Chapter 7

The Rio Scale

     “Hypotheses are framed so they are capable of being disproved.”  Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World.

     In the world of SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, alien signal candidates that include physical evidence that is replicable and testable are extremely rare. They don’t pop up on a weekly, monthly, or even yearly basis. If they did, we would hear about them. Ask the people who promote ancient alienism on The History Channel how many times they have submitted hard evidence of extraterrestrial activity on Earth to science for testing, and, if they are honest, they will tell you zero. Better yet, ask the poor souls whose job it is to monitor SETI’s radio telescopes how many times they have jumped out of their chairs in excitement because the needle on their printout was going crazy. Not that often.

     If Smoking Gun candidates were as common as houseflies, SETI scientists would have the luxury of selecting only the most hopeful and disregard the rest. But that’s not the way it is. In approaching SETI with a request to test the Sagan Signal, I won’t be asked to take a number and wait in line. In the decades that humans have been searching, there has been only a small handful of signal candidates that have made SETI hearts beat faster.

     This is not to say, however, that there has been any shortage of oddball claims. Over the past fifty years, the SETI Institute and its various affiliates have received hundreds of contacts from individuals all over the globe who have insisted that they found the Smoking Gun. Almost all of these individuals were seriously delusional, college pranksters out for a good time, or bored techno-geeks trying to outwit SETI scientists.

     To bring order out of mayhem, SETI scientists felt they needed a way to measure the scientific efficacy of signal candidates. Such a system was developed by astronomers Ivan Almar and Jill Tarter and presented to the 51st International Astronautical Congress in October, 2000, in Rio de Janeiro. Patterned after the famous Richter Scale that measures the strength of earthquakes, the following Rio Scale measures the relative strength of putative alien signal candidates:


The Rio Scale: 

10. Extraordinary

9.    Outstanding

8.    Far-Reaching

7.    High

6.    Noteworthy

5.    Intermediate

4.    Moderate

3.    Minor

2.    Low

1.    Insignificant

0.    None


     It goes without saying that before an ETI candidate can be assigned a rating that merits testing, it needs a least a cursory examination by individuals trained and experienced. Does it pass the eyeball test and meet minimal scientific standards, or is it obviously frivolous?

     It should be noted that after an alien signal candidate is submitted and assigned a rating on the Rio Scale, it is not necessarily the end of the process. Further research and analysis may generate new information that in a future resubmission could raise or lower the grade and, subsequently, either advance or scale back SETI’s level of engagement.

     This dynamic process is most impactful at the lower end of the scale, where tough decisions are made about whether to dedicate scarce resources and valuable time to running tests on a particular Smoking Gun candidate, or, to save time and money, not take any action at all.



     Invitation to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, or IETA, was founded in 1996 by the late futurist and SETI researcher Dr. Allen Tough. IETA is recognized by SETI as a scientifically legitimate and complementary effort to make contact with aliens using means other than radio telescopes. Based on the assumption that a probe from some advanced extraterrestrial civilization may be on Earth, observing us undetected through the World Wide Web, IETA is using the internet to convey a message to extraterrestrials that “Hey, we believe you might be here, and, if you are, we would very much like to start a conversation.” On behalf of nearly one hundred scientists, scholars, artists and individuals interested in establishing contact with extraterrestrials, IETI created a dedicated website that invites ETI to abandon its silence and establish communication with the human species via the internet.

     Following are two statements from IETI that reflect its ethic of leaving no stone unturned:

     “It is our position that any claim where there is going to be hard evidence is worth taking seriously. This rule turns out to be effective. In dealing with most claims, after Dr. Tough explained to the claimant that there was a group of scientists and people with Ph.D.’s waiting to verify hard evidence, he never heard from the claimant again. When the claimant indicated a willingness to provide hard evidence the project would take the suggestion or proposal seriously.”

     “A good scientist checks out all possibilities. It is often the most outrageous one that turns out to be correct.”

