Published online July 6, 2015

Our ‘first contact’ with extraterrestrials may not be what we expect.

The alien box stood in the desert surrounded by scientists and soliders; its secrets hidden behind a lock that Earth scientists had pored over for days. The silver box was about the size of a car, had rounded corners and was completely smooth except for a single panel on one side above which was inscribed what appeared to be an equation of some sort. The panel had buttons with numbers on them. All that remained, the scientists said, was to solve the mysterious equation and provide its answer.

It was announced that the best scientific minds in the world had agreed on an answer to the equation.  In a few days, the object from space would be revealed. For those few days, the citizens of Earth were aflutter with anticipation over its contents.

The world watched as the unveiling was broadcast on virtually every TV channel, radio station, and website. A bespectacled older gentleman stood at a podium and explained that while the equation was a fairly commonplace one in mathematics, the alien language had to be translated in order to understand which scientific constants were the correct ones to use. While livebloggers lamented about the ‘old scientist’ stereotype they felt was being perpetuated, the gentleman walked to the panel and began to punch in a number.

An entire planet held its breath; the scientist did the same, hesitating before pressing the last digit. After what felt like an eternity, he pressed the last number and stepped back. A hissing sound was immediately heard. Seams appeared on the corners and sides of the box.  It began to open up, an alien flower blossoming before the people of Earth. The sides of the box folded open and fell to the ground to reveal its contents: A probe that had been sent by the nations of Earth into space decades prior to seek out intelligent life. A metallic sheet of paper was stuck to it; the scientist walked up to the probe, removed the paper and walked back to the podium. He studied it for a few moments and then spoke into the microphone:

“It says: No Littering by order of the Galactic Alliance. Your planet is hereby fined five hundred xerorks to be paid upon receipt of this citation.”

A reporter in the audience asked: “What’s a xerork?”

Before the scientist could answer, a shadow came over everything in the area. The assembled scientists, soldiers, and reporters looked up to see an immense alien spacecraft slowly descending towards them.

While still looking up, the scientist adjusted his glasses and spoke: “I believe we are about to find out, ladies and gentlemen.”