I would like people’s opinion as to who should get the credit for having introduced the idea that pulsed, broadband ETI beacons might be useful for interstellar communication or alternatively likely being used in interstellar communication.
Let me first review my own contribution in this area. In 1979, I came to realize that pulsars may actually be artificially engineered beacons and not natural objects as conventionally believed. I had hypothesized that alien civilizations may have engineered the cosmic ray flux from neutron stars to produce precise pulsed signals as a kind of Galactic GPS system to aid interstellar navigation. Also I hypothesized that certain of these beacons were conveying an ETI communication message intended specifically for us.
So I was proposing that alien civilizations may actually be transmitting pulsed, broadband signals covering the entire radio spectrum and in some cases extending up to optical X-ray, and gamma ray wavelengths and that these signals were being emitted as narrow beams some of which were targeted to our particular stellar environs. I had proposed that SETI searches should begin looking for this type of signal as opposed to the discrete frequency type of radio transmission that they have been seeking for decades without success.
At the time I had first come up with this idea, I also designed a device which we could build to send return messages in the form of pulsed, broadband, targeted beams that would resemble a pulsar’s signal.
After researching this for 21 years, I made a public presentation of the idea at the January 2000 meeting of the American Astronomical Society. The abstract of my talk, which was published in the AAS proceedings, is posted at: http://www.etheric.com/LaViolette/abstract.html. Also that same year I published a book entitled The Talk of the Galaxy, which described these ideas in some detail which was made available at the meeting. This book was later updated and reprinted in 2006 by Bear & Co. under the title Decoding the Message of the Pulsars. For many years Amazon.com has made parts of this book available for free public perusal, particularly the parts about how we might construct a pulsed broadband directed beam communicator and the introduction to the idea that pulsars might be extraterrestrial beacons:
In addition Gerry Zeitlin published a paper in the 2002 issue of the refereed journal New Frontiers of Science that called attention to my ideas on this subject and called upon the scientific community to begin an active investigation of the pulsar phenomenon that adopted this new perspective. At that time, this was one of the few journals that dealt with the topic of extraterrestrial communication. Zeitlin also published information about these ideas on his Open SETI website (http://www.openseti.org/OSPulsars.html).
In 2000, when I first went public with the idea, the Starburst Foundation circulated the following press release:http://www.starburstfound.org/PR/talk.html. This generated some limited press attention, which included a brief mention in the October 2000 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine. Also several popular journals such asAtlantis Rising and UFO, wrote articles about the discovery. In addition, numerous a number of periodicals published reviews of my book.
The ideas have been discussed by lecturers at various conferences, including a course taught at the Monroe Institute. I have spoken about these findings on a number of radio talk shows including the very popular Coast to Coast AM show. The ideas have received rather extensive discussion on internet websites.
The idea of using pulsed, broad band, directed beam beacons for ETI communication has recently caught on and generated a lot of press interest. But these news stories made no mention of my work which has been around for the past 10 years. They gave the credit to Gregory, James, and Dominic Benford, who had published two papers on this idea in the June issue of Astrobiology(http://www.liebertonline.com/toc/ast/10/5).
Unfortunately, my prior work on this idea was not cited in their papers. Why? Was it because they had not properly researched the history of the idea they were presenting? At present I don’t know. One of the authors, Gregory Benford, is a professor at the University of California, which is known to have very good success in having their press releases covered in the news. So if neither the press releases nor the Benford papers mentioned my prior work, it is not surprising that these news sources would credit the Benfords with the idea. And so we find the news media now referring to these types of ET communicators as “Benford Beacons.” See for example: Physics.org, Time magazine, Science Daily, Astronomy Now, or Florida Today newspaper.
Also in one of their two papers (Searching for Cost Optimized Interstellar Beacons), the Benfords had mentioned about the intermittent pulsar source GCRT J17445-3009 choosing it as a possible candidate for a broad-band pulsed beacon of the sort they were proposing. Several news media carried stories about this, such as Astronomy Now. However, four years earlier this very same pulsar was discussed in my book Decoding the Message of the Pulsars(p. 92). There I pointed out not only that this may be a pulsed broadband directed beam source of artifical origin, but also that this could be part of an ET message being sent to us. I spent several chapters of my book explaining why several pulsars may together be communicating a warning message about the past occurrence of major explosion of our Galaxy’s core, and explained that this particular pulsar may also be part of this message. But no mention was made of this neither in the Benfords’ paper nor in the Astronomy Now news report. Neither do their papers mention about the possibility of a galactic core explosion message being conveyed by pulsars.
So, I am interested to hear what you think about all of this.
Paul A. LaViolette, Ph.D.