Fall 2006 Issue

DR. SETI’s
STARSHIP

Testing a Dubious Claim

By Dr. H. Paul Shuch,* N6TX

“Adam Adamson” (his face disguised to protect his privacy) explains his claim of extraterrestrial contact.

Might extraterrestrial civilizations be so advanced that they have learned how to monitor our ham bands, or even our internet traffic? One innovative SETI experiment is betting on that premise. Through its highly publicized and widely indexed website <http://ieti.org>, Invitation to ETI invites contact between humanity and any beings of extraterrestrial origin finding themselves able to access it. The heart of the site is an invitation issued by 100 scholars from disparate disciplines, including a broad cross-section of the contemporary arts, physical sciences, and social sciences (and including a handful of hams). To date, the invitation has proved just as successful as traditional microwave SETI: It has yet to uncover any clear and convincing evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence!

This is not to say that we haven’t heard from intelligent terrestrials trying to foil the system. Since the invitation was launched in 1996, it has attracted roughly 75 responses from correspondents claiming to be the beings we seek. Through simple and reliable methods, which we will not delineate here (lest we stack the deck in favor of the next prankster), we have been able quickly and conclusively to unmask those humans who have attempted to fool those issuing the invitation. There was, however, one claim that, though bizarre, was convincing and compelling enough to demand closer scrutiny before it was ultimately dismissed.

The episode in question began to unfold in October 2004, when a man left a voicemail message in which he stated that he had “what the Invitation to ETI group is looking for”—that is, evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. The claimant (let us call him “Adam Adamson” to protect the inept) then e-mailed an assertion that although he was most assuredly a human terrestrial, he was able to communicate with extraterrestrial beings via electromagnetic means and was prepared to demonstrate this phenomenon under controlled conditions. A sustained dialog between Mr. Adamson and several amateur SETIzens convinced us that although his claims were unlikely, the individual appeared intelligent, lucid, cooperative, and sincere. Satisfied that he was probably not a raving lunatic, we proceeded to arrange for dispassionate scrutiny of his claim, which if verifiable could significantly alter our world view.

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