Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars Space Idle

US Navy Was Ordered To Listen For Martian Broadcast 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the roaring-extraterrestrial-20's dept.
MarkWhittington writes "It seems that a SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) experiment happened decades before the Project Ozma occurred in 1960. The historians at the blog Letters of Note have uncovered a telegram sent in 1924 by then Chief of Naval Operations Edward W. Eberle instructing the United States Navy to listen for radio transmissions from the planet Mars."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Navy Was Ordered To Listen For Martian Broadcast

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:48PM (#30042070)

    They did catch a radio transmission, which said "Yvan eht nioj".

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:56PM (#30042122) Journal

      They received a radio commercial: "Get your Human Ant Farm now! Watch humans toil away in your very own transparent human farm! They're so cheap that you can just throw them away and start over rather than clean the cage. We all know how smelly earthlings can get, zboys and zgirls. Your zmom will be so proud!"

      • The chances of anything living on Mars, are a million to one!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by b4upoo (166390)

        Short wave operators have used moon bounce to reflect signals back to Earth. I suspect that the military might have had an interest in trying to use Mars as a reflector for radio messages. The idea being that it would take a very sensitive and specific antenna to recover a reflected message from such a distance. I don't know if it can be done but I'll bet they were trying to do it.

        • by Tynin (634655)
          This should be modded insightful/interesting. Good idea b4upoo!
        • by afxgrin (208686)

          The conversation went sort of like this:

          "Hi"

          40 minutes passes

          "Hey"

          40 minutes passes

          "Wow this works"

          40 minutes passes

          "Cool"

          40 minutes passes

          "Ok, I'm just going to call you now, k?"

          40 minutes passes

          "Ok"

          --
          Come on, they knew about the speed of light back then. This would be a pretty desperate means of communications. But sure, it seems that nothing is beyond the US military to explore...

          • by Tynin (634655)
            It is more like 3 to 20 minutes IIRC. I see your point on the delay, but the moon isn't always viewable to bounce messages off of. Of course, neither is Mars. Still an interesting idea.
            • by afxgrin (208686)

              I'm talking about Mars.

              And it takes 10 or 20 minutes one way. So x2 if the point is to bounce the signal off Mars for Earth communications.

    • No I didn't but according to some sources 'The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one".
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by the_arrow (171557)

        Ah, but "a million to one" chance always succeeds! But it needs to exactly a million to one... A million and one to one chance, or a 999999 to one chance will fail.

    • by tinkerton (199273)

      Let me see. A minimum set of characters would contain 30-ish in all. your text is 13 chars, so 13**30 is 10 e33 combinations. The chances of encountering this string in a say a Mhz random bitstream does seem rather small. But "Navy" must have been possible.

  • by sanosuke001 (640243) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:49PM (#30042074)
    So is that why SETI doesn't get more funding? The Navy knows there aren't any signals out there because they're getting their allies to block any new incoming transmissions...

    It all makes sense now!
    • by gtall (79522) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @05:51AM (#30043846)

      Actually, they've stopped because a more interesting problem arose. They are spending all their resources on attempting to detect intelligent signals from the U. S. Congress. So far, the noise has completely overridden any underlying signal but they still hope for success with ever more sensitive equipment. It was thought that when Biden left, this would raise the signal to noise ratio, and it did for awhile. At least the noise decreased. But now it appears that the vice-president's office is acting like a radio black hole even able to suck intelligent brainwaves from escaping. The proof is apparently in the speeches the vice president has given since becoming vice-president. Alien abduction and replacement cannot be ruled out. Anyhow, a radio black hole has never before been seen in the natural universe and so close scrutiny by Navy scientists is called for.

