Thousand Ways of Not Detecting Aliens

Thousand Ways of Not Detecting Aliens

by Russell Hemmell

Nano-organisms arrived first, carried by the winds and disguised as pollen. Tiptoeing on plants and meadows, they scattered over the eight corners of the planet, blossoming into unusually colourful flowers.

Nobody paid attention.

Auroras came soon after in even more colourful fashions, appearing at the centre of world-famous squares in a fantastic parade. On New Year’s Eve New Yorkers gazed—puzzled and admired—at those shining natural beauties, oddly at the wrong latitude.

“I told you they would blame that yellow, bubbly water in their glasses, or climate change.”

Sighing, the visitors decided to upscale their presence. They resorted, in an ordinate sequence, to all they could devise to make themselves noticed, and namely: flying unidentified objects across the Earthian sky (dismissed as traditional UFOs and ignored); using Lagrangian points in ways astrophysics wouldn’t allow otherwise (Earthians’ notions seemed indeed primitive not to pick up the anomaly); pushing near asteroids into creative fly-by trajectories (blamed to strange and previously undetected gravitational pulls); last resort, attracting unlikely comets into Sun’s orbit. All efforts ended up in a glorious, complete failure.

“Are you sure we’re targeting the right species here?” Alpha asked Beta, dismayed. “It has been a few thousand years, in their timescale, that we tried to get in touch and it came to nothing.”

“They seem advanced enough for rational thinking.”

“Oh yes? Last time we assumed their shape, just to reassure them, they took us for deities.”

“It’s your fault—you wanted to impress them with lightning bolts.”

“Just to show we could be of use,” Alpha sneered. “Whatever. You keep up with your optimistic efforts with them, I’ll try my chance elsewhere.”


“The marine mammals.”

Alpha had indeed a better response rate and more positive replies, especially by killer whales, which promptly detected the alien guest and took it around the oceans as a token of welcome. They declined however the offer of further interaction, and even less to serve as a liaison with the humans: the lords of the surface were hassle enough already without the need of getting any closer. Ask them to leave us in peace if you manage to obtain a hearing, they pleaded.

Beta, on the other hand, kept up his work for a couple of centuries more, under Alpha’s snarky remarks.

“They can’t see us,” It whined after the nth disappointment. “This is why they’re unable to detect our presence.”

“They’re still able to detect invisible things though. Atoms, waves, and…”

“Only because they’ve an idea what to search for.”

“Well, sure thing—they’re not good at causality,” Alpha replied. “Look at their environment. They’re screwing up royally and they seem not getting it—yet.”

Beta’s light toned down, changing frequency. “Being made in a waveform it’s not always a good thing when it comes down to contact other species.”

“Don’t complain. We won’t be here otherwise.”

“Yes, but we have to admit defeat. This system’s too primitive. Abandoned.”

Alpha shimmered around for a while. “Now that you said it, you gave me an idea.”


“Let’s leave them a message.”

“Like what?”


“What about that?”

“They’ve finally learnt that it can’t be but a tiny percentage of the whole universe. Matter won, and they know it.”


“So let’s provide them with an antimatter pot bigger than anything they could dream about. Not so huge to provoke annihilation with star systems around, but enough to be detected by their primitive instruments. They will take notice of that. They will be worried. They will enquiry.”

Beta remained quiet for a while. “It’s you that overestimate them now,” he said eventually. “In the best case scenario they’ll notice the anomaly, and then conclude something was wrong in their calculations.”

“At the beginning, yes.”

“And then—do you believe they’ll realise and search for a maker instead of a process?”

Alpha’s lights perked up in a rainbow.

“One day they will.”

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Russell Hemmell
Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the U.K, passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. He has stories in Not One of Us, PerihelionSF, Strangelet, and others.

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