Trial Balloon

Stop Sending Signals!

Posted at 6:08 AM on April 27, 2010 by Dale Connelly (24 Comments)
Filed under: Time & Space

Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking wonders in a new Discovery Channel series if our efforts to make contact with space aliens might prove to be counter-productive. Hawking imagines the aliens we find might be highly technological resource wasters who only want to suck planets dry and move on to the next.

Hey, that sounds like us!

In a three minute version of Hawking's scenario, the voracious invaders travel in gigantic spacecraft from very, very far away through an intergalactic wormhole. Then they plunder our planet and steal energy from our sun so they can build more cool ships and continue to rock and roll.

This REALLY sounds like us.

From this fantasy we can deduce two things about the widely acclaimed Dr. Hawking.

One - scientific brilliance doesn't automatically enable you to write a screenplay that's better than the typical Hollywood fare.

Two - he does not have what it takes to imagine an invading force as nuanced as the wierdly threatening yet thoroughly lovable Goats From Space.

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But Stephen Hawking's version of a potential future catastrophe must be seriously considered. From all the universe, why would homeless space invaders choose to come after us?

Because their alien appetite for conquest is inflamed by the broadcasts that have just arrived at their end of the universe - stuff innocently sent out in the '50's and '60's that's now defining us for the creatures "out there". From episodes of "I Love Lucy" they learn that we are scatterbrained and technologically inept because we can't successfully interface with a simple conveyor belt. We're also overburdened with precious resources (chocolate, Latin music), and hopelessly naive. We think the worst thing that can happen is that Ricky will stay mad at us. (OK, Hawking didn't include this in his scenario, but even the greatest minds need an occasional assist).

So out of the wormhole they come in a massive armada, making short work of us and leaving our planet a ruined husk orbiting a drained cinder of a sun. Yikes!

And yet we continue to try to make contact! Everything that is broadcast goes out there and represents us to our potential conquerors. Should we be sending different, more threatening signals like a puffer fish does in order to appear bigger and more formidable? Could that work? Or should we send signals that depict our planet as a ridiculous and pathetic waste of time?

Oh wait, we already did that when we broadcast The Jerry Springer Show.

But seriously, most of us aren't watching TV anymore anyway. Shouldn't the FCC insist that broadcasters program for the most important audience we have?

How would you keep Stephen Hawking's nasty aliens away?


Comments (24)

bob hope says out in space his hairline is slowly receding.
Beverley Hillbillies and Wall Street Week with their plush chairs and nose in th air sort of book end it all

Posted by c in k | April 27, 2010 6:18 AM


there's a bluebird looking in the window at me. maybe they are the aliens. they certainly arrived in great numbers this year. this one (he) sits on the trellis and fights with the "other" bluebird in the window. looks like they aren't any smarter than we are. but he doesn't want any invaders in his territory.

i agree, Dale - lots of things they are hearing and seeing show us to be ready for the plucking but not worth the trouble.

beautiful day here - hope for All
i'll continue to care for my little herd of aliens in the barn.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | April 27, 2010 6:21 AM


Wow, thanks for putting my worries into perspective.

I say, bring on the space goats, they can't be worse than what we are doing to ourselves. Once they see Jerry Springer, they may take pity on us and feel moved to altruism.

Posted by catherine | April 27, 2010 6:22 AM


earth
a planet does not explode of itself said dryly the Martian astronomer,
that they are able to do i is prove that highly intelligent beings were living there.

(Not my poem)

Good day all.

Posted by c in t | April 27, 2010 6:25 AM


Good catch, Dale. I was fascinated by that same news report. Long ago I heard that Hawking pretty much takes it for granted that humans are going to cook the planet.

Which puts things in perspective. Why should we worry about aliens coming along to destroy the planet and all living things? We don't seem to need any help in that area.

And any aliens smart enough to travel through space are going to be WAY too smart for us to fool them with cheap tricks. They are going to have their way with us, and we can only hope their ethics are as advanced as their technology.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 27, 2010 6:37 AM


I waited all week for Hawkings -- I'm glad I watched a little. Nice to know that "the most brilliant man on the planet" has a good imagination. If we can't even imagine what form life would take from another planet/solar systerm, why do we always assume they want what we have here? At least if we have goats invading we'll hopefully get wool and goat milk soap out of the deal!

