The universe is sending us 10,000 messages every day. You can’t see them. You can’t understand them. But then again, neither can anybody else.
Astrophysics professor Duncan Lorimer was sitting at his desk in Hodges Hall at West Virginia University in early 2007 when one of his undergraduate students walked in. Physics and political science senior David Narkevic had been looking through readouts of radio signals from the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia. He was looking for more examples of a kind of rotating star—a pulsar—that emits very short radio signals. And he found something.
It was strange. A dark line in a place on the graph that meant it was incredibly far away. If the reading was right, it was possible that the signal was both a billion light years away and a billion years in the past.
Lorimer took a look. And then he put it aside. It probably wasn’t anything. “I kind of told him to go back to work, and I put it in a drawer,” Lorimer said.