The Time Trotter

The Time Trotter

It’s my sister’s birthday today, and this story is for her, but feel free to read it as everyone can find a piece of themselves in this story 🙂

Happy birthday sis!!!


THE TIME TROTTER

“This is it?” Nadine rolled her eyes in sheer disappointment as she pushed and rolled over the device to one side with her index finger. The three interlocking gears at the base were furnished with cobwebs. She pulled her hand back quickly and rubbed her fingers onto her t-shirt to ditch the possible presence of sticky web particles she’d nearly poked through.

“It is,” Jerzy said almost shouting. “All the indications are there, right in front of us…staring at our faces…”

Nadine fixed her gaze at the device once more and chuckled. “The only thing staring at our faces is most likely a hairy, little spider.”

Jerzy toppled the device back over and took out a small notebook from his back pocket. He started shuffling through the weathered pages.

“Your grandpa was nuts guys,” Leo said. He had helped himself onto a dusty chest in the far corner. “Old Felix’s attic is full of weird junk like this… and none of them is of any good.” He noticed Jerzy wasn’t listening, but carried on anyway: “Teleportation chamber? Clean energy generator? And now a time machine? Come on…”

“Here!” Jerzy shouted as he opened a page in the notebook and showed it to them. The diagram drawn on the page was no doubt the blueprint of the device that was lying on the table now; an antique pocket watch screwed to a sizeable wooden box with knobs and pegs on each side. The lidless cavity at the bottom of the box housed some kind of battery or a power source, impossible to identify in its current horrible condition. And wires… lots of wires coming out of the device in chaotic tangles. Each part of the device was labelled in almost illegible handwriting with the heading in all caps over the drawing: ‘The Time Trotter Prototype and its Parts’. 

“So?” Leo still seemed uninterested. 

“This,” Jerzy said as he picked up the device. “…is the only ‘junk’ we found in grandpa’s attic that came with a manual… including the blueprint and operating instructions!” He quickly skipped over a few pages with his free hand and showed Leo and Nadia the page titled: “Step by step instructions”.

“Step by step instructions? That doesn’t sound like something a scientist like grandpa would write,” Nadia said as she carefully took the device from Jerzy’s hand and placed it on the table before she bent over to examine the device more thoroughly. “Even the bedtime stories he used to tell us years ago were riddled with technical and scientific terms.”

“Not if the manual was intended to be found by the likes of us,” Jerzy protested waving the manual.

“Jerzy,” Nadia finally said. “You’re my brother and I love you for that… but a mechanical, antique pocket watch… it’s so outdated. I am not sure if it can even point out the right time, let alone travel.”

“All the early prototypes of great machines were… outdated at first. Think about the first mobile phones as thick as bricks, all the way to the smart phones of the modern era not much thicker than an ID card.”

“Ok genius, so how does it work?” Leo cut in with a hint of boredom in his tone. He was holding a ceramic jug with no labels on, possibly one of the scattered, ordinary junk in the attic with no superpowers allocated by Nadia and Jerzy’s granddad. 

Jerzy was already on it, finger lining the relevant step on the manual. “Place the device on a steady surface,” he read aloud and checked whether his sister followed the first step. The device was indeed on the table, Jerzy just pressed hard on one corner of the table to see if the legs were even. It didn’t budge.

“Next, we press the stem until it clicks,” Jerzy read before pointing out the sticking metal piece on top of the watch. Nadia pressed it hard and they all heard the clicking sound. The hands started spinning at an incredible speed in opposite directions until they stopped, displaying five past four.

Jerzy quickly checked his phone and to his expectations the time was exactly the same as what the pocket watch was claiming it was.

“That was weird,” Nadia said as she looked at her own wristwatch. “Now what?”

“Look! It started ticking…” Jerzy was astonished to his limits. He kept on reading. “Pull the stem out and start turning it in the desired destination: Counter clockwise for the past, and clockwise for the future.” He put the manual back into his pocket and rushed to the device. He got hold of the stem in no time. He pulled it slightly out and began turning it counter clockwise… allegedly into the past.

After a couple of turns, he stopped. “This shouldn’t be the way,” he thought. The pocket watch read twenty past two, but as soon as he released the stem, it went back to the original time. A tiny spider started scurrying away to safety… towards the absence of mechanical tampering.

“You just scared off the operator,” Leo said laughing as the spider found new shelter under the junk posing as the clean energy generator.

“No,” Nadia said. “The time on my watch also went back a couple of hours, but it’s back to normal now. Did we really go back in time?”

Jerzy shook his head. “I don’t know,” was all he could say.

At that moment, Leo smashed the ceramic jug in his hand by throwing it to the floor. “I have an idea,” he said. “Just try again, but go slow…super slow.”

Jerzy was at the wheel again. He started turning the stem in the same direction as before. Weirdly enough, he could take back the seconds which shouldn’t have been possible… Seconds at a time… 

The smashed tiny bits of the jug started moving towards each other until they slowly started forming the original, unscathed jug. The pieces were sticking together on the floor with no indication of having been smashed before. When the jug was complete, it slowly started rising in mid-air and moved towards Leo’s open hand… the one that smashed it seconds ago… or the one that will smash it seconds later.

