The SETI Institute in the news – Media overview. October 16-31, 2021

They’re not aliens, they’re Aussies

At the end of 2020, the Breakthrough Listen project picked up a signal potentially coming from the management of Proxima Centauri. After a year of investigation, Dr. Sofia Sheikh of Breakthrough Listen and the SETI Institute, and her colleagues, found the source to be terrestrial, not extraterrestrial. In two articles published in natural astronomy, the analysis concludes that it was rather an artifact of terrestrial interference from human technologies. In addition to resolving the source of the candidate signal, the articles also discuss a data analysis process that identifies false positive detections.

“We know for certain that blc1 is human interference, and we are fully confident that the signal came from a transmitter on the ground,” Sheikh explained in an email. “We are also quite confident that the transmitter did not intend to produce a 982 MHz signal, but that blc1 was an accidental harmonic caused by some sort of faulty electronics.”

Sheikh said it could have been a cell tower that was later repaired after the sighting, or even some form of tiny consumer electronics near the telescope.

Frontier Development Lab (FDL) focuses on astronaut health

Last summer, one of the FDL’s goals was to better understand the radiation exposure of astronauts. In partnership with Intel, the team used both human and mouse date to create an algorithm that could identify cancer related to radiation exposure.

The partnership with Frontier Development Lab is a chance to solve huge problems at scale, with cutting-edge technology and unprecedented public-private collaboration in AI for exploratory medicine,” said Shashi Jain, Head of Strategic Innovation and FDL Partners at Intel. “We believe that the results of the FDL Astronaut Health Challenge will allow NASA to more effectively understand the mechanisms involved in protecting astronauts upon our return to the Moon and beyond, as well as provide a plan to accelerate the use of AI in health applications on Earth. ”

Capturing CO2 in a bottle

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

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

PSU ObservationObservations and science

What does the history of UFO/UAP sightings say about the possibility that Earth has indeed been visited by extraterrestrial technology? Science begins to devote more energy to investigation in the most convincing cases.

If the aliens are here, you have to say they are the best guests ever, because they never do anything.”[Seth] Shostak mentioned. “They’re just buzzing around. They’re not tackling climate change, they’re not stealing our molybdenum.”

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

overall 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 outrageous to mention. When Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested planets existed outside our solar system, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, imprisoned, and burned at the stake for heresy.
Today we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars. Our discovery of extrasolar planets has radically changed ideas about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.
Modern theories about the existence of ghostly particles called neutrinos or collapsing stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while equally incendiary, of course did not prompt the arrest. Neutrinos and black holes were startling ideas because they appeared decades before we had the means to prove their existence.
Discover the scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos and black holes are now at the frontiers of astronomical research.

With guests Alberto Martinez, Anne Schukraft, Ephraim Fischbach, Chris Impey

Skeptical Check: Brain Gain
Looking to boost your brain? Fortunately, there are products that promise to help. Smart drugs, neurofeedback exercises, and brain-training video games all promise to boost your gray matter performance. But it is not certain that these products really work. Regulatory agencies have harshly criticized some popular brain training companies for false advertising. But other brain games have shown benefits in clinical trials. And could we skip brain training altogether and take an awesome pill instead?
In our monthly look at critical thinking, we separate pseudo science from commercial cognitive enhancement techniques.
With guests Caroline Williams, Adam Gazzaley, Amy Arnsten, Kevin Roose, Leonard Mlodinow

After overall science episodes can be found at


The SETI Institute hosts weekly interviews with leading scientists on social media. Recent episodes of SETI Live include:

The End of Everything (A Nightmare Special on SETI Street SETI Live)
It’s that time of year to gather around the fire and tell spooky tales – tales of doom to make you scream and dream of a universe that has come to an end. Do not worry. You won’t (probably) be there to witness this ending, but it still happens. Join us to discuss with cosmologist Dr. Katie Mack all the ways the universe could end.

Journey to the Frontiers of Life: Does Life Exist Beyond Earth?
Join us for a special SETI Live in English! Nathalie Cabrol, astrobiologist and Director of the Carl Sagan research center at the SETI Institute has written a new book which has just been published on her personal journey, but also as a researcher and explorer. From his birth in France and his childhood watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, to his participation in NASA missions on Mars, to his dives in extreme lakes like that of the Licancabur volcano on the border of Bolivia and Chile , Nathalie is driven by her passion to understand the co-evolution between life and the environment, how they transform each other and where other co-evolutions could have arisen in the universe.
Journey to the ends of life: is there life beyond the 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 started as a child in France watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, participating in NASA missions to Mars, to diving in extreme lakes like that of the Licancabur volcano on the border between the Bolivia and Chile, Nathalie is led to understand the co-evolution between life and the environment, how they mutually influence each other and where other co-evolutions could exist in the universe.

Find Guillaume Grallet, journalist at Le Point magazine and Adrien Bosc, editor-in-chief of the book at SEUIL, in conversation with Nathalie.

The universe is out to get you (A Special Nightmare on SETI Street SETI Live)
On TV, the Final Frontier always looks stunningly beautiful and filled with adventure. The truth is, the cosmos is cold, dark, and relentlessly hostile. It’s out to catch you, and we’ll talk with Phil Plait (better known as the Bad Astronomy guy) about what might happen to make sure your tombstone reads “Victim of the Universe.”

Videos of all past Facebook Live events are available on our Facebook page,, or on our YouTube channel,

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