The biology of aliens: How much do we know? | Michio Kaku, E.O. Wilson, & more | Big Think

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The biology of aliens: How much do we know?
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Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you’ll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.

“Don’t give them claws,” says biologist E.O. Wilson. “Claws are for carnivores and you’ve got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn’t enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization.”

In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don’t look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
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TRANSCRIPT:

MICHIO KAKU: I love to watch science fiction movies but I cringe, I cringe whenever I see a depiction of the aliens. First of all, the aliens speak perfect English.

ALIENS: Did you ever see such jerky looking creatures? And one head yet. Typical Earth men.

MICHIO KAKU: I mean, we have Hollywood special effects so why can’t we get better aliens?

E.O. WILSON: I would admonish scriptwriters for Hollywood films that have space and alien monsters invading Earth. Don’t give them claws. Claws are for carnivores and you’ve got to be an omnivore to be an ET. There just isn’t enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization.

JONATHAN B. LOSOS: Some people have gone so far as to say that, in fact, human type organisms, humanoids will occur on other planets. So there will be intelligent beings that if we saw them they would be recognizable which, of course, is what Hollywood tells us. If you watch almost any science fiction TV show or movie the intelligent life form is bipedal, a couple of arms, a mouth. Maybe they only have three fingers and pointy ears and they’re green but they’re pretty humanoid. And so some people say yes, that’s actually very likely that humans are a very successful life form here on Earth that we are extremely well adapted to our environment which ancestrally was occurring on the plains of Africa, but we adapted so exquisitely that we now dominate the world. So if this is such a good adaptation here on Earth it would similarly be a good adaptation on another planet and evolution would be likely to take the similar course. That is the argument that is being made in some corners.

KAKU: But when we look at aliens in the movies we’re basically projecting our own consciousness in aliens. Our fears, our desires are projected and they are a mirror of who we are, not a mirror of who they really are. For example, if you take a look at a bat or a dog, the dog’s brain is mainly interested in smells. It’s swirling in a universe of smells while a bat’s brain mainly is concentrated on sonar, on detecting clicks and echoes. The same thing with the dolphin brain. Their consciousness is totally different from our consciousness because they see things differently than us because of their evolutionary history. For example, when we see a cat and the cat comes up to us and starts to purr next to us we say to ourselves oh, nice cat. Cat is being affectionate. No, the cat is not being affectionate. It’s simply rubbing its hormones on you and saying I own this human. This human is mine. I’m marking my territory. This human feeds me twice a day. I’ve trained him. So a cat sees the universe totally different than we do and yet we impose our thinking on an alien.

WILSON: ET is out there. There just has to be in that hundred million star system. Here’s what I did. I looked over the many examples of the origin of whole new lines of animals that have occurred on the land since the early Paleozoic. Here is what they all have in common. First, it has to be on the land. It can’t develop advanced societies and anything like civilization. Well, why not? Why no marine fresh water creatures? Because they don’t have fire. In order to build tools beyond chipping some rock or stone away you don’t have any way to create more advanced technology without concentrated power source that you can transport from one place to another. ET. I’m now drawing this again from the record of multiple origins of animal lines on Earth. ET has got a head and the head is up front and the head contains central organizing centers for all of the senses that are spread out through the body…

Read the full transcript at https://bigthink.com/videos/what-do-aliens-look-like

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