Jerzy let go off the stem in sheer joy, but now the time went back to its original position and they all had to witness the jug being smashed again in fast forward.

Nadia pulled out the manual out of Jerzy’s back pocket and quickly skimmed through it to the very last page. “Time is never steady, it can flow in both directions… but it’s intended to go only forward to avoid confusion and chaos. I invented the ‘time trotter’ for the sole purpose of providing myself tiny comforts like taking back time a couple of minutes before I made a huge mistake or travelling forward to avoid waiting hours for my favourite evening show. But even then, the need to hold the stem in an upright position was never worth the trouble. Time catches up in the end.” Nadia put the manual back into Jerzy’s pocket before mumbling “I’m outta here,” to herself as she left. Leo soon followed.

Jerzy spent the next couple of months experimenting with the device. He found out that he was stuck in the attic as he couldn’t take the device with him, he could never find a steady surface to allow the device to work elsewhere. All the unlabeled junk around him started to make sense now. The old TV unit in one corner, the bathtub and the toilet in the other with complete plumbing. The browned out mattress, too. Their grandpa lived nearly all his life here. 

Just as Jerzy was about to give up, he found an old photo album buried deep in the shelves. The photos were of his childhood, Nadia and him as toddlers, grandpa and his youth… Something was strange… really strange… as the young grandpa Felix looked exactly the same as Leo in the present. He couldn’t stop now… there was a way… he needed to find it.. just like grandpa!

Morals of the story:

  1. Stick to the present… don’t burden your life with the past and thus stop living the present, the moment. Same with the future in a way… Long live carpe diem.
  2. Most things that seem complex at first like the time trotter device with lots of pegs, knobs and wires, can work with much less. Don’t scare yourself with possible obstructions that may arise in achieving your dreams.
  3. Leo, in fact, isn’t the younger version of Felix, but we like making connections between unrelated things to support what we really want. Felix Leo!!! Even the photo Jerzy found had little resemblance to his grandpa’s youth but that’s how our minds work if we are inclined to believe in something. We only see what we want to see.
  4. Family is important… but how you perceive family members and how they affect you is vital…  

Xenolinguistics Part II – The Conscious Mayonnaise and Other Irregularities: Etymology of Common Words and the Aspect of Culture

Xenolinguistics Part II – The Conscious Mayonnaise and Other Irregularities: Etymology of Common Words and the Aspect of Culture

Imagine that a highly advanced alien race in a galaxy far far away, somehow decide to study English after catching rogue radio signals all over the planet with their super-ranged intergalactic receptors. Before making first contact, they devise an English to intergalactic language dictionary after many years of eavesdropping. The radio signals are their only source of information as they don’t have eyes on Earth, yet. Hell, they might not even have eyes at all.

[We are assuming the aliens can distinguish between languages in the story above and focus solely on English. In reality, they would be utterly puzzled by hearing the words ‘astronaut’, ‘cosmonaut’, and ‘taikonaut’ being used for the same Earthly space men!]

From left to right: Astronaut Helmet – Cosmonaut Helmet – Taikonaut Helmet

After these extraterrestrials think they have enough knowledge of the language to tackle the next message they pick up for the sake of translation, they come across some messages communicated by two unsuccessful fiction writers exchanging parts of their latest work for mutual advice. The first statement the aliens hear is:

a chunk of mayo slithered down the hamburger paris bit in a hurry and landed on her brandnew denim leaving a nasty stain[The correct punctuation isn’t applied as they wouldn’t know.]

A simple, single statement describing a daily mishap to someone’s jeans might be tough to crack for those who speak little or no English. Luckily, we have dictionaries! So, do these aliens! Remember, they made one! But, dictionaries may still provide more problems than solutions without context as:

  • The verb ‘Slither’ is usually credited for the movement of desert animals like snakes… so, the word ‘mayo’ sounds more like an animal than a condiment. Duly noted.
  • ‘Land’ is both a verb and a noun, but it would be confusing for a member of a tribe in a landlocked region or beings from another planet with no bodies of water; in short, for those who do not have the word ‘sea’ or ‘land’ in their native tongues. Assuming they eliminated the noun form and accepted the verb form to be right definition. Why use ‘to land’ though? They would think the more appropriate word should have been something similar to ‘drop’ as ‘land’ is attributed to controlled actions like ‘the landing of a bird’ or ‘the touchdown of an airplane’ (by a pilot)… how much control can a chunk of mayo have? Does it have a conscience?

As suspected, the word ‘mayo’ is not in their dictionary, yet, as it’s the first time they picked up this word! It’s logical as it’s a really slim chance the word circulates in space between NASA and the space stations. They add the new word into their dictionary as:

Mayo: A conscious life form on Earth that attack by short leaps and known to discolour its prey by a form of spitting or dampening.

Mayo does go for the heart in the long run!

All the world languages (not only English) are riddled with similes, idioms, and ironies. Mingle these with our diverse, unique cultures and set up grammatical systems with a lot of rule exceptions and voila; languages of planet Earth, which are bound to change as our way of lives change via new inventions and the advancement of technology!