Posted by sherrilee | April 27, 2010 6:42 AM


Good morning to all. Do you think that aliens can get Radio Heartland? Is any one out there in space reading this? Please comment if you are. We are a friendly group. We could help you get some prespective on the confusing signals you are probably getting. Of course our main advice is to wait to visit until we finally become civilized, if we ever do.

Posted by Jim | April 27, 2010 7:00 AM


Greetings! This remind me of the movie "Galaxy Quest" -- an absolutely hysterical movie about a race of aliens who come to earth looking for the captain and crew on the ship they saw on TV shows broadcast into space. TV shows were considered "historical documents" so they copied what they saw. The mention of "Gilligan's Island" made the aliens very sad ... "those poor people, etc."

One way to keep nefarious space aliens away is to send out a holographic signal that makes it appear our planet is already a ruined husk not worthy of even a bathroom stop. A convincing illusion is all you need ...

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 27, 2010 7:35 AM


Joanne - I agree on Galaxy Quest. And love the holograph idea...

If that doesn't work, maybe we could send out a delegation that includes Dr. Phil, Phil Donahue, the "I'm OK, You're OK" guy, the cast from "Free to Be You and Me" (the original album) and they could get the aliens in touch with just why they feel the need to be destructive. They could talk about their childhoods and how this influences their current idea that they are the center of the universe. Then they could get Rosie Greer to sing "It's Alright to Cry" and have some chocolate chip cookies and milk. And if the aliens still insist on trying to decimate the planet, we can bop 'em on the head and feed them a steady diet of McDonald's until they burst.

Posted by Anna | April 27, 2010 7:44 AM


I've got this scenario stuck in my head. The aliens show up and demand that we take them to our leader. So someone introduces them to Barack Obama. And all the aliens fall down laughing. When they regain their composure, they say, "We've been watching your politics for a long time. You can't fool us. No way did you guys elect a black dude to lead the free world! Who is it now, really?"

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 27, 2010 7:51 AM


I loved Galaxy quest, too. One way to turn the aliens away is to find a way to make them travel repeatedly up and down the corridor from Brandon, Manitoba to Tulsa, OK while they read Kierkegaard. We'd bore them to death.

Posted by Renee | April 27, 2010 7:53 AM


Good Morning everyone....

what a beautiful day! and such a beautiful haunting song followed by my favorite! RT Waltzings for Dreamers!

Joanne, that's what I was going to say...I love Galaxy Quest! but you remembered the Gilligan's Island reference...those poor people, great stuff.


Thanks for the RT Dale...

Posted by Kate in Eden Prairie | April 27, 2010 7:56 AM


Anna, I think you have a good plan. However, it might be too late to keep them away. There are those people who claim to have been sucked up by aliens and maybe they have.

There are many science fiction stories about aliens living among us. A lot of science fiction has come true. Perhaps these stories about aliens among us will or have come true. I some times feel that I might be occupied by an alien.

Posted by Jim | April 27, 2010 8:01 AM


Dale, did you play the lighten up song with the line,"I hope there is intelligent life in space, there isn't any here" ? I think we should hear rhar one this morning.

Posted by Jim | April 27, 2010 8:07 AM


Perhaps the alien reaction would be the same as our dog's was yesterday when she heard Desmond Dekker - Israelites on RH late yesterday afternoon. Lexi the lab mix was lying on her side and whenever the chorus came around on that song she would lift up her head and mournfully "sing" along. I'm still not sure if she liked it or hated it. Don't think we'll be adding it to the home music coillection, just in case.

Posted by Amy in St Paul | April 27, 2010 8:22 AM


I think the people who may or may not have been sucked up by aliens are a good thing, our greatest hope, either their brain content couldn't be translated or drove a conclusion that our planet was not worth messing with.

Nice amusement Dale, goat invaders indeed!

