The Worst Possible Responses We Could Get From The Stars

The problem of getting into the frame of mind where you want to gore sacred cows is that sooner or later you’re going to run onto the fields of your childhood and gore Betsy, the cow who let you pet her when you were really little.

What I mean is that having started to doubt pretty much all ideas of the seventies and beyond, I find myself doubting some of the ideas that thrilled me to the core when I was an embryonic geek aged twelve or so.

Take for example the search for extraterrestrial life…

I remember how impressed I was when I found something about Voyager and what we’d sent our potential playfellows in space.  It seemed like a wonderful idea.  I mean – we wanted to talk to these people in space, so surely they’d want to talk to us?

Think of the wonderful scientific and philosophical exchange, the things we could never learn while locked in our symmetrical, bi-gender, ape-based bodies.  I mean, we could talk to ammonia-based aliens, reptile-like aliens, or things we couldn’t even imagine, but who would be intelligent and have wonderful secrets to reveal.

Sigh.

Then the seventies came to an end, and the effluvium of drugs saturating western culture receded a little, and we looked down at ourselves and saw that we were wearing bellbottoms and ran to cover them up with fig leaves.

What I mean is, I – alas – grew up and, like many ideas that seemed perfectly wonderful in the seventies, I started having serious doubts about the way we’d gone about searching for extra-terrestrial life.

I wasn’t so jaded, mind, that a few years ago I DIDN’T install SETI on my computer.  (I had to remove it, it made my old laptop very slow.)

But last night the guys and I were discussing the idea of search for extraterrestrial life and I realized how bass ackwards it is to be sending them all this information about us.

I’m, of course, not the first one to come up with this.  One of the reasons I love Independence Day was that the whole movie is a denial of a character’s optimistic statement that “They didn’t come all this way looking for a fight.”

This hooks up with the whole idea of Robert A. Heinlein that serious space exploration will only be undertaken for colonization or hope of colonization and that if some species has survived and become the strongest in the world they are not lotus eaters who like to pet furry bunnies.

More likely, like us, they’re bunny eaters, red in teeth and claw.  And if they are more advanced than us, they might very well also be stronger, meaner and more determined.

The whole idea of aliens being more enlightened, purer, less interested doesn’t seem to be supported by “how species survive.”

Oh, sure, if we really were created by a superior intelligence, who worked directly – and not through natural laws – with the clay of the universe, perhaps some of those beings out there, really are like onto angels.  (Although in at least one telling, angels come in two varieties.  And in others angels range from bloodthirsty to unimaginably vile.  Keep that in mind. If you have A LOT of time to waste, buy yourself a Dictionary of Angels.  Reading one gave me the idea of an eternal life with bureaucracy no one can understand, not even the angels.  No, I’m not writing it.)

BUT if we’re going with scientific principles, chances are that the aliens in Puppet Masters are cuddly and friendly as a puppy compared to the creatures that wait us in space.

So what on Earth possessed us to send them a whole heap of information about ourselves?  And to still look so hard for them with SETI?

… I got nothing.  Judging from the history of Earth, while the Aliens might have a lot to teach us, the most likely for us to learn it is by reading their entrails after we kill them all.  Sadly, that might be the best thing, because otherwise they’ll be reading ours.

Our sending that stuff out to the cosmos might in fact mark us as the “special” class of the cosmos.

Short of the massive force of Independence Day, which at least would make us feel important (as we died) here are some of the more dispiriting messages we could receive back, (and these would be written in English unless otherwise marked.)

–          Okay.  Whatevs.

–          How precious.  Is that the best you can do Buttercup?

–          You call that a civilization?  My kids can build better on a weekend in the backyard.

–          Riiiiiiiight.  Why don’t you stop trolling?  Your supposed information is internally contradictory and no one would be stupid enough to send the key to their civilization to us.

–          Ah!  Funny.

–          Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

–          Pervert!

–          We have filed a restraining order with the Galactic tribunal. Please cease your transmissions.

–          (this one would be in some alien language and it would take us years to decipher to find it says) The over-under on conquering your sorry planet is three minutes.  We’ve sent our invincible armada your way.

–          (This one too, after incredible effort, we’d manage to read and it would say: )  Another one?  Another one?  Why is it that every species that hits this state of development sends out one of these? And they all think they’re so special!  It’s a good thing we have some morals and don’t eat children, or you’d be gone.  PS – Take off those bell bottoms and find some fig leaves.  Have you looked at yourselves in the mirror?

 

485 thoughts on “The Worst Possible Responses We Could Get From The Stars

  1. If there is alien life out there I pretty much think they look at us as the New Orleans of the universe. Looks like it might be a good place to visit, party a little, poke something in the butt if you are into that … but you quickly see its truly a vile place with less than desirable inhabitants and you just want to stay the hell away from it.

    1. We came, we probed, and now we’re being treated for that nasty little infection? 🙂

      1. yeah kinda like that trip you took to mexico. You probably need to see a doctor when you get back and you only talk about what you saw in certain circles. They saw the show and now kinda stay away and hope we won’t find them.

        1. I’d like the rest of the universe to be pleasantly surprised when we leave them more-or-less alone. Invasion of the Dreaded (small L) Libertarians!! “Um, hey. You guys need any odd jobs done? No? Cool, we’ll be over here, doing our thing. Peace.”

            1. I mean, how long does it take to terraform a dead planet? By the time we have interstellar scouts out capable of returning with word of a likely chunk of rock, I figure (WAG) it’ll still take a couple of generations to go from dead to liveable, barely. Which means whoever undertakes such an interesting – and costly – endeavor is going to be at it for the long term. More than long enough to get to a point of mutual trade, if not genuine understanding.

              Our biggest problem is more likely to either internecine conflict, or scads and scads of explorers wandering about poking into new systems. If we’re lucky, we’ll find someone aggressively warlike at about our level.

              1. I think, before we ever get to terraforming worlds around distant stars, we’ll first terraform Mars and Venus. Both can be done, even with today’s technology (and at HUGE expense, but I expect it to become cheaper as time goes by). That should give us a pretty good handhold on HOW to terraform planets, and greatly reduce the cost and time required. Doing it is worthwhile because of both the experience gained, and the lessons learned.

    2. I suspect we’re more like the Mogadishu of the Milky Way. Folks in the first world know Mogadishu is there, they hear about it in the news, they may even look out the window of their passenger jet as they fly over it, cluck their tongues, and say “What a God awful mess”.

      But they’re never going to vacation here. You’re not going to set up trade with the local warlords. You’re not going to send them your best tech. Hell, the only first world people who go to Mogadishu are our spies, and they’re going to be as secret as they can be, do what they came to do, and get the hell out! Sounds kind of like how UFO’s act come to think of it.

      Also, I suspect interstellar communication is done by some sort of quantum entanglement, not radio waves. Waiting 8 to 10 years to send and receive a message (if your lucky and your neighbor is real close) seems like too much of a bother. If you don’t have FTL drive I can’t see anyone making the sustained effort to carry on a conversation like that, and if you travel sub-light speeds the chances of doing so seem only a little better. Naw, I’m betting there is an entire communication net out there we’re not even hip to.

      Either that, or we are already within someone elses territory, and they’ve cordoned us off in our own little game preserve. Gives new meaning to the phrase ‘naked apes’. That may be the worst. If we ever do manage to develop the means for interstellar flight, either they don’t let us go gadding about, or we find we’re part of someone elses nation and everything has already been explored.

      So yea, let the silence continue. More real estate for me.

      1. You assume that we have typical lifespans. A culture consisting of millenia-long lives would find it no worse than we would a correspondence in the colonial era — which could be carried on across quite long distances.

      2. It’s my understanding that anyone who has been to Mog wishes they had never been to Mog.

        If that’s Earth, that explains a lot.

    3. As a New Orleanian myself, your comparison is more apt than you know: Earth would quickly get sick of know-it-all aliens showing up and bitching about everything when they aren’t falling-down drunk at nine a.m. “There’s so much nitrogen here! Am I supposed to eat this? Whoo! Par-tay!”

      1. I have been here 3 years, 3 years longer than I would like and thats pretty accurate of how I see most of the people here. North shore is about as close as I can tolerate living, I come in to work then get the hell back across the lake… I do not really want to think about the times with my soon to be ex inlaws in cajun country. The only good thing about the parades, carnivals and festivals which seem to happen because “screw it its Tuesday and we don’t need a reason” is it means more overtime for me when my coworkers want to take off

        1. I grew up in Louisiana, about 25 miles north of Alexandria. New Orleans is a nice place to visit a couple of times, but after that it gets boring. I like cajun country — I have some relatives scattered around down there. I also have relatives just about everywhere else in the state — another reason I don’t visit much. Maybe that’s why UFO visits seem to come in bunches, with long dry spells in between???

  2. “If you can read this, reply immediately using your FTL communicator to prove you are worthy of entering galactic civilization.

    PS the asteriod headed in your direction is your free graduation present. Don’t let it crash into your planet”

    1. You may enjoy John C Wright’s work in progress that started with Count to A Trillion.

      We found an alien artifact. The aliens are coming to enslave us. Not forever. Just for a time to cover the cost of conquest and a reasonable profit. However, if we can prove we are a civilization that can handle interstellar missions in a STL universe, we can escape this fate.

  3. The whole SETI concept has seemed to me to be a search for external validation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the intelligentsia could no longer point to Russia and say, “See–centralized control of production works there!” so they shifted their focus to outer space.

    The idea of looking for “advanced” civilizations is based on contempt for human civilizations. The assumption is that of course the aliens won’t have religion or a military or free enterprise or family units, and if we reach out to them they tell us how to get rid of all those things.

    1. Now of course you gave me the idea that when we do meet extraterrestrial intelligence it will be in the form of Tau Ceti Catholic Missionaries; sent to Earth the bring us heathens to the Lord.

  4. Asimov’s 3 Laws of Alien Behavior:
    1) Their survival will be more important than our survival.
    2) Wimps don’t become top dogs.
    3) They will assume that the first two laws apply to us.

    Possible responses:

    “My Gnorflan couldn’t believe it when she was making $897 a nurgle just by visiting….”

    “TMI Dude! TMI!”

    “Say, could you guys explain that last episode of Lost you beamed at us?”

    I tried to install the latest version of SETI on my new computer, the one so fast with 8 cores that it doesn’t know I’m using it. It brought it to its knees and crashed it. I gave up. I thought the search plan was flawed too. They chose a frequency that was some mystical number related to the resonance of hydrogen or something. I would have chosen one on the quietest range of the spectrum, where the best chance of good signal/Noise was. I mean, if I were deliberately trying to talk, that’s where I would go – where the signal could get through, not some voodoo number.

    1. The frequency range they chose is one of the gaps in the (absorption and/or emission ) spectrum for hydrogen- they chose what was least likely to get soaked up, least likely to get interfered with by background noise, and most likely (by their theories) to be used by a civilization to say “We’re over here”

      Instead of, you know, looking at the frequency ranges used for actual communication, like their TV

      1. The problem with looking there is that any alien signal would be swamped by terrestrial sources. It would be like trying to find a white cat in a white room with stadium lights for a ceiling.

        SETI isn’t trying to eavesdrop, they’re looking for another civilization saying “I’m over here!” Might be a bit of the “looking for car keys under the lamppost” situation.

    2. I never bothered to run SETI on my computer in the first place; I’ve always been persuaded that we are alone in the universe as far as intelligent species goes. (Not counting beings like angels, because the rules are different for spiritual beings — I’m talking intelligent, embodied species. The existence of angels, God, or what have you, will never be proven or disproven by projects like SETI anyway; that’s the subject of philosophy and religion, not science which measures empirical phenomena.)

      Rather than run a program I don’t believe will have any benefit, I chose to run Folding@Home. I don’t know if their protein-folding simulations will lead to any tangible benefit in terms of new drugs or cheaper syntheses of existing drugs, but at least there’s a decent chance that it will be of use to people. SETI, zero chance in my view.

      Anyone else running Folding@Home? Want to organize Team Hun?

      1. I’ve never understood how someone could come to the conclusion that intelligent life would be unique to this planet, be they religious or otherwise. If religious, why would G-d waste unimaginable trillions upon trillions of other stars and planets? If not religious, how could we possibly be unique in the Universe?

        1. One theory, which I haven’t yet made up my mind about, goes like this: God made Adam and Eve immortal and told them to multiply and fill the earth. What if He intended them to go on multiplying after that, and fill not just the earth, but the solar system, then the galaxy, then the universe? But when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they gained the ability to do evil (they already knew good, so all they gained was the knowledge of evil), and so now the crab-bucket effect prevents us from ever spreading beyond Earth: every time we get close, we pull ourselves down. So now, those trillions of other planets are going to waste — but they wouldn’t have been if we’d followed instructions.

          Another theory I heard, which is a lot more prosaic, says that certain physical constants needed for life to be possible on Earth are connected to the mass of the universe (I don’t have the scientific background to evaluate how accurate this is), and that God, being something of an artist, didn’t want to just make all that mass out of boring dark matter. Hence, stars and planets, and breathtaking vistas on planets millions of light-years away, even if nobody will see them but God Himself. … Wait, did I just say that theory was prosaic? Because now I’m imagining the violet skies of sunsset on Acrux IV, and wanting to go there to see them for myself.

        2. Because that’s the way the evidence points? Absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence, albeit not proof thereof.

          Besides, why do you think that you have penetrated the counsels of God so far that you know that if He made trillions of stars, He could have no purpose for them except filling them up with creatures like us? Also most of space is hard vacuum. The matter in it doesn’t rise to the dignity of rounding error. Evidentially He is quite content with large spaces that appear to be waste to human eyes.

          Irreligious people should realize that a sample size of one (1) life-bearing planet tells you nothing about the odds of life except that they are not absolutely zero. That’s elemantry statistics.

          1. Please don’t go down the path of, “why do you think that you have penetrated the counsels of God…?” EVERYONE presumes to question the motives of God, whether they admit it or not, and my opinion is that it makes no sense.

            As far as absence of evidence? Already covered. The probability of detecting a civilization before it becomes indetectable by current techniques is vanishingly small. In less than 1,000 years (pessimistic prediction. I actually think it will take less than 100), we will reach that level, whether it is by new technology that no longer uses E-M waves, or all tech goes to tight-beam that doesn’t spill over from the target, or the comm channels become so tight that it is currently indistinguishable from background noise.

            1. The point of the “counsels of God” thing isn’t that it’s wrong to try to fathom God’s motives, it’s that you WILL fail, and they will make no sense to you. “For my ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts,” as the Bible puts it. So when you express the opinion that it makes no sense, you’re not disagreeing with Mary as you think you are; you’re actually agreeing with her point.

                1. Fair enough. My original intent was to find other Huns running Folding@Home and see if there was any interest in organizing a Team Hun, so I’ll just repeat that part of my comment minus the distracting theological stuff.

                  Any Huns and/or Hoydens running Folding@Home? Want to organize a Team Hun?

          2. Mary, how do you know or not know that there are species that might LIVE in the space between stars, harvesting spare hydrogen and other bits, far from any star? In fact, I’m writing a story with that concept. I don’t think I’ve been the first to think of it, either.