Our vocabularies are full of made-up lexical items with little or no pattern, as we seem to name things randomly, by not following a general set of rules. Keep in mind, words make up sentences and sentences make the language itself. The above mayo message could also be deciphered as a list of place names as we can name words derived from toponyms (words derived from place names). Look:

Mayo: short for mayonnaise meaning from Mahon, Menorca – Spain 
Hamburger: from Hamburg – Germany 
Paris: from Paris – France
Denim: from Nimes – a town in France (de Nimes)

That’s not all, we also make up words derived from people’s names (eponyms):

Boycott (Captain Charles C. Boycott), Saxophone  (Adolphe Sax), Guillotine (Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin),  Sandwich (Earl of Sandwich), Nicotine (Jean Nicot) and even Bluetooth (Harold Bluetooth)

Toponyms and Eponyms are just two of the ways we name new words or concepts… there are many more but again no pattern in naming lexical items. Let’s mention one more to seal this part, which is ‘naming new locations, things or concepts by mistake or miscommunication’:

Nome (A town in Alaska): According to a theory, Nome received its name through an error: allegedly when a British cartographer copied an ambiguous annotation made by a British officer on a nautical chart, while on a voyage up the Bering Strait. The officer had written “? Name” next to the unnamed cape. The mapmaker misread the annotation as “C. Nome”, or Cape Nome, and used that name on his own chart; the city in turn took its name from the cape. (Source: Wikipedia)

Canary Islands (A group of Islands): The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning “Islands of the Dogs”. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the island Canaria contained “vast multitudes of dogs of very large size”. There were no canaries (birds) on the islands. It was a simple translation error as Canariae (Canis), the Latin word for ‘dogs’ sounded a lot like ‘Canaries’.

Yucatan Peninsula: There are countless theories about how Yucatan was named. Below are just two of those theories (In both versions, the Spaniards asked in Spanish and the Mayans they encountered there replied in Mayan, their native tongue.):

The first one, points out to Francisco López de Gómara in 1552 in Cabo Catoche when the Spaniards asked some men what the name of the town was and they said “tectetan”,which would roughly translate to “I don’t understand you”. They thought it was called that way, and, corrupting the word, they called that land Yucatan.

Another version indicates that the Spaniards gave the name of Yucatan to the region because the Mayans answered their questions with the expression “Uh yu ka t’ann”, which in Mayan means “listen how they speak”, and the Spaniards understood Yucatan.

The West Indies (A group of Islands in the Caribbean): Christophe Columbus, who thought he had reached islands in the West of India, named them. Well, technically, he is right. The West Indies in the Caribbean is indeed located to the west of India…

Now, let’s add the effect of our cultural diversity into the mix and look at some interesting facts about other languages:

  • At one point, Arabic had over 1000 words for ‘camel’, which were abundant in the region. Although most of these words are not used today, there are still over 100 words in contemporary Arabic for ‘camels’.
  • There’s a theory that the Eskimos have over 50 words to describe snow and ice. These include; ‘qanik – snow falling’, ‘aputi – snow on the ground’, ‘pukak – crystalline snow on the ground’ and ‘ainu – snow to make water’. No wonder so many words, where everywhere is literally snow and ice.
  • Even aristocracy and wealth can alter words– the words beef and pork come from French, while the English equivalents are cow (ox) and pig. Now, the original English words are used, to describe the live animals while French originated words are used when these animals are served as food. The distinction dates back to the Norman invasion of Britain, where English peasants looked after the animals and the French nobility ate them.
  • Each language has unique words that don’t exist in other languages: Gigil (Filipino) is the sudden urge to want to squeeze someone out of extreme cuteness or irritation. Fernweh (German) is feeling homesick for somewhere you’ve never been before. Slampadato (Italian) is a word to describe people who are addicted to tanning saloons. Yoko Meshi (Japanese) is the stress you feel when speaking a foreign language and Yakamoz (Turkish), which is the sight of the reflection of moonlight on a body of water.

We speak language(s), where both milk and white wine sound like they’re the same colour or that black berries, a bruised eye and coffee are considered black, just as black as a piece of obsidian rock. Seriously, how are we ever going to manage to communicate with extraterrestrials when our languages follow no real pattern and we are nearly always confused?

Fifty Shades of Black and the actual colour!

Xenolinguistics – The Intercultural Barrier (Part 1.5)

Xenolinguistics – The Intercultural Barrier (Part 1.5)

In my last post, we explored the impossibility of successful communication with the first aliens we make contact (unless they are Hollywood aliens, which are all fluent in English). Before diving deep into the aspect of culture in the next post, which is vital in inter-species understanding, I’d like to give a short pause and share a freshly-written, absurd flash fiction piece I wrote to give a brief glimpse of what I think might happen in the event that humanity makes contact with an inter-galactic race. Let’s see what happens:


8 minutes 44 seconds in Earth time. The final stronghold fell much easier than its definition suggested. It was strategically a terrible location to fend off the final assault for the remaining few Orgics that had chosen to hole up here– weak concrete walls that could easily be bashed in, inviting, thin metal sheet reinforced glass doors, with no booby traps inside and all. 

Lost deep in his own, proper stronghold of thoughts, Captain Anders lingered through the main hallway, pushing aside the scattered glass remnants of the display cases on the floor with the side of his boots after each step. The Orgics had chosen to sacrifice their lives for whatever those fragile containers housed. What could be more important than life? Still preoccupied, Captain Anders hadn’t noticed he was standing right in front of a shattered glass door. He gently pushed the massive crack barely holding up in the centre with his gloved hand and watched the remaining glass fall and break into smaller pieces beneath his feet. So fragile! Then, it made sense a bit-  the last of the Orgics weren’t the military type as those were the ones first wiped out. What would they know about fortifications? Anders bent his head slightly and passed through the doorway.

Anders was greeted by Lieutenant Orrin once he entered the main room where a 10-feet marble sculpture of an orgic freshly riddled with bullet holes stood.

“We’ve secured the place,” Lieutenant Orrin said. 

Captain Anders saw the dead bodies of half a dozen Orgics piled up in a far corner. “Any survivors?”

“One, but it’s in a bad shape,” Lieutenant Orrin pointed at the giant statue. “Fought well trying to defend this. Didn’t leave its side.”

“I am guessing this one was too heavy to move.” Anders touched the feet of the giant statue and drove his hand up. It was hard and cold… just like death. “Why sacrifice life to save something so lifeless?”

The lieutenant shook his head, but Anders didn’t notice. His gaze was still fixed on the the colossal hardened form. “Take me to it.” He finally said, first prying his looks, then his touch away from the statue.

The small storage room had nothing but a wobbly metal chair in the centre. On it, was a loosely tied female orgic. Judging by the severity of her wounds, the loose ropes were there for her not to fall off the chair rather than prevent her escape. She had a couple of hours of life in her at most. Maybe less.

Anders lifted her chin up and saw the diminishing light in her empty gaze. Time was of essence and he had to pick the right questions to be able to make sense of the orgics’ purposeless actions. “Why?” He asked. “Why did you sacrifice your life for a heap of stone?”


Laura looked up and came into direct contact with the android leader’s blinking crimson eyes. She knew she was dying fast, and there was nothing else left the android could threaten her with to get answers. Besides, how would she be able to describe an alien concept to an alien race in the very limited time she had left? How could she explain art to those that never experienced it? On one note, the android seemed familiar with the concept of ‘sacrifice’ as it was the word it’d used. But, sacrificing one for other lives was one thing and willing to die for inanimate creations of their own doing was another. Besides even if she were able to make a little bit of sense, would it not get lost in translation on the way from the AI underlings to the alien masters? The androids were highly adaptable. They were the foot soldiers created to learn and adapt… To do the dirty work of their masters. And that adaptability alone caused Earth to fall in under a week: Thousands of live Trojan horses, dealing the unexpected final blow to the unaware human race. But, the whole dagger and cloak thing wasn’t to take humanity by surprise, it was merely to learn and record a race that was to be annihilated for good. The events of the past week started playing in Laura’s mind… 

The androids were sent to Earth by their extraterrestrial overlords. Humanity has always been naïve in thinking we would make contact with the real deal alien entities, but just as automobiles replaced horse carriages and factory workers with machinery on Earth, it was only logical to think dangerous space exploration or planetary invasions would be made remotely with easily controllable androids from the comfort of their spaceships by galactic conquistadors. The droids were a form of liquid machinery disguised in flesh that could take any shape and blend in for planetary missions and sadly, copying the physical appearance of humans were not that challenging for the creations of a far superior intergalactic race. The whole invasion happened in under a week and didn’t even requiring probing. Without humanity even noticing, the droids learned everything about humanity to ease off the invasion.  Well, learned about almost everything… culture and art wouldn’t make any sense to them even if they stayed concealed on Earth for a millennia. They had never had art. Nor culture!


“Why?” Captain Anders roared in frustration of the fact that a lowly race had secrets they weren’t able to figure out.

“Art… Culture…,” Laura mumbled in pain. “It’s what makes us human.” With her last breath, she wanted to make them understand that humanity was something to be preserved rather than destroyed. She’d always thought art was universal… literally… They would understand. They had to. The ropes holding Laura tightened as her head dropped down. 

Upon arrival, the droids learned that art was a way of expression and imagination of the human creative skill, and paintings or sculptures were the byproduct of… art. But, what exactly was ‘Culture’?

Anders looked at Lieutenant Orrin for collaborative brainstorming. The definitions he got by connecting to the planet’s database were conflicting. But, that wasn’t surprising. The Orgics spoke languages based on conflict. A stronghold didn’t always mean a difficult place to take over, yet he clearly heard an Orgic mentioning this place as one. They had names for non-existent concepts like god, religion, soul, magic, ghost, monster… and he would never understand why they used the same word to describe existent but unrelated concepts or things. For instance, among other meanings, ‘Coach’ meant both a ‘large wheeled transport to carry a large amount of people from one place to another’ and a ‘trainer in sporting events’. There seemed to be no logical connection. 

