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International SETI Launches New Detection Scale

The Rio Scale is an ordinal scale between zero and ten, used to quantify the impact of any public announcement regarding evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. The concept was first proposed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (hence its name) by Ivan Almár and Jill Tarter in a paper presented to the 51st International Astronautical Congress, 29th Review Meeting on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, in October, 2000. Under their leadership, members of the IAA SETI Committee (and its successor, the IAA SETI Permanent Study Group) have been working since then to refine and perfect the Rio Scale, in order to bring some objectivity to the otherwise subjective interpretation of any claimed ETI detection.
Little Ferry - Oct 23, 2002
A new scale designed to give the public an expert view of any claimed detection of extraterrestrial intelligence has been launched today by the International Academy of Astronautics' Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Permanent Study Group at the World Space Congress in Houston.

The Rio Scale was initiated by Drs. Ivan Almar of Hungary and Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute in California to give the media and the public an idea of the credibility and importance -- as determined by a panel of SETI scientists -- of any claim that intelligence elsewhere in the universe has been detected.

To demonstrate the Rio Scale, Dr. Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute and Almar have authored a paper for the World Space Congress assessing fictional and past non-fictional SETI events.

From the realm of fiction they include the films Contact, The Arrival, Independence Day, The Sphere and 2001: A Space Odyssey and books including The Listeners, The Sparrow and The Coming. The non-fiction claims include the "face on Mars" and a SETI hoax involving the star EQ Peg.

So what Rio Scale rating would they get? The scale runs from zero (for non-credible claims of detection) to ten (for a completely reliable detection.) The SETI type detection in the movie Contact gets high marks near 10 because of the confirmations by telescopes around the world.

On the other hand a claim of a real detection in the EQ Peg hoax reaches only 3-4 on the scale during the claim, dropping to zero when a large radio telescope proves the signal is false.

"Hollywood has been rather inventive about scenarios involving contact with extraterrestrial societies, and their stories are well known," says Shostak.

"Some of these films make good 'lab rats' for testing out the Rio Scale, and testing is definitely desirable. After all, if SETI researchers picks up a signal, it will be very useful to have a scheme in place for assessing the importance and reliability of the discovery."

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Astronomer Speaks Up For ET
Sydney - Oct 1, 2002
While some scientists cautiously plan for ways to reply to extraterrestrial transmissions, others haven't waited for a signal to start talking. Sending messages from Earth into space to announce the existence of the human race is somewhat rare and controversial. Digital transmissions have been beamed into space from radio telescopes, and four spacecraft currently leaving the solar system bear messages for anyone who finds them.

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