Monday, April 26, 2010

Hawking fears a real life Independence Day. Earth women beware!

Promoting his forthcoming TV series, renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has voiced concerns that we might face an Independence Day style onslaught from aliens out to steal our resources. Sorry Stephen, I think that's about as likely as them coming to steal our women. Have you been watching Independence Day, which was wrong from beginning to end? Any aliens with the technology to travel the stars have no need of going to the bother of invading a populated planet for resources. As has become perfectly clear in recent years, our galaxy, indeed our local solar system, teems with materials that are unclaimed and free to exploit. Much easier to target uninhabited planets or indeed asteroids. The old idea of aliens stealing our water is a classic of the genre, but pretty dumb when you consider how much free water is out there. Don't get me wrong, the idea of alien invasion is a fun one, but we've got very little to worry about on this score, with one exception. If the aliens are like us, there might be purely xenophobic reasons for them to attack!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Here we go again: Aliens invade Jordan.

I'm never really sure if I should feel happy and vindicated when people panic over fake alien invaders, or if I should be worried for our safety and sanity as a species. I've argued for a long time that the world remains worryingly susceptible to fakery akin to the Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast, and lo and behold, here we go again. What's really interesting here is that to my knowledge, it's the first time someone has pulled this kind of hoax in the Middle East, so kudos of a kind to the Al-Ghad newspaper in Jordan, who scored a fabulous own goal by running an April Fools joke on their front page in a county where the concept of an April Fool is little known or appreciated.

I actually thought this story might in itself be an April Fool. It seems absurd to think that a newspaper article could trigger concern so strong that the local mayor Mr Mleihan commented to the Associated Press, "Students didn't go to school, their parents were frightened and I almost evacuated the town's 13,000 residents", but it looks to be the real thing. Apparently, the local security forces even combed the desert looking for the aliens, after the newspaper reported that 3m (10ft) tall creatures had landed in the desert town of Jafr, in eastern Jordan. Looking at the online edition of Al-Ghad newspaper today, the letters page does indeed carry some corroboration of the event.

The problem is of course that it seems very unlikely that many people in Jordan had ever heard of the Orson Welles broadcast, so were ill prepared to process what they were reading. It's easy to mock, but this just proves that there must be plenty of countries out there where this sort of hoax could have serious consequences. Imagine if it had been done on the radio!!

I'd love to see a copy of the April 1st front page, so if anyone out there has the facility to provide a scan, send it over and I'll post it here.