KQED News Staff

Why the Recent Rumors of E.T. ‘Phoning Home’ Were Exaggerated

A couple of weeks ago, at the end of August, our collective ear perked up at a possible sign of intelligent life out in the universe. The buzz was caused by a report that a Russian radio telescope detected a relatively strong signal at an unusual frequency for natural radio sources, from the direction of a star named HD 164595. If the radio signal came from star HD 164595, it would require nearly as much power as our civilization consumes. For those who saw the movie “Contact,” this might have brought up images of Jodi Foster wearing a headset and looking quite startled by a very unambiguous intelligent radio signal of extraterrestrial origin. What a world-changer that would be! However, the apparent detection of the signal was nothing short of a whimper, one might even say, fizzle, as far as the E.T.-listening world is concerned. So what happened? Though the initial buzz focused on the signal's possible origin — a Sun-sized star 94 light years away (HD 164595) — follow-up observations failed to net a second detection. And subsequent analysis now indicates that the signal was likely Earth-based — that is, a spurious blip of noise from our own civilization. (If so, then the origin of the signal might, in fact, be an intelligent civilization: ours.) In response to the report, scientists at Mountain View's SETI Institute pointed the powerful radio-ear of its Allen Telescope Array at HD 164595 for a few hours on August 28 to see if the signal could be verified, though so far have not heard anything unusual. SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence and the non-profit researches the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe. Radio telescope dishes of the Allen Telescope Array at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory 290 Read More ...

Proposition 61: The Drug Price Relief Act

As part of KQED's Election 2016 coverage, we'll discuss California's Proposition 61. It's designed to rein in the state's prescription drug costs by capping prices at the rate paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Proponents say the measure would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars a year and may even lower drug costs for private insurers. Opponents argue that the measure could reduce consumer access to certain drugs. Meanwhile, the state Legislative Analyst's Office says it's hard to predict how much money, if any, could be saved by the measure. We'll hear from KQED's health reporter and check in with both sides of the Prop. 61 debate. Read More ...