Orrin started speaking; giving definitions of the term ‘culture’:

“The manifestations of human intellectual achievement-“

“That can’t be it,” Anders cut in. “Not worth dying for something you can recreate. Besides, humans are not the intellectual type.”

“The ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular-“

“Not a chance. Creating a stone representation of yourself isn’t really an idea… as for social behaviour, there’s no scientific explanation to why they keep producing things that would never give them benefits.”

“Perhaps, it gives them benefits,” Orrin said. “We weren’t able to fully analyse them, yet.”

Anders shook his head. “They have 3D printers to create such things quicker and more efficiently. If one gets lost or broken, replication shouldn’t be an issue. Yet, they are willing to die for their own creations that can be recreated easily.”

“Thinking in Orgic’s way and speaking in their language affects my line of thinking and reasoning, is it necessary as I fail to understand even what you’re saying.”

“You know that total immersion is the best way to learn,” Anders coughed to clear his throat, which he felt no actual need to do so.

“I think I got it,” Orrin said. “It must be this one… maintain tissue cells, bacteria, etc. in conditions suitable for growth.”

Anders paused for a minute before speaking. “Have we detected any living organisms on… art?”

“Yes,” Orrin nodded. “Not on the newer creations, but older art is sometimes covered by vegetation and there’s also moss growth in time. It’s basically their breeding grounds! They ensure survival through inter-species transformation.”

“That’s it,” Anders agreed. “I am sending the report now.” He remained motionless as his eyes fluttered at intervals while compiling the final report.

And, a moment later he sent it. The final report that reached the outer ring of the 3149-R planet, read:

“The Orgics have found a way of immortality through creating lifeless representations of themselves and other things. Naturally induced tissue cells and bacteria are carefully preserved on these creations, only for them to spring out as a different life form in the future. This makes it possible for them to completely alter their DNA for a more suitable life form. Further study is not needed. Requesting permission to go on to the next planet.”

Transformation of the human DNA? or just plain old moss?

—- The End —-

Xenolinguistics – Deciphering the Impossible? (Part I)

Xenolinguistics – Deciphering the Impossible? (Part I)

It’s always been mind boggling how humans in sci-fi movies could communicate with Hollywood aliens whether they’ve come to our planet in peace, or just for the kicks of a planetary invasion. I’m well aware that it’s just for the sake of viewers’ getting the hang of the plot, but the ease of communication and getting fluent in alien language in less than an hour of screen time, is still an illogicality that doesn’t make any sense, just like extraterrestrial beings speaking with a distinctive English accent. A massive, interstellar galactic federation consisting of hundreds of super advanced alien races with the universal language being standard American English is yet another cosmic mystery.

A still from a great sci-fi movie: “Guardians of the Galaxy – Vol.2”, where the design of different alien races suffer either from lack of imagination and creativity or the fact that some people just watch these for the humanoid cast.

Xenolinguistics is a hypothetical subject which is basically the study and research of the languages of never-encountered-before extraterrestrial beings. Surprisingly, despite the missing extraterrestrials, xenolinguistics has been becoming more and more popular among linguists over the past decade. Surely, without ever encountering an alien race, allocating time and resources seems like a fruitless effort, but it might also be wise to brainstorm beforehand and be prepared to solve several issues likely to come up regarding the first contact with our very first aliens. For instance, the idea of using toddlers, who are just learning to speak, to communicate with aliens upon first contact, rather than expert linguists is the byproduct of such brainstorming. These toddlers would be the perfect candidates for picking up language in a natural way, as they’re just figuring out how to receive and give information in a world less known and somewhat still alien to them.

Perhaps imaginary friends in childhood are in fact aliens in disguise. Image Credit: Thrive

There is a fat chance that we will not even be able to communicate with aliens (unless they are gray and from Hollywood) through conventional methods like the use of sound, gestures, mimics, writing, mathematics or visuals. What if the first ones we meet are an advanced galactic race of invisible blob-like organisms that communicate through smell, giving bursts of different smells at various intervals to chat about a vast amount of subjects from interstellar travel to cosmic small talk. Will we even be aware of their presence, let alone communicate?

Before venturing into the depths of the universe to have a chat, isn’t it a better idea to solve the inter-species language barriers in our own tiny world as we aren’t the only intelligent life forms inhabiting this planet? (And, yes, I believe animals have intelligence, it’s just different from ours.)

Let’s have a quick peek at the communication patterns and our efforts in communication with the different species of our own planet… the ones (meaning all) we yet to decipher fully:

  • The meows! Kittens only meow to let their mothers know if they are cold or hungry. Once a kitten becomes a cat, they stop meowing to each other, and only meow to humans to get attention, let us know they are hungry or just to say welcome home. The irony is that they are the ones attempting to communicate with us…
  • The round dance and the waggle dance of honeybees is used to convey the exact distance, the direction and the quality of the pollen source discovered, to other honeybees. Yes, we’ve figured this one out, but understanding the method and even the meaning of communication between the members of a different species is very different from two species initiating communication with each other. You may think we are far more intelligent than honeybees therefore, there’s no need for us to communicate with them, but it’s another irony as far more intelligent extraterrestrials that might visit us in the future might think the same way, and just refrain from communicating with us.
To bee or not to bee!
  • Speaking of intelligence, dolphins excel at intelligence-based tests, are capable of complex problem solving, can individually learn and pass on their new knowledge to their young. They are also highly social and certainly do have a language consisting of a series of clicking sounds and whistles. So, have we attempted to communicate with them? Nope. At least, not in ways we are determined to communicate with equally intelligent extraterrestrials.

