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VII - Code: SETI vs DNA

This may seem like a departure, but bear with me. This will be explained in a later posting.

In the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (commonly known by its acronym SETI), the several programs around the world, including at U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA), must have criteria for declaring the discovery of ETI.

Our One Signal

In 1977, a radio telescope at Ohio State University received a very strong radio signal. Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman, reviewing the recorded data, noted it and wrote “Wow!” on the printout, so that it has come to be known as the Wow! Signal.

The signal on the printout had the hexatrigesimal value “6EQUJ5.” Reading a printout of radio signals from outer space, strewn with random digits and then suddenly coming across such a value would cause anyone to say Wow! Someone out there in the constellation of Sagittarius (the general direction of the source of the signal) is talking to us!

A brief understanding of what was actually received should tamp down enthusiasm, however. A plot graph, denoted in increments of 36, is used to denote the intensity of signals (starting at 0 and going up to 36) around the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation spectral line emitted by a hydrogen atom when it changes its energy state, approximately 1420.41 MHz. This frequency was chosen based on speculation [1] that, hydrogen being the most common element in the universe, it may reasonably be assumed that another civilization, looking to establish communication, would choose something basic and common like that to send signals with, on the assumption by the sending civilization that an intelligent receiving civilization would also be operating on the same assumption. Altering the frequency while leaving the amplitude steady is the basis of FM radio.

To get fine measurements of frequency, the plot was numbered in base 36, or hexatrigesimal. It starts with 0 – 9, then subsequent values are denoted by the alphabet, A-Z. 10 digits + 26 letters = 36. (A similar concept is used when hexadecimal, or base 16, using 0-F, is used in computing.) Samples being done every 12 seconds, when the plot of signal intensity over time is viewed, you can see below that the value 6EQUJ5 represents measurements of a single spike in the frequency.


At this point, the idea that 6EQUJ5 was an intentional code sent by the Sagittarians is pretty easily invalidated.[3] No matter what their possible assumptions, they could not know that the receiving civilization would be taking a measurement every 12 seconds.

No, the important piece of this message, were it a message, could possibly be the “U,” which is the peak of the signal, if it were preceded or followed by other oscillations of either identical or modulating frequencies. Identical frequencies of “U” would cause an intelligent receiving civilization to prick up their ears or whatever and take notice, and could be an attention-getter, but if they continued they would be monotonous and the receiver could assume they were the result of a natural repeating phenomenon. As far as receiving a Morse-code-like message, the problem is one of language. Even an intelligent civilization would not expect messages in their own language. “U” P H E R E H E Y L O O K U P H E R E. Even a cipher would need to assume the use of alphabets.

The difficulty of extraterrestrial languages led to the more general assumption that the message would be in the language of mathematics. That would seem to be universal. The most likely candidate for an intelligent message from an extraterrestrial source would be a repeating pattern of prime numbers, the pattern being sufficiently long to avoid the appearance of accident. The recurrence of prime numbers is one of the ongoing enigmas of mathematical theory, the basis of the Riemann Hypothesis and a source for cryptography. Were we to begin receiving frequencies of the first 26 prime numbers, as in the novel Contact by Carl Sagan, the news would set our entire civilization ablaze with speculation, and most likely some form of extraterrestrial contact would be forthcoming.

But. That’s not what happened. There were no recurrences. Despite all the research and excitement, there are still no messages from outer space. Well, that’s not entirely true.

There are plenty of messages. There is plenty of electromagnetic radiation noise. The Wow! Signal was unique in that it stood out. But it doesn’t match the criteria for ETI. What we have not received are messages that we can construe as having been sent by someone who wants them to be understood as having been sent. In other words, what we have yet to receive is a code.

A code in a message, even a fairly simple code, say a sequence of prime numbers, could be a broadcast by an extraterrestrial civilization looking, as we are, for other intelligent civilizations. A simple code would tell us that someone is out there. We haven’t received it, but we are actively looking for it. We are actually spending a lot of time and money looking for it. Dr. Sagan promoted SETI and wrote his only novel about it.

What is interesting to me, and here is where about 50% of readers will go to another page, is that many of these same scientists do not recognize the code that tells us that Someone is out there.

