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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 19

Ham Radio Expert Assists SETI Search

From: Stig Agermose <wanderer@post8.tele.dk>
Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998 11:52:16 +0200
Fwd Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998 16:03:27 -0400
Subject: Ham Radio Expert Assists SETI Search

From: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.




Ham radio expert assists search for
intelligent life in outer space



As the narrow asphalt drive ascends the hill, it becomes a
forbiddingly rugged gravel road. It passes a "Private Property"
sign on a tree before curving to the left and into a clearing.

Atop a hill near Roland and Pinnacle Mountain, a radio tower
rises 100 feet into the air. Next to the tower's base stands a
black satellite dish 12 feet in diameter. Next to that is Steve
Carver's house.

Inside the house, Carver's 15-year-old stepdaughter watches
television, but the program is disrupted by a disembodied voice
intruding on the audio.

It's Carver talking on his ham radio again as he sits in the
basement at his table of computers, radios and an oscilloscope.

Carver doesn't just talk over the airwaves. He keeps his dish
trained on his favorite constellation, Drago, 24 hours a day,
listening for a signal from intelligent life elsewhere in the

Carver is a volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit Search for
Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence League Inc. Members around the
world operate 57 listening stations.

Carver's station is the only one he knows of in Arkansas.

The group's goal, Carver says, is to get 5,000 stations running
worldwide. Then the Earth would be like a fly's eye, able to
look in all directions at once, he explains.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration engaged in
SETI research until Congress cut its funding in 1993, according
to the league's Internet site. Since then, the league has been
creating a network of volunteers to continue the work.

The league recruits ham radio operators like Carver to listen
for signals. It enlists computer whizzes who analyze
irregularities in the data.

Carver knows it's unlikely that the computer in his basement
will pick up an alien signal out of the noise his dish
constantly receives. He likens his hobby to playing the lottery.

"Chances of winning are so low, you might as well not do it. But
if you don't play, you can't win. And somebody who plays will

Carver believes that if enough amateur radio operators around
the world build listening stations like his, someone will catch
that fateful signal.

"The odds are just intimidating, but the answer is force in
numbers. Before I die, I want to make contact. I want to make it
happen. That's my only goal right now."

A patent lawyer, Carver has worked as an electrical engineer for
the Federal Communications Commission and radio stations. He's
been a ham radio operator for 40 years.

His antenna tower is for communicating with other people by

Growing up, Carver lived in 17 different cities because of his
father's job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ham radio
proved to be a reliable companion, giving him the power to talk
with people in other countries.

He didn't get into SETI until a couple years ago when he picked
up a faint Morse code message from Romania. It convinced him he
could catch signals that would usually be impossible to hear.

"It all came to me one day that this will work. It takes a
special interest in radio to do this and a special background in
radio. This is my thing, picking up weak signals."

He's also convinced it's a mathematical certainty that
intelligent life is out there. He believes humans will first
discover it by hearing signals from an uninhabited space probe
that may pass close enough to Earth for detection.

Carver raves about the rapid development of technology that he
says makes it increasingly affordable for amateurs to join the

Standard desktop computers can now handle the task of receiving

"Signal-to-noise ratio, that's a concept that has perplexed me
all my life. You can hear a signal, but it's too noisy," he
says. "Computers can now instantly divide up a signal into a
million little slices."

Old satellite dishes made for television reception cost almost
nothing because better models are replacing them, he says. For
now, Carver says, no license is required just to listen for
signals and not transmit any.

Carver built his four-bedroom house on the remote hill partly so
his equipment won't interfere with neighbors' small appliances.

Regardless of that, his wife, Nancy, says a few neighbors
occasionally have a cordless phone conversation invaded by
Carver's ham radio chatting.

Nancy says she usually ends up helping Steve install antennas
and dishes in the yard. "Oh dear," she says at the thought of
how many more trees he may want to cut so he can erect more

"His hobbies become obsessions," she says. "He'll be obsessed
with one for a couple years. As long as he has his interests and
he's happy, that's good."

"I'm not sure I believe that we're going to make contact with
people from outer space. But I do think it's valid to try. For
his sake, I hope we will. He would be so excited."

Carver says people sometimes tell him their alien abduction
stories when they find out he's in SETI. But he hasn't seen
enough evidence to believe aliens have visited this planet.

"I've never seen a UFO. I've never been on a UFO. I've never
been abducted by aliens," he stresses.

If a SETI member picks up that first message, he says, it will
be sent up the ranks in SETI for verification. Then, he says, he
doesn't know what SETI or the government may do with the
information and whether it will be possible to decode.

As he explains SETI's activities, he occasionally refers to the
movie Contact starring Jodie Foster, who played a scientist
involved with a similar project to find alien intelligence.

"When it happens, it won't be as dramatic as the movie, not as
filmable. It's going to be just a little blip on a screen."

"But the most profound message we will ever see is that we are
not alone," he says.

This article was published on Sunday,
July 19, 1998

Copyright =A9 1998, Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights