Beam me up, Dr. Hawking

The smartest man in the world is seriously freaking us out

Posted: Sunday, May 02, 2010

Since the dawn of man, human beings have looked upward to the stars and wondered, "how long do I have to hold my head like this until this stupid nosebleed stops?" That tradition continues to this day, as pollen season has reduced the nostrils of at least one local humor columnist to an arid desert of plant-based love-dust and pain.

But as soon as the bleeding noses stopped (sometime in November after the dawn of man) early humanity suddenly realized that there might be life out there in the vast, inky blackness. Early humanity then wondered how that alien life might taste.

The debate over what might lie out there in the universe continues to this day, although the debate over what it might taste like has been settled (it would taste like brioche, incidentally).

Professor Stephen Hawking recently decided to metaphorically step into this discussion with the Discovery Channel series, "Stuff we made up to scare the crap out of you with Stephen Hawking" in which he claimed, "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach." He then implies, in his own drab scientific way, how these aliens would wipe us out in the most horrific ways possible.

I think I speak for all of us when I say Stephen Hawking needs to hand over his copy of "Independence Day" and stop making us paranoid that Jar Jar Binks is going to come vaporize Iowa. If I need someone to bore me to tears about string theory or whatever, I'll give him a call. He won't return my call, and I'll probably get bored with the whole thing by the third ring, but I think deep down inside he'll pick up what I'm throwing down.

And what I'm throwing down is this: when it comes to wild conjecture about possible alien life without a shred of evidence, that PhD might as well stand for "Professor of hurling dung" because my guess is as good as his. Which is why I'm going to go toe-to-toe with Stephen Hawking and tell you what aliens will really be like if and when they land.

Unlike Dr. Hawking, I don't imagine aliens landing in giant ships. I imagine them entering earth's atmosphere in a series of crude, blocky green squids. They will then advance in neat, orderly rows, dropping toward our single gunship bit by bit until they finally land and our mom gives us another quarter. I base this on the scientifically accurate video game, "Space Invaders." Upon landing, I don't think they'll intend to wipe us out. My theory posits they will make a series of wisecracks that were super hilarious in 1987 when nothing else was on TV, but really don't hold up in reruns. A series of side-splitting misunderstandings will follow, after which the alien race will attempt to eat the cat. I base this on the documentary, "Alf."

Of course, we like our cats here on earth so things will quickly get out of hand. At this point, the aliens will call in the attack craft, which will resemble hubcaps from a Ford Fairlane strung up with fishing line. These attack craft will be met by the U.S. Army in stock footage from the Korean War. I base this on every sci-fi movie from the 1950s.

Finally, we'll make peace with the aliens by agreeing not to mow the lawn until after 11 a.m. on Sundays. I base this on my interactions with my neighbor Darryl, who I am not convinced is of this world.

Now I may not have the credentials of a Stephen Hawking or even a Stephen Baldwin, but what I do have is an encyclopedic knowledge of alien life, specifically alien life I learned about when I probably should have been studying. And that knowledge, gleaned from years of wasting time in front of a flickering box, makes me at least as qualified as some scientist to tell us what's out there beyond the stars just waiting to kill us.

Not that I'm going to look down my nose at Dr. Hawking. At least not until after pollen season.

• Barry Kaufman is a humor columnist for Bluffton Today in Bluffton, S.C. and the author of the "The Flyover States," available as an ebook for 99 cents at

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