If you could say anything to extraterrestrials, do you think you could sum up your thoughts in 140 characters? To be so brief in a close encounter of the fifth kind, one would hope you could get your point across in such a way that, at the very least, it would not mistakenly start an intergalactic invasion of our pale blue dot.
Brace yourself, because The National Geographic Channel will hopefully avoid starting cosmic strife when it attempts to tweet out a reply to the mysterious Wow! Signal exactly 35 years from the day the cryptic message was received.
If you're unfamiliar with the Wow! Signal, in 1977, while volunteering at the Big Ear radio observatory in Ohio, which was monitoring space as part of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence program, Jerry Ehman noticed that the monitoring devices of Big Ear received a remarkably strong 72-second signal from outer space that literally sent the recording device's needles scribbling off the charts. It is regarded as the most powerful example of possible alien communication, leading Ehman at the time to scribble the word "Wow!" on the paper of the data log.
Although some debate has ensued over the authenticity of the Wow! Signal's source, with even Ehman at one time questioning whether it actually could have come from UFOs, this August 15 the National Geographic Channel will attempt to reply to the Wow! signal via Twitter. As part of a new program, Chasing Aliens, the channel has invited viewers, UFO enthusiasts, or anybody else that wants to be a part of the event to tweet a message with the hashtag #ChasingUFOs that will be bundled up into a "cosmic @reply" and fired up into the cosmos in hopes of finding the author of the original Wow! Signal.
“If The Wow! Signal really was a cosmic ‘tweet’ from our nearest neighbors, we think it's high time we organized a @reply,” said Christopher Albert, SVP, Global Communications and Talent Relations at National Geographic Channel.
On the August 15 episode of Chasing Aliens, National Geographic says that the package of tweets and videos will be shot into space from Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Interested stargazers can find out more on Nat Geo's dedicated site, www.thewowreply.com. Here's a promotional spot that the channel put together to get you excited.
Two things come to mind with this
publicity stunt experiment. One, maybe the reason that we were never able to find the signal again is because the aliens weren't all that impressed with our human race and decided they didn't want anything to do with us. Maybe Earth is that one table in the corner of the galactic cafeteria where everybody else desperately avoids sitting because its occupied by all the misfit dweebs and weirdos.
Two, as much as I personally enjoy Twitter, is that really the best well to dip into when we're trying to leave a good impression on our extraterrestrial familiars? If you've ever paid attention to the hashtags that are trending on Twitter at any given moment of the day, you know that high-brow humor isn't exactly Twitter's long suit. Really, is #RihannasBox really how we want to broker peace with our alien superiors?