The Problem with Blogging at Light Speed

February 4th is Across The Universe Day ! But you probably knew this, so why am I bothering ? Saturday morning I finished my toast, went out and bought the Guardian, and found an amusing wee article about NASA beaming the Beatles song Across the Universe through its Deep Space Network in the direction of Polaris. This apparently celebrates the 50th anniversary of NASA and the 40th anniversary of the recording of Abbey Road. Cool, I thought. I can blog about that.

But as soon as I started digging, I found everybody in the blogosphere had beaten me to it – the Bad Astronomer and the Beeb and me ole chum Paul at Skymania News , and Fraser Cain at Universe Today; and its been Dugg of course . Here is the original NASA link. While Googling I found that Chris Lintott, Brian May, and Patrick Moore have a regular New York Times Blog which is also called Across the Universe. Hey, there’s even a movie called Across the Universe

Stuart at the Astronomy Blog must have been too busy doing some astronomy I guess.

Some blogs are “My Diary” by Ordinary Bloke. Some are “Hem. Hem. My Theory” by A.Nutter. Some – many of the astronomy ones – are basically on-line astronomy magazines. They feed off new results and press releases and explain them to a fascinated public. All the blogs I mentioned above do a great job of this. Why should I bother when they do this so well ? Answer : I shouldn’t. If you want to read about it, go read all those other guys ! They are better than me .. and obviously a lot quicker….

Instead I will comment on something that puzzled me, and nobody else seemed to pick up. All the versions of this I have read say that February 4th has been declared as Across the the Universe Day by “Beatles fans across the world”, who are urged to play their own recording of the song, etc etc. Err… says who ? I checked out various Beatles Fan Club websites (like here, here, and here) and can’t see a mention of anything like this. I assume this whole “Beatles Fans Across the World” thing was just made up by NASA and parotted uncritically by all the media outlets and blogs that picked up the press release.

So yeah, its a rock as Chris Lintott says. And this is a NASA stunt. Full stop.

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2 Responses to The Problem with Blogging at Light Speed

  1. And, of course, if anyone should play Across The Universe at the time NASA suggests, i.e. Midnight UK time on Monday night/Tuesday morning, that will be terribly antisocial!

    Yer ole chum Paul

  2. Stuart says:

    I was a bit too busy and to be honest I knew everyone else would pick up on it and I wouldn’t need to. Plus, the likelihood of ET picking up the message (never mind decoding the MP3 format) are very remote given the target and the amount of power likely to be transmitted in a fairly large beam. The only thing I was going to say about it (and did on Twitter) was that it is slightly against the protocols set out by the SETI Permanent Study Group because of the whole “it isn’t wise to shout in the jungle” thing. However, given the power levels and the handy inverse square law, the chances of ET picking it up are very, very, very remote. It probably doesn’t rank more than of “Minor” concern on the San Marino Scale.

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