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SETI Hacked By Prankster
Boston - October 29, 1998 - On Monday, October 26, an anonymous enthusiast of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) made a startling anonnouncement: we are not alone in the universe. But within minutes of analysing the alleged data, Professor Nathan Cohen of Boston University gave the verdict: "A hoax", said Cohen. Not even a good one."

The alleged discoverer claimed that he was a ham radio operator piggybacking his SETI search off a British company's 30 foot satellite dish. "He talked the talk but didn't walk the walk", said Cohen. Calling himself "anon", the hoaxster sent copies of the data all over the internet, which Cohen quickly reviewed--and was the first to reject.

"It stuck out like a sore thumb", said Cohen. Unwilling to elaborate on all of the signal's failings as an alien 'hit', Cohen said "my colleagues and I share the belief that we shouldn't help the hoaxsters by telling them all that's wrong with the fake."

The major problem is that the signals were carbon copies on two separate days of data, a probability that Cohen says would be astronomically small as reality. But the main problem was the signal lacked the channel bandwidth required of a SETI signal.

"The signal loses a tremendous amount of punch over cosmic distances and you have to optimize the mode", said Cohen. Cohen showed in 1993 that distant SETI signals would be spread out in frequency like teeth on a comb, in what is now called 'polychromatic SETI'. "These 'sidebands' of the alleged signal do nothing for helping detect it and are characteristic of an Earth-based modulation method." While anon gave the position close to that of a known star, Cohen asserts the star's position information lacked a key detail which invalidates it as a real one.

Cohen asserts that the 'signal' is a fabricated one or a snip of a terrestrial satellite's signal being passed off as otherwise. "A hacker gone wild. Too many 'Contact' reruns. Case closed", said Cohen.

This information is provided by SETINOW which sponsors dissemination of important breakthroughs in SETI. Professor Cohen may be contacted through the following listing.

  • SETI

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