     From its inception, IETI has received numerous claims. Most were quickly dispatched, but three were framed well enough to be taken mildly seriously by IETA researchers. Following, in annotated form, is a review of these three incidents:




     “On August 10, 2001, Dr. Tough received a message from someone calling themselves 'Badly Drawn UK' who said he would demonstrate his extraterrestrial power by shutting down all British television for one minute on August 15.


     Although this was likely a hoax, as a scientist Dr. Tough believed that he had to investigate the claim even if there was only a 1% chance of it being genuine. At least, for the first time, a claimant offered clear-cut testable evidence.


     The act did not take place and the claimant admitted that he was a hoax. He turned out to be a bored web designer in Birmingham, England who executed the act for personal amusement.”




     “August 15, 2001 - a man contacted Dr. Tough who claimed to possess ETI intelligence. As always, Dr. Tough drew wisdom and input from the invitation to ETI group in his dealing with this claim. He e-mailed a dozen scientists informing them of the claim and asked for suggestions and advice on further steps.

     The result was that the claimant was presented a prime number test involving 100 to 120 digits. At that point the man admitted he was a bored programmer interested in playing games.”





     “On August 11, 2001, Dr. Tough was contacted by a man named “Twelve as One” who claimed that he got messages from ETI. Dr. Tough’s response: ‘Because we cannot exclude the possibility of ETI contacting us using the disguise of a person on earth, we must accept any opportunity to verify a claim.’

     Dr. Tough asked 10 specific questions that covered a wide range of topics. He asked about the star or planet they originally came from, the culture they had, the path human society should take to achieve our potential, our contributions to the universe, etc. The answers had “the ring of truth” about them.

     However, three months into his alien communication with Dr. Tough, Twelve As One was ignoring the request for hard evidence to prove his ET authenticity. Eventually the man admitted he was not an ET, but an ET channel who sends messages from Twelve As One, the author of the messages.”



     Though we can now look back on these three incidents with a measure of amusement, on the serious side, all three wasted the time, energy, and resources of highly trained scientists, making it that much harder for individuals with serious proposals like mine to get a hearing.

     In 2012, I submitted the 46 grain, wine, and oil sequences to Dr. Paul Davies, director of the SETI Post-Detection Subcommittee, claiming that they were encrypted into the Old Testament by ETI. Dr. Davies, agreeing that the data was testable, went to higher authorities for permission to test but was denied the resources. In notifying me that SETI decided not to test the sequences, Dr. Davies made no mention of what Rio Scale number was officially assigned, but I had to assume that it was graded either a 0 or a 1. I wasn’t terribly discouraged. I was pleased that Dr. Davies, gracious and professional, took the time to look over my data and reply to my claim. His acknowledgement that I was a serious claimant and that the data was testable was encouragement to continue my research.

     Most of the contents of this present manuscript is material not in my original bare-bones submission. Now, as I resubmit a more fleshed-out claim and appeal once again to SETI to test what I am convinced is the Smoking Gun, I am hopeful for a better outcome. My goal is to have SETI rate the Sagan Signal high enough on the Rio Scale to justify testing. The ultimate goal is to have SETI test the sequences to determine if they are a code, and do it with full transparency so that the world can be informed of the outcome.

     In once again requesting SETI to test the code, I take comfort in the following quote from physicist Frank Tipler:

     “. . . a refusal to reconsider a previously rejected theory in the light of new data is bad science.” The Physics of Immortality.

     In advancing the Sagan Signal for testing a second time, I worked hard to elevate both the quality and the quantity of my material to meet the following high standards:

     “. . . the selective forces that scrutinize scientific ideas are not arbitrary or capricious. They are exacting, well-honed rules, and they do not favor pointless self-serving behavior. They favor all the virtues laid out in textbooks of standard methodology: testability, evidential support, precision, quantifiability, consistency, intersubjectivity, repeatability, universality, progressiveness, independence of cultural milieu, and so on.”  Richard Dawkins, A Devil’s Chaplain.

     As a final check on my work, I measured the Sagan Signal against Carl Sagan’s famous “Baloney Detection Kit,” much of which is based on the following principle:

     “Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much.” Carl Sagan.

