When this radio telescope was built at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, it was the largest and most sensitive of its kind. It still is. Operated by Cornell University, it was built to scan the heavens degree by degree for any radio signal with a pattern too deliberate to be random noise, and to transmit its own message in reply. One such pattern was thought to be prime numbers, the same in any language. Visit this public site: http://naic.edu/public/the_telescope.htm for more information.
(Note 12/22/10: Link may no longer be working.)
This poem is about a morning when it begins to happen.
Mankind’s ear (x10³º), cocked to the universe,
Listening, hoping, with awesome mechanical patience.
Man’s voice (x10²º): coded light shoots silent and straight
From its throbbing dynamic throat.
A conversation in silence, begun and begun again.
A 3-cornered hat for waving
At anyone who might be watching
Someone drops a pebble down a bottomless shaft
And strains to hear a splash, a clink,
Any sign of contact—-any at all.
He listens for a very long time.
A great arachnoid robot spinning this strange web
For capturing an exotic meal
Of extraterrestrial fireflies.
Having spun, she waits,
One exquisitely sensitive phalange poised at the rim
Awaiting the tremor that betrays
An ensnared feast.
And one day as we nod over coffee, or dream
Of sailing on a summer morning,
The quiet revolution begins;
Yet boldly underlined,
Comes the autograph
Of a distant mind: