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Friday, March 3, 2017

SETI: Part 6 The Shape of Aliens to Come

Did you know that only 17% of Americans DON'T BELIEVE in the reality of Flying Saucers?  This is on the order of disbelief in God and the Afterlife.  What is it in our upbringing that produces individuals with such a high faith quotient and freedom to fantasize so much?

Filmdom, through Buck Rogers, Star Wars and Star Trek, portrays extraterrestrials usually close to our size with limbs and eyes and etc.  Sigourney Weaver with her Alien to the right.

As this discussion is all about extraterrestrial intelligence, anything microscopic will have a tougher time developing organized thinking, for atoms are so large and bacteria so small, that the capability to put sufficient stuff together limits the potential for space travel.  However, no reason why a critical mass of microorganisms shouldn't be able to combine their genes to do magnificent things.   

On the large side, there is a recent University of Barcelona paper contending that aliens will be around 660 pounds.  And HG Wells' aliens could have been of that size.

But keep in mind that Tom Cruise's aliens are in this walking tripod:


There is an argument that the term terrestrial is significant, for you can't smelt metal underwater.  Aliens could well be invisible, as we can only see a limited portion of the light spectrum.  And, of course, there is the Christian point of view declaring that we look like God.  Then again, this grandfatherly type could well be an octopus in a variant civilization with creatures of that shape.

For intergalactic space travel, clearly, the smaller the better, for there is the matter of energy utilization to get there and back.  For now, I wish to set aside wormholes and equally tricky astrophysical anomalies.  Of course, the standard science fiction regularly suggests visitors might not be organic, but perhaps silicon-based.  Logically, life might have began with carbon, but other elements could well have been fashioned into thinking machines to make us obsolete.  Organic life is rather vulnerable to a vacuum and cosmic radiation anyway.  Maybe your computer is an early form of what could ultimately be the optimal design of future intelligence.

Some historical references are interesting.  Here is a cave painting in Italy around 10,000 BC:


What about St. Wolfgang and the Devil by Michael Pacher, around the time Columbus discovered America?

In 1803 Ume No Chiri explains an artifact made of iron and glass found by Japanese sailors, with strange letters.  Or maybe that's just a cooking manual for giant woks.  Nothing in history seems particularly relevant any more than current movies, which are exercises in creativity.

What is intelligence anyway?  Denise Herzingh has thought about this and came up with COMPLEX, for COmplexity of Markers for Profiling Life in Exobiology:  Encephalization Quotient, Communication Signal Complexity, Individual Complexity, Social Complexity and Interspecies Interaction.

I don't wish to go into any detail on this point, but good people have spent considerable thought on the matter of extraterrestrial intelligence.  You can even read a 2013 book, Alien Universe:  Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos, by Don Lincoln (right).

Popular Mechanics asked seven experts for their vision:
  • Science fiction author Kevin Anderson

  • Not sure what that was.  Another sci-fi author, Nnedi Okorafor said: 
In my novel Lagoon, the aliens that show up in Lagos, Nigeria, are fundamental shape-shifters with consciousness and control all the way to the molecular level, and their molecules do not resemble or operate like anything Earth-based. They use matter (whatever that matter is and wherever it comes from) and they adapt to wherever they are. And their wants and needs and methods of going about their business are wholly foreign to humans.
Okorafor ended with a pitch in the microscopic direction, and there were four more speculations.

It would be foolish for me to even attempt a guess, but I will anyway.  I've been synthesizing recent images, and Arrival showed their ETs to be:


So I thought a many-limbed thing made sense, and noticed a computer generated form on my desktop, so what about:


I'll work on how it will communicate, the size and from where it will come.  That could someday become SETI, Part 7, maybe.  Some are taking all this much too seriously.  Have a great weekend.

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Tropical Cyclone 9 has popped up east of Madagascar and will attain Category 3 strength before making landfall:


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