Alien Species And Writings..
March 16, 2010 5 Comments
Some species operate on different time lines, or are out of phase with the four dimensions we can perceive, are too small or too large, or perhaps, if they had to acknowledge us, they would have to kill us.
So even when an atomic matrix life form that feeds off the microwave hum left over from the Big Bang and excretes time lives in the same solar system with your typical silicon-based life form that eats rocks and excretes hydrogen, communication between them may be close to impossible.
Luckily it’s not really a big deal, because they usually don’t have anything to talk about. Or so it appears, right up until said atomic matrix life form begins a simple operation to make the local sun go nova in order to harvest neutrinos, and to their surprise, are vigorously opposed by those gritty little creatures clinging to their large orbiting rocks, who have had to start throwing anti-matter around to get their attention, and things usually deteriorate from there.
Many point to the ecosystems at the Galapagos black smokers as proof that life is possible in underground oceans on, say, Europa. However, if this is true, the implication is that such life will be far more common than terrestrial life. After all, there are several such moons in our solar system, and only one Terra (Europa, Enceladus, Ganymede and Titan). If there are four such moons, then throughout the universe iceball life will outnumber liquid water life four to one, on average.
A good example of a hive intelligence was in Olaf Stapedon’s classic Star Maker. The “cells” composing an individual were free-flying birds linked telepathically. Birds might be born or die, but the flock-individual lived on. A more modest version were the “Tines” in Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon The Deep. One might even consider an anthill to be a hive organism, an individual who’s cells are ants.
An example of electronic life is the superconducting mentality in Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s “Crusade”.
The late Carl Sagan popularized the notion that floating organisms could exist in the temperate regions of Jupiter’s atmosphere. He postulated an entire ecosystem, with aerial plankton grazed on by sky whales, who were preyed on in turn by flying sharks. These stories featured creatures that were sort of a cross between a titanic jellyfish and a zeppelin. The medusae were herbivores, but armed against the marauding sharks. They had high-voltage lighting projectors and serrated arms like kilometer long chainsaws. There are also sky whales in Dr. Robert Forward’s Saturn Rukh.
One of the odder aliens is the Qax from Stephen Baxter’s Timelike Infinity. Their “bodies” are organized clusters of millions of tiny whirlpools in still ponds. Another odd one was the Monolith Monsters. They were not invading aliens so much as an extraterrestrial chemical reaction. Instant monster: just add water. And don’t forget the inflatable aliens from John Brunner’s The Crucible of Time. Or the bizarre one from Damon Knight’s Stranger Station.
In a science essay “Not As We Know It” (VIEW FROM A HEIGHT, 1963), Isaac Asimov notes that life on Terra is based on proteins dissolved in water. He points out some other possibilities:
Medium Temperature Notes
Fluorosilicones in Fluorosilicones ( ?? to ?? ) Silanes (chains of silicon atoms) are too unstable. Silicones (chains alternating silicon and oxygen atoms) are more suitable for making “silicon life” protein analogues.
Fluorocarbons in Molten Sulfur (113 to 445 degrees C at 1 atm) Earth proteins are too unstable at liquid sulfur temperatures. They can be stabilized by substituting fluorine atoms for hydrogen atoms, resulting in complex fluorocarbons.
Proteins in Water (0 to 100 degrees C at 1 atm) Because water is hydrogenated oxygen, the proteins will have to have more oxygen than nitrogen in their make up.
Proteins in Ammonia (-77.7 to -33.4 degrees C at 1 atm) Because ammonia is hydrogenated nitrogen, the proteins will have more nitrogen than oxygen in their make up. Earth proteins are too stable at liquid ammonia temperatures, ammonia life proteins will have to be more unstable than their Earth analogues.
Lipids in Methane (-183.6 to -161.6 degrees C at 1 atm) Polar liquids will not dissolve non-polar substances and vice versa (oil and water don’t mix). Proteins are polar, so they won’t dissolve in liquid methane. Complex protein-like polylipids will have to be used instead.
Lipids in Hydrogen (-253 to -240 degrees C at 1 atm) Liquid hydrogen is also non-polar, so polylipids will be needed.
In classic science fiction, the buzz-word was “Silicon-based Life”. Life on Terra is based on Carbon, since carbon can join with not one, not two, not even three, but a whopping four other atoms. This allows the construction of complex molecules like proteins and DNA, a requirement for living creatures. The only other element that can do this is Silicon, so the SF writers seized it. They are also fond of harping on the fact that while most carbon-based animals on Terra exhale gaseous carbon dioxide, a poor silicon-based critter would breath out silicon dioxide, i.e.,sand. In “A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley Weinbaum is a silicon life creature that “exhales” bricks of silicon dioxide, which it uses to build a pyramid around itself.
Other chemical elements that are not impossible as the basis for alien life forms include ammonia, boron, nitrogen, and phosphorus. There are even more extreme possibilities.
There are several possibilities for the composition of alien blood. But when it comes to telepathy, you are on your own (perhaps you could use the Laws of Magic).
Some extraterrestrial creatures inhabit the depths of space itself. In Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End was a creature that lived in deep space among asteroid belts. It resembled a huge eye, about twenty feet in diameter. Its survival depended upon the range and resolving power of its eye. In James Blish’s The Star Dwellers, the “angels” are a species of energy creature that inhabit nebulae, and love to curl up in the cozy warmth of a starship’s Nernst-effect fusion reactor. They are long-lived, the eldest were born shortly after the birth of the universe about 13 billion years ago. The Starfish from Glen Cook’s Starfishers are vast creatures composed of fusion fires and magnetic fields. The human Starfishers protect the Starfish from the “sharks”, and in exchange the Starfish give “ambergris nodes” which are the sine qua non of tachyon communication equipment. Magnetic nebula life appears in William Tedford’s Nemydia Deep and “magnetovoes” (i.e., organisms that consume magnetism) living in the solar corona are in David Brin’s Sundiver. Large creatures include the living O’Neil colonies in John Varley’s Gaean trilogy and the photovores around the galactic core in Gregory Benford’s Sailing Bright Eternity (also described in Benford’s article in the August 1995 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, A Scientist’s Notebook: Life at Galactic Center). Slightly larger is the living planet from Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. Biggest of all is the intelligent nebula from Fred Hoyle’s The Black Cloud. Here all possibilities I have written from some of my favourite books.