GAVRT Radio telescope

by Geoffrey A. Landis

Jeremiah sits in a room at Cornell
Lit by fluorescent lights
His ears are covered by headphones, and he's bopping along as he searches
      (He doesn't look anything like Jodie Foster)
He's not listening to the telescope - his headphones are blasting Queen
The telescope sends to him nothing but a string of numbers
His fingertips are doing the search
Writing a new algorithm to implement frequency-domain filtering
Sorting out a tiny signal of intelligence
      (hypothetical intelligence)
from the thousand thousand thousand sources of noise from the sky
It's four am, his favorite time of night
No distractions
Outside, the stars are bright
Inside, the stars sing to him alone.

Nine hundred light years away
In the direction of Perseus
Intelligent creatures are wondering why they hear nothing from the skies
They are sending out messages,
Have been sending out messages for hundreds of years
One of their number, renowned for his clear thinking
Has an electromagnetic pickup on his head
      (or, what would pass for a head)
He is thinking clear, simple thoughts
And the electromagnetic signals of his brain
      (or, what would pass for a brain)
Are being amplified and beamed into the sky
In the direction of Earth
It is the simplest signal they know
A brain thinking

Jeremiah has been searching for years
He has a beard like Moses
Glasses like Jerry Garcia
A bald head like Jesse Ventura
Patience like Job
They are out there
If only the telescope arrays were larger...
If only they could search deeper...
If only his filtering algorithms were more incisive.

Nine hundred light years away
In the direction of Perseus
The aliens are patient
They are sending their thoughts to the stars
Clear, simple thoughts
      We are here
      We are here
      We are here
      Where are you?


first published in Helix, October 2008


picture of Iron Angels cover
Iron Angels

Page by Geoffrey A. Landis
Image shows the GAVRT Radio telescope, from Cassini Hugyens page