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Have you ever found a hole in the ground, and wanted to stick your hand in it, but you were advised not to by your parents, lest you get bitten by something? If the answer is yes, then I ask you, “What did you find in the hole?” Because I’m pretty sure you did it anyway. And if so, you have something in common with Brian Cox, keyboard player (with the band D Ream) turned particle physicist and BBC television host.
The popular and entertaining Cox, along with comedian and amateur astronomer Dara Ó Briain, hosts the BBC’s Stargazing Live, an obviously live three-night broadcast where each night is dedicated to a different aspect of outer space, sometimes with a guest. For an episode that aired in January, Cox wanted to focus on a newly discovered planet, Threapleton Holmes B, on the extreme off chance of communicating with alien life. He wanted to use the radio telescope in Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire to listen in on the planet.
On Wednesday morning’s BBC Radio 6 Music breakfast show, Cox told presenter Shaun Keaveny that the BBC tried shooting his plans down, saying impromptu contact with aliens would go against health and safety guidelines. They told him they would “need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilization.” Ó Briain says, “The BBC doesn’t even have an ET policy. Neither did the UN. Only the Vatican did.”
Though they actually did listen in on the planet, sadly to no avail, their story just highlights how disconnected people in top administration can be. Keaveny joked about the BBC being bothered that, if discovered, the aliens might swear on live television.
The discovery of alien life would do much to (red) dwarf any other recent discoveries, and I can’t imagine any reason why an entertainment hub would shy away from the experiment. I know the BBC and the British government go hand in hand, but I’m pretty sure CNN would shoot its own mother in the face in order to get a chance at being the first network to air alien communication, regardless of the consequences. And honestly, I can’t even imagine anyone at the BBC being optimistic about the telescopes picking up signs of intelligent life anyway. Now, had they picked up aliens broadcasting “Gangnam Style,” we would definitely know to stay away.