archiv~1: SETI from David Whitehouse.

SETI from David Whitehouse.

David Whitehouse ( (no email) )
Mon, 2 Nov 1998 21:46:37 -0000


Given what I have read on this list in recent days about the EQ Peg hoax
perhaps I may make a few comments.

It is clear that the accumulating inconsistency in the data on EQ Peg force
one to believe that it is a hoax but that said, it is a great journalistic

That it could be a hoax is exactly what we said in our news online item last
Wednesday "Either the most important discovery ever made or an elaborate
hoax." We ran the item because, given the debate it had started, we wanted
to tell our viewers, in the words of Richard B-W on this list, that "there's
this thing going on." Those of you who have read the report will see that it
includes nothing that is incorrect or scientifically inaccurate.

I think our approach was the correct one, pointing out that it could be a
major discovery or a case of interference or a hoax and then going on to
talk about seti and the problems in identifying a signal from interference.
It will not surprise you that it was the story with the most hits on our
website last week. I do not think viewers left the site misled.

There is a lot to learn from this incident. What was surprising was the
slowness of any 'official' response from seti organisations and individuals.
It seems that the serious-seti people were always behind the story and were
never in command of the situation. Also the Setileague press release of last
Saturday refers to the "Apparent" hoax in its title, leaving room for doubt
in the minds of journalists who may only read the headline.

Finally a minor point. My Ph.D is in radio astronomy from Jodrell Bank (and
I have used the big dish there many times and always looked in my data for
anything seti-like even though that was not the object of my observations.)
Also I am on the IAF Seti committee.

Regards to you all,

Dr David Whitehouse - BBC.