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Everyday science

Health and safety nixed search for aliens, says Brian Cox

08 Nov 2012 Hamish Johnston
Lovell telescope

Careful where you point that thing, Brian: the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank.
(Courtesy: Jodrell Bank)

By Hamish Johnston

Two things that draw ire in the UK’s Daily Telegraph are the BBC and the “health and safety culture”. It’s no surprise, therefore, that this story about Brian Cox and an aborted search for alien life has appeared in that venerable newspaper’s science section.

Cox claims that while filming a television programme at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, he was told by BBC bosses that he could not point a radio telescope at an exoplanet in case he detected signals from alien life.

Why?

“The BBC actually said ‘You can’t do that. We need to go through the regulations, and health and safety, and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilization’,” Cox is reported to have said in a radio interview.

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