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Aliens might know us from 'The Simpsons'

A two-part Science Channel series called "Alien Encounters," which concludes tonight, offers that what aliens know of us may have come from TV shows.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

In these Facebook days, our obsession with what others think of us can only increase.

We want them to want us. We want them to love us. We want them to love themselves for loving us.

Which leads us to wondering what aliens might think of us. Stephen Hawking, for his part, worried that they might actually hate us with a fervor last experienced when Mike Tyson espied Evander Holyfield's ear.

However, the experts on a two-part Science Channel series called "Alien Encounters" speculate with a rather more positive spirit.

I am grateful to The New York Times for girding itself against the future, watching this show, and revealing experts' speculation that aliens might know us from TV shows.

Indeed, the Times quotes Dan Werthimer, chief scientist for SETI@home, as saying in last week's first part: "'I Love Lucy' left the Earth 50 years ago and has now gone past 10,000 stars. The nearby stars have seen 'The Simpsons.'"

I imagine such experts are thinking in terrestrial terms. They suppose that our TV signals fly out to space at a particular speed and they therefore plot how far they might have gone.

But aliens might have astonishing signal-sucking powers of which we can barely dream. It may well be that the whole galaxy is already enthralled by Kim Kardashian and the heartbreaking failures of successive rose-bearers on "The Bachelor."

What if the emotional level of our greatest televisual personalities destroys whole generations of alien beings, as they stare in rapt pain at humanity's desperate struggles to find love and, um, fame?

The Times, naturally, speculates that aliens might not understand concepts such as fiction and humor. But what if they understand them only too well?

What if they look at "The Simpsons," see that oafish Homer waddling around and decide that if this is what represents the average inhabitant, then Earth is worth as much of a visit as we might think a Buffalo Burger King is on a cold Tuesday night?

Moreover, as astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson reportedly mentions on the show, what if aliens have no concept of conflict? They would surely find American movies, in which guns are toted even more often than cigarettes, touchingly ludicrous.

Every Halloween, "The Simpsons" likes to show its ironic superiority by featuring two alien blobs. Kang and Kodos observe earthly life and occasionally participate--such as when they impersonated Bill Clinton and Bob Dole for the 1996 election.

Even they, though, are generally bellicose characters who snigger, but also wouldn't mind conquering.

The biggest surprise for most earthlings might be that aliens have already been here and found themselves so underwhelmed that they gave us no stars at all on the celestial Yelp.