      There are two parts thought to be present in any Congressional signal if there be any all. The Republican part, it is theorized, is very attenuated but appears to vacillate between sanity and insanity. The phase of the moon figures in here. The Democrat part is chaotic in a strange way, the chaos appears to wrap back on itself. This has the effect of entirely isolating them in an electronic brain trap, no new ideas come in or go out. The Navy feels the key to unlocking this trap is frontal and backtal lobotomy leaving only the lower base parts of the Democrat brain intact. To catch the Republican signal, should it indeed be there, trained dolphins with lasers on their heads will be required. In the meantime, tin foil hats are being distributed throughout the government in the hopes of preventing any dangerous emissions, which might be present but at undetectable levels, from impacting the nation.

      The Navy, in an interim report, says that apart from a mysterious exponential rise in the national debt, no active Congressional signal is present. Said Admiral Wavey-Gravy, "Some of us believe Congress doesn't really exist given they seem to have no discernible effect on the surrounding political environment; it is as though 1000 Klieg lights turned on and no Congress-critter materialized to bask in their warm glow." When it was pointed out to Adm. Wave that news conferences were being held daily by Congress-critters, his response was, "You mean alleged Congress-critters, it isn't like anyone actually caught them doing anything intelligent, is it?"

  • Not Mars (Score:5, Funny)

    by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:49PM (#30042082)
    Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope
    Earth.
    Yip yip yip yip yip yip.
    Huh! Look. Aaaawwwwww. Radio.
    Radio.
    Yip yip yip yip yip.
    Radio
    Uhuh, uhuh, Radio. Yipyipyipyipyip.
  • Man, (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:49PM (#30042086) Journal

    what I wouldn't give to be able to put a transmitter on Mars and fuck with them. "Bring me all your pretty girls and best beers or face destruction, puny Earthlings! And spell out 'Earth is Stupid' with your battleships so we can spot it from space."

  • "We're sorry, this is a long-distance call. Please hang up and deposit 8 million gold bars."

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by istartedi (132515)

      That works out to $3.52 trillion in today's dollars, if you use London Good Delivery bars (400 oz./bar * $1100/oz * 8 million).

      • That works out to $3.52 trillion in today's dollars, if you use London Good Delivery bars (400 oz./bar * $1100/oz * 8 million).

        And it amounts to about 8% of all the gold ever mined worldwide.

      • by daveime (1253762)

        I think you meant "for all intents and purposes", but not bad.

  • This is good science (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:00PM (#30042144) Homepage
    This is good science. In 1924 we didn't have any strong reasons to think that there wasn't intelligent life on Mars. If anything, the evidence seemed to favor the other direction. Moreover, simply having ships listen in wouldn't have cost that much money. So this was an experiment with potentially very high pay-off compared to the resources it took. This does lead to some interesting ideas for a scifi story in which they do find signals. NaNoWriMo anyone?
    • Moreover, simply having ships listen in wouldn't have cost that much money.

      Wouldn't have cost much money - and would have accomplished diddley squat (shipboard amplifiers wouldn't up to the task). Doesn't matter anyways, as the telegram directed shore stations to do the listening.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:37PM (#30042316)

      This is good science. In 1924 we didn't have any strong reasons to think that there wasn't intelligent life on Mars. If anything, the evidence seemed to favor the other direction. Moreover, simply having ships listen in wouldn't have cost that much money. So this was an experiment with potentially very high pay-off compared to the resources it took. This does lead to some interesting ideas for a scifi story in which they do find signals. NaNoWriMo anyone?

      Sadly this coincided with the great Martian radio strike of '24. All martian DJs were marching picket lines at the time.

      • This is good science. In 1924 we didn't have any strong reasons to think that there wasn't intelligent life on Mars.

        And, just to demonstrate that good science is timeless, we have impirically proved that in 2009 there is no intelligent life to be found on Earth either.
    • by Nqdiddles (805995)
      Coming a week or so too late to be of use to me this year. Might be something to file away in the draw of possibilities for next year though!
    • Specifically... (Score:5, Informative)

      by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:44PM (#30042344) Homepage Journal

      It wasn't until the 1950s, I believe, that scientists began to realize that Venus and Mars were both utterly inhospitable. Indeed, the first Mariner photographs of Mars, that showed it to be almost moonlike, blasted with craters and seemingly ancient and dead, came as something of a shock to the academic community.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by retchdog (1319261)

      Vernor Vinge does a lot of this. My favorite, where the "aliens" are two rival bands of humans visiting another planet and competing to establish first contact, is A Deepness in the Sky. I wish I could say more, but even describing the overall structure of the story would involve a spoiler. :-/ It's loosely a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, but they can be read interchangably.

