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OSU held Guinness record for “Longest Extraterrestrial Search” in 90s

Laura Dachenbach



IN THE DAYS when Star Trek and Star Wars had yet to be conceptualized, and science fiction consisted of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Forbidden Planet, The Ohio State University began a most ambitious task—the construction of a radio observatory that would scan the skies for extragalactic radio frequencies and their sources. The rectangular radio telescope’s main reflector measured roughly 338 feet by 108 feet and became known as the “Big Ear.” It sat on the grounds of the Perkins Observatory at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Initially, the Big Ear was used to scan the Andromeda Galaxy, and then complete the Ohio Sky Survey. It detected quasars, objects emitting intense radiation, and edge-of-the-universe stuff generally considered boring to non-astronomers. In 1972, federal funding for the Ohio Sky Survey was cut, but the Big Ear continued to turn its “eardrums” towards the astronomical ultimate: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). And now Columbus, sporting its overcast skies, rising a mere 900 feet above sea level, and being forced to use volunteer astronomical staff due to funding cuts, was doing only marginally better than E.T. using a jacked-up Speak & Spell to make interplanetary contact.

Which is apparently all it takes, in terms of the universe of chance.

While volunteering one August evening in 1977, Columbus astronomer Jerry Ehrman glanced over the Big Ear printouts and saw a literal “off- the-chart” signal. He circled the alphanumeric sequence “6EQUJ5” on the printout and scribbled “Wow!” in red pen in the margin, giving the phenomenon the name the “Wow! signal.” The pulse of radio energy had come in at 10:16 p.m. on August 15.

“It was the most significant thing we had seen,” said Ehrman in a 1994 interview with The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The narrowband signal lasted for 72 seconds and was determined to come from somewhere within the constellation Sagittarius. The “U” value of the sequence, in particular, was the largest ever recorded. The frequency of the Wow! signal was near the frequency emitted when neutral hydrogen produces light. Because hydrogen is the most common element found in the universe, SETI researchers have theorized that intelligent beings would know of its presence and use that frequency to communicate.

The Wow! signal prompted a search of the sky with more sensitive instruments, and…crickets. Nada. Nothing.

The signal source appears to have vanished. Although many experts have tried, no one has ever been able to fully explain or debunk the Wow! signal. One of the latest such unsuccessful explanations was a pair of comets. Therefore, the Wow! signal remains the top candidate for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Obviously an aspect of the Wow! signal that makes its definitive origins so difficult to prove is that the signal has never occurred again. More data would clearly give researchers a better picture of the phenomenon. Even Ehrman has hesitated to speculate over the years. But unfortunately, the signal remains a mystery worthy of the X-Files. (It was actually mentioned in the episode “Little Green Men.”)

The expectation of finding intelligent life in the universe—given its size, coupled with the question, “So where is everybody and why haven’t they picked up the damn phone?” is a statistical dilemma known as the Fermi paradox. Dozens of hypotheses have been proposed to resolve the paradox, including the vastness of time, other intelligent beings’ lack of (or non-desire for) technology, and some version of an alien Prime Directive (non-interference policy). New statistical methodology has also taken a fresh whack at the problem, but ultimately the question tends to be biased. Our civilization exists, so we know civilization is possible. So why can’t that possibility exist elsewhere in a large universe?

The Fermi paradox is one of the reasons why the Wow! signal remains relevant and has not been brushed aside as a radio astronomy “cold case.” Evidence of an alien civilization would neatly resolve the paradox, relieve us here on planet Earth of the burden of being the sole caretakers of the universe, and perhaps give us the opportunity for some cool intergalactic sports leagues and Airbnb expansions.

In 1995 the Big Ear was listed in The Guinness Book of World Records under the category of “Longest Extraterrestrial Search.” But not for long. Developers purchased the land from the university and finished disassembling the telescope in 1998. They used the land to expand…you guessed it. A golf course. Another stinking golf course. An Ohio Historical Marker with a description of the radio observatory program was placed at the site, a kind of stiff and awkward eulogy to the optimism and innovation of the era.

Dammit Columbus. Sometimes I just can’t even with you. I mean, it was aliens.

Find your very own alien. Download the SETI screensaver at

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Breakaway Music Festival will not take place in 2020; to return in 2021




Those in the music festival community have continued to rally their broken spirits behind live streams and classic archival sets in lieu of the live event industry being put on indefinite hold. 

With each passing day, though, hopes for any large concert gathering happening in 2020 seem incredibly bleak and unrealistic.

News from Midwest college market concert and music festival promoter Prime Social Group on Thursday further confirmed the modern hippie’s greatest fear: a summer void of camping out in otherworldy open fields and following their favorite musicians across the country. 

PSG operates a network of festivals under the Breakaway Music handle that take place annually in Columbus; Charlotte, North Carolina; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Washington D.C.; Nashville; and San Diego. The promotion company made the difficult decision to cancel all six of its 2020 editions of the EDM and pop-focused Breakaway Music Festival with a fully-committed plan to return in 2021. The decision was made due to health and safety concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tickets to the event can be carried over for the 2021 edition of BMF. For those who choose this option, you’ll receive an extra ticket and merch bundle. PSG will also provide refunds if transferring tickets for 2021 is not an option.

Columbus has been making its claim as a music festival destination over the past few years. Breakaway, along with events like Sonic Temple, Wonderbus, and Buckeye Country Superfest, has been bringing quality acts to Columbus consistently. The festival’s presence will be greatly missed this upcoming August.

“Now more than ever, we could use that special sense of unity achieved through live events and music festivals,” said Prime Social managing partner Zach Ruben. “We cannot wait to Leave it All Behind and make memories with all of you again. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and be kind to one another.”

