Several weeks ago, Anne Woodman wrote a post in which she mentioned how strange the ritual of lighting and blowing out candles on a cake would seem to either aliens or future civilizations. This got me thinking about what else the aliens might find incomprehensible when they come to observe us. For the purpose of this post, we will assume that the aliens in question are…
a) More intelligent, or at least further advanced than us – a reasonable assumption in view of the fact that they will have discovered us before we have discovered them.
b) Friendly; they are here to observe only – that way their observations of us are not clouded by thoughts of wanting to destroy us.
I imagine the conversation would go something like this:
HEAD HONCHO OF PLANET ZOBOG: So, Zxbrz, what do your latest observations of the earthlings reveal?
ZXBRZ: Well boss, they do something called ‘taking a photograph’.
HEAD HONCHO: What is this ‘taking a photograph’?
ZXBRZ: One of the earthlings will have a gadget. Upon his command, other earthlings will look towards the gadget, and freeze their position for several seconds while smiling. Then they will return to what they were doing before.
HEAD HONCHO: And what is the purpose of this?
ZXBRZ: It appears they are capturing a moment in time in order to relive it later.
HEAD HONCHO: So you are telling me they have mastered time travel? That they are able to capture time with this gadget and then go back and relive the moment again in the future?
ZXBRZ: It would appear so, yes.
HEAD HONCHO: Fascinating. They are more advanced than we thought. What else?
HEAD HONCHO: Tupperware?
ZXBRZ: Yes. Tupperware are containers available in a range of handy sizes, perfect for the busy housewife. When the earthlings have finished a meal, they will place left over food into the tupperware containers. They will then place the tupperware containers into their refrigeration units. Approximately one earth week later, they will remove the tupperware containers, lift the lid, sniff inside, and then throw the contents away.
HEAD HONCHO: So they are conducting some kind of experimentation here?
ZXBRZ: That is the only explanation, yes.
HEAD HONCHO: And they are able to analyse and record the results with one simple sniff. Very interesting. What else?
ZXBRZ: Theme parks.
HEAD HONCHO: What are theme parks?
ZXBRZ: They are huge places where earthlings of all ages will gather in their hundreds and thousands. They will spend most of the day there standing in lines.
HEAD HONCHO: What are they standing in lines for?
ZXBRZ: They are waiting to use devices of torture. When they reach the front of the lines, they will be strapped in to machines that they cannot escape from, and which throw them around, up high, down low, round and around, upside down. It causes them to scream and sometimes it makes them ill.
HEAD HONCHO: So these theme parks are where earthlings are forced to go for punishment then?
ZXBRZ: No sir, it would seem that they choose to go there of their own free will.
HEAD HONCHO: I see. So they must have developed some kind of system of self-punishment. That is extremely efficient. We clearly have much to learn from this planet. Observations are to continue indefinitely.
ZXBRZ: And probing, can we start the probing now?
HEAD HONCHO: No.
Any ideas on what else might be a puzzle for our alien friends?