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There once was a Physics Professor who studied naturally occurring electromagnetic radiation from a remote island camp. He had instruments to record fluctuations of these waves over a wide range of frequencies and he regularly analyzed the tracings.

One day he noted an unusual pattern in a vacant portion of the short wave band. Its regularity intrigued him, a triplet of long and short square waves, "blip blip blip -- bleep bleep bleep --blip blip blip," repeated over and over again.

With his intimate knowledge of atmospheric and astronomical effects on electromagnetic radiation, he was able to propose a plausible explanation for this cyclic phenomenon. As he was explaining the mechanism to his graduate assistants, one of them, who had been a Boy Scout, noted that it was precisely mimicking the Morse Code for "SOS."

The Professor found it fascinating that these natural processes could produce the appearance of design and began to sense that there might be a Nobel Prize somewhere in the future for him. He therefore set his assistants in motion confirming all his observations and refining the explanations.

Later that day, the pattern changed abruptly and he called the former scout to examine the new series of blips and bleeps. The young man told him that it now appeared to give a repeating message in Morse Code, namely "marooned 10 s 150 w situation desparate." There was, he emphasized, one misspelling.

The pattern had become more complex and in some ways more random. Yet the possible explanations for its repetitious nature were much more strained than for the simple SOS. But, as the Professor said, "There is no doubt that it is happening, so there must be an explanation."

One of the native cooks at the camp overheard the discussion and said, "We should send a boat to save the poor sailor that's marooned." This brought peals of laughter to the scientific group and the Professor explained in a somewhat patronizing way (but without violating anyone's civil rights) that it was well known that there was not anyone out there, that the frequency involved was not one used for distress signals, and that the apparent message was a fluke of nature. Science, he declared, must stick to the objective data. Everything being recorded is simply electromagnetic radiation and can be easily accounted for. Metaphysical explanations are outside the realm of physics and have no place in true science.

Years later, the Professor got his Nobel Prize. His assistants rose on the ranks of academia and published anthologies in his honor for decades to come. The cook had secretly rescued the marooned sailor, but no one ever believed his story.

by Ross Olson

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