            1. There might be, but they do not take up much of it. They do not constitute hard vacuum, and the gravitational effects of their taking up much of it would be too hard to miss.

              1. The funny thing about that book is that I vividly remember reading it in my parent’s room in my grandmother’s house, but we moved out of there when I was seven and I’m almost sure I didn’t read it before them — so I’m going to assume I was back at grandma’s house for a week or so (she used that room as a guest room) at some point and took it with.

    3. I worked a contract there once upon a time.

      SETI doesn’t exist to find aliens, it exists to get grants and donations and pay people.

      I’ll be quiet about those people, in a rather unusual act of kindness.

  5. Well, I typically find it hard to comprehend why a species that had developed the technology to travel between stars would choose an already inhabited world for colonization. It’s just asking for unnecessary headaches. Even without intelligent life, you’re bound to have some bad reaction to the native flora and fauna. You’d probably have to wipe the slate clean anyway. Best to just terraform a dead world, really. So in that respect, I find the idea of conquering aliens a bit odd. But that said…

    I’ve wanted to write a story where the advanced and wise aliens were more enlightened than us… and proved it by showing how childish is our concept of “enlightenment.” They’ve been around the block, they’ve existed for perhaps millions of years, and they’ve seen good intentions cause unprecedented suffering and the collapse of mighty civilizations. To us they might come across as barbaric, but they’d have their priorities firmly set and would quietly mark Earth for colonization/enslavement after we’ve run our course.

    1. But JSchuler, their version of the “Cosmic All” states that they must convert all intelligent species to their beliefs. [Wink]

      Of course, there’s also the Species that believes that they are the Master Species and all intelligent species exist to serve them (or be destroyed as being unworthy of that service). [Wink]

      Also, I think SETI is based on the idea that any intelligent species out there are the “Great And Glorious Wise Ones”.

      Finally, IMO one of the most annoying ideas out there (even in SF) is the idea that *all* intelligent life out there is so beyond us that they might as well be gods/angels.

      1. Aliens with the submit or die complex are just the flip side of the coin. They’re needlessly aggressive, and so will probably die out before they even hit interplanetary travel. Just think about the energy that civilization wields. Every ship capable of crossing the void between stars in a fashion timely enough to support empire is a potential planet killer by virtue of m*v^2, let alone the exotic energy device that’s likely powering it. Now think about what that means when one sect of the followers of the Cosmic All get it in their head that everyone else is a heretic. Or someone deludes themselves into thinking they are the Master Race within the Master Species.

        1. Sorry but “needlessly aggressive” is IMO a matter of opinion and the “universe” doesn’t have to agree with our opinions.

          The idea that “violent species” will kill themselves off is IMO wishful thinking.

          A “violent species” could very well find ways to channel its violence outwards toward “aliens” and avoid internal violence.

          1. Unless I’m mistaken, we have only knowledge of a single technologically advanced species, and so any speculation on the subject must ultimately be opinion. If you have actual facts about other such species, I would be very interested to hear them.

            1. Strangely, I got the impression that *you* had more information about intelligent aliens than I do. [Wink]

              Seriously, you’re correct about our lack of info but IMO you were repeating a “dogma” that I’ve heard too often.

              IE Of course, intelligent star faring species will be peaceful because “violent intelligent species” will kill themselves off.

              1. There’s a vast middle ground between “Conquering Empire with a Messianic Complex” and peaceful. I happen to believe that neither flavor would be long for an interstellar existence.

              2. Perhaps the intelligent star faring species are the equivalent of Aeneas and his family, fleeing destruction of their planet and seeking a galactic backwater where they can rebuild their strength before taking revenge.

                SEE ALSO: Hamilcar Barca in Spain

                  1. The last Battlestar, the Galactica, leads a ragtag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest…. for a shining planet…. knows as Earth.”

                    *sniffles*

                    Some of my best childhood memories. Not spoiled by the time working with Richard “Apollo” Hatch on his Magellan project.

        2. Not necessarily, The T.V. show Continuum (a time travel police procedural/ heavy handed political thriller ) had an interesting chillingly done and interesting solution, the evil corporations used nanotechnology to turn debtors into machine tools.

          They were riffing on the Borg from Star Trek of course and yes its a bit of a polemic , but its technologically and socially feasible, for allegedly human people much less aliens.

          Thus submission is to whatever passes for the “upper class” of the aliens is simple mass enslavement

          And yes it serves no rational purpose. Not the point, its about status and that quest for status might well be as strong as or stronger than that of humans.Same reason people hoard money , kept a lot of slaves they didn’t need or have lots of bling.really.

          Get some of that sweet %Y$^&$^ (untranslatable alien term to do with mating)

          Also if a planet has resources, minerals that are not much easier to get from asteroids (or its just not how things are done) it might be good to enslave the locals (shades of UFO folklore) or blow the planet to bits.

          Also humans “original sin” is the habit of treating people not in their limited sphere, 150 or so Dunbar’s Number, aka Law of Monkey as stuff. Not that we don’t see them that way, thats normal for us but the inability to not treat them that way. Thats evil in a nutshell, treating people as things

          I can’t see why starfish people or whatever couldn’t be similar, they overcame the tendency to treat other starfish people as “stuff” well long enough to get FTL but other races? Not my people, not my problem.

          Thats why if FTL is even possible and there are aliens, we need to take the USMC approach, be polite, be professional, have a plan to kill everything you meat

          Hopefully doing that means we don’t end up like Warhammer 40k (or 3:16 RPG)

          1. If you want resources, Earth isn’t the place to get them. You want gases? Jupiter. You want metals? Mercury. You would probably have to have a severe interstellar case of convergent evolution for Earth to become valuable, as the only resource that’s easier to come by here than anywhere else is biological life. As I said, that’s a double-edged sword.

            The one species that I ran across that is slightly convincing in terms of going to war on first contact is the Formics from Ender’s Game. And for them, war was their way of saying “Hello,” and not actual aggression (because of their hive-mind nature, they didn’t conceive of the death of a species’ individual member as causing much, if any, harm, and it wasn’t until we went so far as to kill one of their queens that they realized their assumptions were wrong).

              1. People assume terraforming a planet would take generations. But we have kudzu, and we haven’t even started modifying it yet… maybe reclaiming it from the terraforming plants and animals is what takes generations.

      2. Finally, IMO one of the most annoying ideas out there (even in SF) is the idea that *all* intelligent life out there is so beyond us that they might as well be gods/angels.

        Thing is, the timescale involved, and the rate at which technology advances after reaching a certain point, it’s highly likely that they would either be that far beyond us, or else be pre-sapient. The intersection point is incredibly narrow, when measured against the backdrop of a couple of billion years of possible development time. Finding an alien civilization that’s anywhere near our own level is about as unlikely as picking up a grain of black sand on the beach, then throwing it as hard as you can, and having it land nestled up against another grain of black sand.

        1. How do we know that? There’s a certain degree of logic about this idea *but* IMO to say that it is absolute fact is going too far.

      3. I don’t see why we necessarily think that biological or cultural advancement is somehow tied to technological advancement. We’ve been at this for how long, and we’re still the same monkeys.

        Sure, we’ve invented Television. And then we put Honey Boo Boo on it.

      4. Sorry, but stories about intelligent life that acts somewhat like us and leaves us alone don’t really make for all that entertaining fiction.

        1. Nor do “realistic” (I tend to think the ‘leaving us alone’ scenario more likely) alien invasion stories involving aliens coming down and either wiping out everyone without any trouble, taking us all (or worse, only the most intelligent) for slave labor, or sitting down, taking whatever mineral they wanted badly enough to squat down in this gravity well for, and ignoring us.

  6. Excellent article, of course, and excellent comments. My own thoughts of a reply from Out There would be:
    “Do you, perchance, taste like chicken?” and,
    ‘RE your SETI transmissions, are you SURE you listed all of your defensive capabilities?”
    The unbelievably naive thought that everyone wants to be like ‘us’, whatever ‘us’ may be, has been proven consistently wrong. Look at any muslim nation, for example. Rousseau’s thoughts of the Noble Savage who, untouched by evil Euro civilization, would live in perfect Woodstockian harmony with nature, was upset a bit by the discovery of tribes of such gentle folk in Africa who were periodically killing and eating one another when they couldn’t wipe out various species of critters. And the ‘alien’ Aztecs and others were – before the intrusion of the evil Spanish and their religion – were enslaving everyone for miles and daily slaughtering hundreds of people on their altars by cutting out hearts and entrails to offer their gods.
    No, the closest thing to what I believe would be accurate was a film I saw some time back called ‘Battle: Los Angeles”

    1. …the closest thing to what I believe would be accurate was a film I saw some time back called ‘Battle: Los Angeles”

      I actually really liked that movie, mostly for the way they portrayed the military, but it had standard Hollywood Dumb spread thickly all over the invading aliens. Supposedly the aliens came to our system (which is the really hard part), bopped around doing recon completely undetected for long enough to pick targets, then dove all the way down into our monster gravity well toexecute their master plan of… stealing our liquid water? Like they didn’t notice all those icy moons and comets and stuff floating around free for the taking, in microgravity or really close to it and thus with minimal energy cost to extract and tatransport, only needing a bit of solar energy (hey, that’s out there too!) to liquify? Wouldn’t that be less work than a planetary invasion?

      And then when they landed, they spread penny packets of assault forces all over the bloody planet right next to a long list of human urban centers on the coastline. Nevermind concentrating their effort to establish a bridgehead. And they’re here for water, so why L.A.? Why not invade New Zealand? Or Tahiti? Or Madagascar? Or any other of the long list of places near the water that don’t have lots and lots of heavily armed natives RIGHT THERE to oppose your water harvesting?

      And finally, if you wanted for some reason to freely steal our precious planetary fluids and pay the price to haul it all the way back up out of the gravity well, and you by definition hold the orbitals, why would you not just lob a few meteoric impactors targeting those same urban centers, completely messing up human civilization, and then land and suck up all the water you can carry?

      Hollywood aliens are dumb.

      1. Oh yes. I tried to go by the premise that the guess ‘it’s the water!’ really was just a dumb guess, though, and since as far as I remember in that movie it was just something seen on television it was relatively easy. So, the television show had hastily dug out somebody with a degree and asked him, he had no clue and speculated a bit , it was completely wrong.

        But how damn popular giving water as a reason seems to be (latest: Oblivion. And too, the wife of the astronaut would end up with some interesting problems if even a fraction of them came looking for her… well, maybe they could arrange some sort of schedule, provided the men would be willing to share – tonight number 46, tomorrow number 54 and so on :D) probably says something about Hollywood, I’m just not quite sure whether it’s that they are dumb, or that they think the audience is. Maybe both.

        1. And water is not terribly hard to synthesize. You grab protons from the solar wind and introduce it to Oxygen, and voila! H2O. You’d probably have to put together a magnetic seine to focus the solar wind and run scoopships to dig up atmospheric Oxygen, or crack it out of asteroids or planetary crust for the O to burn, but on the whole it would be easier than developing anti-gravity or whatever. And if you had anti-gravity or scalar-field tech, wouldn’t Jupiter be a deeper well anyways?

          Of course, the aliens could have used a Chicxulub-type meteor to create a plume of oxidized material that could be sucked up from the stratosphere….Now that would have been an interesting basis for that movie. An Ice or water impact would have dealt mostly with water vapor, too.
          That is how they used to harvest amber in the Baltic, they’d stir up the sea-bed and poke under rocks and then run a net through the turbid area to pull out the slightly-lighter-than-seawater amber as it swirled around and the actual rocks sank.

          1. Heh. A movie in which the aliens never leave orbit, and so leave the defenders the problem of getting up there on our own might make a great movie (okay, I’m in love with the way Niven and Pournelle used Orion in Footfall. I’d love to see that in a movie, love love love – first building it in secrecy, and then the launch – oh please that launch – kicking some alien butt after that might even be a bit of an anticlimax… and that one rabid Green character who ended up murdering somebody in order to protect the secret after he had figured out that the aliens were doing so much more damage to the planet than humans ever could was pretty damn funny. Black humor, maybe, but I like it black)

            1. Starblazers aka Space Battleship Yamato already had part of that plot. The Gamelons were bombing us from orbit. Once the radiation killed off everything, they would use their anti-radiation thingie and Gamelon-form Earth, Mars, etc. to their liking.

              So after the Solar System’s defense fleet was pretty much gone and our outposts too, Earth had to secretly build and launch the Yamato (built out of the shell of the battleship on the dried-up ocean floor, with supplies brought in from beneath, through the underground tunnels of Fortress Earth) on a mission to go get our own anti-radiation thingie from a planet that was one of Gamelon’s enemies. (They had sent us a message that included plans for a nifty FTL space warp drive and wave motion gun.)

              Hurry, Star Force! You have only 364 days until the Earth is destroyed!

              1. The drive and the engine were in the same plans because they were based on the same tech.

                (and then years later, they found the wreck of the Yamato and found it broke its spine. Many SB fans were severely disappointed)

              2. SB was my childhood love (back in the 70s, after school), but then I caught a wicked strep/pneumonia and *missed the last few episodes*. This absolutely tormented me, on the occasion when I would think of it, for a very long time, until a few years ago I realized it was on Netflix, and binge-watched the entire thing.

                Oh, frabjous day! While the episodes were probably 30% recap, and the animation isn’t any great shakes (with lots and lots of re-used shots), the story held up better than I had dared hope. Certainly it was the best possible introduction to SF for children I could have imagined.

                1. There is currently a remake being serialized in Japan. There was also a fairly decent live action movie.

                  The US edit of Yamato(Star Blazers) apparently cut out the prodigious numbers of skirt-flips Yuki(Nova) was subjected to.

          2. And it’s far better to get close to the Sun to scoop up the Solar Wind. I ran numbers for capturing Solar Wind in 100-km diameter scoops (working on tech for a story), and it only came out to 120 kg water a day at this distance.

            1. You did? When I take the guys out to space (CHARACTERS, not kids. GEESH) in more detail and outside the Darkship context, you’re a beta reader. People who do this stuff for fun are what this digit dyslexic author needs.

              1. Sure. I also worked out the benefits of launching up a ramp up the mountains. Not as long as the ones Heinlein proposed in TMIAHM – only 20 km. But after I played with the details, I was able to get a LEO payload of 4 times that of the Shuttle for the same launch mass.

                Then I invented my own ion engine, and I have some WEIRD -looking Moon colony buildings.

            2. First: I’m in awe that you can do that sort of calculation.
              Second: wouldn’t the wake that the Earth’s magnetic field imposes on the Solar wind as it directs it around the Earth compress the wind’s density and allow the scoops to collect more from a smaller diameter, as well as keep transportation distances down for the collected oxides and O2? It would be a logistics trade off either way, I suppose.
              Of course, that would still make Venus more attractive unless they wanted to burn the planet anyway.

              1. Ah, well, you may be right. I was doing it for a Moon colony in the story I am still planning. Because of the low numbers, I pretty much gave that one up, except I may resurrect it as an emergency measure for the early days of the colony, after some idiot loses their water. Don’t know yet.

