SETI, the “Wow!” Signal, and the Ongoing Search of the Sky

It appears that an explanation for the “Wow!” signal might have been found. According to a recent experiment by a team of researchers with the Center for Planetary Science, which is pending peer review, it may have been a passing comet. You can see last year’s proposal for the recent experiment HERE, and the 16-page report of the results HERE. The comet suspected of causing the signal was unknown in 1977 when the “Wow!” signal was received.

As a reminder, the “Wow!” signal was an exciting discovery for fans of SETI. At the time (1977), SETI had the Ohio state University Big Ear radio telescope searching for a signal within the frequency of hydrogen, 1420 megahertz, on the theory that it would be used by a civilization intending to be heard. Nothing out of the ordinary was detected until August 15, 1977. The signal received was a massive burst of exactly the haystack-needle signal being sought.

Of course, the problem with the “Wow!” signal, in SETI circles, has always been that it never repeated, so it was probably not an alien signal. However, all known other sources for the signal were ruled out at the time. It was not of Earth origin, and there is nothing in that part of the sky to account for the signal. So the new experiment offers a plausible explanation for the event.

But SETI enthusiasts should not be discouraged. The “Wow!” signal was detected with limited technology by today’s standards, it neither proved nor disproved anything, and it has always been viewed with appropriate skepticism by SETI scientists. For instance, this 2015 interview, published on, about SETI, the signal was discussed as dubious evidence of extraterrestrial civilization. The interview participants were key figures in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI’s Seth Shostak, Paul Shuch, Douglas Vakoch and Gerry Harp). Although the “Wow!” signal is relatively famous, the interviewees make clear that the signal never met a critical indicator of intelligent origin—it did not repeat. Without that, according to Vakoch, “we have no basis for thinking it was really from an extraterrestrial civilization.” Moreover, the signal is not particularly extraordinary by today’s standards. SETI now uses the Allen Telescope Array. Compared to current surveys, the “Wow!” signal “isn’t at all special or different from signals that we observe every day at the ATA,” Harp said.

It is also worth noting that with present technology immediate follow-up is possible with any interesting signal. With improved detection capabilities and every-increasing computer power, the search grows stronger every year, and the likelihood increases that something extraordinary will be found.

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One Scene at a Time

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“How do you find the time to write a book?” As a working stiff who also publishes novels, this is a natural and frequently-asked question. The immediate answer is usually the very true necessity that “I make time.” Countless weekends … Continue reading

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Audie Awards 2017 Winners

The AUDIE AWARDS have been announced for 2017. These awards are sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association (“APA”). The APA was formed in 1986 as a not-for-profit trade association that advocates the common, collective business interests of audio publishers. It consists … Continue reading

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Towers of Earth Eligible for Nomination for 2017 Dragon Award; Nominations Open Until June 24, 2017

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If you have enjoyed Towers of Earth, and believe it should be nominated for a science fiction award, The Dragon Awards is presently open for nominations by fans free of charge. The Dragon Awards is a fan-based award for the best … Continue reading

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A Look at the Recent Nebula Winners

The Nebula Award Winners were announced last week by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (“SFWA”) at the SFWA Nebula Conference. Naturally, the two awards that generally receive the greatest attention are the Best Novel and the Ray Bradbury … Continue reading

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Like a Book? Write a Review!

You’ve read a novel you like. You tell your friends about it. Word spreads. This is process is probably how most books are selected by readers. It certainly was back in the day.

But more and more, people go to their favorite online site, browse titles, read book descriptions, and check out reviews. I do it. You’ve probably done it. We wonder what the five- and four-star reviewers think, we wonder what the one- and two-star reviewers think, and why. Then we decide.

There are a lot of good reasons to post a book review. Among other things, you want to put your voice out there. Especially with good books, it helps to spread the word. With so many choices out there, why not weigh in? You might also want to let the author know what you think. Many authors read reviews. Most authors don’t get hundreds of reviews. If you’ve read a book by an author that you really like, posting a positive review tells them that in a way that helps others consider the book, too. A positive review helps the author and helps other readers. It is a good thing to do. It’s also easy, once you know how.

So here are a few tips for posting book reviews, starting with the mechanics (the “how to” of it), followed by some thoughts about content.


Most sites are similar for book reviews. Following is a step-by-step about where to click and how the options look for Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble. Most other sites are similar.

