Friday, August 1, 2008

Bebo and Makers of "Wife Swap" Try to Contact Alien World

We here at Xoom are always up for some good old Saganesque, SETI-style research, but this latest development in alien-hunting is pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel:

Bebo and the TV company behind Wife Swap have teamed up with one of the world's experts in interstellar radio communication, Dr Alexander Zaitsev, to beam 500 messages from users into space in a digital time capsule.

Dr Zaitsev will use a Ukrainian radio telescope, normally used to identify and track asteroids that pose a threat to Earth, to beam the messages to a planet orbiting the star Gliese 581c - 20 light years from Earth - because it is believed to be capable of supporting life.

Wait just one second... we're going to be pulling a telescope that tracks large, potentially earth-killing asteroids off line so Bebo and a reality TV company can indulge in a cheesy publicity stunt? Come again?

The Message From Earth project, which launches on August 4, will invite Bebo users, celebrities and politicians to submit messages and pictures that "consider the planet from a fresh perspective" and raise awareness of environmental pressures on our planet.

Do the aliens really need a "fresh perspective" on a planet that they've heretofore known absolutely nothing about?

And further, talking about the environment is just fine, but do we really want to extend our hand in our first intergalactic "what's up?" with a new, probably cooler kid on the block only to start militantly spouting off lines from an "Inconvenient Truth" and "The Eleventh Hour"? Do we really want to be "that guy" right off the bat?

Users can post entries and vote for the best ones on a dedicated Bebo page. The winning 500 will be sent into space...

Whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe remains "one of the greatest unanswered questions", said Dr Zaitsev.

But he added that it would be exciting to see how young people chose to represent humanity and the planet.

The biggest buzz lately about social networking sites is all the idiots who are losing jobs, getting arrested, or just generally coming off like douche bags because they don't have the sense to refrain from uploading pictures of themselves plastered, clutching illegal weapons, or just plain acting like assholes to their gallery pages.

And this is the pool where we are deciding to select our first envoys to an alien civilization?

All ranting aside, of course this is just a silly publicity stunt organized by a few companies to get some ink, and the likelihood that there is anybody to hear these messages on this one particular planet at this specific time is so incredibly remote it's hardly worth thinking about. I get all that.

But still, the very notion that Western culture has slid so far down the tubes that some think it's a swell idea to turn our first contact with an alien species into an American Idol ripoff is pretty grating.

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