At the weekend a number of Freaky Trigger writers went to the SCIENCE OF ALIENS exhibition at the Science Museum. Space prevents a full account of the exhibition (summary: fun but pricey), however the final room, describing our attempts to contact the aliens, is worth a mention.

The exhibit covered most of the notable attempts at alien contact – the Arecibo radio message and the Voyager plaque, both from the wide-eyed 1970s. Full accounts of these can be found here on a page which also sensibly analyses why they are mostly rubbish. The Arecibo one makes the schoolboy error of switching from code to pictures halfway through, also even if the aliums realised the picture of a man was a picture of a man, they might well assume that ‘we’ have heads shaped like giant DNA helices. The Voyager one of course came complete with a record with humans saying “hello” in 57 languages, designed more to flog a few copies on behalf of NASA than make any serious effort at extraterrestrial contact.

The Science Museum made no editorial comment on the likely success or otherwise of the various methods, but perhaps a level of cynicism can be inferred from the other part of the ‘contact’ section, a machine allowing children to send their own messages into space, messages built from a pre-selected vocabulary. “PLEASE BRING US LOVE.” “DO YOU HAVE FRIENDS?” and so on. Unfortunately for the future course of human/alien relations, the museum had included a particularly child-friendly word as one of the options, so our friends from space were being bombarded with gems of astro-wisdom such as “PLEASE DONT BRING US TOILET”.