The hottest science journalist on the planet tackles the curious case of the "187.5 radio signal" being detected by space telescopes.
Scientists reported the first burst in 2007 and have only published another 10 observations since then.For some reason, the news really went big this past week, with even Forbes weighing in.
Nobody knows what causes fast radio bursts. Theories describing their origin range from evaporating primordial black holes to neutron stars colliding with comets, to things that are much closer to home – but are just pretending to be really far away. The most intriguing explanation batted around, though, blames communicating extraterrestrial civilizations. While Snapchatting aliens are not a possibility that has been seriously considered so far, it hasn’t been ruled out.
In truth, the question of what these things are can’t really be solved until we know their distance.
Nadia Drake pours some cold water on that theory (insert your own joke here about Nadia Drake covered in cold water) by pointing out what the excitable articles all left out of this "cosmic mystery": that the signals don't meet this weird criteria anymore. Very few, in fact, did. Beyond that, these lines from the paper warrants careful examination:
We conclude that the trend is not likely to be the result of numerical
uctuations, but we remain cautious due to the problem of forming an unmotivated hypothesis after looking at the data. Examples of nding false clustering in sky map data in a slightly di erent context, such as cosmic ray arrival directions, are abundant; but these do get sorted out by further data.
As perytons are thought to be produced on Earth, this would imply that FRBs are also Earthly noise. Indeed, why would both perytons and FRBs show arrival times with a strong correlation to Earth's integer second? This hints at some man-made device, such as mobile phone base stations.