An alien species has landed on Earth but communication has come to a standstill. The aliens have not indicated any aggressive tendencies and the world leaders hope to keep it that way.
Who can save the Earth and talk to these aliens?
Professor Henry Higgins (Jnr.) was the son of Henry Higgins, the teacher of elocution made famous by George Bernard Shaw in his play Pygmalion. He was just ending his lecture on communications to the third year students of Stanford University, California, when an assistant walked onto the stage.
‘Call for you, Professor’, said the assistant. ‘Sounds important, the White House.’
The professor gathered up his papers and went to the telephone…. He listened.
‘Henry? Barack here. How are you?’
‘Barack? Barack Obama? The President? ‘
‘Yes, and I have always wanted to say these words, Higgins, we have a problem.’
‘And…And how can I help?’
‘You are the Professor of Communications at Stanford, n’est-ce pas?’
‘Yes.’ Henry replied, ignoring the president’s attempt at levity.
‘A space craft has splashed down in the Pacific, but it is not one of ours. Aliens have landed. But are they friendly or hostile? We need to communicate with them and they tell me you are the best. I need you to get out there now.’
‘Of course, Mr. President. No problem.’
‘A limo’ is out front ready for you. Henry, I’m counting on you.’
Henry climbed into the presidential limousine with a small Stars and Stripes flag on each wing which whisked him away escorted by two police cars, sirens blaring, Da-da, WHOO, WHOO. He arrived at the helipad and climbed up the stairs into the helicopter to be greeted by a large, well-dressed general with a chest full of multi-coloured ribbons including the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart and the Vietnam service medal.
The Supreme Commander Brigadier General Aloysius Smithsonian smiled in a way which said, ‘I am important.’
The helicopter took off and flew towards USS Ulysses in the Pacific.
‘Welcome,’ he said ‘Aloysius Smithsonian, Supreme Commander, Western Pacific.’ He offered a great paw to Henry. They shook hands.
Higgins was nervous but settled himself by saying, ‘Pleased to meet you, sir. Good name that for a commander.’
‘Aloysius. Good name for a commander.’
‘Well, you know, it is derived from the original German meaning fame and war.’
‘Well, well… I never knew.’
‘You see there are so many ways to communicate: Visually – we can all tell the difference between a friendly face and an angry foe. Sensorially- we can all tell the difference between hot and cold or sweet and sour. Aurally – we can translate the most basic of beats into jazz or pop, we create languages such as music, Morse code, right up to English, and, of course, electronically with bits flying around between silicon chips.’
‘Er…Yes. I see,’ said Aloysius rather confused.
‘But then there are the communications between cells and molecules. Right now millions of molecules in your body are communicating by virtue of their spacial or stereochemical arrangement and their electronic preferences.’
‘What’s that mean?’
‘It means you are continually making new proteins to live, sir.’
‘Ah… oh! Well, here we are now.’
They landed on the USS Ulysses and descended to the meet the Admiral of the Fleet.
In a room full of electronic equipment, the admiral greeted Henry Higgins (Jnr.).
‘Welcome abroad, sir. No relation to THE Professor Henry Higgins, I suppose.’
Henry ignored the remark, he had heard it so often before.
‘Okay, where are these aliens?’ asked Henry.
‘Right here,’ said the admiral.
Henry turned around and saw a little green, apparently eyeless, thing.
Just at that moment, the sonar picked up a series of whistles, clicks and squeaks. Henry recognised it instantly as the song of the humpback whale. It was communicating over a vast distance in the ocean to an unseen other humpback whale somewhere else. But more importantly, Henry saw the little green thing repeat the clicks and whistles in a similar fashion.
‘There,’ said Henry, ‘we just have to learn the language of whales.’