Just admit it, we will never be true horse whisperers in a literal sense with this attitude.

Perhaps, the first aliens we encounter would be pale humanoids? And somehow believe that sharing similar physical features is the key to bring down the intergalactic language barrier. It would really be easier to wave our arms, nod or just point at things! Or we could always try writing, drawing or typing in binary codes on a computer screen. If you think that can work, I suggest we have a look at our own world history and face the fact that we are far from deciphering most ancient forms of communication… ancient human writing, but let’s start with the ones we could decipher to lift up the spirit:

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics is one… but it still was an indecipherable tough cookie until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone which was a slab bearing three scripts carved in two languages (serving as translation): Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Greek… So, it was more thanks to the efforts of translators rather than linguists (xenolinguists) that we were able to crack ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Ancient Babylonian was deciphered more or less the same way; using ancient Persian as a reference in bilingual texts…

So, on most occasions a reference source, a key, was needed to decipher an unknown writing system… and even after that it took years to decipher some of these ancient scripts created by and cracked by the members of the same race! As Yuri Knorozov, the linguist who cracked Mayan hieroglyphs once said:

“What is created by one human mind can be unraveled by another!”

Yuri Knorozov

So true! But, how about what is created by an unknown alien race? Can it ever be unraveled by us?

It’s a tough question as there are still ancient writing systems and languages in our own human history that is far from cracking like;

The Harappan script of the Indus Valley Civilization is suspected to use the Boustrophedon style, written from right to left in first line and from left to right in second line meaning the alternate lines were reversed, sometimes with reversed letters.

Reverse Boustrophedon, where the text in alternate lines was rotated 180 degrees rather than mirrored, just like Rongorongo, the writing of ancient Rapa Nui, which we could only decipher the direction of the text but are still mostly clueless about the content.

Image Credit: How Reverse Boustrophedon looks like in Modern English by Kwamikagami

All these culs-de-sac were encountered in the attempts to decipher human originated scripts… now think about extraterrestrial language or writing systems! And, then add the effect of culture on top of that as culture, influences language greatly and it can never be ignored.

In the next post (Part II), we’ll look into how cultural elements influenced Earth languages up to now…

The Night Couple

The Night Couple

Here’s a piece of flash fiction I wrote back in 2018, when the world was a much better place to live, write and not to be concerned by pandemics! The story below was published in the 5th issue of the “Sky Island Journal“, which has then become home for aspiring authors from all over the world. Just drop by their webpage to enjoy inspiring stories (or poetry if that’s your thing!)… Not much to do these times other than to read anyway 🙂


THE NIGHT COUPLE

The night sky extended like a pitch-black blanket embedded with tiny diamonds, giving out bursts of condensed starlight at random intervals. Two figures lay on what seemed to be a small islet, judging by the sound of waves hitting hard on the coasts, leaving the tiny spot in the center almost mute except for some kind of virtually inaudible murmuring.


“I wonder if there are aliens out there,” the young female reflected, still fixated on the night sky, stargazing. She felt the familiar presence on her side, moving closer. The stars twinkled as if they had responded her question before he did.


Thinking she wasn’t being taken seriously, she slid a little away from him; just enough to get his attention. This feeling of strong affection towards him was strange to her; she had never felt like that before.


“I don’t know, but the universe is massive.” His thoughts echoed in her mind. “It would be foolish to think we’re alone.” He snuggled even closer than the first time. She loved being on the same frequency with him, communicating without the need of extensive mouth labor to produce meaningless sounds. He was different.


“What do they look like? How different is their world?” Thoughts were generated all at once in her mind.

“I’m sure they look nothing like you, my queen. You’re unique in the universe.”


Satisfied with his quick response this time, she remained anchored at her spot and stretched her arms as far as they could reach, forming arm-width canals that lead away from her body in the soft sand. It wasn’t long before she noticed the sky looking just a tad brighter.


“We need to be going home soon.” Her eyes were still watching the sky as it started to get even brighter.
He was hoping he would have more time to stay with her, but upon seeing the state of the swiftly illuminating sky, he knew there was very little time indeed. It was almost dawn… Dawns had always scared him.


“We need to go, my queen.” His arm gently grasped hers, the one that had been resting just next to him.


“OK, but we’ll continue our little conversation,” she conveyed. “I like thinking about the universe.”


“My queen.” He was getting alarmed. “We’ll dry out here and die if we wait a little longer. We should head home.”


Disturbing images flowed simultaneously into her mind, along with faint but alarming whispers echoing in her head, coming from deep under. It was a warning call from the others. It was time.
It was getting brighter, and the heat was getting more intense as Kepler-47 C’s double suns started showing their faces.


