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What does a Martian look like?

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#1    schadeaux



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Posted 09 February 2004 - 04:58 PM

Monday, 9 February, 2004, 13:03 GMT

Fictional aliens come in all shapes and sizes - but what would a creature from another planet really look like? Would we even recognise one if we met it? In a new book published this month, science fiction writers Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart set out to find the answers.

The first thing to get straight when thinking about life on other planets, according to Jack Cohen, is that it will almost certainly not be humanoid.

In the same way that Jesus Christ is portrayed as a Caucasian in Western culture, Mr Cohen argues, we have made fictional aliens in our own image.

"ET looks like a cute three-year-old child. But that is just for dramatic purposes, within the film."

The development of spines and skeletons is, he says, an evolutionary accident that could well be unique to Earth.

"If you ran Planet Earth again, the chances are you wouldn't get vertebrates. You wouldn't get creatures with a jointed spine."

The Roswell alien autopsy footage, which purported to show a creature recovered from a crashed space ship, is too humanoid to be taken seriously, he argues. The same goes for the classic almond-eyed alien creatures from the X Files and countless Hollywood movies.


When authors and film-makers are not making their aliens cosily familiar, they are creating modern-day bogeymen.

The alien has become a "quasi-scientific stand-in" for ghosts, ghouls and fairies, Cohen and Stuart argue.

The best example of this is the film Alien, which plays on our fear of the unknown to spine-chilling effect. But the science behind the film is "beyond nonsense", according to Mr Cohen.

The idea that a creature would wait 12,000 years before hatching its egg, "without something eating it" is absurd, he says. That it would adapt instantly to the human immune system is similarly far-fetched.

Life on Mars?

But the famous scene where the alien creature emerges from John Hurt's stomach is the most unrealistic of all.

"If you have something much bigger than your heart moving around inside your chest and you don't know about it, you are in big trouble."

The idea that aliens live on Mars is also wide of the mark - the chances of life being found on the red planet are slim, the pair argue.

It may have been around two billion years ago, when Mars had water and an atmosphere, but it would not have had a chance to develop beyond the most primitive of organisms, before dying out.

Real aliens

But just because aliens don't look like us or live on Mars does not mean they don't exist.

"We've got to get away from all those comfortable ideas that aliens will be just like us, except for a few minor differences that don't challenge our imagination."

"Real aliens will be very alien indeed," Cohen and Stewart write.

Many different habitats can theoretically support life, not just a water and oxygen based planet.

Anywhere that physical matter exists and there is an energy source could lead to the development of something of sufficient complexity that we would categorise it as "life".

Perhaps a gas cloud on a moon of Jupiter or a "sentient sea" of the kind found in the classic science fiction novel Solaris.

Exotic types

But only aliens that have evolved in a similar environment to earth would be interested in visiting us and making contact, Cohen and Stewart argue.

Other, more exotic types of alien life might be here already, they argue, but we are just not able to recognise them.

"Certainly aliens would not look like the canonical little green men... unless they wanted to.

"They might look exactly like people. Or cats. Or houseflies. Or they could be invisible, or lurking just outside our space time continuum."

They could also be concealed inside atoms or they could "exist only in the gaps where the human perceptual systems are in their refractory phase and cannot register their existence."

But the chances are they are not here at all.

Like humans, whose initial enthusiasm for space exploration, which culminated in the moon landings in the late 1960s, petered out, they just might not be interested in making the trip.


"To study and not think is a waste.
To think and not study is dangerous."

#2    doomgirl


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Posted 09 February 2004 - 05:10 PM

He looks like this  huh.gif wait that's you  ohmy.gif  laugh.gif
user posted image
they could look like anything, we wouldn't know

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#3    geeohn


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Posted 09 February 2004 - 06:27 PM

a martian would look like a someone with a space suit.

hahaha wacko.gif  blink.gif  wacko.gif  blink.gif  

#4    Nxt2Hvn


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Posted 09 February 2004 - 06:30 PM

Christina Ricci looks like a Martian.. or alien

user posted image

user posted image

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#5    Fluffybunny


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Posted 09 February 2004 - 06:35 PM



Too many people on both sides of the spectrum have fallen into this mentality that a full one half of the country are the enemy for having different beliefs...in a country based on freedom of expression. It is this infighting that allows the focus to be taken away from "we the people" being able to watch, and have control over government corruption and ineptitude that is running rampant in our leadership.

People should be working towards fixing problems, not creating them.

#6    bathory


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Posted 09 February 2004 - 08:34 PM

QUOTE (Nxt2Hvn @ Feb 9 2004, 05:30 PM)
Christina Ricci looks like a Martian.. or alien

user posted image

if a martian looks like that, i say up the nasa budget right now:)

#7    Evil*THE*VEEID


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Posted 09 February 2004 - 09:28 PM

QUOTE (Nxt2Hvn @ Feb 9 2004, 05:30 PM)
Christina Ricci looks like a Martian.. or alien

user posted image

user posted image

wow, alot of Christina Ricci's boobs.  grin2.gif  grin2.gif

Martian would look like little old men.

The Core of people's problems lies with other people!!! You must Search for your answers. Life just sucks.

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#8    SilverCougar


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Posted 09 February 2004 - 10:30 PM

If the evolution of a backbone and such was possible here, It's very very likely that it can happen elsewheres as well.  

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