Apparent Hoax Dismays SETI
For more information contact: Dr. H. Paul Shuch, Executive Director
(201) 641-1770, or email email@example.com
For Immediate Release, Please
LITTLE FERRY, NJ.., October, 1998 -- Claims in the press beginning on 28 October 1998 about an intelligently generated signal from the vicinity of the nearby binary star system EQ Pegasi are the result of either an elaborate hoax or severely flawed science, according to SETI League executive director Dr. H. Paul Shuch. This SETI "hit" was allegedly received by an amateur in England. The nonprofit, membership-supported SETI League has been analyzing this claim since October 23rd. None of its 63 active observing stations around the world has been able to confirm it. The signal was reported anonymously in a message hacked into a closed (private) signal verification email list. Subsequently, the hacker went to the BBC, which broke the story. The perpetrator asserts that he/she is not a SETI League member, which is scant consolation to that scientific body.
The "signal" has been thoroughly discredited by a host of radio astronomers, amateur and professional, who have analyzed the images posted to the Internet. The person who reported the alleged signals has violated every principle of responsible science. He or she has not followed the carefully crafted SETI League signal detection protocols (see <http://www.setileague.org/general/detect.htm>) to which all SETI League participating stations are signatory. The person has not adhered to international policies regarding signal verification (see <http://www.setileague.org/general/protocol.htm>). This amateur radio astronomer has not identified himself or herself, and not answered private emails from either the SETI League's Executive Director or its volunteer Regional Coordinator in England, making any meaningful follow-up impossible. And he has not waited for backup analysis before announcing his "find" to the press. If this is not a blatant hoax, it is the worst kind of irresponsible science (the kind which gives all credible scientific endeavors a bad name).
"Anonymity and scientific integrity are mutually exclusive," says Shuch. "A responsible scientist, amateur or professional, takes ownership of his or her mistakes as well as accomplishments. One of the responsibilities of scientific organizations like The SETI League is to help the media make that distinction."
SETI scientists seek to determine through microwave measurements whether humankind is alone in the universe. Since Congress terminated NASA's SETI funding in 1993, The SETI League and other scientific groups have been attempting to privatize the research. Experimenters interested in participating in the search for intelligent alien life, or citizens wishing to help support it, should email to firstname.lastname@example.org, check the SETI League Web site at http://www.setileague.org/, send a fax to 1 (201) 641-1771, or contact The SETI League, Inc. membership hotline at 1 (800) TAU-SETI. Be sure to provide us with a postal address to which we will mail further information. The SETI League, Inc. is a membership-supported, non-profit [501(c)(3)], educational and scientific corporation dedicated to the electromagnetic Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.