There is a code that is vastly more interesting than a sequence of prime numbers. It is the code of life. DNA.

Forest For the Trees

DNA is interesting and amazing for a number of reasons. It is a quaternary mathematical system, base 4, having 4 basic elements, the 4 nucleotides. Its simplicity is the reason it is possible. Were it to have more basic elements its architecture would prevent its compaction into living cells. Human DNA is 6 feet long, yet it coils multiple times so as to be able to fit into the nucleus of every one of the microscopic cells of our bodies.

The familiar helical structure of DNA, as held together by pairs of nucleotides, is coiled around histone proteins (or rather, the histones coil the helix) into nucleosome loops. Those loops then wrap together like “beads on a string” to form a fiber called chromatin. The chromatin then coils into a solenoid. The solenoid coils yet again into chromosomes. There are 46 such chromosomes in every cell.

These chromosomes, of course, are all copies of the chromosomes in the original zygote. Not only are they a marvel purely from an architecture standpoint, but they are a marvel in terms of how they operate in time. The proteins that coil and uncoil them have to know how to operate, and they have to know when. I say they have to know, but of course they are merely molecules, they can’t “know” anything.

Actually the whole operation, according to the prevailing philosophy of modern science, at least as it is portrayed by popular advocates, must be completely blind and ignorant. None of the molecules or atoms involved knows or plans what is going on. Their actions are influenced purely by the mathematical geometry of their structures. Even when the DNA strands are being copied, there is a process that initiates the operation, one that starts it, another that stops it. When copies are being made, in other words the nucleotides of one strand are being matched to their base pair opposites, the other strand is also being copied. Backwards. A smaller sequence of the nucleotides on the second strand, during the replication process, is copied out, then a protein moves in, detaches it from the replicating proteins, and releases it so that it can continue copying it, all while the primary strand is being copied steadily, moving forward. This whole thing is done by what we must regard, as we are told by advocates of an uncreated universe, as a completely blind and dumb process.

Substance over Form

But this is not even the most remarkable part. Those base pairs, four nucleotides, all of which have only one pair partner, are not there to be the building blocks of a double helix. That is not in any way of thinking their primary function. Their primary function is that of a code. 3 of them, in sequence, form a codon. After the DNA is copied to messenger RNA and the copies are sent out the nucleus wall, a ribosome wraps itself around the codon sequence of the messenger RNA, and along come transfer RNA molecules, each of which have their own set of 3 nucleotides, or codon, on one end, and an amino acid on the other end. After jostling around until the proper match is made in the ribosome, the correct amino acid becomes one link of a chain that then disconnects and folds up in complex origami style to become a particular protein. One protein of many that come together to form a human being’s skin, nails and hair, and liver, kidneys and heart, and eyes and brain.

And the skin, nails, kidneys, brain, etc., not only function to give life to the organism, but they have programmed within them the development and aging of the organism. This DNA code is by far the most complex and brilliant thing ever devised. Human minds could not invent it. Even today, with all our computers, we can’t come close, and actually coders look to it as a model to imitate, and are even incorporating DNA itself into computer models.

So scientists who advocate listening for a code of prime numbers from space using million-dollar radio telescopes, in hopes of making contact with intelligence, won’t look at the code that is at the heart of our existence and see it as evidence of intelligence. And some of them make a living telling us how backwards it is to believe it.

Science-denying creationism is foolishness. I'm good with a 13.7 billion year universe and fossils. I think Intelligent Design is the best description of the mechanism and ongoing maintenance of God's creation. These public advocates who say that science negates God just beg the question. Science observes. That's all it is good at. It should not be a basis for theology. Anyone who says it is, disrespects truth, and Truth.

[1] Paper authored by Philip Morrison & Giuseppe Cocconi, 1959, Cornell University

[2] Source:!_signal#/media/File:Wow_signal_profile.svg

[3] Incidentally, no similar signals have been received.

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#seti #extraterrestrialintelligence #nasa #radiotelescope #wowsignal #6equj5 #dna #doublehelix #codon #rna #intelligentdesign #creation

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