                1. I figured a dodge: principal use for your seine is for harvesting ³He isotopes for local and export fusion fuel. Extraction would probably be through “reacting out” the H by combining it with O or N. Since you have the setup, every proton is extra you can make into ice or ammonia in orbit can be sold at below the cost of pulling it out of a gravity well.

                  1. That would at least make it reasonable to build the thing, despite its shortcomings as a water source. Then, the water would be a by-product, rather than the primary product of the operation.

  7. If I were an alien conqueror, and I wanted a planet, and the indigenous species didn’t yet control its own orbits, I’d engineer a biocritter to kill everything and give it a sunset gene. Still, and all, if I were an alien capitalist, I’d look on any new planet as an untapped market. I think the worst thing we can encounter is an interstellar version of what happens to undeveloped people groups that meet civilization. “I don’t have to work for anything? I just tell the magic box what I want, and I get it? Food, drugs, money, anything?” Within a few generations, there’d be only Odds left. And I’m not sure there’s enough of us to make civilization work.

    1. There was a thoroughly nasty short story years ago, The Screwfly Solution I believe, in which aliens infected us with a virus that reprogrammed males to react with extreme violence to anyone they were sexually attracted to. Did a fine job of killing off the human race with minimal infrastructure damage. Even more effective than Ringo’s zombie plague.
      Then too, wasn’t the underlying theme in one of John’s fictions the gradual death of humanity from the same condition you describe, a complete lack of want or need had suppressed the urge to reproduce and the birth rate fell well below replacement level. The solution in that series was to cut off all high tech and return the population preindustrial levels.

      1. All this of course goes back to Clark’s What the hell was it called? Aliens look like devils. Have been discussing it with friend via email, but mind is a blank.

            1. My parents gave my grade school principal a copy of Childhood’s End one year at the end of school. He seemed rather twitchy the next fall.

              1. “Childhoods End” was the second sci-fi novel I read. I was 12 at the time and it made me a sci-fi addict.

                1. I have you beat. My second was some forgettable piece of 70s “the Russians are superior and will win” dreck, but the third was A Canticle for Leibowitz. And I didn’t turn back, but got more addicted… 😛

            1. Another unpleasent story. The Killing Star by Charles R. Pellegrino and George Zebrowski

              Personally I don’t feel like it’s all that good of a novel, and it’s depressing as hell. But given the basic premise it’s relentlessly proceeds to it’s logical conclusion.

              Aliens detect the strongest single radio transmission ever sent from Earth, “We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.

              They reply with “DIE Earth SCUM!” in the form of relativistic missles traveling at 90% the speed of light.

              Personally I don’t feel like it’s all that good of a novel, and it’s depressing as hell. But given the basic premise it’s relentlessly proceeds to it’s logical conclusion.

                1. You mean they took the intercepted transmissions and ran them through an algorithm to determine the most common but recognizable face-body-personality template to act as deep-penetration moles?
                  Two decades earlier it would have been Ralph Kramden, and a decade later it might have been Hello Kitty.

                  1. Hello Kitty aliens? Oh gads, there’s a horrible thought. I can see the movie trailer now . . .

            2. As I recall, the opening is a disclaimer from Arthur C. Clarke saying that he disagrees with the views put forth in that book.

        1. IIRC Childhood’s End. Most intelligent species evolve into “super beings”. The Devil-like aliens can’t and act as “midwives” to assist in “birth” of the super beings. They had come to Earth to prevent the miscarriage of Earth’s super beings.

          1. To me at least, it wasn’t clear whether joining the Overmind (or whatever it’s called) involved a loss of individuality. Afaic the likelihood was that it did.

            A different author could have written Childhood’s End as sf horror.

            2001 was different.

              1. It’s not horror? It sounds absolutely horrific. Nullification of personality sounds like the worst thing I can think of. I tell a lie: the presentation of nullification of personality as a good sounds like one of the worst things I can think of.

                1. The choice of title indicates it isn’t intended as horror. Although I don’t view the Overmind as God, I receive the book in the spirit of

                  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

                  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

                  2001 was further consideration, or reconsideration, of themes in Childhood’s End. The book version makes it clear that loss of individuality did not occur with elevation into a Star Child.

              2. I read it at age 10 and thought it was kinda neat, but couldn’t figure out why the adults kept giving me strange looks.

            1. Some have considered it “horror” in spite of Clarke’s apparent approval of Humanity joining the Overmind.

              I haven’t read it for years and have little desire to reread it.

              1. Clarke’s attitude in Childhood’s End might have been influenced by the ruthless streak in (what I’ve read of) his fellow Brit Olaf Stapledon.

                IMHO 2001 is clearly superior to Childhood’s End.

      2. “The Screwfly Solution” was one of Tiptree’s best (extraordinarily disturbing) stories. Bova’s “A Calculus of Desperation” is another like this, except there it’s environmentalists who are worried about overpopulation causing the die-off. Read these when you feel just a *bit* too happy…

      3. Oops, sorry, I overlooked your mention of Screwfly when I posted mine.

        Wrt to your second paragraph, I’ve been wondering if the Japanese birth rate will pick up now that tension with China is rising.

    2. So first we get the zombies (fast variation, presumably – by the way, didn’t Andre Norton or some other writer of that era have something like fast zombies before they became modish in some story, a disease spread by the infected who did lose all of their human identity and became just automatons aggressively trying to spread the disease?) and THEN we get the alien invasion?

      Hey, has anyone written a story where humans lose the war against aliens, but a largish group of survivors manages at some point to steal one of their ships – maybe rebelling slaves or something, would explain how they know how to use it – and establish a hidden colony somewhere away from Earth? I think I have seen something vaguely like that mentioned somewhere some time ago, but I don’t have any idea now if it was just playing with the idea or if there was supposed to be something written already. Might be an interesting story.

      1. David Weber’s Safehold series starts along those lines. Genocidal aliens show up, kick the snot out of humanity, and the only (known) survivors are a fleet of refugees that settle on an unknown planet. That’s really just the set-up, and the driving force is that the alien race are still out there. Then stuff happens. Good books.

          1. Just be aware that they are goat-gaggers, each and every one of them. Weber is at his wordiest when he writes politics, and 90% of the plot of the Safehold novels I’ve read so far is politics. (And war, a.k.a. the continuation of politics by other means.) So don’t expect to finish them in a day or anything like that.

        1. I highly recommend the Safehold series. There are some not-very-subtle political digs (Grand Inquisitor Clyntahn, anyone?), and a clear pro-liberty, Human Wave message, but above all there are wonderful characters and a great story.

        2. I’m a big fan of David Weber. And I snarf up the Safehold stuff as soon as its out. But I have to warn you that its not exactly literature.

          And the Reformation / Counter-Reformation / 30 Years War references are not at all subtle.

      2. That’s the back-story for the alien Aalaag in Gordon Dickson’s Way of the Pilgrim: they’re super-powerful from our perspective, but they got kicked off their home-world by an immensely-more-powerful race. Now they roam the stars, enslaving races that might eventually help them in their reconquista.

      3. David Drake’s Ranks of Bronze, David Weber also played in this universe along with several others in the Anthology Foreign Legions and later expanded it into a Novel, The Excalibur Alternative.

        They fit your description better than the Safehold series, in my opinion.

      4. Believe it or not, that’s kind of the premise of a book I’m currently working on. Except now it’s 6,000 years later, and the humans come back looking to overcome the humiliation at being driven off in the first place. 😛

    3. Fighting everybody, vs trading with everybody, vs a religious impulse to convert everyone– which of those is likely to result in a large, strong group? (Assume all three are willing and able to defend themselves.)

      I figure we’re most likely to meet the space version of the US Navy, or possibly the Brit one. (Hopefully not the Roman one!)

      1. I agree. Getting out of the gravity well, much less interstellar travel, is too difficult to manage when your species isn’t much different than a bunch of crabs in the pot. You’re going to need some kind of robust organizing principle, and the only one I know of that is remotely robust enough is the market.

        Which is my second-favorite answer to “Where are they?” We don’t have anything they value, why bother.

        1. Tactically, the smiley-face version would be a sort of Prime Directive where they wait until worlds are developed enough to come out and meet them so that the stuff-to-trade-for aspect is maximized.

        2. (er, forgot to point out that it’s because if your offered technology is too high, you basically over-write the existing culture.)

          1. And you short-circuit their ability to create something unique that you could negotiate exclusive export rights for.

              1. Another one I read had a human trader negotiating the export of smog-laden air samples, intended for species that had physically accommodated to pollution and viewed new and unique flavors of polluted nitrogen-oxygen atmospheres as a luxury consumable.

              2. Mike: Where is the idea that the aliens want Maple Syrup, is it a Randall Garrett story? Or is it someone who’s name starts with an H?
                Please tell me, it will be driving me crazy otherwise.

            1. Sigh. Now I have Earth as invaded by galactic hipsters engaged in the new fad for primitivism art. Once the demand for such art has passed Earth will be left with an overcapacity in useless tschotskes.

              I am unable to decide whether the primitivist art consists of artifacts or philosophies, but suspect there is a reason for the existence of Marxism, Feminism and Ethnic Studies.

                1. But there is always the Retro phase.
                  As in, “Honey, that dress was ugly when your mom wore it in grade school” retro.
                  Could this be the equivalent of the geometrically patterned Aqua and Brown rayon dashiki?

                  1. The backlash as a result of overproduction combined with the last people on the wagon trying to maintain the fiction that they weren’t duped. The death throes of any fad.

            2. Coffee. And catnip, which is promptly banned by three species as a dangerous hallucinogen.

              1. How could you guys not add chocolate to this list? (Unless the humans decide it’s too addicting and hide it for fear that the aliens will want it all.)

      2. One of the novel ideas I’ve never managed to make progress on is: Earth finally produces its first FTL-capable ship, crewed by representatives from all the major world powers still around at the time. As it finally reaches the minimum safe distance from the sun to activate the FTL drive, every crewman’s personal communicator activates itself at once and starts playing the same message in each person’s native language, perfectly fluently and accented:

        “Welcome to the big leagues. The war has stayed away from your planet so far because neither side knew which side you’d want to join and whether we’d be bombing future enemies or allies, but now that you’re actually capable of fighting, it’s time to pick sides. Ambassadors from both sides will be contacting your governments soon.”

        And then we eventually discover that the side that offers us all the beautiful shiny toys (cure for cancer, replicators, und so weiter) if we’ll join them… turns out not to have our best interests at heart, and we had better pick the other side. NOW, because we very nearly ran out of time on that little problem our alleged friends “conveniently” failed to mention to us.

    4. 10,000 people would be enough to reboot the entire species,maybe fewer.
      I suspect there are more than 10,000 odds in Canada much less the US

      And while I have odd traits and am not a full Odd (just eccentric) and yes I’d abuse a replicator, it might improve my mating chances. If I have a everything I need and time why not have a few, three or four kids..

      Humanity probably would act the same way and thus be fine, well unless the device had a holodeck. Than we are doomed.

        1. My concern is more that the requisite Odds wouldn’t be able to work together long enough to manage it. Contrary buggers that we are.

          1. Might be saved by Odd mating habits– about a third of the Odds I know are happily married to sympathetic but…um… compensating for their mate’s shortcoming normal person.

              1. And one who’s organized, has a great speaking voice, and whose response to stress is to chill out instead of go hyper.

                Aren’t all good marriages like that?

              2. TrueBlue, opener of cans, smasher of spiders, cleaner of litter boxes and smotherer of petulant fits! (Although he’s only good at the last one in adults.)

                1. All spiders? ‘Cause I got standards, I assess a penalty if I have to roll out and the spider is less than 1/2 inch in diameter.

                  1. In our household we have a rule of thumb for spiders: if it isn’t bigger than your thumbnail, deal with it yourself.

                    Any spider large enough to have Penfold leaving footprints on the wallpaper entitles you to call for help.

                    1. I like spiders. They eat the six legged bugs which I do not like.

                      Removed one from a friend’s apartment a few weeks back. By the time I got it to the balcony (first floor apartment, the plan was to drop it to the yard) it got loose and went hiding under my hair, on the back of my neck. Took forever to get it off since I didn’t want to kill it, and I was confined to the balcony for the duration since that friend is badly phobic. 😀

                      Of course ours are mostly rather small, that was about that thumbnail size. And while we have a few poisonous ones those are not common at all, I’ve seen some estimates that during the last couple of decades there may have been a couple of cases of somebody having been bitten (and those are mostly guesses made afterwards – since they really are very, very rare the bad part is that if you get bitten by one it’s most likely nobody will even consider a spider bite as the reason for the symptoms unless you actually saw it bite you, and not necessarily even then).

                  2. My spider calculus involves not only size but species. Poisonous spiders Just Die, and that’s all there is to it. Non poisonous spiders are generally either put outside or let alone. Sometimes, they just get vacuumed up, and I hope I don’t kill them. *wince*

                    I tend to be pretty lax with wolf spiders, who just weave leader threads, and are aggressive about other critters I want dead.

                    But then, when MI was having problems with deer overpopulation.. I suggested bringing back wolves as a fine ecological solution. Yes, I know there’s problems with that stance. Today, I’d just give out more hunting licenses or raise limits, or even open more days for hunting. I’ve never been all that popular with the greens for some reason…

                2. I prefer not to kill spiders, as a rule: they eat mosquitoes, so they’re my friends — or at least enemies of my enemy.

                  Exceptions will be made for black widows, brown recluses, and any other species known to be dangerous to humans, and/or just plain UGLY*.

                  * If you want some good Nightmare Fuel, google “camel spider”. If you want some High Octane Nightmare Fuel, google “two camel spiders mating”. Yes, I’m posting this around midnight Colorado time. You’re welcome. 😛 <– closest I could get to a “grinning devil” emoticon.

                  1. Hehe, I was deployed in support of the sandbox. We got LOTS of stuff on camel spiders.

                    For normal spiders: they have their home, I have mine. I will try to avoid harassing them in their home, but in mine they die— I will not have more bites on my daughter’s face if I can help it.

                    1. Yes, I get the speech about how spiders are good they eat flies and mosquitoes. That’s fine, if they are outside I generally leave them alone, but they don’t belong in my house, and as an uninvited guest they leave a mess behind, I hate cleaning up cobwebs.

                  2. Look up “spiders” on Cracked. I won’t recommend reading any of the descriptions (language) but they have pictures of some pretty horrifying spiders. Some so well camouflaged you would have no idea they were even there, some really ugly, and one wearing a smiley face (not photoshopped).

  8. Interesting point. Professor Reynolds had some similar thoughts/links here: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/160651/. There was an older post — I can’t remember if it was on Instapundit or another site — that raised the question: If there is intelligent life out there that is remaining silent, what does it know about the consequences of blaring out its presence and position that we don’t?

    1. I tend to think more along the lines that they are communicating via methods we cannot as yet detect.

      1. Assuming (big one, too) that they develop along the same lines we do, what if we’re near a communications breakthrough? Some kind of quantum thingummy that lets us communicated at near realtime across stellar/interstellar distances? Maybe something related to gravity. Something, in other words, undetectable by radio telecommunications. That would leave us a couple of hundred light year range for receiving their signals with our current technology. Not a significant window, really. What if the band of their signals hit us sometime during the Assyrian Empire?

