The surprise alien blockbuster Arrival takes an old science fiction plot — intelligent extraterrestrials come to Earth — and jettisons the explosive boom and doom of an invasion scenario. Instead of indulging our fears of otherness, the film posits that extraterrestrials might be peaceful, curious, and maybe even in need of human assistance. It also peers into how humans would struggle to help galactic fellow travelers because our government institutions and prejudices make it nearly impossible for our leaders, much less our species, to act in concert. That’s an interesting reality check from a science fiction film, especially as SETI research ramps up and a politician with little interest in science or diplomacy moves into the White House.

The chances that Donald Trump will speak to aliens on behalf of mankind are not significant, but there remains a nonzero chance of contact. And if that event occurred, it would — unless something radical happened — be organized in a frighteningly haphazard way.

Whether it’s Trump or someone else, whoever is tasked with talking to extraterrestrials on this planet will have to approach the situation with the understanding that whatever they do might not work. Any alien landing, especially on the lawn of the White House, could be easily perceived as hostility or opportunity. “It’s probably going to be perceived as both,” says Douglas Vakoch, a SETI researcher and head of METI International. Any country will want to do what they can to protect themselves, and many may also want to capitalize on the opportunity to access new technologies and represent planetary norms. But that doesn’t mean America has a plan.

To the contrary, there is no evidence to suggest the U.S. government has a concrete protocol for dealing with alien visitors. There are only reports about a 1950s military plan called the “Seven Steps to Contact,” which was designed as a guide for human extraterrestrial intervention and calls for an initial round of remote surveillance and intelligence gathering to assess the aliens’ weaponry and technological advancement before any pleasantries. The idea there being that if we’re technologically inferior, we’re not going to want to stir things up. The plan also suggests that humans should abduct plants, animals, an intelligent forms of life before touching down on another planet’s surface. This all makes sense, which is why it’s so alarming. If aliens followed the steps on Earth there would be widespread panic and clear communications would immediately become difficult.

Can our politicians be trusted to react in a measured way to cow abductions?

Humans have actually spent quite a bit of history brainstorming how to talk to beings from another world. According to Vakoch, humans have long pitched ideas about carving shapes and messages into the landscape in order to send messages to those living on the moon. Austrian astronomer Joseph Johann von Littrow once made the suggestion to dig a large circular canal in the Sahara desert, fill it with kerosene, and light it up. He was interested in symmetry and that actually makes sense — even if the rest of the plan was nonsensical. “There may be some basic language you need to know in order to make contact in the first place,” says Vakoch. The language he speaks of is generally considered to be math.

The most famous human transmission meant for alien life was the 1974 Arecibo Message, which was written as a graphic of math and science encoded as Morse code. “The underlying principle,” Vakoch says, “is ‘what is it that we and the aliens have in common by virtue of being able to send and receive radio signals?’ It means you can build transmitters and receivers so you’re a good engineer. You’ve got to know something as fundamental as one plus one equals two. So that’s the starting point of interstellar messages.”

The subtext behind that thought is that if an alien species comes to Earth, both our civilization and the visiting one would likely have the capacity to meet one-another halfway by acknowledging the laws of physics as demonstrated through math. Alien messages meant for us would probably be presented in a context that the aliens presume is more familiar to us — and vice versa. So if America’s big orange man was to speak to small green men, we could at least take comfort in the initial compromise on language.

Unfortunately, we’ll still have to be flexible on that front because education — as humans know all too well — is not homogenously distributed. “We see such stark differences here on our own world,” says Vakoch. “We’ll have to start with what’s basic and work our way up.” That will require brainstorming several different tracks for developing that communication, because in all likelihood, says Vakoch, we may have to start over and over and over again.

They came to help with our math homework.

And that means Trump will need to show patience. A lot of patience. It’s certainly not something he’s well known for, but with the fate of human civilization depending on him, he’ll need to quickly learn how to chill out. This will be even more true if aliens show up, then give humanity the silent treatment. Aggression, Vakoch suggests, is a zero-win strategy. “The better approach is to think of all communications in terms the future and pursue altruistic reciprocity, pivoting towards a give-and-take series of interactions.” Trump would do well to meet extraterrestrial visitors with gifts and assistance as signs of goodwill. After all, when someone visits you at home it’s only polite to offer a drink or snack of some sort. This is doubly true when they possess superior technology.

How likely is that? Very unlikely. If Donald Trump is the person we put forth to make first contact with aliens who arrive on Earth, things will probably end up poorly.

Every time a person would ask me about my heritage, I would simply shrug. My mom was born in the Italian seaside town of Ancona, while my dad hails from Quito — the mountainous capital of Ecuador. After falling in love on the east coast of the Italian peninsula, my parents settled years later in another swampier, peninsula — Florida. And that’s where yours truly came into the picture.

In April authorities in the Sacramento area captured the rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer — using publicly available genetic data. Shortly after the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, it was revealed that the consumer genomic database GEDmatch.com had helped bring the 40-year investigation to end. Law enforcement linked DeAngelo to his string of crimes with the assistance of his relatives’ DNA data that were available online. In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers point out that consumer testing is only likely to become more prevalent and more powerful — but this may come at the cost of our privacy, as publicly available genetic databases can identify us even if we haven’t contributed to them.

For their first 100 million years on planet Earth, our mammal ancestors relied on the cover of darkness to escape their dinosaur predators and competitors. Only after the meteor-induced mass extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago could these nocturnal mammals explore the many wondrous opportunities available in the light of day.

In a lab at Johns Hopkins University, little bits of human eyes are growing in a dish. While growing eye globs is a technical marvel in itself, this creation has a compounded purpose. In a new study published in the journal Science, scientists generated these organoids to understand why we can see color and to learn how to help people who can’t.

In this special feature, we have invited top astronomers to handpick the Hubble Space Telescope image that has the most scientific relevance to them. The images they’ve chosen aren’t always the colorful glory shots that populate the countless “best of” galleries around the internet, but rather their impact comes in the scientific insights they reveal.