In an earlier question I shared the idea of Bill, the stranded alien that has a challenge getting the attention of local humans because he's the size of a mosquito.

He needs to re-establish contact with others of his kind, elsewhere on the planet in similar capacities. They would have ID protocols and such, but he can't just turn on a radio beacon because his surviving kit is only what he had on him, very tiny and low-powered. His peers are not expecting someone to stop by, and they are actively camouflaged and unobtrusive.

How would they (Bill with help from his new human pal) find Bill's peer, even if they knew a general area in which to look? Since the names are arbitrary translation labels we'll refer to him as Carl. Carl might be engrossed in fungal hyphae in topsoil and not notice a huge billboard put up on the acre he's exploring. He's simply not paying attention to things on this scale.

Edit: yea, it's not just “what would Bill do?”, but what kind of general procedures would be in place, given the capabilities of the scout described?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hmm! Aren't 'hidden' and 'secret' together sort of overkill? But, seriously, isn't finding aliens of any size on a planet especially if you don't know where they are concealed always going to be difficult. Seems to me there needs to be an easy finder system, say, in orbit, for whoever comes next to the planet. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ You may want to clarify how this differs from being a request for a plot, because that's all I currently see here. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 12:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sure this is years old, but if these were really explorers going to a different world, then either one of two things would be true: a. There would be a complicated set of protocols for recovering a lost person (look into procedures for recovering lost pilots, such as the documentary Behind Enemy Lines) or b. The aliens culturally don't value life, and don't care if Bob dies, which means Bob wouldn't care if he dies. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion yea, what might those procedures be? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 16:33

3 Answers 3


If he has the individual know how he could modify human sized radios to do the broadcasts he needs.

If he knows the general area his people are supposed to be in he has more options. Especially if the area is an acre or less.

He could visit every ant hive within the acre and paint a quick message on each ant using a stencil as they go out.

Does he know Bill prime is studying a certain item? Perhaps Bill Alt can focus his communication vector on that. Bill Prime studying flowers? Then taking Bees might be more effective.

Does Bill Alt have to cover a larger area? If he can capture and deploy a remote drone, he could have it carry around an IPOD reprogrammed to blast out some of the more popular hits from back home on planet Bill.

Is Bill Prime studying an aspect of human culture? He could insert subtle references to the culture of planet Bill into the media.

Many more options are available depending upon his personal knowledge and skills and what the other Bill's are studying.

Technique for larger areas

If Bill Alt needs to track down his people from a larger area and his people are not prone to looking up from their studies then audio is probably the best method to broadcast over a large area.

Accessing Emergency broadcast systems for cites and counties and have them broadcast a message in his native tongue is probably the most efficient way here in the US. These systems are not universally set up though and would require different skills. Some are simple analog alarms, and would need a physical modification of the alarm sirens. Others are digital, and could be as simple as overwriting a file in a computer system (if he can access it).

  • $\begingroup$ The stored data Bill has with him is limited and not a general encyclopedia outside of his subject area. Even if he did, could you modify an alien device to be able to use wifi, using only what you read on Wikipedia? Finding the general site and finding him within an acre are different problems, and I will make the latter interesting, at least. They're not studying humans at all: microscopic details where most life exists. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ If I had a large enough supply of the alien devices, and the basic electronics (capacitors/resistors) functioned the same then using Wikipedia I could modify them to use wireless.I would probably ruin several dozen first. $\endgroup$
    – PCSgtL
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ It's not like AM radio: you need all the layers of protocols, frequency spreading, etc. I don't think anyone could build a wifi from scratch, or modify a system-on-chip that did something else to do it, either. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ Remember for this situation, that the chip is the size of Bill. Some of the components bigger then Bill. It makes many of the tasks involved in the electronic conversion job much simpler. (If physically more daunting now that you have to move a capacitor as big as you) $\endgroup$
    – PCSgtL
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ How do you get "Alt" for a reference to the protagonist doing the searching? I read that as alternate and can't figure a different meaning. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 16:22

First, you stay lost unless both you and others have agreed on a protocol before you start.

If you are working on the assumption that your alien has only the equivalent of human survival pack, and now trying to locate one the dozen or so aliens on the planet, you run into some size issues. The planet is the size of RingWorld at their scale. You need to communicate with a brethren and traverse the planet. You stay lost.

If you have you equipment, then you encode your location into the introns of a local biological, maybe give it a spiff for survival, and release it. If you have agreed on the type of biological, your brethren will scan the DNA of the fauna now and again.

If you have some larger equipment, you just blast out your location by radio. You have time slot, maybe 2 seconds per month and a particular point of the moon. You push up a few watts at that time and hope your friends have a directional receiver aimed at that spot.

Or, you can abandon subtlety, use your advanced technology to raise an army of killer robots to kill of the humans and raise hundred mile high towers to scream at your brethren to come get you. You brethren may be annoyed.


There would be procedures in place to recover a lost explorer in this case.

Check-in times

If a pilot is show down over enemy territory, but can't get a distress call out in time, he simply goes off the air. Back in Korea and Vietnam, at least, pilots were not in permanent communication with the home base. If they didn't 'say' anything on air for a while, that wouldn't be normal. Depending on how often Bob is expected to check in, the explorer HQ would know after a certain amount of time to look for Bob.

Other pilots look first

The obvious people to look for a shot down pilot are other pilots in the area. In your case, with other scouts already on the planet, this is the obvious solution. After Bob is off air for 30 zorks of time, Scout HQ tells other nearby scouts to go try to make contact with Bob.

Distress Beacons

One such system I am familiar with is the MOBi. Basically, when the MOBi gets wet, it starts sending a radio pulse every x seconds. The MOBi controller manages the devices, and determines if any are going off. The Navy also has bigger versions for the entire ship (i.e. if the bridge gets wet, the ship is probably sunk so start transmitting; this one is designed to signal satellites so you can probably find a sunken US Navy ship from the Moon or farther).

This could work two ways; each scout has a MOBi system that keeps track of all other scouts, or HQ has a system in space that monitors them. Instead of getting wet, some other condition (loss of power?) would activate the device. The device would, of course, have its own power supply.

Blood Chit

Pilots in neutral territory carried blood chits to help ensure their safety once shot down. These were basically messages in the local language, explaining who the pilot was, and promising some sort of reward for keeping the pilot sage.

This would be a difficult subject with your explorers, depending on whether or not they wanted to get in touch with the local people. If they didn't mind making first contact, then scouts with be provided with some (self-powered) device designed to get in contact with humans (like the wireless methods stuff suggested in the linked question).

Send in the rescue squad.

If the downed pilot is found, then there would be some plan in place for getting him out. The US Air Force in Vietnam had specific helicopters ('Jolly Green Giant') and associated squadrons on hand to perform these extractions when needed.

After Bob doesn't make contact or 30 zorgs, and other scouts find him, the rescue squadron is sent to help.

  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem to address the scenario in the OP. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ @TheBlackCat I think it does. Why do you disagree? $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ The OP said "His peers are not expecting someone to stop by", so anything requiring them to be actively looking for him (1, 2, 5) violates the scenario. The OP said "but he can't just turn on a radio beacon because his surviving kit is only what he had on him, very tiny and low-powered", so distress beacons and anything requiring wireless communication with humans violates the scenario (3 and 4). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @TheBlackCat Basically, either the OP's assumptions are wrong, or the scouting group doesn't care if Bob dies. If they have made no effort to allow Bob to be recovered, then I would assume that his life is not valued. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 17:45

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