Me Human, You Alien: How to Talk to an Extraterrestrial by Jonathan Vos Post (c) 1996 by Emerald City Publishing an excerpt from a book entitled THE HANDBOOK OF UFO CONTACT, to appear Spring 1997, New York: William Morrow & Co.

Copyright 1996, by Emerald City Publishing.
All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission.
May be posted electronically provided that it is transmitted unaltered, in its entirety, and without charge.

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This is your first meeting with an un-Earthly non-human entity: an Extraterrestrial (ET). If you handle it well, you will be the greatest hero alive, and be able to make a fortune selling your story to the media. If you blow it, the repercussions could be unimaginably terrible, perhaps an interstellar war that could annihilate humanity. Feeling a little stressed out? Rule Number One: DON'T PANIC.1 Just follow these simple guidelines, and all will be well. We hope.

A Handful of Coins, A Loop of String, a Flashlight, and Two Magnets

Hopefully, the extraterrestrial you encounter is not injured from the crash of its UFO, poisoned by local chemicals or germs, irrationally terrified of you, nor irrationally intent on injuring you. Hopefully, its senses will allow it to see the items you are carrying in your pocket right now -- if you've read this Handbook before this Close Encounter, and had time to prepare. If the ET has radically different senses, seems uncommunicative, or otherwise nonresponsive, then you will have to skip ahead to the time that teams of experts have been assembled to assist you in your task of Contact. But if these problems do not obstruct you, you will be initiating communications with a set of cheap, easily obtained communications tools, using the following: (1) 18 specific coins, totalling $3.27, as detailed shortly. (2) A loop of string, at least 48" (but no more than 72") in circumference. (3) A pocket flashlight. (4) Two small bar magnets. (5) A pad of paper and a couple of pens or pencils. This may not sound like much, but may work wonders. If you also have a camera, a videocam, and/or a cassette recorder, so much the better. Obviously, the more rolls of film, blank cassettes, and extra batteries you have, the better. Practice using your equipment beforehand, so that you may use it easily when under the unprecedented excitement and stress of First Contact. Photograph and tape everything that happens in your Close Encounter if you can. If not, then at least take quick and careful notes on what happens, using the paper and pen or pencil, until the experts can take the next steps. Good luck!

Pocket Change Worth Billions

Now that you've bought A Handbook for UFO Contact, make a further investment of $3.27. Get the following coins assembled, and keep them in a little envelope or pocket, separate from your usual pocket change: 1 Susan B. Anthony dollar coin $1.00 2 pennies $0.02 2 nickles $0.10 9 dimes $0.90 3 quarters $0.75 1 half-dollar coin $0.50 -- ----------------- ----- 18 miscellaneous coins totalling $3.27 Practice arranging these coins on a flat surface as shown in figure 1. These coins represent the Sun, planets, and major moons based on their approximate relative sizes as follows: SUN Susan B. Anthony coin (a silver dollar is even better, if possible) MERCURY a penny VENUS a nickel EARTH a nickel, circled by the MOON: a dime MARS a penny JUPITER the half-dollar, circled by the four giant Galilean moons: IO, EUROPA, GANYMEDE, AND CALLISTO, represented by four dimes SATURN a quarter, with its giant moon TITAN: a dime URANUS a quarter NEPTUNE a quarter, with its giant moon TRITON: a dime PLUTO a dime, with its moon CHARON: a dime When you meet the Extraterrestrial, locate a flat surface (sidewalk or bare dirt) between the two of you, and lay out the coins as you have practiced. If it is daytime, point to the Dollar coin, then point to the Sun, and say "SUN!" If you have your pocket flashlight, hold it close to the Sun-Dollar, so that the coin is brightly illuminated. Then point to the second nickel, pat the ground, point at the ground all around you, and say "EARTH!" Pick up the Earth-nickel and, keping it close to the ground, move it around the Sun-dollar, then put it back down where it was. If the moon is visible, point to it, point to the dime next to the Earth-nickel, and say "MOON!" Pick up the Moon-dime and, keeping it close to the ground, move it around the Earth-nickel, then put it back down where it was. Then be silent for a minute, back away from the coins, and watch for a response. If the ET knows the structure of our Solar System, as observed by it or its companions from remote observation, or by more immediate observation on the way in towards Earth, it will recognize the model of the Solar System that you have shown it. This will establish that you are an astronomically sophisticated being, who knows the way around your own local part of the Galaxy. The ET now has the chance to show you something about that Solar System model. It might, for example, place a few pebbles or sand grains in between the Mars-penny and the Jupiter-half-dollar to show you where most of the asteroids are concentrated. It may indicate planets or the Oort or Kuiper Belt of comets far beyond Pluto. It may convey some information about the Moon or some other planets, if it made one or more stops on the way to Earth. It may construct a model of its own Solar System. If it moves the coins into any new configuration, be sure to record that in your written or photographic notes. You have gotten information that may be worth billions of times your original $3.27.

