By Austin Seraphin, KA3TTT and ChatGPT 4 In the Style of Douglas Adams
In a typically nondescript laboratory, somewhere between the international dateline and the price of tea in China, a group of scientists were contemplating an extraordinary event. They had picked up an extraterrestrial radio signal. This was momentous, revolutionary, the crowning achievement of human endeavor. Also, it was a Tuesday, and there were fresh scones in the break room.
After numerous caffeine-fueled nights, the team had managed to decode the signal. The room was electric with anticipation as Dr. Humphrey Jones, a man of considerable intelligence and less considerable hair, prepared to reveal the decoded message to the world.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, his voice echoing off the sterile white walls, “our new extraterrestrial friends have sent us a message that reads… ‘CQ TEST’.”
“CQ TEST?” queried Dr. Samantha Lewis, her eyebrows inching up her forehead with skepticism. “That’s it?”
“That’s it,” Jones confirmed, feeling an uncomfortable itch he attributed to existential disappointment.
Mystified, the scientists turned to their most powerful radio transmitter, dubbed “The Mouth of Humanity” (to which the janitor retorted, “More like the backchat of humanity”). They transmitted back, asking the question that has plagued humans for millennia, “What is the meaning of life?”
After a pause long enough to create an anthology of uncomfortable glances, the response came: “TNX FER QSO. UR RST 599. PSE QSL.”
“What on Kepler-22b does that mean?” Samantha blurted out.
“It seems,” Jones sighed, “that we have not made contact with a wise and ancient alien race. Instead, we’ve stumbled upon… alien ham radio contesters.”
The rest of the week saw the scientists fervently trying to hold meaningful conversations with the aliens, who were more interested in signal reports, confirming the contact, and generally boosting their contest scores.
“What about the mysteries of the universe?” pleaded Samantha in one transmission. “What’s out there?”
“PSE QSL VIA BURO,” the aliens promptly responded, completely uninterested in deep philosophical discussion. They wanted a QSL card from Earth - a veritable trophy given the planet’s rarity in the contesting scene.
With a final “GL IN TEST, 73 ES HPE CUAGN SN,” the aliens stopped replying. They had moved on, no doubt, to collect more QSOs from distant, exotic parts of the universe, leaving the scientists in their radio-silent wake.
As the echoes of the alien’s final “good luck” faded into the ether, the scientists could only look at each other, bemused and somewhat hungry.
“Tuesday,” Jones finally remarked, “scones in the break room.”
“And maybe,” Samantha added, “a bit of humility for dessert.”