…but will aliens snack on *us*?

…but will aliens snack on *us*?

…but will aliens snack on *us*?

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
June 12 2008 1:00 PM

…but will aliens snack on *us*?

In a weird bit of news, a Doritos ad has been beamed to a nearby star known to have orbiting planets.

Doritos had a contest for the public to make and vote on the best ad for the chips. A good idea, and a clever one. But then someone had the idea to take the commercial, encode it into a radio signal, and then use a radio telescope to send it to a nearby star.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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The star, 47 Ursa Majoris, is about 45 light years away, and has at least two Jupiter-like planets orbiting it. The planets are actually relatively far out from the star (2 and 3.7 times the Earth-Sun distance), leaving some room for smaller, Earthlike planets closer in, where it's warm enough to support life as we know it.

There's an obvious question. Assuming there are planets there, and one or more is Earthlike, and life has evolved there, and and and... will they actually like Doritos?

And I have a more important question... but first, watch the winning commercial.


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So let's say you're a denizen of 47 Ursa Majoris d, a hypothetical terrestrial planet. 45 years from now, you sit down to watch TV, and an astronomer from your world is happily describing a transmission they have received from a star just like your own, though just a hair less massive and a bit cooler. The Doppler shift and other characteristics of the signal indicate it came from a similar planet as your own, on a similar orbit. Fantastic news!

The astronomers say they have decrypted it, and the news cuts to the animation above. You see apparently semi-sentient creatures, triangular in shape, performing some arcane alien ritual. But then some huge beast, apparently also sentient, comes along and eats one!

Obviously, the life on this planet poses a threat. The only logical course of action is to mount a fleet and invade. Good thing the scientists on your planet have created a starship drive that can propel you at almost the speed of light!

In my scenario, we have 90 years to live, or to mount a defense. We'd better start soon.

And I'll tell you something else: Frito-Lay better fund this. If they can engineer such delicious chips, they should be able to engineer some vicious ships.