Previous: How to Make A Humanzee
Next: Unstumped Hank & A Chinese Water Dragon: SciShow Talk Show #14



View count:361,702
Last sync:2023-01-09 06:30
With news of radio signals from distant galaxies, a government agency that wants to investigate extra-terrestrial life, and the 66th anniversary of the Roswell Incident, this week has felt like a '90s science fiction melodrama. Hank's got all the pertinent details in this episode of SciShow News.

Writen by Kindra McQuillan

Like SciShow? Want to help support us, and also get things to put on your walls, cover your torso and hold your liquids? Check out our awesome products over at DFTBA Records:
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?

Hank Green: I don't know about for you, but for me, this week felt like a 90s science-fiction melodrama. We've got radio signals from distant galaxies, a government agency wants to investigate extraterrestrial life, and it's the 66th anniversary of the Roswell incident. I'm Hank Green, and this week on SciShow News, mostly I just wanna know who's gonna play me in the film version of this episode. [SciShow Intro plays] Are we alone? A team of British astronomers wants the queen, or at least the British government, to help find an answer. Last week, the astronomers formed a consortium called the UK Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Network, and their first order of business was to request $2.25 million from the British government to help fund the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life. If they get it, they use the cash to rent time on the UK's E-Merlin network of 7 radio telescopes across the country to search for signals transmitted by intelligent life in the galaxy. Since 1995 when the US cancelled funding to NASA's SETI program, there's been no government funded search for extraterrestrial intelligence anywhere. A lot of governments apparently don't see the value--it's expensive work, there's no real timeline, it's just kind of like, call me up when you find the aliens. But the UK team says that the mission trumps these concerns, whether or not there is life, how long it takes to find, whatever its nature, and whether it wants to be found, it would be remiss not to at least try and make possibly the greatest discovery ever. And obviously, the mission has a certain appeal to the public. Case in point, this request comes on the anniversary of the 1947 Roswell incident, in which something, probably a weather balloon and almost certainly not an alien spacecraft, crashed near Roswell, New Mexico. The idea that we're being observed by space aliens or that our government is in contact with them or even that every once in a while, they abduct and probe us certainly captures intrigue, at least to a certain sort of person, though I have to say I was more captured by the game that accompanied Google's Roswell inspired Doodle on Monday. But even more newsworthy than Google's Doodles was last weekend's announcement that unidentifiable radio signals from space had recently been detected. Despite that sounding like the first chapter of Contact, it doesn't mean extraterrestrial life is trying to call us or anything, but it is a fascinating mystery all the same. In last weekend's edition of the journal 'Science', a team of astronomers led by the California Institute of Technology, described four radio wave bursts they recorded using the 64 meter Australian Parkes Radio Telescope. The Parkes Telescope first picked up a radio wave burst in 2007, and reports of similar bursts followed. Each burst lasted about a millisecond, and originated billions of light years away, traveling likely from distant galaxies. The mere fact that we can detect them at all indicates that whatever causes these bursts are cataclysmically huge. So huge that we have no idea what could be causing them. Like the gamma ray bursts we first observed in the 60s, it'll probably take us quite a while to figure this one out, guys. They're more energetic than any known radio source, that's for sure, some theoretical phenomena, like two neutron stars merging together or very specific kinds of supernova, but all those events would be so rare that it doesn't make sense for them to be occurring so frequently. If we had a radio telescope pointing at every inch of the sky, the scientists say, we'd detect thousands of these per day. Personally, I'd prefer to think that this is the energy signature of the USS Enterprise going to war, but other theories are allowed. For now, though, we can use these bursts to study what they traveled through to get here, which in itself is a mystery with big implications. The team was able to observe what wavelengths of radiation were absorbed from the signals, which gives them data on what these bursts passed through on their way to us. One of astrophysics' great mysteries is what happened to all the matter that formed after the Big Bang, many scientists posit that it just hangs out in the form of plasma floating between galaxies. Because these radio waves pass through those areas, physicists can use them to observe how much matter can be found between the galaxies. So, yeah, that is a lot of weird cataclysmic events throughout the universe and a lot of potential studying of the makeup of the universe as well. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow News. If you have something that you would like to say to the space aliens, hopefully they are watching, so you can leave a comment below or on Facebook or Twitter, and if you want to keep up to date on all the latest breaking news here at SciShow, you can go to and subscribe. [SciShow endscreen plays]