From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
BROKE UK ASTRONOMERS SWITCH TO AD-BASED REVENUE MODEL
UK astronomers to broadcast adverts to aliens
BY Roger Highfield / 07/03/2008
British astronomers are to broadcast the first adverts to aliens.
The cosmic stunt marks a small step for man, a giant leap for
advertising hype and underlines the desperation of British astronomers
to find new sources of funding as they struggle to cope with swingeing
cuts that now threaten institutions such as Jodrell Bank, the world
famous observatory in Cheshire.
Although each and every television advert already broadcast has leaked
into the heavens, the caper marks the first time one is to be
targetted at an other worldly market, a zone in the constellation Ursa
Major that could harbour alien worlds, the snack manufacturer Doritos
The project, in which the public are invited to shoot a 30 second
advert, underlines the current crisis in funding astronomy, due to an
£80 million shortfall.
For broadcasting the advert into space, encoded as ones and zeros that
clever aliens should be able to figure out, Doritos will make an
undisclosed donation to astronomers and academics from Leicester
University and Eiscat (The European Incoherent SCATter Scientific
The space-bound ad will broadcast from a 500MHz Ultra High Frequency
Radar from the EISCAT Space Centre in Svalbard, Norway, used to study
the atmosphere and northern lights, which has escaped a savage round
of cuts because its five year renewal contract has been signed.
Prof Tony van Eyken, Director of Eiscat, admits he does not know what
the effects of the UK cuts will be but says he is happy to accept any
novel source of funding: “Broadcasting an advert extra terrestrially
is a big and exciting step for everyone on Earth as up until now we
have only tended to listening for incoming transmissions.”
When Nasa recently beamed a Beatles song towards the North Star, 431
light years from Earth, some experts warned that the signals could
expose us to the risk of attack from mean spirited aliens.
“In this case we are giving somebody the opportunity to create this
message as a way to say hello on behalf of mankind,” says Prof van
Eyken, who adds the prospect of the Earth being destroyed by Doritos
hating aliens is remote. “No, I am not worried.”
Humans have been announcing their presence by radio and TV broadcasts
for decades and when it comes to the Nasa broadcast, “this is a 1,000
light year round trip, it’s highly unlikely it will ever be received
However, he adds that in this case “there is a much greater chance
that the Doritos advert will potentially be seen by billions of
The transmission will be invisible to earthlings and is being directed
at a solar system 42 light years away from Earth with planets that
orbit its star ’47 Ursae Majoris’ (UMa). 47 UMa is located in the
‘Ursa Major’ Constellation, also known as the Great Bear or Plough.
He adds “we have no way to know whether there is extraterrestrial life
As part of its new ‘You Make It, We Play It’ campaign, Doritos will
also air the advert on the more conventional medium of British
television in June. The filmmaker responsible for the winning ad will
also win £20,000.
The Royal Astronomical Society has talked about its “deep pessimism
and anger” at the cuts. Although it welcomes a consultation by the
Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC, the Society remains
“deeply concerned” about the impact on UK research in astronomy, space
science and solar-system physics.
The RAS does not, however, accept the STFC’s classification of many
projects as ‘lowest priority’, which include the £2.5 million running
costs for “e-Merlin” – an upgrade to the Multi-Element Radio Linked
Interferometer Network between the UK’s seven radio telescopes,
notably Jodrell, which would struggle if this funding were lost.
Some of these have a high profile, it says, including eMerlin, the
Gemini Observatory and UK involvement in the Hinode space observatory
currently being used to study activity on the Sun.
Alongside the risks to these and other projects is a 25 per cent cut
in the STFC research grants to universities that will see numbers of
postdoctoral researchers in space science and astronomy fall to their
lowest level for seven years.
There is also a real concern that the consultation with the science
community on the Review is too brief for responses to be heard. This
began this week and will close on 21 March – by comparison UK
Government guidelines on public consultation suggest a minimum period
of 12 weeks.
President of the Royal Astronomical Society, Prof Michael Rowan-
Robinson says: “I welcome the commitment by STFC to consult with the
wider community on what remains a severe package of cuts. It is vital
that the consultation is as fair and transparent as possible so that
the eventual decisions are seen to be made on an objective basis.
“Closing down UK involvement in a swathe of projects will harm our
ability to carry out cutting-edge research, our international
reputation and our ability to attract young people into science and
physics in particular.”
posted by snarfies / March 07, 2008
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