By now you've probably heard about the alleged SETI signal. Here's the scoop:
No alien signal (Bad Astronomy)
Basically, Dan Wertheimer, a radio astronomer who is affiliated with SETI, detected a pulse from space. The source is certainly extragalactic, and is most likely some sort of natural event. It's unclear exactly what kind of event, but there is a long list of things it could be. Aliens phoning us is pretty far down that list. But since Dan does do some SETI work, the reporter just botched things up a bit and misattributed the source. The news article reads oddly, like he took a mishmash of topics and wrote them all up into one article, so this misunderstanding doesn't surprise me much.
The signal was detected quite some time ago, and had it been alien, believe me you would have heard from the folks at SETI!
I've no reason to doubt Phil Plait's journalism. It's that naively enthusiastic op-ed sentence at the end that bothers me.
I've always maintained that the content of a bona-fide SETI signal will dictate whether it's deemed fit for public dissemination. A series of prime numbers might be acceptable for relatively immediate disclosure, but what about plans for a super-weapon? Are we to accept that the SETI Institute (a privately funded enterprise) possesses the jurisdiction to divulge any and all potential ET transmissions with impunity?