First encounters with aliens is a common motif in Science Fiction, and yet they always leave me feeling bitter. I often ask myself "why did they do that, why not this and that?" "They just met an advanced alien civilization, of all the things they could have and should have done, why that?" Often examined in these stories are the psychological impacts, or the political concerns, or the military anxieties. Often overlooked is the immense opportunity. Any civilization capable of bridging the stars will be significantly more advanced than ours, make no mistake of that. Imagine all the ideas that would pour out of their brains if we cracked them open like a golden egg. I would ask them questions until I turned blue in the face and my tongue fell out, I would, otherwise I would regret not having done so for the rest of my Earthbound life. In "The Demon-Haunted World" by Carl Sagan, we examine pseudoscience's and conspiracies with the same kind of skeptical lens. We look at UFO claims. Doctor Sagan was a well known and vocal skeptic, so he never received a shortage of mail from UFO "experts" trying to convince him and set him straight, "ask me anything" they would say. And so, clever Dr. Sagan would try to think of questions that any sophisticated civilization (a civilization, say, capable of bridging the stars) may find as simple as a word puzzle. Questions such as Fermat's Last Theorem, or a cure for all known Earthly diseases, or a renewable source of energy. Of course, no one on Earth can answer those questions, so Dr. Sagan never got an answer. If you asked them something esoteric or generic, like "is there life after death" they would not be hesitant in reassuring us that there is. One of the underpinning themes of the book is that there is never a shortage of snake oil salesmen selling us fabrications that makes us feel happy, such as our dead loved ones still being with us. We readily buy into the lies because we secretly want to be placated, but just because something makes us feel good does not make it true. Dr. Sagan's thought experiment was just a bit of playful juxtaposition, executed with a charm and wit typical of all of his musings. But let us, for now, conduct a different thought experiment. In a footnote Dr. Sagan remarks that "It's a stimulating exercise to think of questions to which no human today knows the answers, but where a correct answer would immediately be recognized as such." I'm inclined to agree. Furthermore, it serves a psychological need. A favorite pastime of children is asking questions, and they are joyous when receiving an answer. There is an immediate gratification when being answered, but that is a dangerous habit. Sometimes, absurdities and dogmas are often heralded as truth, a conspiracy theory is favored over no theory. That is not progress, selling untruth as truth is a disaster waiting to happen. The process of asking the question itself may however satisfy some small intellectual need, and to the extent that we are inquisitive primates, there is no harm in generating playful thinking as long as we do not act irrationally on it. Therefore, as the title posits, if we were to have the opportunity or privilege to ask an alien civilization no more or less than 10 questions, what could or should we ask them? This is not a new game, this is a very old game. It has the same familiarity as games like "what would you wish for if you had a genie or a fairy in front of you?". It is a game that will end with about the same results. Many magazines and periodicals have columns with all kinds of experts; relationship advice, sexual suggestions, astrology, business. People are curious, they have questions to ask and lives to base their answers on. However, this is a game that is not merely limited to the fantastic. There very well might be an alien civilization somewhere in any one of the hundred billion suns of our galaxy, or in one of any of the many other countless galaxies. We may, perhaps, one day, find them, or become engaged in dialogues of some type with them. When the time comes we may be able to ask our silly questions, and based on the answers we receive, we may take the next step beyond a race of primates clinging to our rock on the edge of a vast nowhere. Any answers to these questions(if there are any), would be a gift to our race, and change our planet forever. 1)Can you help us in our search for a source of renewable energy? I don't think that that's too big a thing to ask an advanced civilization. We are very close to achieving fusion, having the energy of a star at our fingertips would be an incredible advance for our species, it would take us billions of years before we exhausted all the Hydrogen in our system. 2)Can you help us in our search for a cure for diseases? This may be too much to ask an alien race. Because they come from another planet (or dimension?), their biochemistry may be so alien to ours that finding a way of curing our diseases is beyond their knowledge. Of course, they may have advanced medical knowledge and experience that comes with living on a planet with advanced contagions that make earthly diseases like HIV and cancer seem like a cold sore. We still find miraculous drugs in remote regions of this planet, medicines from another world may not be so farfetched. 