      I would have sniffed at this kind of stuff before, but having read Deepness... I think it's worth spending some resources to keep an

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ergean (582285)

        Offtopic:
        "A Fire Upon the Deep" how should I say this... I hate this kind of books. Few good ideas... and a fucking big chunk of pages in between them. I've read it hoping against hope that it would have a good ending to save it.

        Sorry had to say it, some of you could go and read it and bang their heads to the wall asking themselves: Why did I read this damn book to the end?

        • by retchdog (1319261)

          I agree, the pacing in A Fire Upon the Deep was ... challenging, but I thought the ideas were great. I liked how the dogs "discovered" solitude and selective communication and, with it, fascism. I think that Deepness is much better, plot-wise and stylistically. If you ever feel like giving him another shot, I recommend it. He can't do character development for beans of course but this seems like par for libertarian-bent writers. /flamebait

          BTW, I'm not a Vinge fanboy or anything, but I haven't found anyone e

    • by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @12:03AM (#30042432) Homepage

      It's easy to forget just how new most of our knowledge about the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere is. A mere fifty years ago, just throwing a dog or chimp into orbit was tricky business, and all we knew of other celestial bodies was seen through a glass darkly, from the murkey depths of our atmosphere. So... damn right there coulda been people on Mars in 1924. Just like in the 1960s we "knew" that it was utterly barren... but now aren't quite so sure. I can certainly see why some members of our society might find this rapid evolution of "what we know" unsettling, so they cling to a system of belief that promises not to change. But I think the roller coaster ride of Science is great.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Idiomatick (976696)
        "A mere fifty years ago, just throwing a dog or chimp into orbit was tricky business"

        Now we can't at all. Huzzah~!
        • by tverbeek (457094)

          I realize it's fashionable to moan about the state of the US space program, but A) it's not as bad as you seem to be hallucinating, and B) there are several other countries with orbital launch capability, too.

          • Maybe he's moaning about the state of animal rights these days? The next dog or chimp in space will probably be Chinese.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by argStyopa (232550)

        "A mere fifty years ago, just throwing a dog or chimp into orbit was tricky business..."

        More importantly, we were trying.

        Now, it seems, we can hardly be bothered. We've got all these darn poor people to take care of, and WoW to play, not necessarily in that order.

        • ever hear of the french revolution?

          you think can continue civilization and the sending of people into outer space with the vandals and goths sacking your major cities?

          it is a sort of ignorance that thinks the poor simply vanish into the ether if you don't address their problems. it is also pretty ignorant not to understand why some of those poor are your next heisenbergs and your next goddards

          it is classism you stink of, and you are not a credit to anything you think are. you're part of the problem, damage

          • by lennier (44736)

            "you think can continue civilization and the sending of people into outer space with the vandals and goths sacking your major cities?"

            Sure! Thanks to the rise of private space tourism, the people who get to pay to be launched into outer space ARE the vandals and goths sacking our major cities!

            • by lennier (44736)

              (Okay, with the possible exception of Mark Shuttleworth, and the clown dude.)

          • by argStyopa (232550)

            Perhaps I was speaking ironically of our SOCIETY'S view of things, and not my own? Christ man, maybe you could step outside your rage for just one second and think that by commenting on it, perhaps I AGREE WITH YOU?

      • Chimps? Heck, I still have trouble throwing even a small dog into orbit.

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      This is good science. In 1924 we didn't have any strong reasons to think that there wasn't intelligent life on Mars.

