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. Return to Table of Contents

A Pocket Flashlight

A small pocket flashlight (with as many extra batteries as you like to carry) is a good thing to have in any case, as you know if you drop your keys in the dark on a moonless night. It may be very valuable during extraterrestrial First Contact. This surely applies if the First Contact begins, or continues into, the night. If the ET communicates with light (see the handbook section on "Sound, Light, Viruses, and Neutrinos," (a) Light), then it is absolutely necessary. The flashlight helps to demonstrate that you are a technological being. Don't point it first at the ET; that might appear hostile, rude, or weapon-like. The flashlight gives you a chance to point at various things and speak their names: "ground, tree, foot, human, ET, coins, string.... and what is that thing in your third claw?" Even parrots can be taught to learn the names of things repeatedly pointed to or held up: "This is a grape. I'm holding a grape. Do you want the grape?" The flashlight can be used to illuminate the pad of paper and writings done with pen or pencil. It can be used to illuminate the coin in the center of the coin-model solar system, to make it shine like the Sun. If you wear eyeglasses, or carry a magnifying glass or other lens, you can use it to demonstrate simple concepts of optics (Figure 4). You can cast shadows with it. If you have sunglasses or can knock use the plastic of your car tail-light, then you can project different colors, and name those colors. The use of the flashlight can be occasionally contrasted with, amplified by, or accompanied by the the flash of your camera, if you are carrying one.

Two Small Bar Magnets

If you have two little bar magnets, the kind often glued to the back of a decorative "refrigerator magnet," then there are some things you can demonstrate and test. The purposes of these experiments are four: (1) To show to the ET that you are a representative of a technologically sophisticated scientific civilization; (2) To provide specific scientific items and phenomena to talk about and to develop a common vocabulary, if possible; (3) To see how the ET reacts to demonstrations of scientific principles; (4) and to begin testing the properties of UFO or ET-related substances. You should have at least the two small bar magnets suggested here. You can enhance your demonstrations to the ET if you also have: (1) a pocket compass (2) a long steel knitting needle (3) a few iron tacks (4) a long iron nail (5) a sewing needle (6) a cork (7) thread or string beyond that used for your cat's cradle demonstration. Before you meet the ET, mark your bar magnets to show which are the north poles (the poles that attract the north-seeking end of a compass needle) and which are the south poles (the poles that attract the south-seeking end of a compass needle) What kind of magnets are the two that you are carrying in your ET communications kit? They are permanent magnets, as opposed to electromagnets that only work when electricity is flowing through wires. Permanent magnets have been known for thousands of years (at least since the ancient Greeks investigated the mineral lodestone, today called magnetite), but have become much more sophisticated in the 20th century. Two Japanese physicists, Honda and Takei (no, not the car company or the actor who played Sulu on Star Trek) in 1917 first added cobalt to tungsten steel to make powerful permanent magnets. In 1932 another Japanese team created even stronger magnets from alloys of iron, nickel, and aluminum. Many such materials are available under trade names such as Alcomax, Alnico, Hycomax, and Iconal. Other magnets are made today from ceramic materials. The poles of the magnets may be near the ends or the faces of the magnets. Magnetic rubber strips are often used on refrigerator doors, and rolls of this strip are available in hardware stores.

Experiment 1: Magnet and Compass

It is believed by some historians that the Chinese may have discovered the magnetic compass. The Chinese Emperor Hwang-To is said to have had a magnetic (lodestone) compass in his chariot, approximately 2050 years ago. We are certain that the French crusader Petrus Peregrinus, in 1269 A.D., gave detailed written descriptions of a floating compass and a pocket compass much like the kind we use today. Nearly 450 years ago Queen Elizabeth I's physician, William Gilbert, first hypothesized that the Earth itself acts like a giant magnet. He built a spherical model of the Earth out of lodestone and showed that it had a magnetic field around it similar to the field of the Earth. We think that the Earth's magnetic field is caused by a molten iron/nickel/sulfur material swirling in the Earth's core -- the so-called dynamo effect. The much more powerful magnetic fields of Jupiter and Saturn are believed to be caused by dynamos of metallic hydrogen, a substance first created on Earth (at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory) in early 1996. Most likely the ET comes from a planet that has a magnetic field, and therefore has some chance of recognizing the behavior of a pocket compass. Show the pocket compass to the ET. Say "Compass." Place it on the ground. Point to the needle that's pointing north, point with your arm and finger in that same direction, and say "North." Point in the opposite direction and say "South." Observe if the ET looks at the compass, in the directions that you have pointed, and write down or dictate into a cassette recorder what the response is. Move one of your bar magnets near the compass, so that the needle points away from north. Hold up the magnet and say "magnet." Show how the bar magnet can pick up tacks or the long nail. Write down what the ET says or does. If there are any pieces of UFO material or other substances nearby that seem related to the ET, pick them up and prepare to use them in the next experiment/demonstration. If possible, float one of the bar magnets on top of a cork in a puddle or open container of water. It should also point north/south, like the needle of a pocket compass. Finally, if you and the ET are still interested, you can show that the magnetic north pole and the geographic north pole are not in the same place. This is very important to people who use the compass the actually navigate. You can show the angle between true north (that is, geographic north) and magnetic north (as shown by the pocket compass) in your First Contact location. When the sun is at the highest point in the sky (noon, unless modified by daylight savings time) then hold a plumb line (a string or thread with any weight tied to the end) so that it casts a shadow on a piece of paper lying on the ground. This shadow will lie in a north-south direction pointing towards true north (geographic north). Now place your pocket compass on the shadow, and draw a line showing the direction in which it points. The angle between this line and the shadow is called the declination. Some planets have a very large declination, such as Uranus in our solar system. The ET has a chance to show whether or not it understands this, if the ET has given meaningful responses to other experiments/demonstrations so far.

