made the point that even if an alien spacecraft did
crash at Roswell
, we probably wouldn't be able to understand such advanced technology
, using a TV
set dropped into the middle ages
as an example. However, one does not need to go as far back as that to make the case. An excellent example of this can be illustrated using a time gap of only 60 years, well within a current senior citizen
What if you took a modern cell phone/PDA (let's say a handspring TREO) back to 1940?
One of the first things (the case and external switches would be marvelled over for their size and tight tolerances, but that is merely an extension of "current" technology) that the scientists who take the device back to their super-secret lab for reverse engineering it would notice would be the flat color LCD screen. Color television wouldn't appear until the 50's and the first color CRT-based TV sets used field-sequential technology, with a color wheel like that in a video projector. Any attempt to disassemble the liquid-crystal screen in the smartphone would cause the crystals to run out, ruining it. (Ironically, our next-generation displays using OLED technology would be slightly more understandable to them, as electroluminescence (EL) is a phenomena known since 1907.) The LED in the backlight might be understood, though, as it is a relatively simple device using technology that they would be able to reverse engineer.
The battery and the single-chip capacitors and resistors on the board would be easy to fathom, and would likely lead to a portable power revolution. Beyond that, not much else in the case would make sense. The sight that would greet their eyes would be a high-density circuit board (some of the circuit would even be on flexible sheets) covered in little black wafers. To make matters worse, a flip-chip microprocessor package with a ball-grid array of conductors on the underside is unintuitive to the naked eye, lacking the visible contacts of the old bug-shaped chips with their perimeter leadframes. Since the contacts are directly under the chip, a test lead cannot be connected to determine the chip's function. (There are test points on the circuit board, but they are used by an engineer to make sure the device works, not to analyze the function of every processor in the circuit.)
What about the chips themselves? Featureless black packages with identifiable electrodes on one side, operating in a way that cannot be easily determined. The first transistor won't be invented for seven years, so there isn't even an existing example of a solid-state device. (The first commercial transistors weren't available until 1954.) So let's say our intrepid scientists open a chip. The integrated circuit (IC) was invented by Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments in 1958, and the first plastic-packaged ICs didn't exist until 1964. However, the first American electron microscope was made in 1938, so they would be able to see that it was indeed made up of microscopic junctures of some kind. They just wouldn't understand what they were.
So even if there was alien technology in whatever crashed in Roswell (I support the secret military hardware theory), it would probably not be comprehensible to the researchers of the time.
Then again, if it was simply kept under wraps until we were better able to understand it...
Frankly, I think that all that UFO activity was advanced combat and recon aircraft. The government would rather let us think they have a UFO or two than divulge any military secrets.
- It has been recently said that the "memory metal" Nitinol
was reverse-engineered from Roswell. That almost makes sense, as the only artifacts reported were strange metal pieces from the wreck. I still think it wasn't a flying saucer, but it does make an interesting arguement.