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The Australian breathlessly informs us that:

The UN is to appoint an astrophysicist to be the first contact for any aliens …

Mazlan Othman will describe her potential new role next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference centre in Buckinghamshire.

But Matthew Weaver at the Guardian has spoiled the fun by contacting Othman:


Finally an email from Othman herself would have prompted our Martian to trudge back to his spaceship. “It sounds really cool but I have to deny it,” she said of the story. She will be attending a conference next week, but she’ll be talking about how the world deals with “near-Earth objects”.

So who wrote this entertaining fantasy that appeared in The Australian? Regular readers will already have guessed.

Hat tip: Jennifer Welsh.

Comments

  1. #1 Jeremy C
    September 27, 2010

    Wonderful. You just wouldn’t read about it.

  2. #2 Wow
    September 27, 2010

    Problem is, Jeremy, we HAVE just read about it.

    And it won’t change those who want to believe that the UN is Quango Central.

    It won’t change anyone who reads something this barnstack reports against AGW who wants to believe it to thinking “maybe he’s got it wrong. Again”.

  3. #3 clippo uk
    September 27, 2010

    (Trying to type this with a straight face) ……

    Oh come on!, this is an immensely important job. Just today AOL Uk have given a link to a number of senior US airmen who are about to blow wide-open the world government alien spacecraft silence conspiracy :-

    http://www.asylum.co.uk/2010/09/27/u-s-airmen-aliens-have-deactivated-our-nuclear-missiles/

    Enjoy! (smile).

  4. #4 Rob Jase
    September 27, 2010

    C’mon, its gotta be a poe!

    Mazlan Othman or M.Othman?

    Have a Point Pleasant day.

  5. #5 Wow
    September 27, 2010

    If it is, Rob, then there are plenty of people who are going so far as to question whether the “I have to deny it” means “I’ve been ordered to deny it” so they can continue to believe the UN is an insane quango.

    Even your post is trying to keep that lie out there by the disguise of “Oh, come on, don’t talk about it, it’s just a wind-up”.

    If you repeat a Big Lie](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Lie) often enough, people will believe it.

    The Truth demands defence, not apathy.

  6. #6 MrDrake
    September 27, 2010

    Has someone taken the time to look at the Royal Society cited event?
    http://royalsociety.org/extra-terrestrial-life/
    “Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life”
    There, someone will give a talk about “Extra-terrestrial life and arising political issues for the UN agenda”. Maybe it’s not the same the headlines said, but I don’t see it too far. Mazlan Othman will be one of the panelists.

  7. #7 Dan Dare
    September 27, 2010

    Tim – have you taken the time to make any basic checks before posting your latest blog?

    If you go to this bit of the Royal Society website you will find there a recording of a talk given by Mazlan Othman at a meeting it held on alien life last January. (http://royalsociety.org/2010-The-detection-of-extra-terrestrial-life/)
    In that talk she says roughly the following.

    “Rapid developments in the detection of extra-solar planets augur well for those hoping to detect planets that would provide the right ecosystems for life.

    “The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustain the hope that someday humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials.

    “When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The United Nations fora are a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.

    “To make this happen, the champions of this subject must engage a wider audience, especially member States of COPUOS, that will allow the subject to be included in the agenda of COPUOS and from this platform take it further to the General Assembly.

    “The path taken by the NEO issue is one that could provide the example for the strategy, action and lessons learned to successfully do this.”

    This talk is shortly due to be published as a paper, authored by Mazlan, in the Royal Society’s own Phil Trans journal.

    If you look at the title of next week’s RS meeting http://royalsociety.org/extra-terrestrial-life/ it is all about the societal impact of humanity coming into contact with any type of alien life.

    It concludes with a panel discussion on the implications of any such contact for the UN – and this is the section where Othman is speaking. In fact the title of her talk is “Extra-terrestrial life and arising political issues for the UN agenda”

    This, along with the quote from Mazlan above, suggests the original story was actually reasonably accurate.

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    September 27, 2010

    Dan, writing that the UN should have a plan for alien contact doesn’t make you the alien contact ambassador. Why didn’t you interview Othman for your story?

  9. #9 Michael
    September 27, 2010

    Dan is right.

    Ignoring the fact that the headline claim in the article is completely, 100% wrong, it was “reasonably accurate”.

  10. #10 Marion Delgado
    September 28, 2010

    Good science article. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/sep/24/1

    problem: hard to tell from a Fred Pearce story.

  11. #11 JamesA
    September 28, 2010

    Making ‘reasonably accurate’ and yet totally misleading articles is the bread-and-butter for hacks like Leake.

  12. #12 Paul UK
    September 28, 2010

    Dan said: >”The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustain the hope that someday humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials.

    >When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The United Nations fora are a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”

    Ok I read it and I don’t get ‘UN needs an ambassador from it’.
    Using some basic knowledge of science, I know any practical two way communication with an intelligent species is out of the question.
    Travel is also out of the question. So putting on my sensible cap, I assume that they the UN etc. are interested in how to communicate the ‘contact’ info to the worlds public.

    Then I think nothing more about it and carry on with my life because I’m not paid a lot of money to make up stories about an organisation I don’t like.

  13. #13 harrync
    September 28, 2010

    This must be true, because I saw it on Letterman. He even had the top ten questions asked at the new ambassador’s job interview.

  14. #14 Connor
    September 28, 2010

    Leake is apparently not a happy chappy:

    “This article is the subject of a legal complaint made by Jonathan Leake, science editor of The Sunday Times.”

  15. #15 Lotharsson
    September 28, 2010

    > …it was “reasonably accurate”.

    Perhaps “reasonably accurate” is defined in standard engineering terms (according to the old joke) of +/-100%?

  16. #16 Bernard J.
    September 28, 2010

    I’ve had occasion, more than once, to point out Tom Fuller’s glass jaw.

    It seems that Jonanthan Leake is possessed of the same crystaline mandibulation.

    In my mind it only makes it only makes worse the fact that they are not demonstrating competence at their jobs.

  17. #17 Marion Delgado
    September 28, 2010

    I called NASA and they said Canadian-American actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd was their designated emissary to any visiting aliens. Mr. Aykroyd has stated on the record that there will be no change in NASA alien diplomacy plans for 2010.

  18. #18 stopmurdoch
    September 29, 2010

    The picture is priceless.

    This was still being reported and discussed on the ABC even after the debunking.

    Haven’t heard a correction, clarification, explanation or apology yet.

    The Murdoch infiltration of the ABC is getting more and more brazen.

  19. #19 Thomas PInk
    September 29, 2010

    Exactly Michael . Dan is right but Tim prefers being a smart arse and avoid apologizing for the wrong turn

  20. #20 Wow
    September 29, 2010

    > Exactly Michael . Dan is right

    How is this:

    “The UN is to appoint an astrophysicist to be the first contact for any aliens …”

    right?

    The UN hasn’t appointed ANYONE to be the first contact for any aliens.

  21. #21 bob
    September 29, 2010

    did the BBC not run this story? I could be wrong but I did read it and it wasn’t in the australian. It was either the BBC or the daily mail.

  22. #22 bob
    September 29, 2010

    nevermind my last comment, i just remembered i read the sunday times this week…it was there…

  23. #23 jakerman
    September 29, 2010

    Dan Dare writes:

    >*Tim – have you taken the time to make any basic checks before posting your latest blog?*

    I just check, there is nothing factually true in the Austalian’s Leake story from the headline through to at least parragraph 5.

    So much for accurate news. We’ve learned not to expect quality from the Murdoch empire. Look elsewehere for real information

  24. #24 MFS
    September 29, 2010