For some years now, astronomers have been peering into deep space, trying to locate planets outside our solar system around other stars, research that leads the curious to that most mysterious of questions: is there life on other planets?
Given the unfathomable depths of space, many would say it's inevitable that somewhere out there is life. And where there's life, there's risk. Just as on Earth a selfish and enslaved minority threaten the majority by releasing noxious tobacco fumes, the chances are that elsewhere in the universe aliens are prey to the same misfortune.
Or at least that's the starting point for researchers at the East Anglia-based Tobacco Institute for Temperance and Science. "Everyone's heard about an infinite number of monkeys, right?" explained spokesman Martin Troutman, "well, we figure with an infinite number of planets, there's probably an infinite number of smokers out there too, and each one of them is posing a serious risk to non-smokers, of whatever species."
"When you think about the harm on that scale, the mind boggles. All the more reason to push on with making planet Earth smoke-free." But it's not all hard science at the Institute. They recently released launched a computer game, as a promotional tool - Alien Smoker, a shoot-em-up pitting players against hordes of smoking aliens, who must be destroyed. "It's great fun", commented Troutman, "I like the chainsaw best".