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September 18th, 2010

Anybody want my last three minutes of fame?

So a bunch of British reporters interviewed me over the telephone on Friday, which I submitted myself to because I wanted to help publicize the British Festival of Science and because I am not afraid of making a fool of myself to publicize the existence of the Vatican Observatory. They did themselves proud, keeping up the fine tradition of creativity in dealing with facts that is the hallmark of British journalism. (Google me under news if you want links to the stories in question. Nothing you haven't seen before.)

Besides all the obvious mis-statements of fact (I never worked for NASA, nor in California; I did not speak about aliens at the British Science Festival) there were a number of fascinating shortcomings in the stories filed that the casual reader might not have picked up on:

1. My comments about finding life in other planets (I'd love to) were actually me quoting myself from a television program that had aired on BBC 4 on Wednesday evening. So my comments were actually old news, stuff that millions of Brits would have already seen.

2. I was not speaking on ET's or the search for ETI at the British Science Festival. But the guy who spoke after me, Dr. Ian Morison from Jodrell Bank, did indeed speak precisely on this topic. He actually knows what he is talking about. He got no coverage.

3. If they really wanted to know more about me and ET, they might have waited around for me to tell them that I had just come back from a workshop on SETI held at the Green Bank Observatory. But they were so full of their own preconceptions that they had no time to actually wait for the real story. For that matter, they never asked what it was I had come to the BSF to talk about in the first place.

4. The foolish way they made me look was nothing compared to how they wanted me to look, judging from the traps they tried to set for me in the interview. Frankly, I gave them the aliens "red meat" on purpose, to distract them from making up more damaging statements. (They were trying to get me to criticize my bosses on various topics that are way outside my expertise. Thanks, but no thanks.)

5. I laughed when I gave them some of those answers; they laughed, too, knowing that I intended them as jokes. And then they reported it as if it were straight, as I knew they would.

6. They should not be proud of making me look foolish. I can do that all by myself.

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