Finally, the odd couple wrapped their arms around each other—all 16 of them—crawled quickly to the tiny hole where they had emerged, and squeezed through, making their way down towards the ocean floor, their suction cups still glued to each other as they propelled to the hive on the seabed for the day.

THE END


I do not like books or any kind of fiction turning into lame silver screen productions, as the essence of the written work is almost always left out or altered beyond recognition to please the viewers, who seem more and more glamorized by special effects and needless action scenes. Individual imagination has been put to rest, and we are made to watch only the director’s imagination in most cases. So, I gradually began writing fiction that could not be turned into films (as it would be pointless to do so) and this was one of my first trials.

Cheers,

Baris Cansevgisi

Dumbing the Herd

Dumbing the Herd

We search for true love and eternal bliss all our lives…

We seek revenge to give us closure when we are wronged…

We try to find comfort in little pleasures amongst the agonies of life…

In short, we are always in pursuit of what is missing in us… what we lack… what we long for…

and sadly…

over the past few decades we have been searching for extraterrestrial “intelligence“, a concept which is becoming more and more alien to us as we advance in science and technology. Weirdly enough, we are becoming dumber as we become scientifically superior, perhaps just because intelligence is no more a prerequisite for survival for us like it used to be throughout our history.

(SETI does the dishes! But, why are they all facing just one (the same) direction? What if all the aliens are behind the hills at the back?)

Contemporary education has become all about implementing brand new methods of spoon-feeding, preparing our children for the future like thoughtless robotic entities. In response, the younger generation is becoming critical at thinking whereas they should be encouraged for the same concept minus the invading preposition. Possessing sponge-like, egg-shelled minds equipped with distinctive skill sets, each valuable asset is being directed into a single path of development, where fish are expected to climb trees and lions to fly. In this system, the monkey excels and becomes our future: marking the next back-step in our evolution.

(It’s not the teacher… It’s the system that hates us!)

Countries aren’t ruled just by governments anymore! They are merely managed in cooperation with the mainstream media. They show us what they believe, not what actually happens. Reporters do the thinking for us and distort the facts upon their liking. In the end, presented with only one option, we are lead to think we are free in believing what we want. Apart from the global or domestic news, we often come across news articles about what certain celebrities did on certain occasions. Our only strength called curiosity is turned into a weakness, as we start wondering which celebrity ate where or who had been dating who in a world where we shouldn’t really care. Usually the dumbest people are presented as role models and we may find ourselves competing for a life of idiocy. Sadly, our closest friends and family often become micro representatives of the mainstream media, acting as catalysts ready to socially outcast us if we are not informed enough on such vital(!) matters.

(It’s not the “what” that matters. It’s the “how”!)

Lastly, a massive blow comes to our intelligence in the entertainment industry; the silver screen, literature, computer, console or mobile games, and social media.

In blockbuster movies, we are easily awed by flashy visual effects and feel blissful by our celebrity crush just appearing in badly written, plot hole infested scripts with no content. How else could we justify the logic of a TV series plot involving a time travel adventure where the world was hit by a disaster 25 years ago, but our heroes choose to go 17 years back in hopes of preventing the global demise. But, who cares as long as the time machine flashes with colourful headlights, makes a weird buzzing sound (when even with today’s technology, my vacuum cleaner is dumb (silent)) and a hot actor is in the lead, saving the world. Or just like in the movie, set more or less 200 years later, the advancement in technology is represented by modified tanning beds that can cure any disease. Everything else is as it is today. What futuristic vision!

(So, you have terminal cancer, eh? 3 days in bed and you’ll be as good as new!)

In bestselling sci-fi novels, we may encounter a distinctively unimaginable(!) alien race from the tenth dimension, complete with humanoid limbs as their fingers linger on the keyboards and humanly actions and behaviours like wiping the sweat from the forehead. Oh boy, they are purely evil, too. What more could do the readers want, as long as they are not mentally challenged and have to think. Seriously, can you guess the title of this best-seller? (I doubt the picture below will give you a hint though.)

(I always felt alien to this world. But, now I might have solid proof: I have fingers and sweat! I am sometimes evil, too.)

The rise of the smart phones was actually the beginning of the downfall of our intelligence. We started relying on them to remember phone numbers (making no more effort in getting use of our memorisation skills), find our way when we get lost (paying no more attention to our surroundings) and post meaningless selfies online to get appreciation from strangers whom we never met (where fake smiles surpassed intelligent dialogues). We also began using them for quality entertainment(!), like engaging with unintelligent pay-to-play games which are falsely advertised and claimed as nearly impossible to beat games. Moreover, players are expected to spend a good deal of money on a regular basis if they want to advance in the game, like hurrying the game clock to achieve a result that they would otherwise get for free in an hour or so. Rushing everything in games and life, gives us much less time to think about the consequences of our actions.

(These two games above look exactly the same. In reality, they are, too! They are both Candy Crush games that have nothing to do with looting or RPG. Besides, how can anyone fail in the examples above?)

