The SETI episode in the 1967 discovery of pulsars
School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St
Haugh, St Andrews
a e-mail: email@example.com
Received in final form: 12 December 2012
Published online: 1 February 2013
In the winter of 1967 Cambridge radio astronomers discovered a new type of radio source of such an artificial seeming nature that for a few weeks some members of the group had to seriously consider whether they had discovered an extraterrestrial intelligence. Although their investigations lead them to a natural explanation (they had discovered pulsars), they had discussed the implications if it was indeed an artificial source: how to verify such a conclusion and how to announce it, and whether such a discovery might be dangerous. In this they presaged many of the components of the SETI Detection Protocols and the proposed Reply Protocols which have been used to guide the responses of groups dealing with the detection of an extraterrestrial intelligence. These Protocols were only established some twenty five years later in the 1990s and 2000s. Using contemporary and near-contemporary documentation and later recollections, this paper discusses in detail what happened that winter.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag 2013