Kent Cullers
Listening to the Universe: Simulation
To human ears, the kind of signal that would come from an intelligent life form in outer space would have a distinctive sound.
This week we've been learning about how scientists are monitoring signals from outer space in their search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Well, up till now, we've been hearing about all the false alarms - the signals generated by natural phenomena which might be mistaken for calls from ET. Today, we'll get a sense of what the real thing might sound like. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.
"I'm going to play an exaggerated example of the kind of thing one would actually detect if there were a signal on a distant planet like our radio or TV. And this is the kind of thing we would actually hear in our receivers."
Kent Cullers is a physicist with the SETI Institute. As part of the ongoing search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, he and other scientists monitor electromagnetic signals from space with the help of radio telescopes, computers and yes, sometimes even the human ear.
"What would actually happen at first is that computers would analyze it and it would then be enhanced so that the human ear could check it out, too. Just because we like to have direct sense perception of the universe from time to time just to make sure that our computers haven't gone insane."
ambience: Simulated Signal from Space
"That kind of signal is changing in frequency in a way that nothing in the universe does as far as we know. The reason that it changes in frequency is because, at least in the simulation, it's generated on a distant planet that's orbiting and rotating in its own stellar system. It's very much like what happens if a train passes you. The sound is high and then low. It has to do with the relative motion of the object. In the very same way, a transmitter on a distant planet is moving and the signal that we receive will appear to change. So far there have been no signals in the universe that have had this characteristic, though it's the thing we look for."
Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.