Sunday, October 03, 2010

London Times "Science" Editor Jonathan Leake Is Still a Gullible Fool

An apocryphal story penned by The Sunday Times "science" editor Jonathan Leake, which claimed that the Malaysian astrophysicist Dr. Mazlan Othman had been hired by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to oversee contacts with aliens visiting Earth from outer space, has turned out to be complete baloney.

Wikipedia explains:

At UNOOSA [Mazlan Othman] deals with issues of international cooperation in space, prevention of collisions and space debris, use of space-based remote sensing platforms for sustainable development, coordination of space law between countries, and the risks posed by near-earth asteroids, among other topics.

In September 2010, several news sources reported the United Nations would soon appoint Othman to be the ambassador for extraterrestrial contact[7][8], apparently basing their claims on remarks she made suggesting that the UN coordinate any international response to such contact, and her scheduled appearance on a Royal Society panel that October, "Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life."[9] However, a UN spokesperson dismissed the reports as "nonsense," saying there was no plan to expand the mandate of UNOOSA[10], and in an email to The Guardian, Othman stated, "It sounds really cool but I have to deny it."[11] She later explained that her talk would illustrate how extra-terrestrial affairs could become a topic of discussion at the UN, using as an example the advocacy that led to UN discussion of near-Earth objects and space debris.[12]

The U.K. Guardian (9-27-10) has penned a witty riposte to Mr. Leake's apocryphal article and proudly adds an update noting that their article has even become "the subject of a legal complaint" made by Jonathan Leake, the foolish "science" editor of The Sunday Times, which is owned by the media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

This is not the first time that a major news organization has reported alien landings. When communism was ending, the boring scriveners who toiled away at Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) were not getting paid; so they morphed into capitalists and penned fantastic skazki in order to make money. Still, the tall tales from TASS were considerably more entertaining than Jonathan Leaky's credulous scribblings in The Sunday Times.

The U.K. Guardian (9-27-10) gleefully reports:

If a Martian, proverbial or otherwise, had landed on Earth in the last 24 hours the media had some practical advice. Or so it seemed. According to the Sunday Times and numerous other media outlets that followed up the story, the United Nations was "poised" to appoint an individual to be the first point of contact with aliens.

Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman was being lined up for the role, the story said. As head of the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa) Othman would be the "nearest thing we have to a take me to you leader [person]", Prof Richard Crowther, from the UK Space Agency, told the Sunday Times.

According to the paper, Othman is due to tell a Royal Society conference that as the detection of extraterrestrial life is more likely than ever, the UN needs to be ready to co-ordinate humanity's response.

Reading all this our Martian visitor might have been encouraged to try to get in touch. They would have had a frustrating time.

The Royal Society knew nothing about it. The United Nations referred all queries to the switchboard of Unoosa in Vienna. Its switchboard number wasn't much help. "The person at extension 4951 is unavailable, please leave your message after the tone," it said. Those messages might make for some interesting listening today.

Finally an email from Othman herself would have prompted our Martian to trudge back to his spaceship. "It sounds really cool but I have to deny it," she said of the story. She will be attending a conference next week, but she'll be talking about how the world deals with "near-Earth objects".

Our alien will just have to try someone else, or stop reading the Sunday Times.


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