What Would You Ask an Alien?

After writing my last article on Anthroposcience I went through the footnotes for the article's inspiration, Sovereignty and the UFO.  I wanted to know more.  This led me down a two week-long rabbit hole in Wikipedia.  I read about Quantum Mechanics.  I read about Quantum Entanglement.  The Born Rule.  The Copenhagen Interpretation.  Schrödinger's Cat!

At this point I am feeling like Stephen Hawking.  No, I am not perpetually getting halfway to winning a Nobel Prize, nor feeling the pain of a debilitating disease.  Like Hawking in his later years, I am no longer the dashing ladies man I once was.  Wait, where was I going with this?  Oh yeah, the Cat.  That stupid cat.  Hawking once said, “When I hear of Schrödinger’s Cat, I reach for my gun.”  That is how I am like Steven Hawking.

Physics is Awesome!
Schrödinger's Stupid Cat

In brief, Schrödinger’s Cat is an attempt at explaining the concept that the only certainty is that nothing in the Universe is certain.  There is an experiment where you put a cat in a box and then try to predict if it will be dead or alive when you open the box.  Note, this is only a thought experiment.  No physical cats are involved.  Although, cats do like boxes.  And paper bags - they love them!

All of these sadistic thoughts about cats got me thinking.  One hundred years into the study of Quantum Mechanics, Science has still barely scratched the surface.  We are no closer  to figuring out how to get from here to the closest habitable planet, in one human's lifetime, than we were in Einstein's day.  It is too bad we cannot just ask someone who already knows.  Someone like, oh I do not know... an alien?

My kids ask me questions all the time.  They ask things like, "Why are the days getting longer?"  I love that one.  We go in the pantry with a Sharpie marker, an orange, and a flashlight.  I draw the equator on the orange and shine the light on the orange, at different angles.  I have done this several times with each kid.  It is great fun.  I feel like I the smartest man in the world, afterwards.   Then they will ask a question like, "Daddy?  Why is fire so hot?"  And then I am like, "I know!  Right?  How about that!"

What would you ask an alien?  If an alien landed on my lawn right now I would be tempted to act like my kids.  I do not mean that I would tease the alien until he wanted to punch me and then run around like Tom and Jerry - this quarantine can turn even the sweetest child into a little a-hole, sometimes.  I mean, I would be tempted to ask the alien a bunch of questions like, "How does your spaceship travel faster than light?" Or, "How do you hover and glide without any visible means of propulsion, like jets or propellers?"  That is what I really want to know.

In theory, the alien, oh so mystical and full of knowledge, would say, "Great question, kid!  Grab a flashlight and a Sharpie and meet me in the pantry."  But I do not think this would really happen.  I have two reasons.

How do UFOs Work?

I do not think the alien would know.  Think about how things we use every day work, now.  I know that when I flip on a light switch it closes a circuit and allows electricity to flow, which powers a light bulb.  This is the simplest, most basic concept in electricity.  Yet, most people could not tell you how the light comes on when they flip that switch.  They do it a thousand times a day and have no idea what is going on behind the wall plate.  They just know that when they flip that switch, the kitchen gets brighter.   

Then they leave the room without turning it off.  I walk in and shout across the house, "Hey!  Are you done with this light?  I'm turning it off!  By the way, the sun is out!  We really don't need lights in the broad daylight!"

Allow me to further illustrate my point.  Imagine now, you are on safari.  You drive your Range Rover out into the deepest recesses of our planet, on a mission to discover a new, isolated tribe of people.  You succeed!  The tribe is friendly.  You quickly learn to communicate with them.  You want to know everything about how they live their quaint, happy, primitive lives.  

Their first question to you is, "How does your buggy work?"  And then you are like, "Um... well you see, I uh... press the vertical pedal with my foot and then it goes."  And they respond with, "Yeah, but like, what I am asking is, how does it move without any visible means of propulsion, like a horse or an ox?"  You grimace and say, "Um... well... it takes gas."

The internal combustion engine is about as old as the light bulb.  When you strip away all the electronics in a vehicle, the engine is a pretty simple concept.  A highly flammable petroleum product called gasoline explodes in a chamber.  This explosion pushes up an arm attached to a shaft which spins and transfers power to the wheels through a box of gears (more or less).  But most drivers could never explain that concept.  They just know that they press the vertical pedal and it goes.  And it takes gas.  Keep an eye on the sticker on the windshield that says when you should have changed the oil.

Why would we expect any more from alien visitors?  We base our perception of alien visitors on our own image of Earthan astronauts.  Most astronauts are highly intelligent and highly educated.  They may be a physicist or a botanist or some other type of Ist, with a PhD.  They may have spent decades in the military, flying all sorts of aircraft, before spending more time in a flight simulator, learning to pilot a space shuttle or a rocket.  They will know all sorts of things the average human does not.

