A controversial Russian scientist with a history of beaming powerful radio signals to possibly hostile alien civilisations has now teamed up with Bebo. The idea is that a collective of Bebo users - and people selected by them, such as their chosen musical artistes - will compile multimedia packages to be transmitted into deep space on behalf of the human race.
The project, referred to as AMFE (A Message From Earth) by Bebo, is up and running under the control of a group of freshly recruited Bebo users, who "know what makes their friends tick, what sparks imagination and makes people laugh, and what turns young web users off".
Once the AMFE team - who know "what works and what doesn't when it comes to web content" (even in the case of an alien audience, apparently) have got their stuff together, it will be transmitted in the direction of the star Gliese 581 by Russian space-messaging scientist Alexander Zaitsev using a powerful radar telescope in the Ukraine.
The recently-detected orbiting planet Gliese 581c is considered to be "capable of supporting life", being at such distance from its dim, red sun as to possibly allow liquid water to exist on its surface. It is generally accepted that only civilisations evolved from unintelligent drifting scum - like those of humanity - would be able to understand a message composed by Bebo users.
That said, the possibly protoplasmic pop-fanciers of the Gliese 581 system would probably be a bit sturdier than the average skinny-jeans wearer here on Earth. The alien homeworld has gravity around five times stronger than ours, meaning that the extraterrestrials - should they choose to visit us - would have superhuman strength.
The AMFE group have already interviewed selected young-persons' rhythm combo performers to get their messages to the interstellar community, and interested Bebo fanciers are hotly debating the burning questions of space diplomacy - namely, just what pictures should be sent to the aliens. Categories include "humans", "animals" and "celebrities".
The Bebo compilation will be thrown open to all comers on August 4, and close on September 30. The "best" 500 submissions will be beamed out to Gliese 581 on October 9, and should get there in a couple of decades.
"I understand that in the majority of cases these messages may be naive, but I also hope that we will receive a creative and fresh look at the subject," Dr Zaitsev tells the Guardian. According to the Graun meeja hacks, the whole caper was dreamed up by the same talent which conceived that splendour of modern telly, Wife Swap.
Zaitsev is already well-known for his previous use of the Ukrainian transmitter to send messages to possible aliens, a process referred to by some as "Active SETI" - as opposed to passive Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence methods where one merely listens quietly for others rather than shouting out to them. There are many in the space community who consider all such methods highly unwise, and who question the right of Zaitsev to speak alone for the entire human race.
These objections might also apply to the Bebo project, of course. ®