Written by Asheville Jack
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Thursday, 23 July 2009

image for And now, a Message from Kurt Vonnegut

Mountain View, CA - Pamela Townsend and the other scientist assembled in the SETI central computer room couldn't believe what they were seeing. After hours of waiting the message that finally appeared on the monitor said simply:

"The horse jumped over the fucking fence" and left.

"What the hell does that mean?" she said. As the director of the Allen Telescope Array for the SETI Institute this was not good news. This meant that the message was someone's idea of a bad practical joke. And she knew that the SETI institute couldn't afford to become a laughing stock in the scientific community, that millions of dollars of funding was at stake.

In Pamela's line of work, searching for extraterrestrial life signs is a discipline known as astrobiology. Instruments used by SETI Institute scientists include the Allen Telescope Array, the radio telescopes at Arecibo, Parkes, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

The strange message they received appeared to originate from Alpha Centauri. Pamela knew the brightest star in the southern constellation of Centaurus, Alpha Centuari is actually a binary star system, or two stars that revolve around each other. It's also the closest star system to our Solar System, only 4.37 light years away from our Sun.

"There is no mistake," said the engineer seated at the computer consol, "I've crossed checked the possibility that this message might have originated from someplace other than Alpha Centauri. It's from Alpha Centuari all right, and the message is real"

"Shit," she said, "run a Google search of that phrase." Almost instantly on another monitor appeared:

"Strapped for cash in the mid-1950s, Kurt Vonnegut took a job at Sports Illustrated, though he "didn't care or know squat about sports." They asked him to write a piece about a racehorse that had jumped the fence at the local track. He fed a page into his typewriter, stared at it for several hours, typed "The horse jumped over the fucking fence" and left."

"Run another search on Kurt Vonnegut," she instructed. The results of the search on Kurt Vonnegut appeared on the monitor. It said:

"Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. born November 11, 1922; was an American novelist known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat's Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) He was known for his humanist beliefs as well as being honorary president of the American Humanist Association.

Died April 11, 2007."

Turing her attention back to the first monitor, Pamela reread the words that flashed on the screen:

"The horse jumped over the fucking fence" and left.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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