BBC warns physicist not to hunt for aliens due to 'safety' issues

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Jan 14, 2013, 2:52 PM EST

Imagine if a major TV network had a hand in discovering proof of alien life. Imagine the ratings, the money, the promotional materials, the place in history. Now imagine the same network telling one of its biggest stars, who also happens to be a particle physicist, that he can't search for aliens on the air because of health and safety regulations.

For an episode in the second series of his popular series Stargazing Live, physicist Brian Cox wanted to turn his equipment on the recently discovered planet Threapleton Holmes B and see if he could find anything.

"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," said Cox.

But the BBC wasn't having it, because apparently they're afraid of what might happen if Cox actually did find something.

"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,'" Cox 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."

Though it seems a likely story, Cox's co-presenter Dara O'Brian later said that Cox was probably just employing "comedic license."

"Actually not banned," said O Briain. "We still did it live on-air and heard nothing, sadly. It's still funny! It's just that the BBC don't have an ET policy. Neither did the UN. Only the Vatican did."

So, even if you're going to be the one to prove that aliens exist live on one of their programs, if you want to hunt aliens at the BBC you'd better be prepared to cut through a lot of red tape.

(Via The Guardian)