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understood how chlorophyll works to produce food and plants and makes life on earth thrive. And in fact had been awarded the Nobel Prize for it. In fact, that prize was given to him right in the middle of this meeting, which was pretty disruptive, I have to tell you. The purpose of the meeting was to estimate how many extraterrestrial civilisations might be out there using what’s become known as the Drake Equation. So, we start out with the rate of star formation, which you write R star, and of course the more stars more planets there will be, the more possibilities for life. We multiply that by the fraction of stars which actually have planets and then again by the number of habitable planets in each system. We then multiply this by the fraction on which life develops. And then by the fraction by which intelligence appears. And then by the fraction of those which actually give a detectable technology, one we might detect across the great distances between the stars. What we have now in these six factors is the rate of production of detectable civilisations. Well, how many are there? This rate times the average time that these civilisations remain detectable. ‘United States maintains its determination Radio ‘ For two days, the group worked out best guess values for each term in Frank’s equation. The answer we came to for the value of N was N equals about , detectable civilisations at present in our galaxy, the Milky Way. It became clear to us that it was very likely that there were radio signals from other worlds passing through the room in which we were sitting and which we could detect if we but pointed our telescopes in the right direction and tuned to the right frequency. At the time of the meeting, Frank thought he knew exactly what channel to listen into. What we needed was a special place in the universe where civilisations might contact, and we realised it wasn’t a place, but it was a radio channel. The most common element in the universe is hydrogen. It happens to transmit a very beautiful signal at a certain frequency when it’s in its lowest energy state. And we decided that might be the place you meet your friends when you can’t arrange in advance where to meet. So we decided to search the hydrogen wavelength. My father served in the Army, and when I was in high school he really encouraged me to join the Service, so that’s what I did. I joined the military as an intelligence officer and after seven years I transferred to the Department of Defence. I was in the cold case unit for four years and during that time I would look through cases that were , or years old, and the intent for that was to capture spies that slipped through our fingers. The Department of Defence was just a chapter in my life, but as a kid I always wanted be an astronomer, so I went to school, received my degrees and I became a scientist. Since leaving the agency, Antonio has become obsessed with the most famous cold case in the search for extraterrestrials. On August , , astronomers at the Big Ear radio telescope in Ohio were listening to the night sky and, at about : hours local time, they detected a radio signal from space. The single was strong, about seconds, but more importantly, it was detected in something known as the hydrogen line. That was significant because at the time, astronomers thought that if extraterrestrials did exist they would use that frequency. The astronomer Jerry Ehman and was so excited that he actually wrote the term “Wow!” on the printout. But what exactly caused the Wow! signal? It’s a mystery that has endured for decades. I approached the Wow! signal just like any cold case at the Pentagon. I had multiple facts. I had a crime scene, and in this case we know that the crime scene is the constellation Sagittarius. I have a time of the crime, which was at : local, and the date of the event which was on August , . More importantly, we have a fingerprint of the suspect, and that’s hydrogen. So I went back to the NASA databases and I plugged in the date and time of the event, and what I learned was there were two comets in the very same area at the same time that the Wow! signal was detected.



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