3)Is their a scientific theory that can account for all matter and energy in the universe? This may be a question as difficult to ask as it is to answer. Albert Einstein died in the search of a formula to satisfy his quest for a theory that would unify all the different braches of science. It would be like peering into God's brain, he would say. Today, theoretical physicists attempt to make a "theory of everything", and particle physicists hope to make a particle accelerator so powerful that it can uncover a hidden "god particle". It could be that we are simply too stupid to "figure out the universe", but such a thing may not be beyond the knowing of an advance alien civilization. 4)Can you tell us how to construct or design a new labor saving device? Machines are important, they make life easier for us. One of the greatest advances in human civilization, and one of my favorites, was the steam engine. It was our first true machine, and in some variation, from the car engine to the nuclear powerplant, the underlying concept of motion and work are still at work. I can only imagine what new machine has yet to invented, I would be surprised if they do not have a level of automation (robots perhaps) that make our assembly lines at car factories look like a stack of legos. 5)What information can you give us about the universe? Is there anything that we should know about our system? Is a comet or an asteroid that we can't see about to collide with us? We can't observe most the universe, there are still mysterious things which we only have bywords for like dark energy and dark matter. If they know what they are, I would be curious to know what they are. We discover extrasolar planets all the time, I'm sure that they have discovered a fair share as well. I would love to pull one of their astronomy books (if they still have books) off the shelf to crack it open. I would love to hand copy one of their star charts or galactic manuals. Or, if they know anything about universes beyond ours, and have details about some kind of multiverse, I should very much like to know about that. 6)Is there some kind of moral or ethical system which you can give us that can help us as a species be better to one another? This could a question that has an answer difficult to implement or execute. It's not like we have a shortage or codes of conduct and laws on Earth, the problem is getting everyone to comply or agree. It could be that we simply can't, but I often wonder if there's some kind of superior and unknown system underneath our noses waiting to be discovered. It could replace all laws and governments as we know them, making politicians as obsolete to a stellar culture as a village chieftain is to a modern one. 7)Is there a way to find a permanent and renewable source of nutrition One day the world population may exceed the demands of food production. Millions may starve; of course food is merely a special arrangement of organic molecules. Any sufficiently advanced civilization may find it within their abilities to synthesize nutrients in an abundance to feed a thousand earths. This would solve the problem of hunger for now and for as long as we could maintain that technology. 8)Is there a way to avoid death? This may be a selfish question, but again, not so farfetched for an advanced culture. We have only in the last few centuries made miraculous leaps in medicine, and have positively identified the cause of aging and death to within the nucleus of a cell. A way of neutralizing it may be beyond our capacity now, but well within realization for a species much older. This would make death a thing of the past, and no human would ever have to fear death again. 9)What is the most efficient and expeditious way to travel between the planets? With the hope that the aliens have found some kind of shortcut or fast track through the cosmos such as space folding, wormholes, quantum teleportation, etc. What we do know is that light speed is the speed limit of the universe. However, the distance even to the nearest star is so far it would make space travel and exploration an enterprise taking centuries or a millennia to complete. We do know that theoretical physics has identified some backdoors and cracks in relativity, and even relativity itself may be tolerant to shortcuts in space travel. If these shortcuts exist, they must be exploited, such is the nature of exploitation. If such shortcuts exist, a space-traveling species no doubt uses some form of it, and such a technology could give us the freedom to explore the universe the way we have always dreamed. 10)Is there anything that we should know? This is a catch-all, in case we can't think of something, or in case we forget something or leave something unasked, it may spur them to divulge something of use. It would be a shame if they ended up leaving our planet after a lengthy discussion, and come to find out centuries later that the reason why they didn't give us the answer to "life, the universe, and everything", is simply because we didn't ask. It's a clause, an amendment, if we should fail to ask the right thing, let this serve some function. Is may give them a pause worth considering, that this species called humanity is curious and deserves to know...X That is my list for now, it is anything but permanent, and anything but perfect,(whatever perfect means). If any of you have any inputs or criticisms, I am excited to hear them. This is, I think, nothing more than intellectual game play, but in the old tradition of Socratic reasoning, even by asking a question it can generate critical thinking by forcing us to think of a reasonable answer. Enjoy.