What Do Real Space Aliens Actually Look Like?
Not Even Wrong
If you go on to some UFO, extraterrestrial, or space aliens website and look at the speculation about what space aliens will look like or how they will behave you may be stuck by a universal theme. They are all wrong.
It Came from the Stars
How can I know this you might well ask? Well look again. Notice that all the description of alien physiology and behavior looks like something out of a Hollywood movie. In general, Hollywood has to pitch things to the lowest common denominator so that most people will come away thinking that they understood something.
Time to Destroy the Earth: Again
In one popular Hollywood movie the space aliens threaten to destroy the earth because we have supposedly “polluted” it. There are so many thing wrong with this premise that it is hard to know where to begin. Firstly, we have committed the grievous sin of destroying the earth so the aliens are going to punish us by committing the grievous sin of destroying the earth. Say what?
Eco Terrorists from Space
Another problem with this premise is: Aliens should be alien. If they are not alien then they are us and therefore decidedly not alien. The concept of creatures that evolved on a different planet would require that nature make different choices in the course of evolution. The choices could be so different that the aliens would actually like pollution and hate oxygen. They might still kill all of us and reform the planet not because we pollute too much but rather because we pollute too little. They like a runaway greenhouse planet, they are walking plants!
Even if you buy the concept of aliens who run around creating planets it would still be unbelievably wasteful and stupid to destroy all life on the planet because of pollution. The aliens had technology that could rebuild all our technology and make it nonpolluting or they could create a technology that would filter all the air and water. Not only could they do this but they could do it quickly and easily like child’s play. The only way the aliens would do what was done in the movie is if they were very human environmental jihadists who like the idea of wiping out humanity in an orgy of self righteousness. We can actually get that without aliens from our home grown eco terrorists.
As an aside, there is a school of thought that says if a group of oxygen breathing humanoid creatures step forth from a space ship to express displeasure with us they will not be aliens. It will be us from the future. There are paradoxes that come out of this idea which we will leave alone for now. Suffice it to say that the likelihood of creatures from another galaxy looking like us unless we and they have a common source is so remote that visitors from the future becomes a more likely possibility.
Bug Eyed Aliens!
There are a number of problems that arise from bug eyed aliens who want our women. It has been famously observed that the probability of a man mating with a true alien is about as likely as a man mating with a sunflower. Which is to say that the mechanics are just the beginnings of the problems. The genetics of mating with say, a silicon based life from another galaxy is just well, out of this world. I don't think carbon and silicon are compatible in that way.
Lets step away from the Hollywood pop sci fi and find ourselves a real alien. But you opine, we have never seen a real alien how do we know what it looks like? Well, one could say: It looks like nothing you’ve ever seen. Is there some stuff somewhere that we could make our aliens out of that looks like “nothing we’ve ever seen?” Why yes. Yes there is. It’s called dark matter and dark energy. Although no one knows what it really is or what it really looks like, some scientists say we need it in order to explain why the universe holds together the way it does. Now if our alien friends were made of dark matter and if they got their life force from dark energy it not clear that we could see them or even directly interact with them. And so you see why Hollywood does not go with dark matter aliens. There would be nothing on the screen because we would have no idea what to put there.
Space Slugs vs Extraterrestrial Blimps
Let’s suppose we wanted to stick with aliens you could usefully put on a movie screen but which are still alien. It’s still not clear that you want to meet one in a dark alley. Suppose for instance that life developed out on cold moons or on gas giants on the edge of solar system. Suppose this truly alien life lived off magnetism and electricity that flowed thru super conducting veins and arteries. Such a life form, if it had space travel, might be super advanced compared to ours because they understood how to create and use almost limitless and resistanceless energy in the absence sunlight even before their science evolved. Such creatures, upon seeing our solar system might decide that that they like our Jovian moons and our gas giant planets but that they don’t like the sun because it’s too hot. So they fix that by turning the sun off. And so all life on earth would die and the invading aliens would neither know nor care.
What do they look like? If they developed on a gas giant then maybe a jellyfish or a Goodyear Blimp. If as one science fiction writer opined, they developed on a neutron star they would be very small and very flat compared to us since they developed in high gravity. I'm gonna go with shiny mobile smudge looking critters. They might look like something you would find on the bottom of you shoe.
And by the way, none of these aliens types can even survive in the same environment as an earth woman so they are definitely not in the business of kidnapping and probing them.
Decapitated Space Aliens
It could easily be argued that we should never want to meet a truly alien race out there among the stars because we could never hope to understand them nor they us.
Suppose you met an alien who excitedly reported to you that today was a good day because he was able to eat all his children. Not even one of those buggers got away. What would your response that be? Those who think I am being gross for the sake of being gross should Google cannibalism in the animal kingdom. You will find that some animal mothers eat some, most or even all their children under certain circumstances. Also some animals eat their siblings or parents under certain conditions.
Teaching our ways to aliens could be fraught with peril. Imagine aliens crucifying our priests and being disappointed when they fail to rise from the dead.
And then there is that alien who wants to teach you how to take your head off and put it back on just like he does.
There are many who argue that parallel evolution on other worlds would have to come up with creatures that look remarkably like us. They argue that nature will inevitably find similar efficiencies and therefore we will find aliens remarkably like us. In our universe it appears that chemistry and physics are the same everywhere. Unless and until someone discovers something different, we may be bound by certain ground rules in building an alien.
If we just stick to planets and suns similar to ours, there is at least some chance that space aliens will resemble us. However, it is easy to see nature by accident moving in directions that would have a very different outcome. It is not clear to me for instance that 8 arms is the one and only good choice for a sea creature the happens to look like an octopus. Centipedes and millipedes seem to get along with many more appendages. By chance the creature we call an octopus could have had 3 or 10 arms or some completely different number.
It is not clear to me that the only way to make an intelligent creature that evolves to the top of the food chain is to create a human with bilateral symmetry. Surely a Velociraptor whose tail ends in a third hand (just cause I like the idea) would work as well .
Even if all else remained the same, it is not entirely clear that nature would evolve the same chemistry as ours. Supposed life evolved from similar chemicals but different circular polarizations or other chemical properties to ours. We may encounter aliens that look just like us but when we touch the encounter is invariably fatal. We poison on another.
There are some other problems with speculating about life on other worlds. Surely there can exist some way of encoding life in some way besides DNA and RNA. Once you posit that then alien life could be very different from all earth life. If the method that alien life uses to hold a "genetic code" is different then things like mutation rates could be different. Very high mutation rates could result in a population of the same species where member looks alien to every other member--at least to our eyes. Only the ones that maintained compatible mating methods could reproduce but if that was the only thing that that had to remain compatible then you could still have four legged and two legged instances of the same basic kind of creature for instance. You run into a number of problems if you go down this path. If parent and child creatures can be very different how could parenting or even instinct work?
Even if you kept to a lot of earth based templates for life it would be pretty easy for chance and accident to produce something very different from what we know. Imagine a race of beings with three sexes. One female, one male and one that carries genetic material between males and females to assist with reproduction. Given the right kind of evolution the three could develop in such radically different ways that a human biologist would at first think they were three entirely different creatures. Only after separating them and finding out they never reproduce when separated could the truth be known.
What those who do a lot of xenobiology work say is that if alien life uses an earth-like template, it will develop in a way that is compatible with it's environment. So that creatures that develop in high gravity might be short, squat and strong, and those that develop in a high radiation environment might develop ways or even behaviors that shield then from the high radiation. And so while life might well become something you have never seen and something you could not even imagine, its basic physics and chemistry would still be something we recognize and it would not be based on say silicon rather than carbon or some other radical innovation.