          1. I can tell you’re a science fiction author, sirrah — we all talk like that. Verb tenses are hard when we work in the future. Welcome to the club. This is your secret handshake. Oh, and your accordion. Oh, and your reticulated giraffe.

            1. Uh huh. You know who else liked to hand out accordions? Erwin Rommel, that’s who. (True story!) HE thought it improved morale, but we all know how that war ended…And here you go, tossing accordions around like rose petals, heedless of the consequences. To a man in a kilt, no less! (dials up Acme Inflatable Bomb Shelters…)

                1. 😀
                  Remember the rules of Accordion Safety: All accordions play music. Never play an accordion at someone you are not willing to destroy. Never put your finger on the keys until you have a target in view. Know how far sound travels, especially polka music. If we aren’t careful they’ll institute a National Accordion Registry, you know!

                  1. You know, in Portugal, when I was growing up, young ladies of good family learned to play the accordion (most people couldn’t afford pianos) and at every gathering, they’d be brought out to exhibit. I offered to learn tuba. (What? It’s me, you know. Head works like that) But anyone handed me an accordion to learn, they died by the accordion. Parents looked wary and I learned piano till I lost my mid range hearing…

                    1. You offered to learn Tuba? So you basically told everyone you’re a big blowhard? (RUNS)

                    2. No, I lie, I was six and actually there was method. Since I had just had TB part of the “exercises” to extend my lung power involved deep breathing and blowing out. I figured I never did those because they were boring. Now, with a tuba.

                    3. You were six? Had you given any thought to how you were going to carry the tuba? (I’m guessing not, but given that you’re an Odd, even at six you might have had some clever plan for carrying it. So I ask.)

                    4. There was the time I turned to my Beloved Spouse and, observing that our favorite musics seemed to be Celtic, Cajun, Zydeco, Norteno and Klezmer, asked if Beloved Spouse, as a youth, had ever envisioned a day would come when favorite music would require bagpipes, accordians and/or tubas?

                    5. When I was a little kid, my dad kept his tuba in my closet where it was out of the way for the winter. He pulled it out that summer to go to the practice for the 4th of July town band, and during a break tipped it up to shake out the spit and a dessicated mouse fell out.
                      His only comment was that it had sounded a little muted.

    2. Didn’t Theodore Sturgeon write a short story about how broadcasting your presence to the universe attracted these interstellar beasties who fed on electromagnetic radiation. Once they found your world by the broadcasts you were sending, they’d take up residence around your world and — presto! — back to the pre-electronic age.

  9. Dave: There are enough of us. Whats more, we can now travel and get together, allowing higher population growth.
    We even have the internet to find each other.

  10. Oh, I can think of alien intelligences that are not a danger to us. Suppose — well, all eyes on Earth evolved from a single mutation. Imagine it didn’t arise elsewhere. And the beings never managed to deduce the existence of the stars.

    But fundamentally, I think I gotta go with the evidence: we are alone.

    I’m amazed at the number of atheists who will put out long faith-based screeds that there have got to be people out there. Some will even say that space is wasted without them, exactly the way that people used to talk about unsettled land on this planet — even though if every planet and planetoid and moon and moonlet had intelligent life, the overwhelming majority of space is wasted as being empty.

    1. Not quite “didn’t develop eyes”, but similar: isn’t there an Asimov (I think) story about a planet that is such either it has a day side everyone lives on and never ventures off of, or an obstructive atmosphere, or some plot device meaning they can’t see the stars? There’s some sort of predictable event in which they’re going to be able to, and the most out there prediction is that there might be a dozen, or so? And then it happens, and I can’t remember how it ended. They might have been driven mad by the sheer amount of stars in the sky.

      1. Nightfall (Don’t watch the movie)

        The planet had (I believe) multiple suns AND multiple moons which kept the planet in perpetual light, except when their orbits brought them into conjunction and there was night for a planetary rotation or two. Legends told of Nightfall, and that civilization fell every time. The ending was somewhat ambiguous, with riots going on, but it’s possible that their precautions this time will have allowed them to survive.

        1. >The planet had (I believe) multiple suns AND multiple moons which kept the planet in perpetual light, except when their orbits brought them into conjunction and there was night for a planetary rotation or two

          That’s what it was! I wanted to just call it an eclipse, but I knew it was more complicated than that. Always struck me as slightly bittersweet – the repeated fall of civilization is a horrible thing, of course, but there are worse things that could spark it than the sudden revelation of the heavens in all their glory.

          1. It was both, the orbits of the planet and various suns left only one in the sky, and that was eclipsed by another planet. Since the system was in a globular cluster there were millions of stars, and everyone who was outside was driven mad by a need for light.

        1. Perhaps inspired Riddick. Fun movie, except for the fact that I kept trying to figure out what the monsters lived on when there were no humans around. Well, maybe there was something else living in the caves too, they just didn’t venture out.

          Still wouldn’t make much sense though. In order for the monsters to go swarming out like that there should have been a bit more drawing them than just a few humans, and if there was something to eat underground it would make even less sense.

          1. And yes, I’m talking about the first movie with that character. The second one of course went even worse off anything which might make sense. While I’m not a purist in the sense I’d want everything to be scientific as we understand science now I really would prefer a story with sf trappings to stick to the rules a bit better.

            1. When I’m really tired of the childish bickering in the house, I just remind everyone that I can kill them with my teacup **lifting teacup in ironic salute**. That shuts them up.

        2. Was it as bad as “Bicentennial Man” or that unmitigated crime against humanity “I, Robot”?

            1. When I first saw the trailer my initial response was to sit there for about 5 minutes saying “But..but…but…it wasn’t an ACTION story!” Then I started thinking about lighting Hollywood on fire. Then I saw it. I’m currently taking contributions for my enhanced radiation device to be detonated at the Oscars.

                1. If you could find any cobalt- or plutonium*-based coinage it would be especially helpful.

                  *Everybody wave at the nice NSA droid!

                  1. Sorry Jeff, I cleaned out all the really good stuff after my last trip to Santa Fe and Lost Almost. All I came up with was a battered St. Michael’s medallion, some DDR coinage I keep for giggles, and a silver dollar that goes right back in its pocket. And some lint, and a couple of books. And my emergency anti-acid stash.

              1. Wouldn’t help. All that Silicone, implanted and injected, combined with the botox, has preemptively killed off all the carbon based life in those bodies, effectively immunizing the inhabitants of Hollywood to radiation.

                After the Gamma Ray Burst hits, they will be the only ones left.

                1. Maybe, but if we set up a multi-mile wide radioactive moat around them we can at least isolate them until they succumb to dry-rot.

    2. There was a Sector General short story by James White about finding a disabled space ship that was built and crewed by a blind species. They had trouble getting into it since the “open door” instructions were in a form of Braille.

  11. I think their first response would be similar to ours when finding doggie doo on the bottom of our shoes when walking in our back yard. Not our dog, so how to keep it out of the neighborhood making messes.

    Yea, I started out all rosey-eyed as well. I’ve come to the conclusion that Carl Saga and his ilk are arrogant, fast talking snobs.

  12. “Thank you for identifying your planet as being capable of supporting life. We are sending a packet of nanobots to replicate across the surface of your planet in order to reform the soil into that which will support our plants and animals. All life currently on your planet will be destroyed, of course.”

      1. Please advise if a full sphere defragmentation is in order instead of the standard reboot. At your request, prior to the reboot a full backup can be made and misplaced.

    1. Welcome to David Gerrold’s War Against the Cthorr series, although the
      nanobots are (just) tailored biologicals.

      1. The Chtorr scenario was one of a very few really plausible alien invasion stories I’ve read. It hints that the aliens are so alien we are unlikely to recognize them as intelligences, then gets depressing because the war is already over, and we lost before we knew it was on.

        1. …depressing because the war is already over, and we lost before we knew it was on.
          Well, that and the story and characters were so deep in the grey goo that even Gerrold got discouraged with it and couldn’t keep writing the series, even with his future history having humans somehow pulling out a “win” (or at least a “draw,” given the future common use of the phrase “___ as a feral Chtorr”) .

  13. Different perspective: While talking with older son the other day, I thought an interesting story line might be to have a wildlife announcer doing a show that seems to be a human announcing wildlife on another planet, but in the end, it is revealed that it is in fact an alien, hiding behind an invisibility screen, doing a show on Earth.

  14. Brigadier General Johnathon Eastman, 58th Regiment of Foot (aka the British Branch of the Global Defense Force): “Why haven’t we seen more alien incursions?”

    Commander Rachel Na Gael (better known as Rada ni Drako): “Because you’ve been lucky, sir.”
    (From the short-story “Green Paws”)

      1. That’s why on the alternate Earth of the GDF, the US, USSR, and Chinese decide that deep-space exploration can wait just a little, until they develop energy weapons and a better planetary defense system.

  15. I do believe there is life elsewhere in the universe, probably even intelligent life, but the universe is unimaginably vast. Will we ever be able to find that life, and even if we do, would we even recognize it, or be able to communicate with it?

  16. We are the top official of the Galactic government audit committee of the Ethics Review panel who are interested in transfer of goods in your sector of the galaxy with funds that are presently held at Frolix 8. In order to commence this business we solicit your assistance to enable us to transfer into your account the said held funds; prior to the last economic restructuring and audit officials set up companies and awarded themselves contracts that were grossly over-invoiced. We and my colleagues have identified certain of these accounts, but as members of the audit committee of the Ethics Review panel we are unable to acquire these funds in our name, and require a banking system external to ours to launder the funds […..]

    At least this is my hope, because I don’t want to see what their equivalence to AOL CDs are.

  17. News Flash: September 15th, 2015, NASA has confirmed the reception of a message from Interstellar Space. The contents of this message are not known as of yet but scientists and mathematicians at all Federal agencies including NSA are working on the decryption of this message.

    Internal Memo: NSA: Feb 22, 2018. Classified Top Secret Eyes Only, No Copies. The following is the best translation of message received Sept. 25, 2015 to date, message follows.

    Are you guys really this stupid? The subject of your constant and pitiful attempts at communication have been fodder for comedians for many cycles. Your latest attempt however where you actually included genetic information has proven the level of stupidity displayed required quick and decisive action. Our first instinct was, “Kill it quick before it spreads”. An economic analysis was ordered on the cost and benefits of removing you and thus stopping the spread of your particular dangerous kind of stupid.

    As a result of our analysis we have decided to put your puny system on Galactic quarantine. By the time you receive this message a series of remote sensors and battle droids will have been stationed outside the planetary circumference of your system.

    The conditions of the quarantine are as follows:

    No attempt at further communications will be tolerated.
    No attempt at travel by any and all space craft or probes beyond your system will be tolerated.
    No interference with Intergalactic Politics or Commerce will be tolerated.
    There is no Appeal.
    If your system is found violating any of these terms your entire system will be destroyed.

    End of Message.

    News Flash March 23rd 2018, NASA reported today that it has lost contact with Voyager I launched in 1977 Astronomers report bright flashes visible completely surrounding our solar system, as of yet there is no explanation.

          1. “We are, after all, potentially dangerous locals with bizarre and disgusting customs.”

  18. I always point out the distances involved. If you are looking that many light years away, you are looking that many years back in history. The seti folk always assume that anyone they discovered would be at least as advanced as us.
    How much older than us would they have to be for a signal to be here now at this stage in ours? Oh, sure, if they were right next door, maybe, but the odds are they are not just the next system over, and if they are, the odds are there are a ton of civilizations out there, making it likely we’d be already aware of any noise. And this all assumes they use Radio Waves like we do. What if they don’t, or like Zahn’s creatures they find Radio painful?

    How do you know that any life bearing planet could keep a civilization going that long without any catastrophic issues (like say Ice ages, or asteroid/comet strikes, not to mention war) and even if they are a few millennium older than us, they are likely still so far away that we’d not see a thing from them for a few millennium ourselves as they by the odds, are so far away. I find it just as likely we will find a signal from someone that turns out to be dead, even possibly a S.O.S.

    I’d go on but I’ve just woke, so likely I’m less coherent then I could be (like that ever happens) and this thing needs a restart.

  19. I’m reminded of Poul Anderson’s story “Helping Hand” wherein two war-torn alien races are offered a helping hand by the terrans. Even if ET is nice and helpful, it might be very bad news for human culture.

  20. “People of Earth, your attention please. This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.

    All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years! You’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaints. It’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now!”

  21. Heh. The worst?
    “We are sending you the diagrams for a cheap, clean way to produce electricity, and a way for humans to stay alive for two hundred years, and to postpone the physical effects of age until the last couple years.”

    Mew

    1. So, attempted passive genocide?

      Given humanity, it’d probably backfire– yeah, a HUGE portion of the population would put off having kids until they were suddenly hit by the effects of aging, but that would last little enough time that even “taking care of the elderly” wouldn’t take much resources, and plentiful energy means there’s more to do….
      Those that have a philosophy that says life is important will still reproduce. And they’d be the strongest.

      There’s a story seed. The Galactic UN sends these to all the new planets, like the Earth UN sends condoms. Somehow, it makes it so that the planets are far more dangerous a few generations after the population drops…..

        1. Infecting a species with a disease to make them homicidal is a direct attack.

          This would be more like giving an alcoholic access to a grocery store with an eternally full booze isle; nothing is pushing him to drink himself to death…but he probably will.

      1. Before I reply, please note that I am not intentionally being hostile toward you .. we just seem to naturally not agree.

        Yes, Muchausen’s genocide… or a viability test.

        I quibble with your assertion that sub-cultures most likely to keep breeding value life. Seems to me, the sub-groups in the U.S. most likely to keep reproducing appear to be the cultures that are *currently* over-reproducing, most of which (religious right mostly excepted) lack “family cohesion” as a positive, and most of which eschew education. (less of religious right excepted)

        Note, by the way, that these sub-groups are well placed to win the food riots, but poorly placed to actually increase food production.

        Mew

        1. I quibble with your assertion that sub-cultures most likely to keep breeding value life.

          That isn’t what I said– cause and effect are backwards.

          Very cheap energy would lower all prices, making actual sterilization (rather than chemical partial sterilization) much easier, which voids the Welfare Mamma issue. (Have you checked the actual statistics? And considered that one kid might be counted several times? Then there’s the part where the death rate for the “poor family cohesion” group is far, far higher than, oh, that nice Mormon family down the block.)

          Different base assumptions, and often what one says isn’t what the other hears.

          1. You said, specifically, “Those that have a philosophy that says life is important will still reproduce. And they’d be the strongest.”

            My quibble is with whether the “philosophy that says life is important” is a factor to either reproduction or relative strength. I don’t see it.

            We arrive back at a point Our Hostess previously covered .. since we both accept that the census numbers are futzed with, how can we tell the true number of people in various sub-groups?

            This leads to a couple sub-assumptions.

