A little less than a year ago, the National Geographic Channel (NatGeo) executed a truly novel crowdsourcing initiative that I feel is deserving of greater critical attention.
Hailed by some as innovative public engagement, derided by cynics as mere marketing spectacle, and condemned by others as a threat to our very way of life, hindsight suggests that this bold and yet somewhat understated event may have been the most significant contribution of the entire (and much maligned) project.
The Wow! Reply
Specifically, the initiative’s concept was to solicit tweets from the public, collect and compress them into a digital package, and then “beam” the collective message into space as a potential reply to the famed, so-called ”Wow! Signal.”
[The Wow! Signal refers to a 72-second-long radio signal picked up momentarily by SETI's Big Ear radio telescope in Ohio on August 15, 1977. As an enigmatic signal that appeared for all the world to represent Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) paydirt, it remains to this day arguably the strongest candidate for radio evidence of extraterrestrial life, though that isn't saying all that much, as the signal has never been rediscovered for confirmation. As a result, current SETI Institute director of interstellar ...