Speaking of mysteries, this week is an appropriate time for me to delve into some of my favorite cryptological mysteries throughout history. None of these write-ups have anything to do with the contest, I promise (I'll put up a post summarizing how I solved it afterward, assuming I solve it). I simply like sharing my obsession with unsolved coded puzzles throughout history. And my posts will need to get shorter anyway, as a certain 11-day-old little dictator is screeching a long speech lauding the benefits of an autocratic society.
Who among us hasn't wondered who else is out there? I've followed SETI for a long time, especially interested in the SETI at home project. Talk about a cool use of crowdsourcing. (As an aside, a friend of mine is behind another awesome crowdsourcing project, "Fold It," a computer game designed to get millions of people working on complex protein folding problems through the use of a game where contestants earn "points.") I constantly have to resist the urge to put SETI as fill in my crosswords, as I realize it's not something most people are familiar with.
So when I read about the "Wow! signal" a few months ago while researching for a book, I couldn't believe it wasn't more well known. A potential signal from outer space? A real-life "Contact" type of mystery! My wife and I just watched the new "Cosmos" narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson, and given the grandeur of the known universe, it's inspiring to believe that perhaps the Wow! signal might have been a true artifact from another culture thousands of light-years away.
Was it a true signal, one of our own artifacts caromed off the atmosphere, some sort of hoax, or something else? It's unlikely we'll ever know. But along with the rest of the SETI believers out there, I eagerly await new results.