            Regarding the rotting urban cores, you appear to be asserting that a low number should be used for the rotting urban cores .. that they are not reproducing quickly at all. I am both taking a middle number – urban-core-dwellers are both over-counting to increase benefits but also breeding above replacement-level – and asserting that “free power” will not change this as they already have it… and free heat and free A/C and free food.

            Regarding the nice Mormon (or Catholic) family, free power won’t exist just for them, and both cultures have shown themselves to be susceptible to cultural forces, i.e. your “HUGE portion of the population” will include many Mormons and Catholics who, otherwise, would favor large families.

            Yes, both sub-groups will out-breed the ineffectual suburbanites who *today* are breeding at sub-replacement-levels.. and even more dramatically so in Europe. Note, by the way, that becoming pregnant at 195, with a life expectancy of 200, means child care *and* elder care will become .. interestingly entangled.

            As for “actual sterilization” .. do you have a better carrot to entice any group to go quietly? I don’t see where cheap power and long life would entice the rotting urban core-dwellers, I suppose after a short time a food subsidy may .. there is, after all, only so much arable land .. and sterilization runs directly counter to your “value life” sub-groups.

            My guess would be cheap power plus long life would send humanity back to some form of hunter-gatherer culture in fairly short order..

            Mew

              1. Show, don’t tell.

                What word or words did I put in your mouth?

                Did you not say what I quoted? Where did I mis-interpret it?

                Mew

                1. I DID show you the first instance. It did no good, and you went to repeat the problem.

                  It is simply not important enough to me that you understand to spend the next several days explaining over and over, when you will probably still not understand what I said because you keep heading for what you think I meant as a priority.

                  1. *sigh*

                    From what you’ve written, it appears you are making many guesses about my meanings as well, but .. so be it.

                    Mew

            1. Also, sterilization is not a “carrot.”

              I really do not think you can come to understand what I am saying, because thus far all attempts to explain result in you reacting to something entirely different.

              1. Foxfier, what I asked was whether you had a better carrot to *encourage* sterilization, since you brought it up as a part of a solution.

                I did not say sterilization *was* a carrot. That’s obviously silly.

                Mew

                  1. Nothing I wrote, as far as I can see, indicates that I think of sterilization as a solution.

                    What I asked was, after you brought it up, how you planned to get people to voluntarily (or not, I suppose) *get* themselves sterilized.

                    You have yet to answer this.

                    Mew

                    1. Possibly because the idea that I was trying to GET people to be sterilized is a great example of you projecting wrong-minded garbage on what I actually wrote?

                      Either you’re blind or you’re using a very specialized thing for “nothing I wrote indicates I think of it as a solution” because in the message directly above, you call it a solution– the one where you try to attribute it to me.

                      I do not have to “answer” to your inability to read what is there; barring a sudden ability on your part to stop injecting stupid into what you’ve read, I’m done. At this point, it’s fulfilled the “keep bystanders from thinking it’s unchallenged” point.

                    2. Better go back and read your post mijacat, because it read to me as an argument that sterilization was the solution* and you were asking for ways to implement it.

                      *Which sort of blew my mind, because I have read enough of your posts in the past to not expect such views from you, so I reread your post and still came up with the same thing.

                    3. “What I asked was, after you brought it up, how you planned to get people to voluntarily (or not, I suppose) *get* themselves sterilized.

                      You have yet to answer this.”

                      You do realize that asking a devout Catholic who believes any form of birth control/sterilization is bad, how they are going to implement mass sterilization is kind of like asking Ted Nugent how he plans to get all the guns off the streets?

                    4. Thank you.

                      If I were much of a writer, I would probably take the “life extension” thing and have it so that it sterilizes you, then write a barely cloaked story about how the only way that those who sacrifice the future for their own benefit can survive is by converting and psueudo-adopting the adult children of those who refuse to do so….

                      It’d go right over a lot of heads, but eh.

                    5. Initial Foxfier quote:
                      “Very cheap energy would lower all prices, making actual sterilization (rather than chemical partial sterilization) much easier, which voids the Welfare Mamma issue. ”

                      Prior to this, sterilization was not mentioned.

                      The second part of the sentence, specifically “making actual sterilization (rather than chemical partial sterilization) much easier” is what I am still not clear on.

                      Why does this follow from “Very cheap energy”? Sure, the chemistry to make birth control pills, morning-after pills, condoms, or what have you would be easier, and from “chemical partial sterilization” I can *squint* and read “partial” as “some of the time” and conclude you mean “birth control pills”, but ..

                      The sentence reads, to me, as “the welfare mama issue goes away if we can sterilize the welfare mamas”.

                      If this is not your *intent*, then .. well .. fine. I do not, however, see what other conclusion I am to reach from it.

                      Mew

                    6. The sentence reads, to me, as “the welfare mama issue goes away if we can sterilize the welfare mamas”.

                      Because you inject stupid— at best, since I described it as AN ATTEMPT TO WIPE OUT OUR SPECIES– into what you read from someone you expect to disagree with.

                      If this is not your *intent*, then .. well .. fine. I do not, however, see what other conclusion I am to reach from it.

                      If you don’t understand, try asking instead of projecting dumb and evil on people. I really don’t respond well to people putting words in my mouth, especially when they double-down and then double that, and claim it’s the only way to read what I wrote.

                      and from “chemical partial sterilization” I can *squint* and read “partial” as “some of the time” and conclude you mean “birth control pills”, but ..

                      No, ALL of the various chemical sterilizations–pills, shots, patches, IUDs, probably some I haven’t heard of yet– which are only partly effective, and tend to cost more the more effective they are.

                      Energy goes up, costs go down. Costs go down, people choose more effective and previously expensive ways of doing what they are doing right now– especially if it’s something that can be reversed.

                    7. Foxfier, please be very careful with your words. I am not “injecting stupid”, I am approaching what you write from (obviously) a different cultural background.

                      Unlike you, I don’t consider “chemical sterilization” to be a bad thing, so *I did not* read your quote as starting from that premise.

                      I read it as starting from “reasonable” (unforced chemical sterilization) and moving into “unreasonable” (forced surgical sterilization). That is not “injecting stupid”, it is “missing data”.

                      YOU have some of the responsibility, when you know perfectly well you’re talking across a cultural gap, for making yourself clear. I do as well, which is why I’m still asking questions.

                      Rather than accusing me of deliberately misunderstanding you, perhaps we can agree that we are from very different worlds and proceed accordingly, without charges of “injecting stupid” ?

                      As I said before, I am not intentionally being hostile. You, on the other paw, sure appear to want to think the worst of this cat .. you have, so far, accused me of “injecting stupid”, “putting words in your mouth”, and doing both deliberately and repeatedly.

                      Mew

                    8. Foxfier, please be very careful with your words. I am not “injecting stupid”, I am approaching what you write from (obviously) a different cultural background.

                      One where it apparently quite acceptable to misread entire arguments that are diametrically opposed to what was actually said, and stupid to boot.

                      Always so much easier to attack strawmen if you make sure their heads are full of straw.

                      You have fun misconstruing entire lines of thought and then getting upset that reality doesn’t reshape to meet what you injected, I have work to do.

    1. Isn’t that the premise (or one of the premises) of Ringo’s Posleen/Aldenata series? Including what is always behind such offers of help, too.

    2. If you want to help, just have everyone stand right here on this giant X. Good. Now, whatever you do, don’t look up.

  22. Since I do believe in a God that made natural law really universal, I think any aliens that could make it here– barring a “hijack a ship” type history– would be rational enough to not immediately eat the seed corn.

    Of course, I also greatly amuse myself by noticing that outside of really badly tacked-on “not all aliens are people with masks” episodes, Star Trek fits Catholic philosophy. Especially in the way that there are a sizable number of accidental halfbreeds (and quarterbreeds, which is more impressive) which shows that somehow all those alien races are the same species by the simplest definition.

    1. They actually covered that in a TNG episode, basically buying into the “Panspermia” theory that all humanoid life traces back to another species.

      1. I know.

        It didn’t make any sense, though– think about it. “All the planets were seeded with our DNA, and so that is why the top humanoid group on each can interbreed when they get to the stars– but all the other, more closely related, evolved right next to them species are not mutually inter-fertile.

        Kind of like the one or two non-humanoid intelligent species, where it seemed tacked on to contradict everything up to that point.

        Sec, I’ll go look what the TV tropes description of it is…..

      2. IMO that was a dumb episode, especially in an attempt to explain interbreeding humans and aliens. These ancient aliens seed various *lifeless* planets with *life* and *that* explains why all the aliens are humanoid? Of course, the idea that a message is encoded in the DNA of the various humanoid beings is completely silly considering how far back the ancient ones “seeded” the planets.

        If an alien species was responsible for the Star Trek universe having humanoid intelligent life forms (especially ones who can interbreed), then this alien species had to be “meddling” in the evolution of the humanoids not just “seeding their home worlds”.

        1. If I remember correctlyish, the Klingon perfectly summed up the message.

          “That’s it? If she weren’t already dead, I’d kill her.”

          On Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 3:43 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

          > ** > Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard commented: “IMO that was a dumb episode, > especially in an attempt to explain interbreeding humans and aliens. These > ancient aliens seed various *lifeless* planets with *life* and *that* > explains why all the aliens are humanoid? Of course, the idea that a > message is” >

              1. *whooshing sound as reference zips over her head*

                Wait… Kim… OOOH!!!!!

                “It’s not you that I hate, Kardashian… it’s what I became because of you.” (Sayeth THE best character on Star Trek.)

                1. It was my first thoughts when I read your comment also, I just couldn’t come up with a good one liner about Kim and snake-head-hair. Of course I never watched Star Trek or Star Wars, so those references generally whoosh right over my head

                  1. I don’t watch reality TV, but I looked up what the flip “Kardashian” was when someone used that line on LOLCats.

                    (….wrote “Reality TB” the first time…)

                    1. “(….wrote “Reality TB” the first time…)”

                      Which might be more accurate. I don’t watch reality TV either, and didn’t know the Kardashian’s were on it. They are however liberally sprinkled through the news (especially Kim) fairly regularly.

                2. Just saw another t-shirt I have to buy (because someone thinks my most recent tshirt purchase is too vulgar…)

                  “STOP MAKING STUPID PEOPLE FAMOUS”

                  1. I think there ought be market for Odd Guys T-Shirts bearing the legend:
                    “I’m just reading your shirt, honey — you’re the one who put reading matter on her boobs.”

                    Or possibly
                    “Thank G-D for flat chested women, their shirts are easier to read!”

                    1. /agree

                      Tangent:
                      For some unknown reason, there was a young, attractive lady in a very tight knit turtleneck belly shirt (long sleeves) with stage-level makeup, a miniskirt and really nice boots. She was holding a small sign written in hot pink highlighter.

                      I spent the two minutes at the stop light trying to read it.

                      First thing my husband says when we pull away?
                      “Was she reading instructions on the back of that thing or something? And what kind of idiot holds a sign in hot pink highlighter?”
                      “The kind that wears a turtleneck when it’s ninety degrees and sunny, I guess. Even if it was a belly shirt.”
                      “A what? Didn’t notice. Was trying to read the dang sign.”
                      “…. I love you.”
                      “Yes, dear.”

                    2. While I am in no sense one who avoids a good look at someone, I would have been staring at a sign like that and not gotten anywhere else in that amount of time, because SQUIRREL!

                      On the other hand, if I’m inside my own head while around other people, my eyes have been known to focus on the nearest available cleavage (without me even noticing, dangit), and if I’m trying to figure out something difficult, it looks like I am staring with great intensity. Haven’t gotten slapped yet, fortunately.

                    3. You try staring intently at a guy’s face in the grocery line under the same circumstances. At least when we lived in the mountain most of the guys were gay, so they just looked embarrassed. I once became aware of what my eyes had been up to, when the guy turned an interesting shade of red, like someone had lit a lamp inside his head.
                      The apologies were fun to “I’m sorry, I wasn’t even seeing you.”
                      Since we moved I’ve had to be more careful, though I’m now over fifty and trust that if I stare at a guy’s face, he just starts wondering if he has a smudge.

                    4. Ok, I’ll see your, “staring intently at a guy’s face in the grocery line”, and raise you, “try telling a woman whose cleavage you’ve been staring at that you didn’t even see her”. 🙂

                      My apologies take a little explaining.

                    5. Well, the one particular guy who turned REALLY red, was — for my sins — unusually good looking, under that “So ugly he’s beautiful” exception. So I immediately backtracked to “Not that you’re not beautiful, I mean…” (I was safe. He was VERY other team.) Until he started laughing.

                    6. “My eyes are up here.”
                      Theater and costume design professor: “Yes, but the embroidery and boning on that dress are magnificent. Can I borrow it some day to see how it’s constructed?” (Yes, ladies, he bats for the other team.)

                3. (Looks around, lobs grenade) Wesley Crusher was the best Star Trek character!

                  (Runs away at top speed, cackling)

                  1. Great, now you have me considering how much better that kid’s life would’ve been if he’d been tossed at the only enlisted guy in the entire Star Trek universe, rather than put in with the officers.

                    1. Imagine all the walks-above-water officer evaluation reports he caused by not screwing up – it’s results-oriented staffing!

                    2. Sorry, to clarify, I wasn’t referring to poor Wesley Crusher, but to Chief O’ and his multitude of division officers, since as the only enlisted crewman, he would by definition be a member of all divisions.

                      Notice that eventually they had to promote O’Brian to pseudo-Warrant-Officer and transfer him out of afloat (aspace?) duty, since as the only enlisted person in Star Fleet, his mere existence totally hosed their personnel management budget.

                    3. Are we confident the Red Shirt Brigade weren’t enlisted? Admittedly, their demonstrated qualified them as officer material.

                4. I didn’t know the doctor had ever met a Cardassian. Or was that Grand Negus Zek? Couldn’t have been Garak…

                  Drawing a blank here. 😛

      3. I once bought a magazine called Panspermia, thinking it was about the theories of Fred Hoyle. It wasn’t. The first hint? — one of the illustrations in the middle was a lot of barbarian babes and a well… a penises bush growing up out of the ground. (It was a French mag.) I flipped through it (at 12? 13?) went “yuck” and gave it to my brother. He might still have it.

          1. Yeah, I REALLY did not need that mental image. Wait. Here’s the brain bleach truck now. Just a sec…

            “Hose it down good, guys!”

            Uh, perhaps not the best choice of words in the present context??

  23. Aliens seem to be the sci-fi version of angels: someone more enlightened to show us low humans the way, the truth, and the light.

    1. We sent our emissary to instruct you in the moral philosophy necessary for membership in Galactic Society some 2100 orbits of your star ago. Your communication indicates you are now ready for final examination. Be advised that this examination — the “A” Pocalypse — is administered on a Pass/Fail basis and a two-thirds majority of your dominant species must pass or it will be reduced to a single breeding pair.

      1. …a two-thirds majority of your dominant species must pass or it will be reduced to a single breeding pair.

        Which is as good as extinction.

        Jesus-as-alien certainly sounds interesting.

            1. This is where the “file the serial numbers off” and “only steal from the best” come in… Apologies to Drake and whoever else I am stealing that from. *grin*

              Don’t despair.

