2477: Alien Visitors
Title text: Stay right there, we'll be back in a minute. We've just gotta brainstorm some new wonders. Have you all figured out gears yet? Yes? Crap.
This strip satirizes the ancient astronauts hypothesis: that aliens were involved in building the pyramids and Stonehenge. This concept, popular in some circles, is based on the assumption that earlier civilizations lacked the technology to build such large structures. There are also geometric or other scientific properties to these structures, which some people assume that humans of that era would have been incapable of creating. Erich von Däniken, a Swiss author, is one of the foremost proponents of "ancient astronauts." Some say that such pseudoscience is inherently racist, as it assumes, without any proof, that other civilizations were unable to build their monuments without foreign help. Although others disagree since most races and nationalities have one or another of these monuments with similar claims.
In the comic, aliens arrive with the intention of building such monuments with their highly advanced technology, including some sort of tractor beam to lift the heavy stones and another beam that can depict a pyramid. They are shocked to hear from Cueball that humans accomplished the same thing thousands of years earlier with such simple tools as ramps, and even in more than one location on Earth (Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico). Thus they proceed to suggest a stone circle to predict the solstice, but before they can finish this sentence Megan says this is like Stonehenge.
The joke of the strip is that, if aliens were interested in building such structures on earth, they'd be just as likely to show up today as thousands of years ago. And if they offered to build pyramids today, humans would be very unimpressed, as we've had the technology to do so for quite some time. The notion that an advanced, spacefaring species would come all the way to Earth (or whatever other planets they visit) to build relatively simple stone structures seems dubious, when put that way.
Alternately, the aliens may have visited Earth before in the past and impressed the humans of the time with their advanced technology of pyramids and stone circles, leading them to expect the same technology to impress the humans again in the present day. This is somewhat plausible: Stonehenge is estimated to have been built around 3100BC, while the pyramids were built 500-1000 years later. Assuming both structures were indeed built by aliens in the past, the visitors would have returned to the Earth to find agricultural civilizations almost identical to the ones they encountered centuries prior. The aliens could have then been led to believe that human technology, if almost entirely unchanged in the 500 years since they last visited, would not have advanced significantly in a few thousand years. Indeed, the aliens were mostly correct in this assessment: technological advancement progressed at a crawl until the scientific revolution marked the emergence of modern science only a relatively short 600 years ago. From this perspective, the aliens would seem to be correct in their assumption that human technology would not significantly improve such that they could not impress humanity with their technological wonders. Unfortunately, the aliens have been caught off-guard by the exponential nature of technological advancement, in that advanced civilizations have the resources to advance even more rapidly.
The aliens' reaction is frustration as they cannot teach us anything new; evidently, it does not occur to them to share their technologies for antigravity and interstellar travel (which, having come to Earth in floating spaceships, they clearly possess).
In the title text they have regrouped and would now present another wonder - gears. This is very likely a reference to the Antikythera mechanism, an artifact dating from the 2nd century BC which used a complex, geared calculating system to predict the movement of stars and planets. As with the aforementioned structures, some fringe groups theorize that such mechanisms were beyond human technology at the time, and therefore must have been given by aliens. Once again, such technology is not impressive to humans at this point, as complex, geared mechanisms are now commonplace in most human societies. Indeed, quite a bit of intricate mechanical gearing and timing has been obsoleted by electronics.
- [A flying saucer is hovering high above Cueball and Megan, drawn very small standing on the ground beneath it. The aliens inside speak to them from inside their saucer, indicated with zigzag lines between it and the text.]
- Aliens: Greetings, humans!
- Megan: Whoa, aliens!
- Aliens: We bring you technological wonders!
- [Zoom in on the flying saucer which has two beams below it, the left showing an outline of a pyramid and the right is shown lifting a large stone. Cueball replies off-panel.]
- Aliens: We will help you lift great stones and build towering monuments.
- Cueball (off-panel): Oh, pyramids?
- [Zoom in on Cueball and Megan looking up, the Aliens reply from above the panel.]
- Aliens (off-panel): ...Yes.
- Cueball: Yeah, we have those. In Egypt.
- Megan: And Mexico.
- Cueball: I think they used ramps?
- [Zoom back out, as in first panel]
- Aliens: Then we shall build a ring of stones aligned with the stars, so at the solstice-
- Megan: Oh, like Stonehenge?
- Aliens: Dammit, humans.
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