For years, we were all hopelessly resigned to the impossibility of ever reading a Scotsman article, on any topic under the sun, without at some point being treated to the all-important views of "senior Labour MSP George Foulkes". Even so, it was still a bit of a shock to the system to randomly stumble upon his name in an article on the science news website Sci-Flare -
"Last year, renowned Finnish linguist Dr. Tuija Laatikainen was commissioned by the European Space Agency to make recordings of human voices, with a view to broadcasting them from a deep space probe that is due to be launched from French Guiana in June. Her somewhat improbable brief? To carefully select the voice patterns most likely to reach out successfully to intelligent alien life-forms, wherever in the galaxy they may be hiding.
"I quickly decided to concentrate on native English speakers," reveals Laatikainen, "and to save time I confined my search to the UK. I also realised that another short-cut would be to scour the media for celebrities and public figures with the right kind of voice and then approach them directly, rather than going on an aimless fishing expedition by placing adverts for volunteers."
But how did Laatikainen know which voice is the 'right' voice? Who is to say which celebrity's dulcet tones are most likely to prove seductive to a little green Martian?
"You're right," she laughs. "This is basically a matter of intuition and guesswork. What I was looking for was a voice with an air of warmth and musicality, and yet with a buried hint of menace, and perhaps even cruelty. We don't want a potentially hostile species to think that humanity is a complete pushover, do we?"
And those criteria ensured that, even though Laatikainen was looking for her ideal voices in the land of Shakespeare, she settled upon some unlikely candidates - Stuart Hall, the former host of a trashy TV game show called It's a Knockout, Terry Christian, former host of controversial 'youth' show The Word, and Lord George Foulkes, a former lawmaker from Scotland."
Now I've heard it all. To be fair, I've never had the slightest doubt that George is perfectly capable of forming a connection with aliens. But can he do it deliberately?