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Alien vs Predator: Cool Ranch

The worlds of science and marketing are in a tizzy following the revelation that astronomers plan to broadcast a junk food advertisement to a star 42 light years away.

Doritos – makers of tortilla chips and dips – plans to broadcast a 30-second advert to a distant star in the Ursa Major constellation. The star is known to be orbited by planets that scientists suggest may harbour life.

While radio and television waves routinely escape the earth’s atmosphere, offering extraterrestrials the opportunity to catch up on episodes of Baywatch they may have missed; this will be the first time a deliberate attempt has been made to communicate with another star system. And what better way is there to say ‘Hi!’ than by bombarding ET with an ad for nachos?

This project is a desperate attempt by astronomers at the EISCAT Space Centre in Svalbard, Norway, to raise some money after years of budget cuts; and is a desperate attempt for a junk food company to find new markets as the current earth market is saturated (mainly with fats, salt and carbohydrates).

The ad itself will be chosen in a contest run by Doritos. The Director of EISCAT, Professor Tony van Eyken, defended the deal with the Pepsi-owned company, saying : ‘In this case we are giving somebody the opportunity to create this message as a way to say hello on behalf of mankind [sic].’

Some question whether the first message to a possible alien civilization should be on behalf of a bag of fried corn chips, but staff at Seriously headquarters are much more worried about which flavour of Doritos will be promoted. Some hope that it will be Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch or Cheeseburger flavour (yes, it really does exist!), though most of us are rooting for good ol’ Nacho Cheese.

Whatever happens, this may be the beginning of the end for an alien civilization that within a few years may find itself facing an obesity crisis, the collapse of its utopian social structures and the rise of crass commercialism and free-market fetishism. But at least they’ll have a sponsor for the intergalactic Super Bowl.

New Internationalist issue 412 magazine cover This article is from the June 2008 issue of New Internationalist.
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