      Well, of course not. Where do you think M&M's [mms.com] come from [wikipedia.org]?

    • It was a total shot in the dark. By all means, do those when there isn't anything better to try, or you can't wait. Problem is, there usually are more visible targets to aim for. When that is so, it's really not good science to explore blindly.

      I suspect SETI in its current form will turn out to be a waste of effort. There are so many unknowns, but some of the knowns make scanning the electromagnetic spectrum look very unlikely to bear fruit. How far can a radio signal travel before it is too faint to

      • It was a total shot in the dark. By all means, do those when there isn't anything better to try, or you can't wait. Problem is, there usually are more visible targets to aim for.

        That sounds a bit aloof considering that one of the most revolutionary images ever taken of the universe, the Hubble Deep Field, was exactly that, a shot in the dark. And yes, there were a ton of "more visible" targets.

        As soon as you have new technology available, the first thing you do is try out the unknown.

        As for SETI, it's more a question of information theory than of physics. Radio waves are the only current conceivable way of detecting life. The only problem is the amount of analysis and processing th

  • Response reads... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by syousef (465911)

    "The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one...."

  • LHC (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Monday November 09, 2009 @11:13PM (#30042198) Journal

    Message received: "This is the Large Hadron Collider from the future. Do not attempt to [static.......] last warning."

  • The president at the time was Calvin Coolidge. Was this navy guy doing his own thing or was Cool Cal involved too?

  • Well, sure. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We want to know if they're talking about stealing our precious bodily fluids.

  • are a million to one, he said!

  • Science fiction from decades previous inspired fear.
    • by Shag (3737)

      1929? Don't know where you picked that date from, since it's clearly not supported by the article. 1932 is a more generally accepted year for the discovery.

      But yeah, Jansky was awesome. As were a couple other Bell Labs guys a few decades later - maybe you've heard of Penzias and Wilson.

      I'm in the middle of writing a paper on this stuff for one of my classes, and this Navy thing is definitely getting cited. :)

  • Acronym mistake? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    Maybe "MARS" is really an acronym for something like Marine Atmospheric Reflection Survey", but some dolt forgot it and did Mars instead.

  • Actually, being at sea for a long time, they ignored the order and turned the antennas to Venus instead, hoping for some 3-breasted steamy green babes. "Hey babe, Earth's gravity is 20% stronger, meaning other things are 20% stronger also. Don't believe me? Hover down and check it out."

  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Tuesday November 10, 2009 @12:02AM (#30042424) Homepage

    The process of creating a martian broadcast is actually quite simple. The technology is decidely low tech and can be put together in a short afternoon using some wire and a bit of electronic ingenuity. With a Linux PC, a CAT5 ethernet cable, a scissors, a few twists of some SEND/RECV pairs and you can soon detect Martian broadcasts. It's possibly to do it entirely in software also, perhaps with some creative use of the BOND0 adapter, the bonding module, and some misplaced balance-alb statements, but it's hardly worth mentioning.

  • Search for Life on Mars? This is a topic for The Man. No, not David Bowie, but http://www.charlieleduff.com/ [charlieleduff.com] :) Seriously, this is not any more strange than NASA doing SETI. Or why should it be?
  • I know that I read about this in the 1970's in some of the SETI scientific literature - I believe in Intelligent Life in the Universe (Carl Sagan & I.S. Shklovskii, Random House, 1966), but I don't have a copy handy.

  • I predict 50 years from now people will look back and think that SETI was just as silly as listening for radio transmissions from Mars.

    • Pretty much. The window of time that a civilization would use radio waves for communication, and that it would be in a form that we would detect as anything but white noise is likely to pretty small.

      We'd probably do better to scan the universe for solar to galaxy sized artifacts though we might have a hard time recognizing them as such (A primitive might see the Empire State building as just a mountain). We might look for Dyson spheres or odd formation that couldn't have occurred naturally. If we had a syst

When I left you, I was but the pupil. Now, I am the master. - Darth Vader

Working...