Wednesday, 24 November 2010

They live among us (1)

Science news has the discovery of a new genus and species - Teuthidodrilus samae. That's the 'squid worm' to most of us.

In the article at Biology Letters they wonder how it went undiscovered for so long. Video at The Guardian and a pair of close-up pics at OurAmazingPlanet. A terrestrial alien. A neighbour. It's basically one of us.

It set me thinking. Doesn't usually take this much, but I'll try to rise to the occasion.

What does this mean for aliens or, to be more polite, astrobiological organisms? Look at that little guy. He doesn't look much like me and you. We (meaning rather the experts) had no idea he was there. And this is Earth.

Makes the aliens we see in wargames, cinema and literature seem even more unlikely.

Why? They're so familiar-looking. That's not to say life out there wouldn't look like us, whether we mean a dog, a chicken, a mole or a squid worm. It's just you get the creeping suspicion it could really surprise us. After all, aliens in fiction are shaped by the human mind. Even if we gloss over lack of knowledge and lack of imagination, there's still the preoccupation of the moment waiting to make its way into creation, whether by accident or design.

It's these preoccupations that interest me. How does the zeitgeist sneak in?

I can think of a few concrete cases. I'll set them down and get back to you. Any and all suggestions welcome in the meantime. Have a ponder on what might be distracting us.

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