7/14/12

6EQUJ5: In a Word...

Often, momentous deeds are accompanied by momentous words.  There are no prescriptions for placing the right words at the right time.  We know them when we hear them.

When Sir Henry Morton Stanley staggered into Ujiji and discovered another explorer who had for years been assumed dead, his “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” became a hallmark of the brevity and understatement famous in the English.

General Anthony McAuliffe, when faced with the German’s demand for surrender during the Battle of the Bulge, sent back the official reply of “Nuts!” exhibiting a characteristic American flippancy in the face of danger.

And though Neil Armstrong bungled his article when he took that “giant leap,” the words he spoke will still echo through time as a monument to all of humanity’s indomitable spirit and determination.

Then we come to the happening at the “Big Ear,” a radio telescope the size of three football fields at Ohio State University.  The task of the monitors at the telescope was straightforward: watch for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.  Parameters had been determined as to where that signal would most likely be found, in the narrow band range: TV, AM, FM, and HAM radio, and satellite transmissions.  The “Big Ear” had been scanning the skies since 1973 without success… until August 15, 1977.

Maybe.

It hasn’t been proven to have come from an intelligent source but is still today the only transmission that hasn’t been disproven.

The “Big Ear” is no longer there, since bulldozed to make way for townhomes and golf courses, but if that signal someday turns out to have been our first communication with a civilization from outer space, we’ll have to live with the simple description given by volunteer-monitor Jerry Ehman when he made a hand-written notation along the edge of a computer printout: “Wow!

3 comments:

Karinann said...

Interesting post, Christopher. Was Ehman's "Wow" any basis for the book/movie Contact? Just wondering.

cyurkanin said...

I don't think so, but Ehman was mentioned in an X-Files episode :)

cyurkanin said...

More - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48703769/ns/technology_and_science-space/