Amazon. On the Amazon page for the book:

  • Scroll down to the “Customer Reviews.”
  • Click the “Write a customer review” button to the right of the star-rankings graphic.

On the page that appears:

  • Select a button for the first four questions (“How is the author’s writing,” “Is there violence,” “Is there sexual content,” and “How is the story narrated”)
  • Select the Star Ranking by clicking one of the stars. They fill in automatically from left to right. So for a five-star ranking (the best), click the right-most star.  (See Star Ranking, below.)
  • Enter your comments about the book by clicking in the text box below the stars. (See The Review Text, below.)
  • Click the one-line box below the larger text box to give your review a short title.
  • Click the “Submit” button.

Amazon will probably give you a message that the review is being processed, and it will send you an email when processing is complete.

Goodreads. On the Goodreads page for the book:

  • Click the drop down button below the book cover and select “Read.” (This option means “I’ve read the book.)

In the popup window that should immediately appear:

  • Select the Star Ranking by one of the stars. This is also a five-star system from one to five, with five being the best. (See Star Ranking, below.)
  • The “Bookshelves/tags” option below the stars should already say “read,” so no need to change that.
  • Enter your comments about the book by clicking the large dialogue box labeled below “What did you think?” Before you enter anything there, you will see in gray lettering “Enter your review (optional).” (See The Review Text, below.)
  • Only click the “Hide entire review because of spoilers” box if your comments give things away about the book that some readers might not want to see.
  • Enter the dates you read the book if you wish.
  • Check the boxes at the bottom right if you want to post to your blog, add to your update feed, or share on Facebook. (Some of these options might be pre-checked for you.)
  • Click the “Save” button at the bottom left, or optionally, click the “Preview” link to see what your review will look like first.

Barnes & Noble. On the B&N page for the book:

  • Scroll down to the “Customer Reviews.”
  • Click the “Write a Review” button to the right of the “Average Review” graphic.

In the popup window that should immediately appear:

  • Select the Star Ranking by clicking one of the stars. This is another a five-star system from one to five, with five (the right-most) being the best. (See Star Ranking, below.)
  • Enter your comments about the book by clicking in the text box below the stars. (See The Review Text, below.)
  • Click the “Submit” button.

That’s it. You’ve shared your thoughts. Other readers will appreciate it, and odds are the author will see it, too.


The two key content components are the Star Ranking and the Review Text.

Star Ranking

The number of stars you give tells others at a glance whether you loved or hated the book. Use your best judgment. If you loved it and think others should read it, a 5-star rank says “the best.” If you think the story could have been better, less than five is appropriate. Be honest, according to your own personal standards. I think of it as analogous to a letter grade in school, where five stars is an “A,” four stars is a “B,” etc.

Review Text

This isn’t a writing assignment. Short and sweet is fine. If all you want to say is “What a great story!”, then you’re done. That is a fine review. If you want to say more, here are some thoughts:

  • Say something about the story: an interesting character, stunning settings, some idea or feature that stands out to you.
  • Avoid “spoilers,” meaning don’t spill the plot or the ending (but you can certainly call it “a surprise,” or “satisfying,” or whatever applies.
  • Share a personal thought or two. Was it a page-turner? A fun read? Enlightening or thought-provoking? Would you read it again? To whom would you recommend it?
  • Be honest. If you didn’t get into it, but think others might, it’s okay to say so.

There are as many ways to write a review as there are readers. It can be fun to let an author and readers know your reaction to the story.

Posted in Promotion, Publication, Reading, Reviews, Writing | 3 Comments

Thank You, Alta Vista Park and Its Wonderful Community

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A Towers of Earth Book Launch Party was held at the Alta Vista Park Community Center this month. It was a terrific location and could not have been more welcoming. A wonderful group of readers of all ages and walks … Continue reading

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A Look at the Hugo Award Novel Finalists

The Hugo Awards® nominees for best science fiction or fantasy in 2016 have been announced. The prestigious awards are voted on, and presented by, members of the World Science Fiction Society. Here is a marketing blurb for each of the … Continue reading

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Author on the Couch Interview

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Don’t miss today’s interview of me by Abbie Roads in her Author on the Couch series, where she asks in-depth question of writers about what makes them tick, what doesn’t, and why. Abbie Roads is the author of Race the … Continue reading

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Hugo Nominated Movies 2017

The finalists have been announced for the 2017 Hugo Awards, managed by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS). There are good selections in the group, and the finalist lists are always a good place to find recent works that others … Continue reading

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