A Loop of String, Approximately 72" in Circumference

Allied pilots, during World War II, who had to fly over certain remote and exotic areas such as Borneo (now called Kalimantan), were encouraged to carry a loop of string up to six feet long, the ends of which were tied together to make a single loop about three feet long. The idea was that if they crash landed their plane in an area where non-English-speaking natives were likely to be present, the pilot should (when someone approached through the jungle), casually take the loop of string from his pocket and begin to make a "cat's cradle" string figure, and as many other string figures as he knew. It is said that, on more than one occasion, this was actually tried. In each case, the story goes, the native watched with increasingly friendly interest, and then politely borrowed the loop to demonstrate some string figures popular in his own tribe. It seems to me that such an anthropological First Contact technique might be useful in extraterrestrial First Contact as well. You will find out if and how the ET pays attention to your activity, have something to talk about, and -- after you've handed the loop to the ET -- learn something about how dexterously the ET manipulates at least one kind of object. If you're very lucky, the ET will show you patterns of its own culture. After all, the string figure has been (sometimes independently) discovered and perfected by members of the tribes, areas, or nations: Apache, Austria, Australia, Borneo, Chaco, Cherokee, China, Chippewa, Clayoquaht, Denmark, England, Eskimo, France, Germany, Hawaii, India, Ireland, Japan, Kabyles, Kiwai, Klamath, Korea, Kwakiutl, Lifu, Melanesia, Natik, Nauru, Navaho, New Guinea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Omaha, Onandaga, Osage, Pawnee, the Philippines, Polynesia, Pueblo, Pygmy, Salish, Scotland, Switzerland, Tannas, Tewas, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Uap, Ulungu, Wajiji, and Zuni. The best reference on how to weave with both hands a hundred intricate patterns supposed to represent natural and artificial objects is String Figures and How to Make Them77. Perhaps the most important anthropologist ever, Dr. Franz Boas, was the first to publish a careful description of how a so-called primitive people (Eskimo) make string figures, in 1888. Other cultures use "a thong of skin... a cord of cocoanut fibre ... [or] of human hair finely plaited. A woven cord which does not kink as easily as a twisted cord will prove most satisfactory; unfortunately, it cannot be spliced, the ends therefore must be knotted in a small square knot or laid together and bound round with thread." We describe below how to make the common "cat's-cradle" and Figure 3 is a copy of an illustration by Walter E. Roth in Brisbane, Australia, in 1902.

