Lost? Let us help.

This was an Idea I came up with a while ago while discussing tattoos, specifically the tattoo that a friend was planning to get. She wanted to put the Pioneer plaque ‘how to get to Earth’ image on her upper arm. Why? I asked. I mean, quite apart from “why spend several very expensive very painful hours getting needles stuck into you when you could just put on a T-shirt with the pattern on”. Basically, it looked cool. OK, fair enough. Better than having the name of your current boyfriend or the latest band permanently inked into your skin. But it set me thinking. In reality, why would anyone have that tattooed onto them? And then it occurred to me. In case they were lost!

Text Box:    If found, please return to this address  Not lost in the sense of “I have lost GPS signal, I cannot find the A1308”. Not lost in the sense of “I am in the Mall aged five and cannot find my mummy”. No, lost in the sense of “I was abducted by aliens and dropped off on the planet Zog 20,000 light years from Earth and everyone here communicates by waggling their ears, and I have no idea at all how to even explain what I mean by ‘home’”.

And so the concept – a Medalert bracelet for abductees. It contains the basic information that will allow the Zoggites to work out who you are, where you come from, and to get you back there more or less alive and more or less in one piece.

What would it include? The Pioneer pulsar map, obviously. Also something saying  ‘I am based on water’, so they do not give you a nice relaxing bath in liquid fluorine.  Something saying “I breath oxygen at 20kPa pressure”, so they do not suggest you stand on the surface of an asteroid and hitch-hike. Keep me between 280 and 310 Kelvin. (You could have a wider temperature range, but then you have to work out a way of describing clothes …). Some sort of limits on radiation (none <300nm, please).  Gravity? I don’t think that is needed – no planet with a surface gravity of over 3g is going to be compatible with a water-based life-form. As a default, they keep you in free fall.

Food is more complex, I would just give the formula for glycine and say ‘feed me this’ – that and water would keep you going for a couple of weeks. Why glycine? It provides nitrogen for amino acids, a carbon skeleton that can be fed into gluconeogenesis via 3-PG for sugars and fats, and is achiral so they cannot feed you the wrong enantiomer. After a while you will start to get every vitamin and mineral deficiency known to man. All at once. Bone loss will occur too, but not until you are dead from lack of essential amino acids, so don’t worry about that. But for a few weeks, you will be fine! .

We are assuming that the aliens have hyper-relatavistic starships, Of course we are, you cry, how foolish to even suggest that we would even consider anything else. Because if they do not, then it will take you 50,000 years to get home from Planet Zog, and vitamin deficiencies are not your main problem.

So we do this as a bracelet? It could come off. (“Observe, Groonick, the creature has some sort of slave restraint on one of its larger projections.” “How terrible! Let us remove it, and then give the creature a nice relaxing bath in liquid fluorine.”) A tattoo? Well, it would be a large and complicated tattoo, and how would they tell that is not just your natural colouring or some sort of mating signal (“Phworr!  Look at the biochemical symbols on her”) No, I think some sort of cutaneous implant, made of something that is obviously a different material from you, and clearly visible to the outside so aliens who image in ultrasonics or ear-waggling can detect it.  Basically, we are talking ultra-techy piercings. I see this as being the new fashion accessory for the ultimately weird yet trendy. Are you alien abduction ready?

I welcome any suggestions of things to add to this absolutely essential accessory.


Actually, it would be quite an interesting experiment to see how long someone could stay (moderately) healthy on a diet consisting solely of pure glycine and distilled water. Volunteers?