The Wow! SignalSee here for a brief introduction to the Gateau Method.

In 1959, astrophysicist Frank Drake published a speculative paper outlining a number of stars around which he believed intelligent extraterrestrial life might exist, and the electromagnetic spectra ideal for communicating with such far-flung civilisations. The following year, SETI—the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence—was born.

The SETI programme continued without much success until August 1977, when the Big Ear radio telescope at Ohio State University detected an anomalous radio burst, named the Wow! Signal, after the annotation Dr Jerry Ehman made on Big Ear’s computer printout. After 72 seconds of noise, the Wow! Signal disappeared forever. Its calculated origin is quite close to the HD179949 star system in Saggitarius, where an extrasolar planet was detected in 2000, but the Signal appears to have been a one-time event; subsequent attempts to search that area of sky have turned up nothing.

Nevertheless, there’s still a slight chance that the Wow! Signal was of terrestrial origin. In fact, the USAF has a history of using alien contact as a smokescreen for covert activities—a document declassified in 1995 even goes so far as to suggest that the infamous Roswell Incident was a cover for a Project Mogul recovery operation.

If the Wow! Signal were a government hoax, though, it would make for a very cost-effective disinformation tool, keeping many of the world’s brightest minds focused on the heavens, when perhaps—in our Gateau Method timeline—they might be better off looking beneath their feet for signs of intelligent life. This, therefore, implies that the isolationist, technologically superior K’n-yanis are actively trying to communicate with the surface world. But what could force them into an act of such desperation?

Well I have an idea, but it’ll have to wait until next Wednesday…

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