The 4 Weirdest Things About China's Alien-Hunting Telescope Project

Like an onion, there are a lot of layers to this story. And the more you peel back, the more it stinks.


On Tuesday, Chinese news outlets reported that the government was evicting 9,110 residents living in a rural community in the country’s southwestern Guizhou province, because aliens.

Yeah, because aliens.

China is putting the finishing touches on its FAST (Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope) project, which will be the biggest radio telescope on Earth after its completion. Among the research goals for the project will be to find signs of extraterrestrial life in the universe. After all, radio telescopes are the primary instrument used in SETI research — and if you’re building the biggest one ever made, you have the best chance of finally hearing aliens mumbling on about whatever people from other planets mumble on about.

But there are quite a few strange aspects to this story that are worth unpacking. And we’re going to go over them, right here, right now.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) project.

The eviction of 9,110 residents

At this point, it should barely surprise anyone the Chinese government would do something like this to some of their citizens — it’s just strange that they would be so open about it. Officials don’t usually air public remarks when they pull a move that arguably infringes on the rights of their citizens (case in point: that time the government secretly quarantined a city with 30,000 residents after one person died of bubonic plague.)

In this instance, it looks like China doesn’t mind the publicity such a move is generating. Because …

The telescope is a sign of China’s new push into science and technology

Right now, you expect China to show up the world when it comes to economic strength and manufacturing prowess. But we still don’t think much of its science and tech research. China’s trying to change that and quickly supplant Japan and even much of Europe as a power player in the scientific research community. That’s why they’re investing in big projects like a new all-powerful supercollider, or FAST.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t taking them super seriously. And that’s because …

FAST is yet another bizarre Chinese project

China may want the world to take their science and tech work more seriously. Yet the country is doing a bad job at doing serious work. They want to build robots that look like Iron Man and launch them into space; create a space engine that runs on space junk; start a cattle cloning factory; sponsor a human head transplant.

The list just goes on and on. Searching for aliens is a cool thing to do when your country is also conducting a ton of bigger, more practical science. But it doesn’t help when you don’t already have bigger achievements to point to.

Worst of all, however …

China’s reasons for the forced relocation is based on bad science

China says the reason they’re kicking all those thousands of people out of their homes — located within a 3.1 mile radius of the telescope’s site — is because they want to create a “sound electromagnetic environment” that won’t disturb the instruments.

That only makes sense if you have a big population of people — and I mean big — running around with smartphones on all the time, or individuals conducting their own weird radio experiments within their homes.

That’s not what’s happening here. FAST is being built in Pingtang County — an area filled with mountain valleys and small towns. The villagers here live a pretty simple life. It sounds more like the government just doesn’t want a bunch of villagers hanging around its $110 million telescope.

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