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SETI Institute in the News – Media Roundup. October 16-31, 2021

SETI Institute in the News – Media Roundup. October 16-31, 2021

Proxima Centauri by Danielle Futselaar
It’s not Aliens, It’s Australians

Late in 2020, the Breakthrough Listen project picked up a signal potentially coming from the direction of Proxima Centauri.  After a year of investigation, Dr. Sofia Sheikh of Breakthrough Listen and the SETI Institute, and her colleagues, discovered that the source was terrestrial, not extraterrestrial.  In two papers published in Nature Astronomy, the analysis concludes that it was instead an artifact of Earth-based interference from human technologies. In addition to resolving the source of the candidate signal, the papers also discuss a data analysis process that identifies false positive detections.

“We know for sure that blc1 is human-interference, and we’re quite confident that the signal was coming from a transmitter on the ground,” Sheikh explained in an email. “We’re also quite confident that the transmitter wasn’t intending to produce a signal at 982 MHz, but that blc1 was an accidental harmonic caused by some kind of malfunctioning electronics.”

Sheikh said it could’ve been a cell tower that was subsequently repaired after the observation was made, or even some form of tiny consumer electronics located in close proximity to the telescope.

Frontier Development Lab (FDL) Focuses on Astronaut Health

One of the FDL goals this past summer was to better understand radiation exposure on astronauts.  Partnering with Intel, the team used both human and mouse date to create an algorithm that can identify radiation exposure cancer.

Partnering with Frontier Development Lab is a chance to solve huge problems at scale, with cutting-edge technology and unprecedented collaboration between the public and private sectors in AI for exploration medicine,” said Shashi Jain, strategic innovation and FDL partner manager at Intel. “We believe that the FDL Astronaut Health challenge results will enable NASA to understand the mechanisms involved in protecting astronauts more effectively as we return to the moon and beyond, as well as provide a blueprint to accelerate the use of AI in healthcare applications on Earth.”


Stamford Welland AcademyCapturing CO2 In a Bottle

With the help of SETI Institute scientists John Marshall and Claudio Vita-Finzi, students at Stamford Welland Academy have designed an experiment to test which solution of sodium hydroxide best removed carbon dioxide directly from air.  (Spoiler alert – it’s 40%). 

The young scientists from Stamford Welland Academy have invited Alok Sharma, president of Cop26, to receive the bottle in the hope it can sit on his table at the United Nations conference and highlight the presence of carbon dioxide in the world.
The science lab experiment was designed using everyday objects, including a solar-powered garden pump and a solution of caustic soda.


UAP SightingSightings and Science

What does the history of UFO/UAP sightings indicate about the possibility that Earth has indeed been visited by alien technology?  Science is beginning to expend more energy in investigation in the most compelling cases.

If the aliens are here, you gotta say they're the best houseguests ever, because they never do anything,"[Seth] Shostak said. "They just buzz around. They don't address climate change; they don't steal our molybdenum."

Still, the E.T. idea should not be dismissed or ridiculed, Shostak and others argue. It's not very scientific to eliminate a hypothesis out of hand, after all, and some UAP encounters are very difficult to explain.


Big Picture Science

Join hosts Seth Shostak and Molly Bentley each week as they explore emerging science and technology research.

Radical Cosmology
400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy.
Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars. Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe. 
Modern theories about the existence of the ghostly particles called neutrinos or of collapsed stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while similarly incendiary, didn’t prompt arrest, of course. Neutrinos and black holes were arresting ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence.
Hear about scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos, and black holes are now found on the frontiers of astronomical research.
With guests Alberto Martinez, Anne Schukraft, Ephraim Fischbach, Chris Impey

Skeptic Check: Brain Gain
Looking to boost your brainpower? Luckily, there are products promising to help. Smart drugs, neurofeedback exercises, and brain-training video games all promise to improve your gray matter’s performance. But it’s uncertain whether these products really work. Regulatory agencies have come down hard on some popular brain training companies for false advertising. But other brain games have shown benefits in clinical trials. And could we skip the brain workout altogether and pop a genius pill instead? 
In our monthly look at critical thinking, we separate the pseudo from the science of commercial cognitive enhancement techniques.
With guests Caroline Williams, Adam Gazzaley, Amy Arnsten, Kevin Roose, Leonard Mlodinow

More Big Picture Science episodes can be found at



SETI Institute hosts interview cutting-edge scientists each week on social media. Recent SETI Live episodes include:

The End of Everything (A special Nightmare on SETI Street SETI Live)
It’s that time of year to gather around the fire and tell scary stories - tales of woe to make you shriek and give you dreams of a universe that has ended. Don’t worry. You (probably) won’t be around to witness that ending, but it’s coming anyway. Join us as we chat with cosmologist Dr. Katie Mack about all the ways in the which the universe might end.

Voyage aux Frontières de la Vie: La Vie existe t-elle au-delà de la Terre
Rejoignez-nous pour un SETI Live spécial en français! Nathalie Cabrol, astrobiologiste et Directrice du centre de recherche Carl Sagan à l’institut SETI a écrit un nouveau livre qui vient de paraitre sur son parcours personnel, mais aussi comme chercheuse et exploratrice. De sa naissance en France et son enfance regardant Neil Armstrong poser le pied sur la Lune, à sa participation aux missions de la NASA sur Mars, à ses plongées dans des lacs extrêmes comme celui du volcan Licancabur à la frontière de la Bolivie et du Chili, Nathalie est poussée par sa passion pour comprendre la coévolution entre la vie et l’environnement, comment ils se transforment l’un l’autre et où d’autre coévolutions auraient pu voir le jour dans l’univers.
Journey to the Edges of Life: Is there life beyond Earth? Join us for this Special SETI live in French! Nathalie Cabrol, astrobiologist and Director of the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute, has written an exciting new book about her journey as a person, as a scientist and as an explorer. From where she began as a child in France watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, to participating in NASA missions to Mars, to diving into extreme lakes like the one on Licancabur volcano bordering Bolivia and Chile, Nathalie is driven to understand the coevolution between life and environment, how they impact each other and where other coevolutions might exist in the universe.

Join Guillaume Grallet, a journalist for Le Point magazine and Adrien Bosc, Editor of the book at Le SEUIL, in conversation with Nathalie.

The Universe is Out to Get You (A special Nightmare on SETI Street SETI Live)
On television, the final frontier always seems awesomely beautiful and filled with adventure. The truth is that the cosmos is cold, dark, and implacably hostile. It’s out to get you, and we’ll be talking with Phil Plait (better known as the Bad Astronomy guy) about what might happen to ensure that your tombstone reads “Victim of the Universe.”

Videos of all past Facebook Live events can be found on our Facebook page,, or on our YouTube channel,



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