Our first contact with intelligent life forms elsewhere in the universe may not come in the form of an announcement along the lines of, ‘that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for all life forms’, but a complaint to ofcom. This follows the announcement by astronomers working on the square kilometre array or SKA for short, that when the radio-telescope is completed it will be sensitive enough to detect mobile telephone systems up to 50 light years from earth. The astronomers plan to scan distant stars for artificial radio waves by linking together 3000 separate radio dishes and other antennae to form one vast machine. It’s planned to site the array in either the outback of Western Australia or the Karoo of South Africa, which will give a direct line of sight into the heart of The Milky Way.
Setting aside the legality of ‘hacking’ into an alien’s private phone calls, what are we likely to learn from this galactic eavesdropping? Not much, judging by most of the calls one is forced to overhear whilst travelling on a train or a bus here on earth.
That being the case we can look forward to gems like: ‘Me? I’m on the 9.10 Pan-Galactic Starcruiser to Andromeda. Yeah, I know, it’s a bloody disgrace. I’m going to be late for work again. We’ve been creeping along at Warp factor 5 for the last 300,000 miles.’
Of course if E.T. turns out to be a mega rich, Pan-galactic superstar, he may well take us to the Galactic equivalent of the European Court of Human Rights, and sue the collective arse off the entire human race for violation of his alien rights!’