PALO ALTO, CA—Researchers are responding with mockery and distaste following the receipt of low-frequency radio waves sent by an alien civilization evidently interested in the subjects of math and science.

A preliminary NASA sketch of what the recently contacted aliens may look like.

"At 9:23 PST, we received an intense series of emissions lasting 35 seconds," said Dr. Michael McGuire, Chief Astronomer at Palomar Labora-tories. "Computer analysis told us that what we were looking at was a transmission of the first 100 prime numbers, the value of pi to 30 decimal points, a diagram of the periodic table and a whole bunch of other dorky stuff. The signal was unquestionably transmitted some 50,000 years ago by a race of socially inept beings."

President Clinton, who was informed of the radio signals within 30 minutes of their discovery, had no direct comment today. But White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said that "the President is excited, but certainly hopeful of future contact with civilizations that are a little more, you know, cool."

The news came as a shock to astronomers, most of whom believed that any existing civilization in outer space would in all likelihood be thousands of years hipper than ours. "At the very least," said Leslie Dowes, Professor of Astrophysics at Harvard University, "we'd hoped the intelligences we'd discover could at least introduce us to other, more 'with-it' civilizations in outer space."

Such hopes seem dashed, at least temporarily, by the Palomar transmission. McGuire said that despite repeated scrutiny of the encoded signal, it has not been found to contain any references to sports or cars.

"Apparently, the alien life forms who composed this broadcast had never even been picked in gym class, let alone gone to state in junior varsity," McGuire said. "If the alien's civilization does have cheerleaders, which I doubt, I'm convinced they'd never even be able to work up the nerve to talk to them."

"In fact," McGuire added, "it may be due to lack of friends at home that these aliens beamed these signals to us in the first place, much in the same way losers here on Earth try to reach out to others and make friends by beaming messages over the Internet."

Particularly distressing to many was the relative proximity of the broadcast source. "50,000 light years is, from a galactic standpoint, around the corner," said Dr. Richard Gray of the Extraterrestrial Intelligence Foun-dation. "In the cosmic cafeteria, they're sitting right at our table. It's totally embarrassing. Even if we ignore them, who's to say they won't keep transmitting to us? And if there are other lifeforms out there, they may actually think we're friends."

According to Gray, the earth's only hope is to find the aliens an equally uncool friend. "Recent spectroscopic scans of the opposite end of the Milky Way show possible evidence of low-frequency debate club activity. That's extremely promising."