London - The quest to discover life on other planets knows no boundaries. Apart from BBC health and safety guidelines, that is.
Professor Brian Cox has told how Corporation bosses blocked his plans to try to make contact with a newly discovered planet – just in case some aliens happened to answer back.
The physicist and TV host claimed they were worried the experiment, to be staged live on air during his hit BBC2 show Stargazing Live, might pick up a signal from “an alien civilisation” – which is apparently a breach of corporation guidelines.
He had hoped to point a radio telescope at Threapleton Holmes B, the planet discovered by amateur stargazers during a project publicised on his show.
The telescope, based at Manchester University’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, picks up radio emission from planets.
But the experiment never went ahead for fear it would breach health and safety regulations, Mr Cox claimed in a radio interview on BBC 6 music.
“We decided that we’d point the Jodrell Bank telescope at the planet that had been discovered by these two viewers and listen because no one had ever pointed a radio telescope at it and you never know,” he recalled.
“The BBC actually said, ‘But you can’t do that because we need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilisation’.
“(I said) You mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you’re worried about the health and safety of it? It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance.”
BBC 6’s breakfast show host Shaun Keaveny, was incredulous at his guest’s claim. The idea that intelligent life could be discovered and it might swear and that’s why we wouldn’t broadcast it – it’s such a brilliant BBC thing, isn’t it?’ he said.
Professor Cox also said he had a second bizarre encounter with BBC bosses during the show when he suggested asking volunteers to scour pictures of Mars for signs of geological activity that computer scrutiny may have missed.
“Someone from the BBC said to me, ‘Would there have to be a prize if someone discovered it?’
“(I said), ‘What do you mean? You’re going to say to someone, you discovered the first evidence for alien life beyond Earth– and here’s a book voucher as well’”
A BBC spokesperson said: “In making the series there were many light hearted conversations.” One of which was about how different organisations might react to the discovery of alien life.” - Daily Mail