              1. TV Tropes calls it “Captain Ersatz” for characters and “Spiritual Licensee” for storylines.

          1. In multiple ways.

            What else is “alien shows up to give us enlightenment, we kill him”?

            Or the idea of aliens being there to enlighten us at all– can you say “angels of heaven”?

            1. Foxfier said: “What else is “alien shows up to give us enlightenment, we kill him”?”

              “Farewell to the Master” and its adaptation, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

              Foxfier said: Or the idea of aliens being there to enlighten us at all– can you say “angels of heaven”?

              Missionaries, or the White Man’s Burden, or PBS….

        1. Poul Anderson’s After Doomsday does not use this plot

          Nevertheless, I recommend it to everyone reading this comment thread.

      2. … or it will be reduced to a single breeding pair.

        Got the threat wrong. The actual threat goes like this:

        “If the required two-thirds majority of your dominant species does not pass, those who do pass will be removed from your presence. They will be allowed to join Galactic Society, and we will then remove our guidance from your planet and place you under permanent quarantine, minus all the members of your species that met the ethical qualifications. Have fun!*

        * We predict that Fun Will Not Be Had.”

      1. Your extended family is lucky to have you, but for your sake and theirs and for the needed work you haven’t written yet, respect your limits. Take care.

    1. Are there any stories where humanity uplifted an alien species? Typically uplift is applied to familiar, Earth species.

      1. I didn’t have space/didn’t seem to fit, but I was talking with the guys about what we could be doing if we happen to be the most developed species in this quadrant, which is rarely thought of. Our probe could destroy a civilization circa the 19th century (before that it would be incomprehensible) or at least twist it from its course.

        1. That happens to be my favorite answer to “Where is everybody?” Somebody’s got to be first, why not us? We’re Lorien.

        1. Harry Turtledove “The Road Not Taken” or Hal Clement “Mission of Gravity” have us as the more technically advanced species in the area. Mission of Gravity might even be considered a uplift story

  24. I recall another little book called “Illegal Aliens”. First contact is made by a single ship landing in New York’s Central Park. Turns out the captain of the ship is a sadistic A-hole who likes going to pre-contact planets, snatching up a group of random people, and telling them the following …

    “We are representatives of the Galactic Federation. We are here to test your species for fitness to enter into said Federation. The people we have brought aboard are going to be put through a series of tests, and if they pass, this planet will join the others of the galaxy in our glorious union! Diplomatic contacts will be established, trade and tech transfers will commence shortly there after. If however they should fail, your species will be destroyed within one rotation of the planet.”

    A large battle droid then enters the hold containing the kidnapped people and kills them while the slaughter is broadcast live to the locals. The sadistic captain takes off into orbit and laughs as he watched the planet tear itself apart. Unfortunately for him, he grabbed up a New York City street gang. They destroy the droid, and end up taking over his ship.

    The super literal translation program is also hilarious. “Negative excrement super intelligent fictional detective! Put out outer mouth parts on my over-sized posterior you person who copulated with a herbivorous four legged beast of burden.”

  25. I don’t fear carnivorous or omnivorous aliens as much as herbivorous*:
    Herbivores survive in one of two main ways: out-breed predation, or being nastier than the predator. For the former, see bunny rabbits (and Australia). For the latter, see the musk ox. Given terrestrial examples, the super-fertile herbivores have the worst environmental impact, though I’m open to correction given my rather limited data.

    *: As opposed to vegetarian. Herbivore is by genetic design, vegetarian is by personal choice or doctor’s orders. This footnote for clarification, not opening up a can of worms.

    1. ISTR that the hippopotamus is Africa’s deadliest mammal, and the Cape buffalo the most… vindictive…

    2. Listen to the wise one.

      From a rather neglected source, the following has struck me as a rather trenchant observation:

      ‘…”There’s an implausible coincidence between the departure of human protectors and first contact with the kzinti—”
      “Coincidence my ossified ass!” she snapped, startling him badly. “The puppeteers first brought us to the kzinti’s attention about two months after the Fleet left for the Core.”
      “That’s the part I have trouble with. Puppeteers are herbivores. Peaceful.”
      “I should have cloned a bull.”
      “Hanh?”
      “In case it has escaped your attention, the class of herbivores includes cattle, horses, elephants, the Roman Legionaries who conquered Gaul, and Pak protectors. Herbivores casually obliterate anything that encroaches on their territory— or that looks like it might. Carnivores come in all types of personality, but dedicated herbivores are merciless killers. Anything else?”…’

      Supposedly from PEACE AND FREEDOM, Man-Kzin Wars XII. I can’t find my copy right now, but that’s what the Internet told me.

    3. The K’Kree in the Traveller RPG. Herbivorous, descended from a herd species. Once they made it out into space, any intelligent species they contacted that was even omnivorous was given the choice to go vegetarian (and become a servant species) or be exterminated — usually exterminated. This didn’t stop until they met a species they couldn’t overwhelm.

      1. Is that from face-to-face encounter where they get those viciously sharp hooves into play, or is that from kamikazee-Bambi taking out cars on the county road?

        1. Al Queda Suicide Deer. The through-the-windshield attack has been approved for the Deer Jihad by the Ayatollah Buck.

          More seriously, a hundred to a hundred and twenty people killed yearly. Save a life, shoot a deer. A tasty tasty deer.

      2. I think that’s “causes the most deaths,” rather than “kills.”

        (Distinction with a difference: if you breath too much water, it kills you. If you smoke too much tobacco, it causes your death.)

        I sometimes wonder if mulies get rolled into the whitetail numbers, though…. just random musing.

          1. The one that turned around and hit mom’s pickup while my sister was driving probably would’ve caused my sister’s death, if mom hadn’t seen it herself…..

      3. An example perhaps even better because of the similarity of situation: zebras injure more zoo keepers than tigers do.

    4. Jack Campbell’s recent book had an alien encounter where the aliens where herbivores and incredibly dangerous because anything not them was considered a threat and exterminated. No talking or negotiating, and any prisoners suicided.

      1. The second “Lost Fleet” series has some very interesting stuff on the alien side.

  26. Another thought: Consider the worst neighbor you ever had. Or the neighbor your relative/coworker always complains about. Imagine having the leadership of an alien race be the equivalent of that neighbor.

    Example I first thought of was the stellar equivalent of the old bat across the road who calls the equivalent of the cops any time they think you’re Doing Something Wrong. Whether or not you actually are.

    1. Hey I resemble that old bat– considering what the policeman said to me when I called after a guy left a non-moving car in the parking lot of our apartments. Oh yea– the guy threatened me when I called the police. So yea– maybe that old bat has a reason for doing it– and maybe that old bat is right. *grumble

      1. ” considering what the policeman said to me when I called after a guy left a non-moving car in the parking lot of our apartments.”

        All things considered, that is probably better than him leaving a moving car in your parking lot.

  27. It’s not as much fun, but I’m guessing a likely response would be more like this:
    [Incidental reception of a non-tightbeam transmission by small Mars colony, undetected by the aliens. This appears to be message history portion of a communication to a small in-system ship, as decoded by a SETI hobbiest]: “…please don’t waste too much time on this, it appears to be just a one system primitive species on the verge of breaking out and maybe becoming a nuisance sometime in the next few hundred years. Anyway – your orders are to do a resource survey; and if the system has enough mineral or other value to be worth processing, trigger a large focused coronal mass ejection at each planet occupied by the primitives to prevent further development until the factory ship can schedule a visit (est. 200 yrs soonest). Report when complete and proceed upon completion to system 1hkE&%42.35/Z; further orders will await you there. From Grosvellian Empire Exploitation Bureau Small-contracts Administration Dispatch Center 32, msg date 94787-475.”
    Our species’ survival strategy, assuming something like this may be out there, would be to keep vewy, vewy quiet – and spread our seed widely.

    1. Our species’ survival strategy, assuming something like this may be out there, would be to keep vewy, vewy quiet – and spread our seed widely.

      Should be our strategy regardless.

    2. “Pathetic Earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything of the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would have hidden from it in terror.” – Ming the Merciless

  28. An interesting idea I’ve had is that the reason we haven’t seen aliens show up for a visit is that we’re already here. One might note that the various extinction-level events in past geological history start to look awfully convenient if you were looking to take life on this planet down a particular avenue that happens to have resulted in us being here, today. The Chicxulub impactor may have been someone’s way of doing terraforming on a macro scale, in terms of “Gee, how the hell do we get rid of all these annoying saurians?”.

    Ever pause to wonder how many odd little coincidences had to happen, just so, in order for humanity to have gotten as far as it has? Or, what the implications are when you start to consider what things would have to happen, were our descendents to become something vaster than we already are?

    Assume, for argument, that really advanced technology gives you the ability to travel between the stars relatively easily. The odds are that such technology would also imply the ability to do time travel on a macro scale. If you’re going to exit our universe in order to overcome the tyranny of physical distance, odds are that you’ll be able to do that with regards to any of this universe’s constants. So, interstellar travel may well imply interstellar-scale time travel.

    That being the case, what’s a course of action our descendents are likely to take?

    Surely, one of the first things they’re likely to do is protect themselves against paradox, no? So, the fact that we haven’t seen interstellar visitors may well be because our own kind has interdicted the place over a broad swathe of history, and has been engaged in protecting us against outside interference until we manage to make it out of the cradle.

    1. Historically speaking, the surest way to destroy a culture is to expose it to a technologically superior one. Keeping the existence of such s situation a secret from us would be a kindness until we had advanced enough to survive such knowledge relatively unscathed.

      1. Interesting… but just how would laxatives prevent contact between civilizations?

        (Other than the unfortunate event from the Viking Vinland sagas, where they shared some milk with a skraeling chief.)

        1. But the Fermi paradox is rooted in the Drake equation, and current data shows that all previous estimates for the drake equation may be off by a significant amount due to underestimation of the number of planetary systems.

          1. 1. That would make the paradox even more paradoxical, wouldn’t it? Depending on how it is formulated, I suppose: for example, there could be a difference between colonization and communication.

            2. Afaic any given scenario for the evolution of intelligent life has a low probability, both because we don’t understand the process & its outcome(s) and because there are so many scenarios.

            3. My inclination is toward something along the lines of 2001 or A Deepness in the Sky, but I don’t rule out other possibilities, attractive and otherwise.

            1. Besides the question concerning the odds for development of intelligent life, there’s a question about the odds of intelligent life “inventing” the scientific method. Without the scientific method, intelligent life likely won’t get past steam power.

          2. There were no previous estimates. There were people taking wild guesses, including thinking that one in a thousand is a low chance when it’s much better than your odds of winning the lottery.

  29. I know it’s not original with me, but I can’t remember where I read the old joke that the reason we don’t see other solar systems lighting up with transmissions like ours presumably does when seen from their perspective is that sending out such a great whack of open transmissions is the equivalent to hanging out a giant neon sign that says, “Eat Here!”

  30. With regard to aliens coming here and interacting with humans I keep having this thought. It might be heading into gray goo territory but consider humanity’s relationship to the ant.
    Ants can communicate with each other; have agriculture, divisions of labor, use of engineering and architecture to design their cities. They engage in warfare and capture slaves. As a species they have had a civilization that has lasted for millions of years.
    When you build a new house or plow a field, do you consult with the local ants on your intentions?
    Would aliens consult with us?

  31. Well, since discovering radio, we’ve been broadcasting our location for over 100 years now, whether we want to or not. That djinn’s not going back in the bottle.

  32. “The problem of getting into the frame of mind where you want to gore sacred cows is that sooner or later you’re going to run onto the fields of your childhood and gore Betsy, the cow who let you pet her when you were really little.”

    Always have hated cows. I think its a reaction to my ancestors who were Scottish border reivers stealing coos from the damn English.

    1. Yours too? After getting the heave-ho from the Borders, mine also got tossed out of the Ulster Plantations and into the Carolina back country.

      1. Have any of you read _Steel Bonnets_ by George MacDonald Fraser? If you haven’t, it is an excellent read on the borderers.

        1. Yes, and I kept thinking “This explains so much about the last funeral/family reunion . . .”

    2. Just to point out that gores allow your sacred cows to fit better, with less wrinkling. Otherwise they are floppy and frumpy and will tend to tear out at those areas that suffer a lot of twisting or folding.

        1. No, just BAD BAD, I’d be BAD BAD BAD if I made some comment about cross gartereing for non-gored cows, but only as you like it. No wait, on the Twelfth Night, sorry!

    1. Technically the Betsy we had when I was a kid couldn’t gore anyone, she was polled. What she could do was absent-mindedly step on your foot, and then proceed to take a nap standing up. Whaling on her side with five year old fists and yelling got you a baleful eye and a switching tail, but little other movement.

  33. On Clarke’s disclaimer about the views in _Childhood’s End_. I got a free sample of it (for the Nook) and his “disclaimer” is about the views concerning the paranormal expressed in the book. He makes no comment about the ending. Apparently, he became very much a skeptic about the paranormal (and UFO’s) since he wrote _Childhood’s End_.

    1. Actually, it’s primarily about the statement that “The stars are not for Man.” I find his later update silly, as if to imply that J R. R. Tolkien believed in elves, or J K Rowling (anachronistic, yes) really does think there is a school of wizards and witches named Hogwarts, because that’s what they wrote about.

    2. Clarke maintained that the “inevitable” discovery of intelligent life elsewhere would put an end to Christianity.

      Why? Well, after reading that for years, I came across his reason: the man in God’s image thing. Ah. No wonder why people reporting it omitting the part that made him look silly.

      1. The “Catholic Memes” facebook page nailed it a while back with a picture that said something like:
        “That big question that you think will bring down Christianity? Already answered it. 15 hundred years ago.”

      1. I was going to suggest that tentacle Hentai was actually instigated BY the aliens, so they could find out who would be “receptive” to them…

        1. I once wrote in a thread on debunkers, addressing my mormon astrophysicist friend, an off hand remark: “And whatever you do, don’t google ‘tentacle hentai’ ”

          He’s far far more likely to comply with my admonition to not do something since then.

          1. Ay carumba! I get in trouble just looking for mech designs.

            Although it does say something about the Japanese. What it says, I’m not sure. But the wife occasionally remarks as we’re watching something (Sword Art Online’s next to last ep, for example), “Someone had to draw that!?

            1. Guild Wars II recently started an event where they’re unveiling robot guards.

              They’re ten foot tall, made of polished metal and have a lot of un-done spaces so that they don’t look like statues… but they’ve got boobs, full faces, sky-high high heels and rumps.

              After a day or two of various guildies exclaiming stuff about it (best example: how would you like to be the guy who programmed the robot’s a**?) I just started calling them “hooker-bots.”

              Oh, and they’re shapeshifters, too.

