December 15, 2014

Would aliens be asking this?

Ace mocks astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson for this tweet:


Tyson has been giggled at on several occasions, the latest of which (before the tweet above) was his fabrication of a George W. Bush quote that made it appear he (Bush) was some sort of Islamophobic bigot.

But history isn't Tyson's forte, science is. Which brings us back to the tweet and our title: Would aliens be asking that?

Apparently, as Glenn Reynolds points out, Tyson is ignorant of the literature on the topic.
It stands to reason that, if aliens are advanced enough to either observe us or visit us, they will have followed a pretty similar evolution as human beings. That is, it is highly likely they had their own struggles with land issues, politics, religion, and/or biological differences.

Tyson's "Cosmos" predecessor, Carl Sagan, believed that advanced aliens wouldn't be a threat to us because, after all, what could we do to them? With their technology they'd be able to annihilate us with a snap of their fingers (or appendages).

Sagan also believed that any civilization advanced enough to acquire the means for interstellar travel is probably socially advanced enough as to have grown beyond the concepts of war and conflict.

However, many contemporary scientific minds believe the opposite -- that if (advanced) aliens have followed an evolutionary pattern similar to ours, they are "top predators," and as such have the same needs -- and desires -- as us (territory, resources, power, etc.)

I happen to think that even the insanely brilliant Stephen Hawking is off-base when he warns that aliens may want Earth for its "resources." Why would aliens capable of interstellar travel want to mine Earth for its riches when they obviously have the means to mine mineral-rich and water-rich objects like asteroids and comets?
The truth is, we have no idea about alien life and what its motivations may be. However, let's take this time to examine some "Earth invasion" scenarios from popular culture and rate 'em based on a thing called "plausibility."

Independence Day
Scenario: Aliens advance on Earth to wipe out humans and mine our resources.
Plausibility Factor: Low

They'd been watching us for at least 50 years and decide to make their move in 1996. Unfortunately for them, our computer revolution in the interim allowed Jeff Goldblum to become a computer virus expert. At any rate, as revealed in the scene where the captured alien mind-zaps the president, the aliens are "like locusts" and plan to strip Earth of all resources. But this makes little sense as I said above.

V
Scenario: Aliens come to Earth to steal our water. And eat humans.
Plausibility Factor: Medium

Much like the plot in Independence Day, the aliens in V want stuff from us -- in this case, water. Um, hey idiot aliens? Why not snag a comet or an ice asteroid, duh!!! But if they consider humans a delicacy, that makes a compelling reason to visit us. Except that, as even the series plays upon, a race as advanced as the V reptiles might have a moral issue with munching on another intelligent species.

War of the Worlds
Scenario: Aliens blast Earth with tripods to prepare for colonization.
Plausibility Factor: Medium

Wanting a new habitable planet for your civilization certainly makes a hell of a lot of sense -- much more than wanting such a planet for its resources, especially if its already been highly drained of such by the intelligent species already living on it! And so it is with the "Martians" (in quotes because, although Wells didn't know that Mars was a desolate place, the late 20th century did and updated the story accordingly). However, an alien race advanced enough to cross space and humble an advanced native populace can't devise a means of an effective immunity?

The Arrival
Scenario: Aliens have been slowly terraforming (or is that "alienaforming?") Earth to suit their purposes for eventual habitation.
Plausibility Factor: High

A very smart film starring Charlie Sheen and Ron Silver, an astronomer (Sheen) accidentally discovers that aliens are slowly terraforming Earth to suit themselves -- which, in this case, means accelerating global warming. The aliens are also keen to Earth politics, as their "warming stations" are located in countries with little-to-no environmental regulations. (Sheen finds one in Mexico.)

Battlefield: Earth
Scenario: Ultra-capitalist aliens conquer Earth 1,000 years ago to plunder its resources.
Plausibility Factor: Low

Greedy aliens from the planet Psychlos decimated Earth's civilization a millennium ago, and are still mining the planet for all it's worth in the year 3,000. In particular, the Psychlos like valuable metals like gold. Except that, like other metals and water, these resources are abundant in space. As much as the Psychlos despise humans, then why bother crushing such a people when you can get what you need for a lot cheaper? You're capitalists, after all! And how do you develop high technology in a flammable atmosphere??

They Live
Scenario: Like the Psychlos from Battlefield: Earth, these aliens are "free enterprisers" using Earth as "their Third World."
Plausibility Factor: Medium

Greedy aliens have been projecting a field which not only disguises them, but also uses clandestine subliminal messages to "sooth" the human populace. But some scientists have devised a way to see them, and Roddy Piper plans to do something about it! But again we see aliens plundering resources on Earth, but at least it has the twist that their making us get them for 'em. Still, 'ya'd think they wouldn't rely on single land-based antennae to project that beam so that average joes like Piper can destroy 'em.

Posted by Hube at December 15, 2014 04:44 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)