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# TV Detector Starships

Get the aliens who watch BBC TV illegally to pay up
 (+2) [vote for, against]

It's apparently a myth that radio signals from ordinary Earth radio and TV transmitters can be detected deep into interstellar space. It seems rather that it doesn't even penetrate a light year before getting drowned out by background noise. Nonetheless, even a sphere six light months in radius is an enormous volume of space.

What might be happening, however, is that spacecraft may be moving through that volume and detecting BBC television. Nowadays it may be rather more difficult due to it having gone digital, but I feel confident that a Phase III civilisation is more than capable of hacking the signals and turning them into passable video.

Let's do the maths.

Isaac Asimov's 'Extraterrestrial Civilisations' estimates that there are 530 000 civilisations in the Milky Way.

Assuming the Milky Way to be a disc 50 000 light years in radius and 3000 light years thick, and disregarding the nucleus, diameter say 20 000 light years, as unsuitable for life, we have a volume of very roughly 22 x 10^12 cubic light years. This is an over-estimate.

Now suppose each planet has the same number of interstellar flights as Earth has international airliner flights. That's 37.4 million flights per planet per annum, and of course the annum is different elsewhere and there are hundreds of thousands of times the number of potential destinations, so this is a huge underestimate too.

Hence it's not unreasonable to assume that there are over 20 x 10^12 interstellar journeys a year in this Galaxy.

Now divide the volume of the inhabited Galaxy as calculated above by that of a sphere six light months in diameter, which is around half a cubic light year. So that's 44 x 10^12 times the volume of the sphere in which it's possible to receive BBC TV signals. That means that if every alien craft is watching TV from nearby planets, it ought to happen about once every two years, assuming the distribution of flight paths through the Galaxy to be random.

However, there could be hundreds or thousands of passengers on board the offending starships, and not one of them has a TV licence. What they probably do have, though, is equipment capable of receiving TV signals. Given that we have mobile phones even now, there will be many of those aboard each starship. Therefore we only need one such starship to pass through our local volume of space to generate a reason to fine hundreds or thousands of aliens.

So, my suggestion is to launch a fleet of TV detector starships to patrol the space around the solar system and pick up the signals from craft passing near us so the TV Licencing Authority is motivated to make first contact with spacefaring civilisations and fine them accordingly. These fines can be used to finance the BBC space programme.

 — nineteenthly, May 14 2017

 // These fines can be used to finance the BBC space programme. //

You do realize that the BBC is already run by reptilian aliens in disguise, and the "space programme" is just a cover for something even worse ?
 — 8th of 7, May 14 2017

 Yes! And don't forget the radio licence that first started in 1922.

 One small problem is inflation and the speed of light. The colour license was 10 pounds in 1968. Anyone 50 light years from here should be getting ready to pay and in another 50 years we will get the tenner (assuming they use Internet banking).

Goodness knows what inflation will be in 50000 years from now.
 — DenholmRicshaw, May 14 2017

Firstly, they're likely to have done something about longevity and are all probably well over the age of not having to pay for it, even the youngsters. On the other hand, they probably all classify as students living away from their families.
 — Ian Tindale, May 14 2017

We get away with it because of the "caravan" clause.
 — 8th of 7, May 14 2017

 They may be over seventy-five in our Earth years, but in terms of the orbit of their home star systems round the Galaxy, they're very unlikely to be over seventy-five given the age of the Galaxy. In fact even humans are all under seventy-five in those terms.

 And yes, I forgot about the radio licence, so bring it on.

Regarding inflation, we could of course lend them the money which we have placed in the form of penny deposits in banks accruing interest over fifty millenia or so and offer to loan them the money when they get here.
 — nineteenthly, May 14 2017

You do realize, [19thly], that all those vans with the spinning roof-racks are now in long-period orbits? Or had you not noticed that they'd been strangely absent since the 1970's?
 — MaxwellBuchanan, May 14 2017

I saw one in 1989 [MB]. I suspect that they are about as good at detecting aliens watching TV as they are detecting humans doing it.
 — nineteenthly, May 14 2017



<sniggering>
 — 8th of 7, May 14 2017

 //These fines can be used to finance the BBC space programme.//

 Agreed. Long term the loss of revenue caused by free-loading aliens will cause a global economic collapse. We should be heavily investing (or covertly dumping money into) BBC data processing centres which can scan every crumb of terrestrial and non-terrestrial data to spot interstellar license dodgers especially if they have an insider on earth.

 License dodging becomes even more troubling with relativistic effects. A spacecraft approaching near light speed can effectively scoop up 100 years worth of transmission in less than a year.

 //The colour license was 10 pounds in 1968.//

So at relativistic speeds used to content scoop this would become more like 1000 pounds ?
 — bigsleep, May 16 2017

I hadn't come across relativistic money before. Perhaps one could store one's savings on a satellite to take advantage of being a little outside the Earth's gravity well?
 — pocmloc, May 16 2017

 More importantly, outside the reach of terrestrial tax authorities.

It's worrying a lot of major governments- the idea of funds moving not just offshore, but offworld, will be disastrous for them.
 — 8th of 7, May 17 2017

If Earth were to fall into a black hole, there would be no more inflation.
 — nineteenthly, May 17 2017

No, but there would be Hawking radiation.
 — 8th of 7, May 17 2017

What? Door to door?
 — Ian Tindale, May 17 2017

 //Door to door?//

A pyramid scheme would be the way to go.
 — bigsleep, May 17 2017

 //Door to door?//

No, only as far as the Event Horizon.
 — 8th of 7, May 17 2017

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