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The UK has been looking for alien weapons – but there’s far cooler stuff out there | Stuart Heritage

The universe is vast and unexplored. For as long as humanity has existed we have gazed out awestruck into the stars, hoping against hope that we are not alone in the void.

Might there be other life forms out there? Might we simply be an undiscovered tendril of an intergalactic community that stretches out towards infinity? And, were we ever to chance upon the miracle of an alien species, what’s the best way that we could catch them, kill them and harness their technology in order to destroy our enemies in a mist-cloud of laserbeams and blood?

District 9.

District 9. ‘It’s starting to feel tired.’ Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Of course you’ve thought about this. We all have. What’s the point of aliens if we can’t hijack all their cool stuff and blow up Russia with it? The Ministry of Defence definitely thought this: a declassified dossier has just revealed that for 50 years, it reserved a desk devoted to stealing and weaponising alien technology, based on a fear that China or the USSR would beat them to it by capturing a UFO and mining its tech to build ultra-fast warplanes.

It’s always superweapons, isn’t it? As soon as anyone brings up the notion of alien life forms, we all collectively turn into an eight-year-old boy on Christmas Eve, hopping from foot to foot because it might mean getting our hands on a cool new toy that can explode heads or boil the ocean. This aspiration is reinforced endlessly in popular culture – in recent years both District 9 and Spider-Man Homecoming have hinged on this very wish – and it’s starting to feel tired. So let me attempt to move the narrative along a little. Humanity can aim higher. Here are all the things that we could really use alien technology for.

Food for everyone

An artist’s impression of Kepler-452b

An artist’s impression of Kepler-452b. ‘Wouldn’t it be better to share its inhabitants’ secrets and put an end to world hunger?’ Photograph: Nasa/Reuters

Kepler-452b – the closest inhabitable planet to Earth – is 1,400 light years away. It would take 26 million years for any of its inhabitants to reach us, which means that they’d almost definitely have mastered cheap, light and plentiful nutrition. Wouldn’t it be better to share their secrets and put an end to world hunger?


Again, for an alien species to travel all the way here, you’d imagine that it would have cracked the notion of suspended animation pretty definitively. So, instead of stealing their guns, let’s ask how they achieved this. Planet Earth is almost definitely irreparably damaged, and this technology would allow us to colonise other planets. A working cryosleep blueprint might literally be the saviour of mankind.

Immunity from disease

A still from E.T. (1982)

Human DNA made ET sick. But would real aliens have ‘a special kind of goo’? Photograph: Allstar/Universal

The aliens might not ever get ill, and that might be because they all drink a special kind of goo or whatever. Could we have some of it? It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Intergalactic wifi

Arguably the worst thing about life on Earth in 2018 is that train wifi doesn’t work quite as well as advertised. Imagine if the aliens had a way of fixing it. We’d be able to tweet in tunnels and everything. Oh man, it’d be so excellent.

Hot Earl Grey

Jean-Luc Picard, in Star Trek

Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, aka Patrick Stewart, in need of a cup of tea. Photograph: Cine Text/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

Remember in Star Trek when Jean-Luc Picard used to get hot Earl Grey tea out of a computer just by asking for it? Meanwhile we’re stuck over here in the dark ages with bags and kettles. Honestly, we’re no better than monkeys.

Cool hats

Lots of aliens have cool hats, don’t they? Imagine how great it’d be if they’d lend me one of them. I’d be the talk of the town. You know what I’d do if I had a cool alien hat? I’d go and stand outside my ex-girlfriend’s house and shout “LOOK AT MY HAT SUSAN! LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE MISSING! I BET KEITH HASN’T GOT A COOL HAT LIKE MINE, HAS HE? PLEASE COME BACK TO ME,” through her letterbox for an hour. Please let this happen.

Stuart Heritage writes about film, TV and music for the Guardian


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