We expect alien visitors to be like our own space travelers but times ten, like super smart and all-knowing.  But they may not be.  We have not yet been to any foreign planets.  But aliens have been here many times.  I know.  I saw one of their ships, up close.

Maybe the first aliens to discover Earth had some deep knowledge of science.  But that may have been a hundred years ago.  It may have been a million years ago.  We do not know how long they have known about us.  And they could be thousands of civilizations from thousands of planets, some more advanced than others (some kinder than others).  

After that first wave, they presumably decided to leave us alone and let us go about our own evolutionary track.  The folks who came in their wake may not have been all that smart.  For example, someone on Earth could be born a rich idiot.  Maybe his dad donated a bunch of money to the University of Pennsylvania and they handed him a business degree.  

Then this boy of privilege buys a yacht, hires a crew, and sails from Nantucket to Monte Carlo.  It happens all the time.  The folks on the dock in Monaco do not expect the American to know anything about how his boat works.  Take off that ascot and the shorts with little whales on them and he is just like the rest of us dummies, binge-watching Tiger King, getting fat on buttered microwave popcorn.

How do UFOs Work?
A typical yacht owner 

The aliens who come here today could just be the adult children of the ultra-rich, out for a cruise.  Maybe there is a guy on the ship, deep below in the engine room, who knows something about how it works.  He speaks with a Scottish accent and is easily frustrated by his captain's ever increasing demands.  But the captain - he is aloof.  He does not even wear pants.  Ever seen an alien with pants?  Rich aliens do not care.  No one has ever told them, "No."

I digress - though, that is what I enjoy most about writing this blog, digressing.  I laugh at my own jokes.  I also write meta content, like this paragraph.  There I go again.

In summary, the aliens who visit us simply may not know how their ships work.  They may not know much of anything.  However, if that is the case, they probably have some really amazing wine and cheese onboard.  Rich people always have some good cheese around, like brie.  I love brie.

Physics is Awesome!

The other reason we would probably not want to immediately hit aliens with a bunch of physics questions the moment they debarked from their ships is because it is BORING.  Really, it is.  

Do not get me wrong.  I am fascinated by subjects like Special Relativity.  I could sit at my computer all day and read about how Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire on the edge of a black hole.  But if I was at a party and someone took a deep dive into Spacetime, I would probably be like, "Woah!  Brie!  Have you tried the cheese?  I LOVE brie.  Hey, where did  you get that beer?  I'll be right back."  Then I would walk around the house like I was looking for the bathroom until I found someone else to talk to.  I would also act this way if someone tried to fix the grammar in the third sentence of this paragraph.  Or the math in the previous sentence.

I think aliens would be the same - not all of them, but the guy on the space yacht, with no pants, would be like, "Nerds!  Pull anchor, we're moving on to Uranus."  And then he would have a sip of wine and laugh at his own joke.

What would you ask an Alien?

Back to the question, what would you ask an alien?  He lands on your lawn.  The guy comes from several light years away.  He is tired from the flight.  Maybe he has a little UFOlag - he took the red-eye because it was cheaper - also he has one eye and it is red.  He could use a glass of water and a sandwich.  The last rest area was closed for maintenance and he kind of has to go.  There is a bathroom onboard but it is for Number One and Number Two only.  He has to go Number Seven.

Then you roll up and say, what?  "Hey mister!  How does your spaceship work?"  

Uh-uh.  Me, I would ask, "Do you think Buffalo will lead the Division, now that Brady has gone to Tampa?"  No, wait, that is what I would ask pretty much anyone who pulled up a chair to my Distant Social Firepit.  I call it that because it is a long walk from the house.

What would you ask an alien?
The Distant Social Pit

For real, if an alien landed on my lawn I would ask, "Would you like to come in and sit down?"  Given the times we are in, I would put on a cloth mask, of course.  I would then ask, "Can I get you a drink?"  I would treat him like any other visitor, with hospitality and kindness.  "Is tap water OK?  It's filtered.  Or do you prefer seltzer?  I don't have any bottles in the fridge.  Is ice OK?"

We should not expect aliens to solve all our problems, like ending the pandemic, on our first encounter.  If you went on a first date with someone and all they talked about was their financial problems and health problems and mental health problems, you would head for the hills.  Aliens would do the same, right?

I would try to find out why the alien was here and ask what I could do to help him.  "Are you lost?  What can I get you?  What can I do for you?"  I would offer the gift of my time before asking for theirs.  Then I would put out some nice cheese and offer him some pants.

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If you have seen an alien spaceship or any type of unidentified flying object (UFO) contact me using the Contact form on this page.  You may remain anonymous if you want.  I will not ridicule you or try to tell you why you are wrong.  I get it, I saw one too.

Thank you for reading and keep an eye on the sky.