Experiment 2: Testing UFO Material

You know from ordinary experience that some materials can be picked up by magnets and some cannot. The situation is a little more complicated than that, as shown in Fig.297. Instead of merely classifying materials into two categories, magnetic and non-magnetic, we need to be more scientific if we are going to analyze materials relating to an ET. Two centuries ago Michael Faraday discovered that all the materials he tested were influenced in one way or another by a magnetic field. Some were attracted by a magnet, and some were repelled although they weren't themselves magnets. We call the kind of material which is strongly attracted ferromagnetic because they behave like iron (Latin: ferrum). This includes iron, nickel, and cobalt. If you have a Canadian nickel, it is ferromagnetic because it is mostly nickel, and will cling to a magnet the same way as does iron. The kind of material that is very weakly attracted to a magnet (so that under ordinary conditions it seems that they are not attracted) are called paramagnetc. The kind of material that is weakly repelled by a magnet is called diamagnetic. Diamagnetic materials include bismuth, copper, glass, water, and mercury. These weak repulsions typically take a strong electromagnet to discover. Another category of material that has been rapidly developed since World War II is the ferrimagnetic which have magnetic properties although they are electrical insulators (nonmetals). Examples of this type are the ferrites. A ferrite rod is used as the aerial of many transistor radios. If there are pieces of the material of the UFO available, or pieces of material near the ET, test them with your magnets and make a first rough attempt to classify them as ferromagnetic, paramagnetic, ferrimagnetic, or diamagnetic. If the compass needle moves when you hold a piece of ET material near it, then that material is itself a magnet. If the material does not appear to be a magnet, but is strongly attracted to and sticks to one of your bar magnets, it is ferromagnetic. If that material is not shiny and metallic in appearance, then it may be ferrimagnetic, although this needs to be validated by showing that it is not an electrical conductor (which would require a battery and wires, or a continuity tester). If the material does not seem to respond to the magnet at all, it may be either paramagnetic or diamagnetic. If it is clearly repelled by your bar magnet, then it is diamagnetic. Maybe the ET has materials that are more powerful diamagnets than anything we have. It is worth investigating. To test for diamagnetism, you may need to suspend a piece of the material by a thread and dangle it right between the north pole of one bar magnet and the south pole of the other. If the ET material twists on the thread to line up with the line connecting the two magnets, it is ferromagnetic or ferrimagnetic. If the ET material twists on the thread so that it is perpendicular to the line connecting the two magnets, it is diamagnetic. See figure 296.

Experiment 3: Magnetization, Magnetic Induction, and Curie Point

Take the unmagnetized knitting needle. Hold your pocket compass (if you have one) to show that both ends of the knitting needle attract the same pole of the compass. Now magnetize the knitting needle with the bar magnet, as shown in Figure 290. Hold the knitting needle immobile on the ground, touch the north pole of one bar magnet (the end that attracts the "North" pointing pole of the compass) and drag the magnet along the length of the knitting needle to its end, then (keeping the knitting needle in place), pull away the magnet and repeat exactly a few time. The knitting needle should now be magnetized. Show this to the ET by demonstrating that one end of the knitting needle attracts a different pole of the compass than the other end does. Attach a chain of tacks to the end of one of your bar magnets as shown in figure 299. Strongly heat one of the tacks with a match flame or (better) and pocket cigarette lighter until that tack and the tacks beneath it fall off. When a ferromagnetic material (like the tack) is heated above its "Curie point" it stops being ferromagnetic. Hang a long nail (if you have one) suspended from the south pole of one of your bar magnets, as shown in figure 300. The X end of the nail has now become, by magnetic induction, a north pole, and the Y end a south pole. Bring the north pole of the other bar magnet near the Y end of the hanging nail. It should be attracted, and swing to point towards the north pole of the second bar magnet. Now bring the south pole of the other bar magnet near the Y end of the hanging nail. It should be repelled, and swing away from the south pole. When a magnet is brought close to a ferromagnetic material such as iron, some of the "magnetic domains" in the material change so that the material becomes a magnet. This process is called magnetic induction. When the magnet is removed, most of the domains change back to the way they were before, so that the material is no longer a magnet. Materials which act this way are called nonretentive or magnetically soft. Magnetically soft materials, like your iron nail, mumetal, and Permalloy C are used in the cores of electromagnets and transformers. They stop being magnets as soon as the electricity is switched off. Other materials, including steel, have microscopic magnetic domains that stay in place once changed by a magnet, so that the steel continues to be a magnet after being in contact with the magnet that touched them. Your knitting needle is an example of that. Take a piece of any ferromagnetic material you have identified from the UFO or ET. Stroke it with one of the bar magnets, and then see if it has been induced to become a magnet or not. Now you can determine if the ET material is magnetically hard or soft. [Some of these experiments and diagrams are suggested by, or modified from Physics is Fun, Book Two, Jim Jardine, London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1964]

A Pad of Paper and a Couple of Pens or Pencils

Have some ready -- you should write stuff down.