     Considering the effort I have put into this manuscript to make it scientifically credible, I have high hopes that SETI officials will give my proposal a fair evaluation. I would suggest one thing they might do is compare the Sagan Signal against the famous WOW! Signal.


The WOW! Signal

     On August 15th, 1977, at the Big Ear radio Telescope of Ohio State University, professional astronomer Dr. Jerry Ehman, while donating time for SETI, noticed an anomaly on a printout that lasted for 72 seconds that was potentially non-terrestrial in origin. He circled the data and wrote in “WOW!” an evocative name that quickly overruled its technical designation: 6EQUJ5. The WOW! Signal soon became the unofficial title of SETI’s first credible alien intercept.

     The scientific name of the WOW! Signal, 6EQUJ5, is a combination of letters and numbers that represent the strength of the transmission from the moment of its reception to its completion. It went from a low end (6) to a high (U) back to a low (5), which meant that it was modulated. It came in at less than 10kHz, an extremely narrowband frequency within the 1420 Mhz range, exactly where, in 1959, Cornell physicists Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison had predicted in a historic paper published in the scientific journal, Nature, an alien signal might be found.

     While it was true that the WOW! Signal matched the 1959 Cocconi/Morrison prediction in several technical areas, from the moment it was received it was clear to SETI scientists that there were serious problems. Science writer Michael Brooks, in 13 Things that don’t Make Sense, writes:

     “Three minutes later, when the Earth had turned and brought the telescope’s second receiver around to stare at the same point in the heavens, the signal had gone.”

     This was not in the Cocconi/Morrison model. An extraterrestrial signal would not be just a single blip on a computer printout. It would be repeated and continuous, at least long enough for scientists to confirm that it was a non-random event. Brooks goes on:

     “The signal came from the constellation of Sagittarius, also known as the Teapot. Just to the northwest of the globular cluster M55 (to the east of the Teapot’s handle) to be exact. There was nothing there.”

     Cocconi and Morrison made a theoretical prediction that contained or implied specific characteristics that were not in the WOW! Signal. For that reason, SETI scientists never announced that the WOW! Signal was extraterrestrial, only that it bore some interesting similarities to the Cocconi/Morrison model.

     What was missing in the WOW! Signal was not insignificant. It wasn’t repeated and nothing exists at the source. So why all the fuss? It may have been because, after almost twenty years of silence, the press and the public were starving for some positive news, and this was it. Emphasize the positive and downplay the negative.

     I think any fair-minded person would agree that the Sagan Signal fares very well when compared to the WOW! Signal that has been formally tested over fifty times. I would be thrilled if SETI officials rated the Sagan Signal high enough on the Rio Scale to merit but a single test to determine if the sequences are a code. The fact that it is solidly anchored in the Sagan Model of ancient alienism should, by itself, insure a reasonably high rating.

     With the recovery of the Stanford Paper we know that Carl Sagan’s goal was to create a safe place for rational people of honor and intelligence to talk freely and openly about ancient aliens without being cast as crazies. Unfortunately, his paper was so effectively buried by NASA that few people, including skeptics, were aware of its existence until I made it the centerpiece of my book, The Sagan Conspiracy. Carl’s dream of creating a model of ancient alienism acceptable to mainstream science, had it materialized, would have effectively exposed the pseudoscientific nature of popular ancient alienism from its outset. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. What a tribute it would be to Carl Sagan and his legacy if the Sagan Signal is tested and results confirm that it is the Smoking Gun that proves that we are not alone in the universe.


The Smoking Gun Challenge

     “Anyone who wants to understand the world should be open to new facts and new arguments, even on subjects where his or her views are very well established.” Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape.


     In this manuscript I have attempted to make a scientifically compelling argument that the Sagan Signal should be rated high enough on the Rio Scale to justify testing. If anyone thinks otherwise, I would like to know what more they need. My claim that the Bible contains a code is extraordinary, but so, I think, is the evidence. At this point, I would find it inconceivable that anyone, and particularly the SETI Institute, would be against testing. The Smoking Gun Challenge is my invitation to the SETI Institute and to the world to try to debunk the Sagan Signal.