In the meantime, Breakaway plans to release exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from past editions, new digital content, and various live streams. Visit to keep up to date with what PSG has in store.

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{UPDATED} Indoor Dining: what’s NOT opening?




Los Gauchos

PINS Mechanical Co.

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Hey Pinheads. We're so excited to hear that our world is beginning to reopen! Many of you have reached out asking about our opening plans so we wanted to provide a brief update on Pins Mechanical Co. While we fully trust and support the decisions of our local leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our team members and guests, while not sacrificing the experience that makes Pins, Pins! With that in mind, none of our locations will be opening in May. There are many unknowns with COVID-19 and we hope that taking this extra time will help our guests and teammates feel better about the measures we’ve put in place to keep all of us safe. For example, on top of our already stringent cleaning procedures, we’re installing UV technology at all locations (ensuring you always have clean balls to play with). We’re looking forward to welcoming back our kick-ass team to train and adjust to this new normal. Once our people feel comfortable + confident, we’ll know it’s time to get rollin’ again! Thank you for your incredible support, online sales, photo shares + kind words over the last two months. Even when you couldn’t show up, you showed up and we’ll never forget it! We’re hopeful that everyone will be safe and smart as we begin to reopen the doors to the small businesses that make our communities so special. See you soon, Pinheads!

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Old North Arcade

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Dear friends, . As you are most likely aware, Governor DeWine has permitted the reopening of bars and restaurants for dine-in seating effective 5/21. We are very grateful that our leadership is now offering businesses the choice to do what they think is right. We offer no judgment for the bars and restaurants that are/have chosen to open. However, for our particular business, and for our staff, we still think it's too early. We are going to remain closed this week and next but do hope to open soon. Your understanding and patience is greatly appreciated and we cannot wait to see you all. It is important to us that we apply an extra layer of safety and precaution on top of the govermental recommendations. Tentatively, we are looking at the end of May to reopen in a very limited capacity but we're following local and national developments very closesly so will be quick to bail if things turn south. Your continued support has been quite humbling. Thank you. Stay healthy, support local, and be more than kind to one another. . Cautiously optimistic, . ONA Staff

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Watershed Kitchen + Bar

101 Beer kitchen

They are delaying opening dine-in service until May 26th.

Matt the Miller's Tavern

Stay tuned on social for patio and dine-in updates!

J. Gumbo's

J. Gumbo's will continue to stay open for online ordering for pick up and delivery - stay tuned for dine-in updates.

Mouton on High

The Whitney House

The Whitney House will be opening Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 11 am.

The Guild House

Stay tuned for opening dates!

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Stay safe everyone 💕

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Smoked On High

Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace

The Woodbury

The Woodbury will be opening its doors for dine-in service on June 1 2020.


Roosters are not opening dine-in until May 26th 2020.

The Eagle

The Eagle is temporarily closed - stay tuned on social for updates!

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In light of the government mandated closure of dine-in business for an indeterminable period of time, we’ve made the incredibly hard decision to temporarily close The Eagle Columbus. . Given the truly unprecedented and quickly evolving nature of this health crisis, we’ve been forced to make the best decisions we can, with the information we have. As the true scale of this crisis has been revealed, it’s become impossible to deny the impact this mandate will have on our business and team members. This decision was made as all of our decisions have been: with the health, happiness, well being and best interests of our guests and team members in mind. . The state of Thunderdome Restaurant Group is strong and we look forward to seeing and serving you all on the other side of this. Truth, courage, and be well.

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Lavash Cafe

Tiger + Lily

Tiger + Lily is sticking to carry out for the time being. Follow them on social for updates for dine-in!

Yats Grandview

Red Lobster

Red Lobster is continuing to stick to curbside pickup, delivery, or touchless pick-up.

Harvest Pizza

Bareburger Columbus

Bareburger is opening for dine-in on May 26th, 2020.


City Barbeque

Local Cantina - Creekside, Grandview, Dublin, Westerville, Hilliard Locations

Creekside Local Cantina is delaying opening indoor dining until May 26, 2020.

OH Pizza and Brew

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Don’t be that guy/gal who forces your favorite bar/restaurant to permanently close; here are the rules




Once the flood of COVID-related documentaries start to infiltrate our Netflix and Hulu feeds, one of the most debated topics will be which smoking gun the auteur chooses. NBA player Rudy Gobert recklessly rubbing his hands over every microphone during a press conference days before testing positive comes to mind first. The spring break bro who wouldn’t let the virus stop him from raging will make its rounds. Even the scene at Standard Hall made some people’s skin crawl.

The Ohio Investigative Unit will be doing its best to monitor situations at restaurants and bars in order to prevent any future anecdotes like the ones listed above. Local law enforcement agencies will be assisting the OIU to make sure that establishments are complying with the Dine Safe Ohio order. With the issues that were brought up following the opening of outside dining on May 15, the OIU has made specific stipulations for patrons to follow:

  • 6-foot social distancing between employees AND members of the public
  • patrons must be seated while eating and/or drinking 
  • no more than 10 people to a table
  • no billiards, video/arcade games, dancing, or card playing
  • patrons must follow specific guidelines put in place by restaurant/bar

For those who have no shame dancing by themselves in public, you’re golden. However, patrons can be written up for not following the OIU’s guidelines. 

Some people may be able to shoulder a citation, but bars and restaurants are the ones who have the most to lose here. In a press conference on May 18, Gov. Mike DeWine mentioned that OIU will issue citations that could result in the permanent loss of liquor licenses.

So once again the ball is in the consumer’s court: follow these very simple rules and avoid the risk of putting your favorite restaurants and bars out of business for good. In 2020, being spring break bro is the worst look.

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