                1. The basic concept works OK in the “look how many very good mindless cannonfodder guys we can throw away for entertainment angle,” but…. yeah, boob-bots in heels. *shrug*

  34. Of course, the worst-case scenario would be Saberhagen’s berserkers. But that’s okay. I’ve read those, and we “badlife” always win in the end. 😉

  35. Look at all the wonderful comments – and they all make sense! This IS a refreshing blog. does anyone remember an old, old story called ‘Punch” written ( I think ) for Playboy magazine when it first came out? Have never seen it since. Aliens actually did visist earth, openly, gave us cures for disease, high speed travel, and weapons that were laser-like, only years ahead of lasers. The last portion of the short story had the alien explain that, like hunters, they did not choose to shoot sitting ducks or weak helpless animals.
    I think the next great story is going to be an alien invasion which takes place ten years after the zombie apocalypse. Battles between cannibal zombies and cannibal aliens… maybe a few remaining pockets of humans trying to escape them both. Yes, Ringo could do it

    1. You might try looking into whatever inspired the Predator movies– IIRC, they have a similar philosophy, and it might not be parallel development. TVTropes is probably a good place to start, if you can avoid the temptation to wander off. *grin* I can’t, or I’d go look!

      1. TVTropes – I must… I MUST… the voices are demanding it! Thank you!
        The voices in my head always confirm these things for me! If only they didn’t stutter. And speak in Welsh.

  36. There are of course several films that deal with the subject of an alien invasion, and many of those films of whatever quality involve the humans finding some alien weakness that allows us to prevail despite the fact that we are so primitive as to lack interstellar flight …

    War of the Worlds uses earth diseases as the mcguffin. The TV Series “V” used the aliens’ fetish for ’80’s hairstyles, excessive lipstick and plastic surgery as their weakness.

    Independence Day however had to have the silliest mcguffin which was that the aliens’ weakness was that they installed Apple networking software without resetting the default password. Apple compatibility for the fatal flaw.

      1. Sure, its fun. But do what I do, and use that to laugh at Stephen Green for the Apple Fanboi he is, like I do. 😉

    1. My favorite part:
      Captain Hiller: “” W-what do you mean, oops?”
      David Levinson: “Don’t say “oops’ .”
      Captain Hiller: “What do you say we try that again.”
      David Levinson: “Yes, yes. Yes, without the ‘oops’.”

  37. The mystery is why aliens would want to come here. I have no desire to go into the jungle to visit cannibals, and be exposed to exotic diseases. Besides, there is the issue of what diseases we have. The logistics of interstellar travel would be very challenging. I tend to think of the invasion by aliens a replay of Earth’s history of conquest. You can make the case that “War of the Worlds” was a replay of British conquest. BTW what ended up stopping the invasion? Earth’s bacteria.

    1. There’s no need to make a case for it. Wells explicitly wrote the story to point out the immorality of Britain’s colonial policy. That’s why disease kills off the invaders, that’s what stopped (well, slowed down) the British.

    2. “The logistics of interstellar travel would be very challenging.” That may be true *but* depending on the technology involved might not be challenging enough to prevent alien visitors.

      As for “alien diseases”, that depends on too many unknown factors for us to say that it would be a major problem.

      As for “why would aliens come here”, when you look at *why* humans traveled to the far corners of Earth, there could be reasons that might not make sense even to aliens of the same species/culture as the alien visitors. [Smile]

  38. I seem to recall a short story, where a couple of guys at SETI actually find what might be evidence of alien intelligence.

    They get a scrap of a message, not directed at us, but it’s incomprehensible. It looks like it’s been encrypted. *Really* encrypted.

    Turns out we have neighbors. And they are at war with each other.

    Given that a space fairing race is at war in our backyard, things would not look too good for Spaceship Earth. BFR’s can ruin our whole day and we couldn’t even do much about it. So far, anyway.

  39. Here’s the one I’ve got, which is veering into religious territory: C.S. Lewis wrote the trilogy where each alien species could choose to Fall or not.
    What if they couldn’t? What if Adam and Eve chose for the whole universe? Some species existed for a long time before the Fall. Some were created after. We get species that want salvation, species that want revenge–or well, in my file, species that have factions that want all of the above and some of the rest as well, because All The Aliens Of This Species Think Alike is a pet peeve of mine. (It’s as bad as All The Planet Has The Same Climate.)
    But I don’t believe in aliens. And of course, I don’t write anything like as well as C.S. Lewis.

    1. I see we have the same pet peeves, the one that really drove me nuts was a book I read where they ‘explained’ the reason All The Planet Had The Same Climate was because it had no axial tilt.

        1. Piff. Even a flat plane has a different angle and distance from the sun for all points, and would set up heat difference between the center or nearest point to the sun (would Periastra count for a point on a plane cutting across a possible orbit or hypothetical spherical area?) and the outlying areas. The closest point would heat higher than the edges and probably set up convection currents with the edges under continual percipitation, either as snow or rain depending on a number of factors including radiation of heat and arrival and angle of solar enenrgy.
          Obviously it has to be a section of a Dyson sphere.

          1. Doesn’t even that assume the star’s radiation is uniform in all directions at all times? That means no sun spots, no stellar flares.

            1. Probably. I’m still trying to figure out how to keep a plane or a section of a Dyson Sphere stable in orbit. One tiny wobble, (Libration? I really was a liberal arts major you know) and the thing would start to rotate. Which would give you a day and night sequence and you could live on both sides, but for my taste it would be too similar to the Shaggy-dog story about the farm that was so far into debt they decided to stand it on one edge and grow crops on both sides

              1. Isn’t that shaggy dog story one of the latest fads?

                Basically, build rows that look like an upside down V, with walkways between. Standard “increase your output by ever-rising numbers!” claims. (Not mentioned in any source I saw, but presumably you put the rows east-to-west, so there’s not a big shade problem…..)

                  1. I believe I first saw it on “Knowledge Weighs Nothing.”

                    Has some wood-cuts, supposedly German, the idea is that the logs you built the rows on rot and feed your plants.

                    1. Ah, hugelkultur! I am passingly familiar with it, though I’ve never tried it myself. There’s a good overview of the concept here, from one of Sepp Holzer’s acolytes.

                      I’m indecisive on the permaculture crowd – they seem to get good results, but their explanations are usually full of pseudoscientific or naturalistic hippie-blather. *shrug*

                    2. So… hippies trying to reverse-engineer farming the way folks like my dad have been doing for ages?

                      More power to them, I suppose; that’s the first step to responsible use other technologies!

                    3. I had a brush pile that I couldn’t burn because the city decided that fire is bad, so I chopped it up by hand, dug a trench, and buried it and called it a Hugel. It is not a tall or as extensive as the ones the permies people suggested – and honestly it looked like a shallow grave for a pony when it was fresh- but I planted it with Indian corn, beans and squash this spring. My finding is that it was not appreciably more productive than planting in shallow depressions like I normally do, and it was much harder to water since all the water ran off instead of in. Maybe a second year will be better since the rotting wood will be spongier and more absorbent.

                    4. …just realized I have zero idea what the climate of “Germany” is like (quotes because I know it won’t all be the same) and thus importing planting ideas from it is really, really dumb.

                    5. It will probably be better next year, but it will take another year or two after that for the wood to properly decompose to produce fertilizer.

                      Also: How deep did you cover it? If you covered it with more than 8 inches of earth, it will take a long time for the nutrients to infiltrate the soil that your plants are growing in.

                    6. Wayne, Probably no more than 6” of dirt at the thickest. Part of my problem here is that the soil is fine clay and silt, so water won’t infiltrate so well as if it were sandy or loamy. Once the brush starts really breaking down though I expect it will start sucking up and holding water like a sponge, though the other thing will be that the decomposing cellulose sucks up Nitrogen from the soil. I will try planting beans with the corn and squash and hope the beans put down enough Nitrogen to cover. I also plan to dig some basins in the top that will hold water while it is absorbing into the dirt instead of running down the side of the hill.
                      The permaculture people claim lots of success building hugels in semi-arid areas, they claim wonderful successes in MT, where the decomposing wood holds water and the composting effect as well as the hill angled to the sun are supposed to increase a short growing season. I suppose you could build one shaped like the Great Serpent Mound and feel one with cosmic all and gain bragging rights, too.

  40. I’ve heard of speculative models for superluminal drives that work by warping spacetime. Warping spacetime takes a lot of energy.

    Afaic predatory aliens, if they exist, wouldn’t come for the Earth; they’d come for the Sun.

  41. A simple reminder from your friend in Lovecraft-land: HPL’s “Gods” were in fact Really Powerful Aliens. DO — THE — MATH.

    “Okay, let’s suppose there is life elsewhere in this solar system [sic]. Do you have any idea of how fucked we’d be if they’re anything like us? Well, if you don’t, just head down to your local casino tonight and ask the American Indian who’s dealing you blackjack about how much fun it is to meet new friends from faraway places.” {Dennis Miller]

    “What are we going to tell the Intergalactic Council of Ministers the next time some teen-mother dumps her baby in a garbage can? How are we going to explain that the Earth Representative was late to the meeting because his breakfast was cold and he had to spend thirty minutes in the kitchen punching his wife? How are we going to explain that it’s a ‘cute local custom’ that millions of women have had their clitorises surgically removed so they can gain no pleasure from the sexual act so they’re ‘less likely to stray from their husbands’? Can’t you tell how thrilled they’ll be when *we* show up?” [George Carlin]

    The simple fact Humanity survives proves: There are no aliens capable of visiting us out there — We Are Alone.

    1. What are we going to tell the Intergalactic Council of Ministers the next time some teen-mother dumps her baby in a garbage can?

      This is interesting that the supreme council of supreme councilness keeps coming up wrt. imagining aliens and how they deal with each other (and presumably us). Rendering judgement from on high, and that sort of thing. It probably says more about our psychology than it does about aliens. I’m not in the habit of apologizing to foreign bureaucrats about crimes my distant unknown neighbors commit, and I don’t see why that reasoning is any less weird when applied to alien foreign bureaucrats.

      It always reads to me as analogous to some crazy person having a deep personal crusade to keep the squirrels in his yard from stealing peanuts from each other. Other animals sometimes do horrible things to each other, but they have their lives and we have ours, and they seldom have anything to do with each other.

      1. Well, you’re not so inclined. BUT be glad we don’t know other planets. Imagine the never ending extra-solar presidential apology tour “And I’m sorry my mammal ancestors ate the eggs of dinosaurs who looked somewhat like your ancestors.” SERIOUSLY. He would.

          1. What, The Mi-Go are coming by to apologize for the Hounds of Tindalos again! Maybe they should try fixing the fence, have they thought about that?

  42. Might have been Gordon Dickson who did a story where interspecies communication was necessary and sufficient for entry into the galactic club. So as soon as mankind communicated with dolphins, dolphins and only dolphins were invited to join the Grand Assembly.

    My candidate for worst possible response is a quote from a Poul Anderson story in context you don’t.

  43. But last night the guys and I were discussing the idea of search for extraterrestrial life and I realized how bass ackwards it is to be sending them all this information about us.

    You assume that we have sent them all that much information about ourselves. One of my teachers once said “Nevermind 400,000 years, you want to know where Voyager will be sitting in 400 years? In a museum in New York!”

    As to our radio transmissions – the inverse square law conceals us there. To build an omnidirectional transmitter that would be detectable at interstellar distances would require massive amounts of power. I did the math once, but forgot the order – hundreds to tens-thousands gigawatts probably. Anyway, the transmitter would be barbecuing everything for miles around.

    Practical interstellar communications would require sending something in a highly directional manner, via infrared laser, or via a massive collimator antenna on a short wavelength.

    As things stand, I imagine Earth is about as barely visible to technology on our level as all the extrasolar planets we are currently cataloging are to us.

    (Maybe if, ala Terrestrial Planet Finder, the aliens had a very long baseline for an antenna looking at Earth specifically and could null out all the noise on the radio end of the spectrum from everything else in the solar system (the sun, Jupiter, etc), then they might be able to catch enough to tell that there is something there, but they’d need a good reason to look at Earth, and not any of the thousands of other planets in the neighborhood.)

    1. I don’t know – I’ve seen claims that our current technology could detect our presence from over 100 LY (Once the signals get out that far).

      1. Oh, it’s WAY worse than that. Fortunately, the signals are low-information. But the Arecibo telescope in planetary radar mode — used to get exact doppler and size readings off asteroids and to map mercury, etc… — is pretty easily detectable using a 1km diameter antenna out to about 200,000 lightyears (In 200,000 years or so)

        Assuming that same 1KM antenna, a standard analog tv station ought to be detectable out to about 50ly, and decodable out to about 25 ly.

        A digital tv station drops those numbers to 40 and 20.

        The USAF Pave Paws anti-missile and sat tracking radars are detectable using that 1KM antenna to about 20,000 LY.

        The NASA Goldstone antenna in CW mode would be detectable out to 90,000 LY, but that’s unusual. In broadband mode Goldstone has a 1KM reach of only 4.5 LY.

        Put it another way. We have plenty of signal out for earth to be “radio bright” out to 50 LY or so, with the peak of that signal currently just now reaching the 50 LY edge. Occasional pulses (the seti equivalent of the “WOW” signal) can reach substantially further, but the current edge of our “WOW” signals (mostly the DEW early warning radars from the 50’s) are just now reaching 60 LY,

        AM radio signals are low frequency enough to be seriously degraded by the intersteller medium and can largely be ignored.

        Human broadcast radiation peaked in the late 1960’s and has fallen since. What we send out now that is detectable past 10LY or so is radar sweeps and such which are both low-content and intermittent.

        1. Note btw, that there are analysts who disagree and think that with the exception of the planetary radar signals, we’re essentially undetectable past 10LY, and that with the exception of high power military radars this number is decreasing as we switch from broadcast to cable and fiber and internet.

          1. Interesting. It is possible that I am wrong.

            I’ve been doing some back of the envelope stuff (not too much more sophisticated than what I was doing years ago).

            The Aricebo radio antenna has a massive aperture of 300m in diameter, and transmits ~ ones of MW. It is probably the tightest thing we have at radio frequencies. At it’s short wavelength frequency of 2380 MHz, I am getting an ideal beam-divergence half-angle of something like 0.5 mrad, and they claim an effective isotropic radiative power of 20 TW. (This is, btw, what you would need in terms of transmitter power if you wanted to do something comparable isotropically! Directional transmissions make a lot more sense).

            Even so, at 5 LY distance, your signal strength is on the order of 7E-22 W/m^2. Being more familiar with optical wavelengths I threw that out as being undetectable against any kind of background/instrument noise, but apparently you can pick up some very faint signals with radio. If you were trying for that with the equivalent of the deep-space-network, (70 m aperture), you would ideally have a signal that was 1E-18 W.

            Apparently, when the Gallileo probe high-gain antenna failed, the mission was kept alive by using the DNS antennae to pick up it’s low-gain antenna (omnidirectional effectively). They were using some fancy technique to extract about a bit per second using a signal of 1E-20 W.(Of course, with the probe, we knew to look for it, and were integrating an entire second to pick the signal out. Also, they had to wait for the probe to get out of Jupiter’s radio-glow at it’s apogee to pick it up.)

            1. Anyway, I’m not an expert.

              I imagine, if you *wanted* to talk to someone or pick up their signal, the best way to do it with any kind of power economy would be to use very large phased arrays (thus putting out very tight effective beams, and screening out signal from all but very narrow regions of the sky). The tighter your beam, the brighter you are, but only along a very specific direction.