Most popular YouTube channels in this era are either the ones that lack original content such as cut-and-paste compilation videos with horrible background music or the ones that follow the ordinary everyday life of celebrity wannabes talking nonsense. As more and more people are satisfied with the end results, no creator has to worry about making more clever and engaging content.

It is true that we have started living in a fast-forward pace, where everything has become easily accessible and we have less time to do any real thinking. But, still…

Why is dumbness being promoted so much?

When what we want is dictated by others and we have the illusion of being happy, we just stop caring and we become much easier to please, thus to be controlled.

P.S: I am sure if this article were a piece on any celebrity, it would get at least twice the engagement!

(I just love how people can be stupid and self-confident at the same time!)
(Yes, why?)

Communicating with visitors from outer space: The uncanny resemblance of the Unfamiliar Familiarity…

Communicating with visitors from outer space: The uncanny resemblance of the Unfamiliar Familiarity…

We are born… totally unaware of the world around us; an alien world…
We learn crying first… that’s our first attempt in communication… or attention seeking until we find more effective ways…
Then, we learn to stand on our knees, crawl and finally walk…
In the end, we learn to speak as we complete the totally helpless phase of our infancy. The comms link is finally online…

It takes us years to get familiar with our home world and its humanoid inhabitants. Yet, we are never fully familiar towards other life forms on our planet…

Nobody has communicated with a chicken…
Nobody knows how a potted sunflower truly feels when neglected too long…
Nobody has ever set their eyes upon the creatures living in the deepest parts of our oceans…
Nobody has tried to make a pact with deadly viruses for them not to make us sick… oh wait! Most of us aren’t even aware that viruses aren’t living organisms… but we try to kill these lifeless but contagious pieces of code anyway.

We still know only bits and pieces about the other life forms we coexist with, on our shared planet…

Yet, we seek intelligent life forms in deep space and still believe we can come to terms with these aliens through diplomacy once we find them and form an inter-galactic federation to rule the galaxy peacefully altogether… or crush the destructive, evil ones…

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Before elaborating more on the ways to communicate with aliens, let’s take a short trip into some popular alien encounter plots in the sci-fi world:

A spaceship either makes its way to one of the largest cities in the world, or just crash lands in the suburbs where a small town lies nearby. The aliens’ agenda is always the same wherever they land though: to destroy us or strip our planet off its valuable resources. Then the war for our planet commences…

We beat them 9 out of 10 times. Perhaps because they look like us somehow… an uncanny resemblance of the unfamiliar familiarity: they’re either off-color humanoids, complete with all the limbs etc. Or some variation of earthly creatures like giant bugs or non-aquatic octopuses.

This physical familiarity must be the reason we believe we can communicate so easily with them.

So, let’s make it easier for the mankind and imagine the first aliens we encounter are not only humanoid in form, but also a nearly exact copy of our image. But even then… what makes us think we can understand each other? How easily can we communicate with other people? Can we even completely understand our fellow earthlings?

human-alien
… in a world where,

… men can’t truly understand women…
… archaeologists can’t decipher most ancient writing forms… (such as the Rongorongo of Easter Island)…
… each Earth culture has its own beliefs and values…(even gestures)…

Still not convinced?

Try explaining snowflakes to a young Masai warrior…

or

what an ocean is to someone who has lived in a landlocked country all their life…

Why I am obsessed with time travel… and why you should be, too

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Being an avid reader/writer of cool science fiction stories, admiring traveling and having very little money most of the time could very well be used to describe some of my traits. I know I sound like a broke geek with the above description but I assure you I have a lot of other non-geeky qualities and likes, such as;….errr…..hmmm…..well….fantasizing about historical events.

Ok, now you can see how  my traits and time traveling meet up at a common point. Here’s why I can’t seem to keep myself away from thinking or writing about it:

  • I’ve always been a time-traveller, right from my birth to my current age. Although, I’ve only managed to travel forward in time in this period, it’s still a thing I’ve been doing so well for so long. And guess what? You’re just like me! (unless you are Benjamin Button)
  • There are endless possibilities in time travel and a whole, massive history of interesting times and events you can visit. You can run along dinosaurs, be on the Titanic when it sank, witness your grandpa hitting on your grannie or simply watch a good football match that you’ve missed,…live….
  • Paradoxes! Who doesn’t love a good time-travel paradox? Imagine, what would happen if you went back in time and shot Hitler before he rose into power? Hmmm…since you changed history by killing him, he wouldn’t have risen to power and we wouldn’t have heard about him in our time in the first place so that you couldn’t have gone back in time to kill him….Nice, right? What if you accidentally killed one of your ancestors? It’s good thought practice. Isn’t it?
  • You can read or write without paying attention to grammar as the statement “I’ll see you yesterday” would still be technically correct.
  • Believe me, there is always a good story in time travel. and tragedy. and mystery. and humor. and… every kind of emotion that you want to experience.
  • The best thing is that when you (read or write about) time travel, you won’t be spending a single penny. It’s indeed the cheapest way of vagabonding.

Can’t time-travel? Then, live your life to the fullest, make excellent memories, make love, take selfies (not necessarily in that order) and revisit your memories, thinking about all when you get older.