Wednesday, March 26, 2008
We Come in Peace, with Snack Chips for All
The domain of human commerce is about to grow dramatically. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a group of British astronomers plans to transmit a Doritos (TM) commercial - yes, you read that correctly - to the star system 47 Ursae Majoris. The broadcast, according to the article, will "mark the first interplanetary solicitation of the hitherto untapped alien food market." (Aisha Labi, "The Universal Snack," Chronicle of Higher Ed. [March 28, 2008], p. A6.)
47 Ursae Majoris is a G0-1 class star in the constellation Ursa Major, about 46 light-years from Earth. It has at least two Jupiter-sized planets. Researchers at U.T. Arlington believe the star could potentially have one or more rocky planets within its habitable zone (the range of orbits within which liquid water can exist, assuming the theoretical water-bearing planet also has some kind of atmosphere). There's a good article on the star and its known planets here. If there are potential customers in the UMa 47 system, we might expect their earliest snack orders in 2100 AD.
This Interstellar Doritos Initiative reminds me of an economics paper presented at an Ig Nobel Prize ceremony in the 1990s. The paper's author observed that the total value of our planet's imports exceeded the total value of its exports, and argued that this was decisive proof that humans were involved in interstellar trade. "Space aliens," he concluded, "are stealing American jobs."
(The photo above is of a radar dish at the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association station in Norway, which will transmit the UMa 47 Doritos solicitation on June 12th.)