Cat's Cradle

The first thing to do is to make the familiar "Cat's Cradle" as described below. It is known in many parts of the world. In Southern China, it is called Kang Sok = Well Rope; in Korea it is called Ssi-teu-ki = Woof-taking; in Japan it is called Aya ito tori = Woof pattern string-taking; in Germany it is variously called Aheben = Taking off, Faden-aheben = Taking-off strings, Fadenspeil = String game, and Hexenspeil = Witch's game. Step One: Take the untwisted loop of string and pass the four fingers of each hand through the loop, and then separate the hands, keeping the palms facing each other. You are now holding the loop taut so that each end of it passes across the backs of your hands and one side of the loop rests on the webs of flesh between thumb and forefinger. Step Two: With the thumb and index finger of the left hand, turn the left near string away from you across your left palm, and then toward you across the back of the left hand, bringing the string to the right between the thumb and index finger. Separate the hands, keeping the palms facing each other. You are now holding the loop taut. You now have two strings across the back of your left hand (a little loop around your left hand) and one string across the back of your right hand. Step Three: With the thumb and index finger of the right hand, turn the right near string away from you across your right palm, and then toward you across the back of the right hand, bringing the string to the left between the thumb and index finger. Separate the hands, keeping the palms facing each other. You are now holding the loop taut. You now have two strings across the back of each hand, and a single string across each palm. Step Four: Bring the hands together, and put the right middle finger up under the string which crosses the left palm, and draw the loop out on the back of the finger by separating the hands (palms still facing each other). Step Five: Bring the hands together, and put the left middle finger up under the string which crosses the right palm, and draw the loop out on the back of the finger by separating the hands (palms still facing each other). You should now be in the position shown in Figure 2. There is a loop on each middle finger and two strings across the back of each hand; the "cradle" being formed by a straight near string, a straight far string, and the crossed strings of the middle finger loops. Show this to the ET. Note its reaction. If there are two people involved in the First Contact, then you are in good shape. First of all, this means that one of you can be doing the talking, motioning, and demonstrating, while the other keeps notes, takes photographs, or narrates into a cassette recorder. If there are two of you, you can now "play cat's cradle" by first having one of you make the cat's cradle according to the above five steps, and then taking turns transforming it through a series of different configurations as follows.

Soldier's Bed = Church Window = Fish Pond

The next step in the game of cat's cradle has three different English names, and in Korea is called Pa-tok-hpan = Chess board; and in Japan nekomata = mountain cat. By "near", "far", "left", and "right" we describe the position of the strings as seen by the person from whose hands the figure is being taken away. Step One: Person "A" makes the Cat's Cradle as above. Step Two: Person "B" puts his left thumb away from "A" under the right near middle finger string and his left index finger away from "A" under the left near middle finger string. Step Three: Person "B" brings the thumb and index finger together and picks up between their tips the two near middle finger strings just where they cross at the near side of the figure. Steps Four and Five: In the same way, person "B" picks up the two far middle finger strings, by putting the right thumb toward "A" under the right far middle finger string, and the right index finger towards "A" under the left far middle finger string,then bringing the right index finger and right thumb together and picking up between their tips the two far middle finger strings just where they cross at the far side of the figure. Step Six: Now separating his hands, "B" draws the right hand away from "A" and the left hand towards "A" (figure 742) and carries the thumb and index finger of each hand, still holding the strings, around the corresponding side string of the figure and up into the center of the figure (Figure 743). Step Seven: Then, by drawing his hands apart and separating the index fingers widely from the thumbs he removes the figure from "A's" hands and extends the "Soldier's Bed" (Figure 744). There is now a loop on each thumb, an loop on each index finger, and a string passing across the backs of the thumbs and index fingers of each hand. The figure is formed of the four finger loops crossing in the middle, a straight near string and a straight far string. There are a series of other transformations that will end up passing the figures back and forth between the two players through at least eight configurations total, the other six of which are called in English "candles", "Manger", "Diamonds", "Cat's Eye", "Fish in a Dish", and "Clock." Consult the reference book listed, or a bunch of children, to learn the other positions. You may be challenged to learn more complicated string figures, too. Practice makes perfect. You can now not only play with children and other UFO enthusiasts, but have a chance to do something peaceful, interesting, and revealing when you make First Contact. When I first wrote this, I thought that I was the first to contemplate it for human-ET first contact. But in further researching this chapter, I found a science fiction author, the anthropologist Chad Oliver, had beaten me to the punch my some 36 years. In the novel Unearthly Neighbors101, I was stunned to read this paragraph [p.73, revised edition]: Tom Stein maneuvered two of the [ET] kids, both boys, down the trail that led to the stream [on Sirius Nine]. He took a length of cord from his pocket and made a skillful cat's cradle on his fingers. The boys were intrigued, and watched him closely. Tom went through his whole bag of string tricks--the antropologist's ace in the hole--and tried his level best to make friends. So give Chad Oliver credit, not me, when you play cat's cradle with an ET and make friends. Assuming, of course, that anthropologists and science fiction writers are on the right track at all.