     I’ve covered a lot of ground in this paper, featuring a host of individuals, some famous and some not, and a number of different events, some well-known, others not so much. Amidst all the facts and claims, it would be easy to forget my primary purpose in posting it on the internet. It’s not about the Masonic Lodge, Isaac Newton, Carl Sagan, or convincing people that Jesus Christ was an extraterrestrial. It’s about one thing: to have the Sagan Signal critically tested and evaluated by code experts to determine if the 46 grain, wine, and oil sequences in the Old Testament are what I claim, an encrypted code.

     Should cryptanalytic test results come back positive, we then move to the next step in the process: attribution. Who did it? Assuming we get that far, I’ll claim it was extraterrestrials. It is because of the extraordinarily exciting possibility that humanity may have in its possession, right now, a direct message from extraterrestrials, that the SETI Institute should get involved. It was Frank Drake and Carl Sagan who brought SETI, the Search for physical evidence of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, into existence. If this is indeed the moment of Contact, as I am convinced it is, it would only be fitting for the SETI Institute to oversee the final testing of the sequences, and if the Sagan Signal is confirmed, for its leaders to make a formal public announcement.

     In the event that cryptanalysts successfully debunk my claim, I will leave with my head held high, knowing that I played by the rules. I made a sensational claim and gave the skeptics what they ask for, sensational evidence. Of course I expect skeptics to abide by the same set of rules, which they have set, which is that if a claimant backs up his or her thesis with testable evidence, they will do their part and test that evidence to see if it holds up. Needless to say, for skeptics not to test empirical data that has content, credibility, and historical context is not an acceptable option.

     For some, a Smoking Gun that is a Bible code may not sound all that interesting, and I get it. The public has been lured into thinking that it must be something more dramatic and sensational, like a crashed UFO or an alien body. On the other hand, if SETI were to detect an alien radio signal, it would create global pandemonium. The mainstream news media would go crazy and it would be the only thing people would be talking about. In truth, a radio signal from space and an encrypted signal in the Bible are a lot alike. Both would be code candidates that would need to be tested.

     Let’s face it, we are a species in eminent peril. While an alien body or a captured UFO may confirm the existence of ETI, neither would give us what we need most: knowledge on how to live together in peace and preserve our planet for future generations. When the Sagan Signal is tested and confirmed to be extraterrestrial in origin, the decryption process can begin. Having studied it for decades, I can assure everyone that it contains knowledge and wisdom that will benefit all humanity.


     Over the course of 2018 I plan on issuing the Smoking Gun Challenge to ancient alien skeptics James Randi, Michael Shermer, and Jason Colavito, all gifted critics whom I am counting on to try to shoot my code theory down. I will be as helpful as I can be as they put the Sagan Signal to the test. I will use the same aggressive approach with a long list of other individuals and institutions, including Dr. Brenden McKay, an Australian mathematician who is famous for successfully debunking the Torah Codes. I’ll ask the leaders of the American Cryptogram Association, comprised of individuals devoted to cryptography, to challenge its members to try to debunk my code claim. I’ll contact the Independent Investigations Group, an organization associated with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, asking them to test the data.

     The Smoking Gun Challenge is a global appeal to code experts and citizen scientists to participate in an extraordinary adventure that may well end up being history in the making – and you can be a part of it by posting the news of this incredible discovery on your favorite blogs and social media sites. You can also contact individuals and organizations you think might be capable of, and interested in, formal testing. The more people involved, the more pressure there will be on skeptics to run code identification tests and release the results. Of course the name of the first code expert to test the sequences and formally certify that they are a code will go down in history.

     While there may be a mad dash to test, to be the first to come up with official results, this won’t be true in all instances. There are bound to be some skeptics who, when they see that the evidence poses an existential threat to their chosen world view, will decide not to engage, or try to debunk my claim cosmetically rather than forensically. In anticipation of this possibility, the motto I have adopted for The Smoking Gun Challenge is: "Let the Testing do the Talking."

*For an easy access, here is the official public link to the Rio Scale Calculator presented by SETI and league members.

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