              As signal sources go, military search radars would have comparably higher power (tens to 100 MW) but also wider beam divergence (1.22 * wavelength / diameter of dish). I can’t see them being massively more effective than the intentional messages sent via Aricebo, DSN, or Yevpatoria.

            2. Considering the free space loss from here to geosynchronous orbit is 200 dB +/- 10 for frequency (or 20 orders of magnitude), what type of losses are we seeing at, say, 5 LY?

              (I’m a SATCOM’er, so I think in dB and dBW instead of W.)

                  1. My last job in the Army was teaching satellite communications fundamentals to soldiers in non-communications career fields. I’d have to review the math to make it more general, but I could cover the basics of signal propagation.

                    1. I’m not sure what they called it prior to the switch to 25S, but I was a 1C, a satellite network controller. Also known as the arrogant idiots at GMF. Definitely the Odds of an already Odd job.

  44. I’ve always thought that the worst possible answer we could get from the stars is never finding another life-bearing planet, anywhere ever. Thankfully things aren’t shaping up that way with our present level of knowledge of extrasolar planets (still far too little information though… We have hundreds of promising candidates, but little more than their approximate size and orbit)

    If Earth, alone in all the universe had life, and everywhere else in this unimaginably vast universe sharing our laws is barren – a waste in just about every sense of the word: It would be fairly strong evidence that our existence is owed to not much more than an abuse of the anthropic principle. That things are so arranged as to make our existence barely possible, and not one accommodation more is to be expected from the universe.

    1. At least if some belligerent alien swings by to burn Earth down to bedrock for kicks, we’d have the cold comfort that at least the universe is one in which life *does* go on, if only in other places and times.

  45. Just to throw a little fuel on the whole “sterilization” fire, this is what we’re dealing with:-P

    http://spectator.org/archives/2013/08/23/in-another-country

    Being the heartless type that I am, I have no problem tying welfare benefits to reversible sterilization (tubal ligations and vasectomies, reversible at the expense of the sterilized, not on the taxpayers’ dime). The current generations are largely lost. I don’t see any effective proposals to rescue future generations, so preventing them from happening seems the least-bad societal alternative:-/. Of course I don’t see *that* happening either.

    1. Treats people as property of gov’t, treats people like animals, acts like poverty is genetic, encourages the notion that one is owed welfare for jumping through a hoop, and has some obvious secondary effects like creating a HUGE STD-probable group.

      Plus, it wouldn’t work. You’d quickly have doctors using non-reversible sterilizations while charging for reversible ones, and the entire system would be sued into bankruptcy, plus it’s religious discrimination.

      1. Giving people choices constitutes treating them like government property? I’m not advocating *forcing* anyone to take other people’s money, and McDonald’s is always hiring, so it’s not like it’s a choice between “get clipped or starve to death”. I don’t see why I, or you, or anyone else, should be forced to subsidize the lifestyles of the poor and lazy. If they want my money, they darn well *should* have to jump through some hoops.

        As for creating a “huge STD-probable group”, I’m pretty sure that that ship has already sailed.

        Regarding doctors intentionally using permanent sterilization procedures, why would they? They’d be getting paid to perform reversible procedures, and intentionally doing anything else would be medical malpractice. Do you imaging that people, like yourself, who are apparently horrified by the idea of discouraging the welfare classes from breeding *more* welfare recipients, wouldn’t cast their gimlet eyes on the doctors in question and immediately report any fraud?

        I have no idea where you get “religious discrimination”, so I can’t even begin to address that one.

        1. Giving people choices constitutes treating them like government property?

          It’s not the gov’ts money. If we’re going to offer benefits, the requirements to draw it should be directly linked to the benefit, not what the gov’t thinks is most beneficial.
          Sterilization does not improve your ability to care for yourself.

          I’m not advocating *forcing* anyone to take other people’s money, and McDonald’s is always hiring, so it’s not like it’s a choice between “get clipped or starve to death”.

          Rather– though I don’t think it’s your intent– you’re saying “do this thing and get paid BY THE PUBLIC.”
          If McD’s is sufficient defense against starvation, then there’s no reason to have the benefits at all. Gov’t doesn’t need more power.

          I don’t see why I, or you, or anyone else, should be forced to subsidize the lifestyles of the poor and lazy.

          Then why are you suggesting doing exactly that if they’ll get snipped?

          As for creating a “huge STD-probable group”, I’m pretty sure that that ship has already sailed.

          Condoms slightly reduce the risk, but are largely used out of fear of paying child support. Remove that, and…..

          Regarding doctors intentionally using permanent sterilization procedures, why would they?

          Easier, cheaper, and they share your view of the quality of those they are practicing on. It’s for their own good, and better their children never exist.

          Have you noticed that several different folks here have reported doctors that were sterilizing girlchildren who just happened to be getting treated by them?

          I have no idea where you get “religious discrimination”, so I can’t even begin to address that one.

          Several religions hold that it is immoral do maim yourself– to break a system that is working– and several more specifically single out cutting off reproduction from sex.
          Basically, the policy would say “If you want to get this hand up, you have to repudiate the go forth and be fruitful thing.”

          1. It’s not the gov’ts money. If we’re going to offer benefits, the requirements to draw it should be directly linked to the benefit, not what the gov’t thinks is most beneficial.

            The benefits should be linked to what’s most beneficial for society at large, and not producing yet another generation of welfare-dependent slackers is to society’s benefit.

            Sterilization does not improve your ability to care for yourself.

            It does, however, reduce the inter-generational dependence on government, as nothing else seems to do.

            Rather– though I don’t think it’s your intent– you’re saying “do this thing and get paid BY THE PUBLIC.”

            These are people who are already getting paid by the public, with no strings attached. If you reward something, you get more of it. If we’re not going to stop rewarding poverty we can at least insist that the people who are parasitizing off the rest of us not continue the cycle beyond their own lifetimes.

            If McD’s is sufficient defense against starvation, then there’s no reason to have the benefits at all. Gov’t doesn’t need more power.

            True, and I’d favor cutting all federal benefits for that very reason, but until we do so (which we won’t, as benefits guarantee votes for those who hand them out) we should at least make those benefits come at *some* price.

            Then why are you suggesting doing exactly that if they’ll get snipped?

            Because we’re already being force to support them, AND their innumerable children, who will grow up (as their mothers and baby-daddies did) feeling entitled to more of the same. If we’re not going to cut them off, then we need to at least stem the tide of new moochers.

            Condoms slightly reduce the risk, but are largely used out of fear of paying child support. Remove that, and…..

            We’re talking about people who *aren’t* paying child support, they’re demanding that *we* do so for them. I don’t find your assertion that they’re using condoms to avoid an obligation that they’re already ignoring to be very convincing.

            Easier, cheaper, and they share your view of the quality of those they are practicing on. It’s for their own good, and better their children never exist.

            No such thing as perfection. That said, given that it’s apparently a legitimate concern, just keep an eye on said doctors more carefully.

            Have you noticed that several different folks here have reported doctors that were sterilizing girl children who just happened to be getting treated by them?

            I don’t recall anyone mentioning that, but I haven’t been reading this website for as long as some have. Possibly such claims preceded my arrival here. Regardless, knowing that the risk exists would allow those concerned about the future fertility of the people involved to provide any oversight they deemed necessary.

            Several religions hold that it is immoral do maim yourself– to break a system that is working– and several more specifically single out cutting off reproduction from sex.
            Basically, the policy would say “If you want to get this hand up, you have to repudiate the go forth and be fruitful thing.”

            Those same religions talk about getting married, which most of these people don’t do, and behaving responsibly, ditto. I’m not too concerned about giving them the option of violating yet another of the religious dictates that they’re not concerned with. If they were being forcibly sterilized you’d have a point, but I haven’t argued for that, nor would I.

            1. The benefits should be linked to what’s most beneficial for society at large, and not producing yet another generation of welfare-dependent slackers is to society’s benefit.

              Ah yes, the old “three generations of Imbeciles is enough” thing, but with less basis. Financial hardship is not genetic, although abuse of systems is cultural.

              Not even a generation after official forced sterilization, while we’ve still got vets who nearly died stopping the last “remove those inferior people from the genepool” scheme, and back it comes.

              These are people who are already getting paid by the public, with no strings attached.

              It is also people who paid into the system and fell on hard times so go to get some tiny fraction of what was already taken out of their paychecks back. Guess which number is bigger.

              True, and I’d favor cutting all federal benefits for that very reason, but until we do so (which we won’t, as benefits guarantee votes for those who hand them out) we should at least make those benefits come at *some* price.

              By giving the government the ability to set utterly unrelated terms which will select FOR those who wish to use the safety net as a hammock, while abandoning those who were prevented from making their own safety net because they were being charged for the hammock.

              Because we’re already being force to support them, AND their innumerable children, who will grow up (as their mothers and baby-daddies did) feeling entitled to more of the same. If we’re not going to cut them off, then we need to at least stem the tide of new moochers.

              Where are your stats on what percentage of “welfare” recipients have “innumerable” children, and what percent of those kids grow up to likewise be “welfare recipients”?

              How many are too high to be allowed to be born? One in ten becoming a doctor or some such not enough to allow people to go sterilized, or does it have to be one in five? Fifty percent escaping dependency enough to try to fix the system, instead of economic eugenics?

              No such thing as perfection. That said, given that it’s apparently a legitimate concern, just keep an eye on said doctors more carefully.

              Go look up Gosnell’s background. Especially the only reason the city stopped sending young girls to him. Then notice how many years it was between that and when his house of horrors was discovered in a drug raid.

              No wonder you don’t see it as dehumanizing. You’ve already dehumanized those involved, to the point that they’re just eggs you’re willing to let be broken.

              That is disgusting.

              1. Ah yes, the old “three generations of Imbeciles is enough” thing, but with less basis. Financial hardship is not genetic, although abuse of systems is cultural.

                Not even a generation after official forced sterilization, while we’ve still got vets who nearly died stopping the last “remove those inferior people from the genepool” scheme, and back it comes.

                Please point out where I said anything about forcibly sterilizing people. Likewise where I said that “financial hardship” is genetic. If you read the article I linked to, I’m not talking about people who are temporarily down on their luck, but families that have, for multiple generations, chosen to live on the dole rather than get jobs. If you want to enable that sort of parasitism, please do it with your own money, not mine.

                It is also people who paid into the system and fell on hard times so go to get some tiny fraction of what was already taken out of their paychecks back. Guess which number is bigger.

                Which are not the people that the article I linked to was talking about. Feel free to go back and read it. These are people who’ve *never* “paid into the system” (a particularly obnoxious formulation for “were forced to pay into a government program”).

                By giving the government the ability to set utterly unrelated terms which will select FOR those who wish to use the safety net as a hammock, while abandoning those who were prevented from making their own safety net because they were being charged for the hammock.

                Establishing terms for limiting the damage caused by encouraging multi-generational welfare dependence strikes me as a good thing. Encouraging people who’d rather be leeches than have children to weed themselves out of the gene pool likewise strikes me as a good idea.

                As for those who need only a temporary hand up, rather than a lifetime of hand-outs, a time-limited option can exist before they have to choose to forego further reproduction. Say two years of cumulative support before the reversible sterilization option kicks in.

                Where are your stats on what percentage of “welfare” recipients have “innumerable” children, and what percent of those kids grow up to likewise be “welfare recipients”?

                I’m indulging in an informal discussion. “Innumerable” was hyperbole of course, but *any* children born and raised on the public dime is too many IMO. As for the percentage who grow up to be welfare bums themselves, I don’t have the stats at my fingertips (where are your stats that more welfare funds go to people who need only a tiny fraction of what was forcibly taken from their paychecks?). Number would be interesting though, perhaps I’ll see what I can find.

                How many are too high to be allowed to be born?

                I’m not trying to prevent births, just conceptions. And *any* who the taxpayers will be expected and required to support is too many. Feel free to adopt a welfare family yourself though, I’d have no objection to that.

                One in ten becoming a doctor or some such not enough to allow people to go sterilized, or does it have to be one in five?

                I’m having difficulty parsing this sentence. I’d be very surprised if one in fifty children raised by welfare-dependent single parents became doctors.

                Fifty percent escaping dependency enough to try to fix the system, instead of economic eugenics?

                I’m skeptical that 50% of children raised on welfare ever escape the culture of poverty that their mothers have raised them in. If you’re going to throw numbers like that around, you should provide some statistics to back them up.

                Go look up Gosnell’s background. Especially the only reason the city stopped sending young girls to him. Then notice how many years it was between that and when his house of horrors was discovered in a drug raid.

                Gosnell was the natural result of legalized abortion and the mentality that children have no right to live. I don’t see the relevance to this discussion.

                No wonder you don’t see it as dehumanizing. You’ve already dehumanized those involved, to the point that they’re just eggs you’re willing to let be broken.

                Offering people a legitimate choice is “dehumanizing”? I haven’t “dehumanized” anyone. Quite the contrary if anything. I’m assuming these people have moral agency and are capable of making rational decisions when presented with options. The option in question being a choice between continuing to suck on the public teat, at the expense of not being allowed to produce more children whom they can inculcate into the culture of dependence, or learn to support themselves and their children and have as many children as they like.

                Many people here, good people, have occasionally had to take government assistance.

                That is who you are proposing treating like stray animals, to be sterlized so the population doesn’t get too big, and if they manage to pull their way out of it and then find out the supposedly reversible operation wasn’t– oh well, doesn’t matter.

                Some are religious; you, in your infinite wisdom, wish to require them to violate their religion if they wish to make use as intended of the system they have been charged for, because you fear the abuses.

                I’m guessing you really didn’t bother to read the article I linked to earlier. I’m not talking about people who need *temporary* assistance. Once again, I’m referring to people who make a lifestyle of living off public assistance. Who pass that culture of poverty along to their children, and who never “contribute” enough in taxes (because they don’t pay any) to support the system.

                Ah well, I don’t think we’re going to come to an agreement on this, and frankly I don’t expect my policy prescriptions to be adopted anyway. Doubtless we’ll continue to finance and reward pathological behaviors until the system collapses under its own dead weight.

                1. Please point out where I said anything about forcibly sterilizing people. Likewise where I said that “financial hardship” is genetic.

                  You proposed sterilization– nominally reversible, but don’t care if it turns out not to be– for those accepting welfare. Note, *I* did not say that is forced, I said that this was a “remove those inferior people” scheme.
                  Your justification for that policy was that it’s better for the children of those who take welfare to no exist, because they’ll just on welfare too.

                  Done chasing you around in circles– I didn’t talk to your link, I was directly talking to you. I have no desire to argue about what someone else says when you cannot even defend what YOU have said.

            2. Since you are apparently unable to grasp it:

              Many people here, good people, have occasionally had to take government assistance.

              That is who you are proposing treating like stray animals, to be sterlized so the population doesn’t get too big, and if they manage to pull their way out of it and then find out the supposedly reversible operation wasn’t– oh well, doesn’t matter.

              Some are religious; you, in your infinite wisdom, wish to require them to violate their religion if they wish to make use as intended of the system they have been charged for, because you fear the abuses.

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