Posted by Kim in Saint Paul | April 27, 2010 8:30 AM


Ohh, I like the advice by Jim et al. for them to wait until we're fully civilized...

I have a friend who lived in an old bus overlooking the Pacific, in Southern Calif. One night she for some reason opened her eyes (the bed was level with a window) to see dozens of space ships (saucers, my term) of ALL sizes hovering just off the cliff that was maybe 30 feet from her home. The smallest ones were watching her. She just went back to sleep (was "put" back to sleep?) and had her husband check her all over for marks in the morning. This woman is one of the most "balanced" people I know, and I don't doubt an iota of her story.

This was in the late 70s or early 80s... maybe they were still just checking us out.

Have an interesting day, all!

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 27, 2010 8:40 AM


Thanks for the Galaxy Quest reference to all-had completely forgotten about that, although I cry at the end when the ensign gets to be a star (yes, I am probably the only person who has that reaction to Galaxy Quest-shows you how weird my sentimentality can go).

Good for you, Jim, to invite the extraterrestials to join the blog. Nice hospitality.

Posted by catherine | April 27, 2010 9:01 AM


Catherine - I cried at that part, too. I still cry at the touching moment in "Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan" when Spock just sacrificed himself to save ship. With his dying words to Capt Kirk as they try to touch hands through plexiglass separating dangerous radiation from leaking out -- Spock says, "I am and always shall be--your friend" (or something like that).

waaa ... I get weepy just thinking about it. You're not the only weirdly sentimental fool about science fiction characters. Confession time: I named two of my sons after science fiction characters.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 27, 2010 9:34 AM


I also cry all the time at movies... even commercials on TV can get me. And, if a dog dies, then I'm a basket case!

Posted by sherrilee | April 27, 2010 9:41 AM


stop it; you guys are causing me to get teary eyed!

Great confession Joanne, I have a co-worker named Shane and his brother’s name is Brett. His parents are big Western Movie fans. His brother named his baby Maverick!

Posted by Kate in Eden Prairie | April 27, 2010 10:13 AM


I enjoyed Galaxy Quest as well...being a Trek fan.

My first thought with this topic was seeing a weird alien guy addressing everyone on national television as he says in faltering english, "We're here...to help...to assist...really, we're here to ~serve~ man..." His alien buddy next to him gives him a tenticled dope slap upside the head and says, "Don't say that...remember that episode of Twilight Zone?" as everyone freaks out and kills them.

My second thought was straight out of "Mars Attacks." Some high-ranking politician (your choice) says, "On behalf of the human race, let me offer you the hand of friendship," and he/she puts out their hand. The alien pulls out a laser zapper, cuts off the politician's hand, and says what translates to, "Thanks! I'll take your offer back to our leader and we'll let you know what he says."

My third thought (like Dale's) is that they've already experienced all of our radio, television, etc. and they think it's the norm. Wouldn't it be cool if their greeting was the old Soupy Sales "Vrrt-Vrrt" noise?

My final thought is about an article someone told me about once (didn't see it myself) describing what anthropologists would say about us 2000 years from now. It mentioned that they would conclude we were a highly nomadic people because of all the roads and cars. That we worshipped sports figures as religious icons. Stuff like that.

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | April 27, 2010 10:55 AM


Oh, sorry that was Charlie Callas that did that noise...my bad.

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | April 27, 2010 11:00 AM


i got to read the topic this morning and then had to leave so i thought all day about the star trewck episodes wherre we go in like cowboys and the beings would teach us not to be angry or that we will kill others when threatened. or else we would go in to help save the dying planet and they would loick the tractor beam on us and try to kill us but we would come up with something out of baling wire and chewing gum to beat them in the end.
i prefer the thought of the goats being greeted by happy humans who watch them dance and dress them in sweaters instead of bar b que fans who joan of arc them.
guy in the hat... how di you remember charlie callis? i would not have been able to recall that one and i don't think you can google vrett vreet
barb i like the bluebird thought. they would see us all for who we really are
joanne say hi to your sons sooloo and kahn for me
live long and prosper

Posted by tim | April 27, 2010 10:56 PM


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