Saturday, April 11, 2015

"A Call From Space" Season 1 Episode 12

The episode "A Call From Space" first aired on May 28, 1977 . It was  written and produced by Christine Zurbach Wiser.

Nimoy opens with a monologue that inspires hope that we may make contact with extraterrestrials using radio waves or similar transmissions.

We learn about how scientists are on the search for life somewhere else in the universe. I have an annoying feeling this episode may be about technology and therefore feel "Dated". We are introduced to the folks who started "SETI". This program is still around today in a different form. Though originally connected to NASA, funding for the program has been cut at different times over concerns about the need to spend money on projects that yield results. None of this happened until a few years after this program aired. Dr. Bernard Oliver is interviewed about the program an dhis involvement. They believe intelligent life is out there waiting to make contact.

We are then told that in 1931 ET signals were accidentally discovered by Bell Telephone Engineer Karl Jansky. He detected a hiss that seemed to be coming form the center of the galaxy. Radio emission occur throughout the galaxy, and this led to the search for intentional signals in 1961. Project Cyclops was developed to help make the search for intentional signals much easier. Lots of tech talk, and I'm sure it pales in comparison to what we can do today.

Interestingly there is talk of how the back side of the moon would be a great place for receiving signals since it would be free from all interference from Earth. It is discussed how such a plan might work. Still Science Fiction to this day, but I'm sure humans could do it if they wanted to spend the money on it.

More sci-fi... how great it would be to have space ships and orbiting devices that could collect signals from space. Now we go to the largest radio telescope on earth in Puerto Rico. As of the writing, the Arecibo Obervatory is still the largest in the world. They have sent a message to a star cluster that may have a planet with life on it. It will take 24,000 years to get there.

Pioneer 10 and its trip to Jupiter is discussed next. But even better, Carl Sagan is brought in to talk about it!!Sagan put a message on the probe in case aliens might find it. Nimoy tells us the proble flew past Jupiter in 1973, and will leave the solar system in 1984. It did! In fact humans kept track of it until all communications were lost due to power failure in 2003.

(Carl Sagan)

Dr. Oliver points out that since we only recently have developed this technology, its likely that any alien contact we might make would result in aliens more advanced than humans. Psychologist Dr. Mary Connors is interviewed about what an alien society might be like. She has a basic questions. What can we know about the intelligence we may contact? Nimoy points out Dolphins are quite intelligent, but we have limited understanding of communication with them. Since this show aired in 1977, we have learned more about Dolphin intelligence, but much is still not understood.

This is an interesting science/nature segment on how Dolphins communicate, and I get the connection. But I think its just unnecessary. More speculating about aliens, how similar to humans would they look? Would contact spell the end of humans? Or would contact save humans? Interesting questions.

Dr. John Kraus is an electrical engineer at Ohio State University. He designed a large radio telescope known as "Big Ear". This show aired in May 0f '77. Unbeknownst to them Big Ear would be become famous in August would it would receive the "Wow signal". The signal bore the characteristics of an intentional signal, but was only heard once and the meaning of the signal is unknown. Big Ear was torn down in 1998 and is now a golf course. Maybe the aliens are here in hiding, so no need to keep listening?

"If we are not alone, what will we say to our neighbors? For centuries man that hought that the Earth was the center of the universe. The sun, the moon, the stars were to alight our days and nights. Then Galileo turned his telescope to the sky and we learned that the moon and the planets were worlds beyond dispute. That the stars weren't just ornaments in the sky but represented a cosmos far beyond man's Earthly imagination." Nimoy, poetic as usual, wraps up by taking about how far we have come in space exploration and teasing us with what may come in the future.

This episode was "ok". The technology felt dated, but it was interesting to learn some of the history of our attempts to listen to space. No creepiness here made it a little boring, but at least there was a lot of hard science, just old science.

You can watch this episode "A Call From Space" below.

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