The Short Humour Site

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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Search For Extraterrestrial Short Humour

Above is a photograph of the radio telescope used by the SETSH experiment, the Search for Extraterrestrial Short Humour.

This project is based in Cambridge, England and is the successor to the Search for Extraterrestrial Radio Emissions from Nearby Developed Intelligent Populations (SERENDIP), launched by the University of California, Berkeley in 1979.

The American research employed the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico to listen for signals from other intelligent life in the Universe.

It was not until late 2007 that the fatal flaw in their research strategy became apparent.

Their error lay in mostly listening for extraterrestrial messages. Little systematic attempt had been made to either elicit such messages or to provide contact details should members of the extraterrestrial community have wished to communicate.

It was realised that this was the equivalent of purchasing a mobile phone in San Francisco, not revealing the number to anyone and then awaiting a call from a stranger in Beijing.

The Cambridge team decided to address this issue by providing active encouragement for extraterrestrials to make contact for a specific reason, and with an identified person.

The Short Humour Site was greatly honoured to be chosen as the incentive for such contact, and the Cambridge radio telescope now beams stories from the Writers’ Showcase of the Short Humour Site towards neighbouring galaxies, together with site submission details.

So far there has been just one submission. This came from Gliese 581g in the Gliese 581 system. It was cleverly written as if a warning that armies from that planet would shortly be invading Earth. Sadly, the piece was greatly in excess of 500 words and so had to be returned without wider publication.