spaceSpace and Physics

People Think These Would Be The Scariest Messages To Receive From An Alien Civilization


Dr. Katie Spalding

Katie has a PhD in maths, specializing in the intersection of dynamical systems and number theory.

Freelance Writer


No, no, "live long and prosper" is the Vulcan translation. In our language, this means KNEEL BEFORE ZOD. Image Credit: simona pillola 2/Shutterstock

Ever since humans first looked up into the endless void of space and witnessed the movement of distant moons and planets, there’s one question that has been at the back of our collective psyche: are we alone in the universe?

And if there really are other intelligent beings out there… can we send them dick pics?


These days, getting messages from humanity to the Blorgons or Omicron Persei 8 is a bit more sophisticated. Over the years, we’ve beamed out declarations of peace (and communism), launched math-based greeting cards, and the finale of Beethoven's 9th as played on a theremin. Some people even think we should waft some perfume up there.

However, as welcoming and normal as these choices are, have we really ever stopped to consider how we’d feel if we got a reply?

The netizens of Reddit – specifically those who inhabit the r/space subreddit – have. And like so much on Reddit, their speculations are a little... well... dystopian. That’s because this week, the user u/Paleo_dude2010 posed a certain question to their virtual fraternity:

What would be the scariest message to receive from aliens?


While as you might imagine, there were quite a few responses along the lines of “prepare for your imminent destruction, puny humans”.


Some people came up with more haunting answers.


“Realistically, any sort of distress message or epitaph/gravestone message left would be the most terrifying thing to hear,” reads the most-upvoted response, from user u/Outside-Papaya. “While we could [always] have a planetary disaster wipe us out, to find hard evidence of it happening [would] make the threat that much more real.”

“It's like yeah people get murdered everyday, but it changes when someone on your block dies,” they added.


Meanwhile, other users had a more abstract take.


“Something like ‘release the octopi before our arrival’ [which] would have a call to action while suggesting their imminent arrival would be spooky,” wrote user u/js1ngs.

“Do we do it? Are they octopi? When are they arriving?”

There were naturally quite a few literary references:


Some Redditors took the position that any message at all would be good news.

“In all reality the fact that they sent a message and not a doomsday device would be a huge win,” wrote u/FLINDINGUS.

“The way the math works out, a civilization is highly incentivized to send doomsday devices to nearby planets simply because certain devices would be impossible to detect and stop. Since you can't know what other planets near you harbor intelligent life and any one of them could be sending a doomsday device at any time, you must send a doomsday device and destroy their planet ASAP,” they explained.

“If aliens were sending messages […] then it's most likely not a bad thing for us. If advanced aliens were hostile, we'd die instantly and with no warning.”


While others took a slightly different view on the whole “aliens communicating with us would be good” position.


“Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out that chimps share about 99% of our DNA and we consider them quite dumb compared to humans,” noted user u/JimAsia.

“The best trained chimp is only capable of skills that are mastered by average 4 or 5-year-olds. Any alien species that showed up to our planet would not have to be much smarter than humans to consider us very stupid animals.”

But there was one suggestion that would definitely get us worrying:


Oh well – so long, and thanks for all the fish!


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