Hello? ET? Just wait until you see the phone bill… | Barbara Ellen

Barbara Ellen
Scary: Orson Welles broadcasts his version of War of the Worlds in 1938. Photograph: AP

Very sad news for fans of aliens (should they exist). After more than a year of listening for signals, astronomers working on the $100m Breakthrough Listen project, funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Yuri Milner, have found no evidence of extraterrestrials. The only “intelligent signals” came via satellites, mobile phones and other “earthly devices”.

The good news is that the “ET phone home” scene packs an even greater punch now that we know about all those strong mobile signals. A tiny negative: $100m is rather a lot for what sounds like the equivalent of holding your phone in the air and yelling: “No UFOs as yet, but I’ve got three bars.”

Come on, satellites, phone signals – this sounds like a pitch for the most boring instalment of The X Files ever and anything to do with aliens needs a wow factor. Laudable though the scientific approach of Breakthrough Listen is, they need to turn up the volume.

My humble suggestion: a reimagining of the celebrated 1938 Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast that made Americans think they were under alien attack, only this time re-enacted during the Super Bowl interval, also featuring Beyoncé. Time to dig deep, Mr Milner.

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