A mention of the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence conjures up a vision in the minds of most people of a man in a tin foil hat designed to block out the invasive broadcasts of other worlds. Although, the SETI program takes things a bit more seriously, that radio signal the man in the hat is worried is going to fry his brain is just the kind of thing they're looking for. It all started in 1960 with the Ozma project when Frank D. Drake pointed his radio telescope towards the sky and recorded hours of static. Rather then become discouraged by the lack of results instead the scientists involved simply decided they needed better equipment. The aliens must have been broadcasting in FM while we were trying to listen with AM receivers. Within three short years a giant 360 foot wide, 500 foot long, 70 foot tall radio telescope had been constructed and powered on. Perhaps part of the reason the SETI project gained such funding and acceptance in its early years was the fact that the Russians were interested as well and the prospect of them doing anything before us was truly frightening in that day and age. To think we could be dealing one day with a communist cosmos, as it was Mars was already a red planet.
The program didn't stop at just one radio telescope either, several were build around the world and with ever increasing bandwidth the sky continued to be searched. In 1977 one of these telescopes known as the Big Ear finally saw some promising results. After seventeen years of listening a tiny string of blips ran along a computer printout reading at a frequency of around 1420 MHz. It was circled by voluter analyzer by the name of Dr. Jerry R. Ehman and Wow was written in the margin. From then on it was given the name the Wow signal. For months afterwards the skys in the vicinity of where this 72 second blip had been heard was scanned over and over in the hopes of finding a repeat of that 1420 MHz noise but alas none ever came. Funding from congress soon dwindled, but lack of funds and no results did not deter the scientific search for intelligent life. Paramount pictures and Steven Spielberg among others chipped in to keep the hunt going. Yes, Hollywood searches the stars even beyond the confines of Earth.
Today, the technology used to search for those random radio frequencies transmitted from life on other planets has improved greatly. We now scan billions of frequencies simultaneously at multiple points in the sky. Although the search has yet to be fruitful if an alien so much as makes a phone call, microwaves a meal, or uses their Wifi you can rest assured we'll hear it. SETI hasn't stopped at just listening either "Comic calls 1 & 2", the "Teen Age Message", and the "Arecibo message" have all beamed signals into space in the hopes of a reply. Exactly what was sent I do not know but I'd like to believe it was "klaatu barada nikto."